Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Trolls and Other Dolls

When I was around 8 or 9 troll dolls were the big thing. They came in a variety of hair colors and sizes. I recently found one in a box - a forlorn leftover -still naked with disintegrating hair. It brought back a fond memory.
Out of great love and affection I remember giving my dad a miniature troll with red hair for good luck. I recall taking the troll to the basement where my dad and his friends were playing cards. When I put it on the table next to him he willingly and good-naturedly accepted my token. I believe it sat there on other occasions too.
Remembering that as an adult, I realized that my dad could have just as easily shooed me away, embarrassed or annoyed, but he didn't. He accepted my gift and therefore me. Obviously I never forgot that.
Trolls are so ugly they're cute, I guess. I liked ugly dolls. My favorite was Poor Pitiful Pearl (really) a plain, waif-like doll in tattered clothes. She still sits on my shelf. Another was Lonely Lisa. A shrink might have a field day with this. When I decided to teach children with special needs my mom commented that it seemed natural since I'd always sided with the "underdog".
PS - I never owned a Barbie - but I didn't escape those ever-present body image issues. Rats.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Salvation

Left behind
are the ruins of the days,
the whirrs and clicks and shouts,
the growling anger, the torrents.

Can mistakes
ever become pinpoints,
memories small enough
to eventually vanish
in the lengthening sprouts
of a tiny seed,

a mustard seed, a hope
too present to ignore.
Can the circle lead us back
to a beginning?

Shoving doors into new rooms,
the rubble of walls at our feet.
I erase my journals
for the comfort I once sought.
Years won't count
except the ones to be.

for Kate

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Writing Life

In adolescence I decided the greatest accomplishment I could imagine would be to write a book. It seemed a lasting contribution to the world. I made attempts to write stories, but faltered. I remember my mother telling me I needed to live longer to have stories to tell. She, of course, was right. It wasn't until my late thirties that I apparently had lived long enough to have a story churning inside me, trying to get out. I was compelled to spend a few years writing it. It became a part of me - like a baby you carry for a long time and then watch its birth. A satisfying and joyous occasion. Writing and attempting to get it published was akin to an MFA - I learned so much. But instead of actually studying writing the way most aspiring writers do - I did what I typically do - tried to teach myself.

On some levels I was successful. I attended workshops, got professional feedback and read dozens of books about writing. I rewrote, revised, spent many months and dollars looking for an agent. Then I learned about self-publishing. Perfect. I had no aspirations to be an Oprah pick - I just wanted to see what I had created from my heart and soul in the form of a book. So I put up some funds, got my daughter to guide me through getting a manuscript and artwork on a disk, got my mom to paint the cover, and sent it off. Within a couple weeks a single book arrived for my approval and I held it to my heaving bosom crying like a baby.

Next step -marketing. And I am a complete failure. It's not within my personality parameters to go out and sell myself. Local bookstores allowed me to have book signings and book readings, but I was always glad when they were over. So who read my bundle of joy? My two book clubs, most of my cousins and friends and a few book store patrons. Yep, that's about it. Some family members may have read it but said little or nothing to me (except my loving daughter). I've read that it's typical of family to do that to writers. I will not go into my theory on that.

Now I call the box of books in my closet my learning book. I'm under the impression that the book I am writing now is a much better story and more well-written. (I could be wrong). The characters appeared to me one day completely out of some esoteric imaginary place. I couldn't ignore them. The story had no initial plan or plot but seemed to begin writing itself every time my fingers landed on the keys. I've chalked the first book up to experience and strangely, it's OK with me if no one else reads it. I'm on to bigger and better things.

It's a conundrum why writers write. I recently formulated a small but devoted writing group. Four of us support and encourage each other. We critique honestly and give guidance. We can talk for hours about writing. And we're never sure why we spend the hours we do agonizing over word choices and grammar. Why we subject ourselves to the thrill of believing our work is perfect only to have someone point out a massive flaw.

We are compelled. I can only assume it is a gift that we are created to use. Near my computer are two quotes I believe in:

If God gives you something to do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it? Stephen King

when I stand before God at the end of my life I hope I will not have a single talent left. I will say: I used everything You gave me. Erma Bombeck

That's why I'm writing another book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Miracles

On the way to work today I was thinking about the Einstein quotes I posted last night on miracles - and right before me in the expanse of the September sky there was a rainbow. I'm not kidding. My neck became giraffe-like in an attempt to see every moment of its brief effort to touch the earth (without getting into a car accident).

Then a song came on the radio and I heard - God of wonders beyond our galaxy - the universe declares your majesty - early in the morning I will celebrate the light - I'm not kidding.

Sun-speckled raindrops hit the windshield - teardrops hit my face - still I didn't get into a car accident. Now that's a miracle.

This is for Jacquie.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Albert Einstein quotes

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed."

"There are two ways to live your life - one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle."

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Clarity

In the crosshairs of this life
the middle now, but closer to the finish
I fear I've left a trail of nothing behind me
until I feel the milk let down again and know
there are only two perfect things I have ever done.

As I search for myself in them
I am my own terrorist, something like
a body under frozen water gazing up
at the hopeful sky, trapped.
Maybe this decade I'll get it right
uncover the final catharsis
stop rejecting the grace
find beauty in the breakdown.

Recognizing what has gone before me
I discover that I believe much more
in what my eyes cannot see
in what cannot be proven
because it lives inside me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

PURPLE PEOPLE

Purple people are people who don't fit in. I'm a purple person, probably you are too. I think a lot about not fitting in. I teach children with disabilities of all kinds. I teach the required academics to them in the way they can learn best. But I believe my real role is to make them feel OK about themselves - show them I'm on their side - help them understand and accept that their needs are not the same as everyone else. Reveal their strengths.
When I got divorced a long time ago I really felt purple. I lost friends, made others uncomfortable and suffered with my purpleness. Sometimes I still do.

COEXIST

You may have seen this bumper sticker. Each letter has a symbol for a different way of life. When you think about it, the word coexist embodies all the good and bad of this earthly life. There is very little in life that does not require us to coexist with something or someone. When I see the word I assume it is in the positive sense - let's coexist peacefully - let's agree to disagree. But you can coexist in agony as well.
It's a constant conundrum to me that human beings have not discovered that we come in varieties and that's the way it's supposed to be. How boring the world would be otherwise. Yet, every news headline provides proof that we cannot surrender to peaceful coexistence. We cannot accept religions, skin colors, cultures, sexual orientation, lifestyles, politics, or hairstyles that are unfamiliar to us. Even in America where we celebrate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
As a teacher I can talk about this country being founded on all men being created equal. But when I look out of a sea of eleven year old faces - the future of this country - I know that they will each face discrimination, rejection, abuse or assaults on their characters and self-image - no matter what their color. I cringe. I feel like a liar.
Some worry about the end of the world. I don't, but I wonder if God is just waiting for us to get it right someday.