Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday. I was going to try to write something profound about it but I think it's all been said. I love this little poem called "A Happy Birthday" so I thought I'd share it. I know I will have a happy birthday because I will celebrate with the people I love.

by Ted Kooser

This evening, I sat by an open window
and read until the light was gone
and the book was no more
than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Haiku!

I always wanted
a circular drive to let
people in - or out.

Some scars are unseen
demons of iniquity
embedded with tears.

Many years gone by
I believe much more in that
which I cannot see.

Deer huddle in snow
silhouetted in stark white
just head and ears show.

Monday, January 26, 2009

She

It starts at eleven,
stripped to the world,
eyes unveiled, set to please.
She is just beginning to feel herself
be something else nice and polite,
a shape shifter in her own skin.
A vacancy at the core
of only what a girl can know.

When fate offers its hand
she grabs on and goes for the ride
in a garden with nothing blooming.
Diminished in the mirror,
acid rain on her face,
scraping skin on the way to
a doubt only a woman knows.

She listens to the songs boiling
and bubbling out of her throat,
reaching out an imperfect arm,
pushed back in private,
melted down in public.
She must be cheerful
as only a woman can be.

Now she's driving her pink car
with a dozen tattooes.
Her primal scream brings relief
from the Kristallnacht in her chest.
She can't be enough of a daughter,
wife, friend, mother, lover.
Enough of all a woman must be.

Painting by Norman Rockwell

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Imagine

Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little better than the one we inhabit today. Barack Obama

Friday, January 23, 2009

To All Blogoholics

For centuries, writer have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that's enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism.
Andrew Sullivan
The Atlantic November 2008

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Coexist XVI - A Class on Two Faiths


I found this today in my local newspaper:

Congregation Kol Chadash and Pioneer Memorial Presbyterian Church are offering a joint adult education class, "Jews and Christians: Enhancing our Understanding of Each Other's Beliefs and Practices."

The Class will explore issues such as sin, afterlife, faith, prayer and obligation to improve the world from both faith traditions and ways to work together to strengthen the community.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Our Freedom of Speech

I've listened to President Obama's inaugural address twice. I'm no expert in speeches or politics but my feeling was that he didn't pull any punches - he told it like it is and he said what he wanted to say. Of course, a president or any leader should have the confidence to do just that.
On the way home from work today the radio program was recounting how other world leaders reacted yesterday to our new president and what he had to say. In China Obama's speech was censored when he referenced communism and again when he spoke of those countries that use force to get what they want. I found myself trying to imagine censorship like that in our country - a freedom we so often take for granted.
Last week on Ruth's recommendation I watched a movie called "The Lives of Others". It was set in East Germany in 1984 - not that long ago. The movie was about a writer and his actress girlfriend who were under constant surveillance by the state police for their suspicious creative expressions. Wow. I think that sort of government would lead all of us bloggers to jail eventually.
So today I honor our freedom of speech - the right for a new president to tell the world exactly what he wants to say - the right for clergy to pray exactly what they wanted to pray - the right we all have everyday but rarely recognize. Above is part of Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" - the Freedom of Speech.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope and Sizzle

Today is Inauguration Day for Barack Obama. I fancy myself a wordsmith but I was not going to write anything today because what can I say about this national event? This day that has brought "hope and sizzle" to America? I heard that phrase on NPR - so I can't take credit for it, but boy does it describe this day. Only once in my life have I felt a collective patriotism and that was of course after September 11th when every house had a flag flying.
But today, for the first time in my life, I feel a collective HOPE. It's a beautiful feeling. Today all the televisions in the school were on, the children were learning, the teachers we were proud. I have never experienced a school day such as this one. As adults we feel hope for our children and their children today.
Obama is a great orator. He has the gift of inspiring others. This alone will not make him a great president, but it will go a long way in uniting this country, which will in turn bring greatness to our country once again. In his inauguration speech he said that America's greatness is not a given - it is earned.
Obama referenced I Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child. When I became a man I put away childish things. I think he was telling us to put away the past and move forward and that he is able and willing to do that as well.
Well, I have nothing more - just hope and sizzle - God bless America.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh, Yes He Did

"I learned to step back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere."
Barack Obama from Dreams From My Father 1995

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Good Eye

I have been like the little bird
with one good eye.
As I moved to the feeder
to refill the seeds
she didn't see me.
So I poked her purple wing
once, twice.
She hopped about to face me
with her one good eye
then flew away.

Even with two good eyes
I have only seen half
of what can be seen.
But year after year
my callow vision improves,
like veils being lifted away
one by one or
like a foreign language
that sounds like nonsense
until you learn it, speak it
understand its beauty.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Nature of a Below Zero Day

"Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in a rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another." John Muir (naturalist and explorer 1838-1914)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Haiku for a Cold Thursday

Anger at others
who don't believe as you do
is a waste of life

Snow fairies falling
to earth, twinkling satellites
circling in a waltz

Slashes of scarlet
birds in a mass of gray twigs
at rest in the cold

Fear is like trying
to stop a roller coaster
with your bare feet

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Coexist XV - Human Love and Commitment

Recently the Cleveland news was filled with the effort by a group of pastors advocating the revocation of a domestic-partner registry, which offers rights to not just gay couples, but heterosexual partnerships as well. They needed 1000 signatures and did not receive those, but did show themselves to be somewhat ignorant of the cause they were fighting. Of course, they used the old biblical passages in support of their crusade against gay rights.
The Cleveland newspaper is often blessed with the voice of reason in Rev. Kenneth W. Chalker, the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Cleveland. (makes me proud to be a Methodist) He wrote an excellent article on the confusion between religion and faith and how much damage has been done in the name of religion.
Merriam-Webster dictionary gives two definitions of religion as : 1.scrupulous conformity or 2.a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices.
Faith is defined as 1. a firm belief in something for which there is no proof or 2. a belief and trust in and loyalty to God.
See the difference?
The following quotes are from Rev. Chalker's article:
"Pastors who would oppose a domestic-partner registry and work to prohibit any public recognition of committed, loving relationships beyond the confines of a particular religious belief are participating in an act of spiritual tyranny and civic injustice."
"
It is not unlike the pastors 150 years ago who proclaimed the Bible's endorsement of slavery as a legitmate enterprise, argued that there was no valid marriage between slaves, and therefore no reason to recognize loving relationships between slaves or recognize, in a legal way, their children."
"It is not unlike a number of leading pastors in Birmingham, Alabama who joined together in 1963 to give biblically endorsed reasons why the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was out of line and moving too fast with his advocacy for civil rights and the elimination of legal segregation based on race and skin color. It is all the result of confusing religion with faith. Religion, at its worst, has nothing to do with affirming God in life or advocating and making a just society. Religion is a matter of cornering power, categorizing sinners, gentiles, and infidels - all the while arrogantly defending man-made, theological doctrines, catechisms, and all-too-frequent institutional nonsense. It is a terrible trivial pursuit."
Rev. Chalker goes on to suggest that it is taking the Lord's name in vain by using God's name for the religious sanction for our human prejudices. I believe taking the Lord's name in vain is one of the commandments - sexual orientation didn't make the top ten.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Artist's Work

This is what is written on the inside cover of my chapbook. I'm not sharing it to tell about myself. I share it because I think it refers to all artists of all kinds. Those who pursue creative endeavors rarely receive recognition or understanding for the years of effort it takes to perfect any type of craft. (only actors get that)And we almost never can make a living at the thing we really love doing. People only see the finished product. We are bombarded by so much every day. Do we ever stop to think about the talents it took to create a unique ad in a magazine? Or the years of work it took to practice painting with oils or watercolors? Or write a book? Create a beautiful piece of clothing? I dedicate this to all the artists who continue to share what they've been given with the world around them.
Publisher's Position Statement on the Value of Poetry Arts
This chapbook is limited edition fine art from the poet Diane Vogel Ferri whose work you support for a few cents a page. You are not buying paper and printer's ink by weight. You selected language art that took as long to create as paintings or other fine art. Pudding House caters to those who understand the value of the poet's good work. We are in business to expand reputations rather than to assure profits for our press. Manuscripts are chosen on the basis of their contribution to literary arts and to the popular culture. On behalf of a large community of contemporary poets, this poet in particular, independent and small press publishing, and Pudding House publications, thank you for supporting this good work.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Stella in the Snow

Stella bounded out this morning for her usual sniff-fest - but finding the scents covered in snow, and having a little trouble navigating the drifts - she decided to hang out under a table where the snow wasn't quite as deep.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wisdom in Decoupage

Anyone remember decoupage? It was back when knick-knacks and brick-a-brack were somehow important and popular. I worked in a gift shop for many years in high school and college. It was filled with a lot of unnecessary but attractive stuff. I kind of miss having gift shops around to give you ideas of unnecessary stuff to give people. Anyway! On January 3rd I wrote about opening up an old cedar chest after many years. In it I found a whole lot of wooden plaques I'd either painted or decoupaged some wisdom on. Lots of corny stuff, but I thought this one was still worth sharing:
Live each day to the fullest. Get the most from each hour, each day, and each age of your life. Then you can look forward with confidence and back without regrets.
Be yourself - but be your best self. Dare to be different and to follow your own star. And don't be afraid to be happy. Enjoy what is beautiful. Love with all your heart and soul. Believe that those you love, love you.
Forget what you have done for your friends and remember what they have done for you. Disregard what the world owes you, and concentrate on what you owe the world.
When you are faced with a decision, make that decision as wisely as possible - then forget it. The moment of absolute certainty never arrives.
And above all, remember that God helps those who help themselves. Act as if everything depended on you, and pray as if everything depended upon God.
S.H.Payer

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

LIQUID RUBIES is published!!!

My poetry chapbook, "Liquid Rubies" arrived on my doorstep today and I had to share my good news. I will post information about ordering it as soon as I can. I will warn you that they are not pretty poems. The term "Liquid Rubies" comes from the notion of the blood we shed and the scars we accumulate in this life here on earth. Here is a poem included in this collection:

Deliverance

In the womb my blood sifted into her, through
the portal she was resurrected into hands, arms, light.

Rivers of blood followed her out of my body
for days my cowardly legs refused the sanitary corridors.

Transfused with exotic plasma
God lifted my veil to see

a new body, a new world and my lifeblood
in her innocent earlobes and unscarred knees.

It was Mother's Day as it has been
ever since the bloodletting.

As a child I told my mother
I loved her so much it was red,

red as the sight of liquid rubies
coming from nose and toes until

it was my daughter and I bleeding
in the same space, two women.

Now we walk the New York streets and my love
for her is as red as the blood she owns or

my relentless bloodletting
letting go.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why I Love Sad Songs


It's the 50th anniversary of Motown! While reading an article about this momentous occassion :) I thought about how much I loved Motown songs starting from about fifth grade on. I had big posters of the Supremes on my bedroom walls for quite some time. I thought about some of my favorite songs and yItalices, they were mostly sad songs. I need to feel something to really enjoy a song. The lyrics are paramount (now anyway, when I was eleven I didn't have a clue.) Some of my favorites were "I Wish it Would Rain" and "Since I Lost My Baby" by the Temptations. "Love Child" and "Reflections" by the Supremes, "Tracks of my Tears" and "Ooh Baby, Baby" by Smoky Robinson. All tear-jerkers.

Back then (in ancient times) I never thought about any cultural differences. Even though I didn't really know any black people in my childhood, these singers were my idols. They brought the best songs to a Junior High heart - simple, catchy, easy to sing along to.

So this may explain why I love sad songs. I like to cry or commiserate right along with the singer. I like to know that I'm not the only one who's felt that way. It's cleansing.

I dug out a few of my albums and 45's (Yeah, I'm old) for your viewing pleasure. Or if you're old like me - a nice memory.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sailor Boy


This is a poem I wrote for my son this Christmas.

The boat sways restlessly,
silent and shackled to a bollard,
the white sails furled and still.

Water laps indifferently at the hull
as the yellow-clad boy lovingly releases
the boat from its confinement and from

what anchors his spirit to the immovable land.
He feels a heartbeat in the water,
a drumming rhythm in the waves.

A true wind blows as he tacks through sea spray.
The mast aims at heaven,
the bow points to tomorrow.

The God of the wind mightily pulls
the sails through the summer air and
sends protection from the power of the sea.
This is the vessel that carries all
boyhood freedom dreams,
the unknown world and all its tears.

It is here the boy becomes a man.
As he comes about to see eternity on the horizon.
He owns his place in the universe.

The young man turns and looks towards the stern
and understands in the boat's wake
is winter - and all that he will leave behind.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Two Lives


The cedar chest sat in the dusty back corner of the crawl space for many years. Nothing in particular brought it to my mind, but after all this time it was unburied, pulled out and set in the light of an eastern window to breathe again. I lovingly wiped off the cobwebs and dust and opened the heavy tapestry-like lid.

One by one I unwrapped the 1996 newspaper from each item. That was the year I left my first life and started my second one. Commemorative glassware from long-ago proms, a family photograph of a now partially intact family, Grandma's figurines, remnants of my multiple craft attempts - needlepoint, cross-stitch, decoupage, my painted wooden plaques. I wound up a music box and it played "My Favorite Things " as I uncovered engraved baby plates for my daughter and my son, and other small mementos I'd made and that had hung in their bedrooms for so long.

I sat in the midst of crumpled newspaper and piles of my old life and wept, overwhelmed at trying to reconcile my two lives with each other. I wept at having no one with which to share these memories. These items, that are without monetary value, I had put away literally and figuratively for far too long.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Be Patient with Yourself

One of my favorite, most profound and thoughtful beautiful bloggers is Fran. Today she posted a great quote for the new year. As we try to make resolutions one of the frequent results of making promises to ourselves is often disappointment, followed by beating ourselves up, followed by lowered self-esteem. Who needs that?

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew. St. Francis de Sales

For a lovely new year's inspirational post go HERE.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year 2009

The word January comes from the Roman god Janus - the god of gates, doors and beginnings, so on this January 1st I wish you open gates and doors to all you wish for - and for all that you have not yet known that awaits you. I was inspired yesterday while watching a woman on TV who had lost her husband and two-year old son in a plane crash. To move on with her life she said she stopped seeing only what was taken from her and started seeing what she had been given. She had had a great marriage and the joy of a son for two years - something, she said, that others had never been given. If we could do that everyday I'm sure we would all truly have a happy new year.
And especially for my writing friends as we struggle along with our passion for words, sometimes misunderstood and lonely on our quest - T.S. Eliot said "For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning." Yes, there are endless words and language waiting for us this year.
And one more quote from Marcel Proust:
"The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
I love that one - having new eyes. I am not going to resolve to lose five pounds or exercise more this year - I am going to try to have new eyes to all that is around me.
Happy, happy new year to all. Thank you for reading this blog and for your always kind and encouraging comments.