Carrying the Ashes

Thrilled that this poem was featured 18 April ’18 by National Poetry Writing Month – Global Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo – GloPoWriMo). The generative prompt for it appeared the preceding day.

April 17
NaPoWriMo’s prompt: “…write a poem re-telling a family anecdote that has stuck with you over time.” The format of this poem was inspired by “Directions” in Sailing Around the Room by Billy Collins.
 
Carrying the Ashes
dedicated to Nanci Hamblett Wilson

You know the granite chunks on the beach,
the ones you see from the dinghy,
the ones that wend their way to
the path?
And you know how if you follow the path
up the steepest part of the slope
and climb up into the woods you might
have to grab hold of saplings until
you come to the raspberry patches, picked over
by each of us every summer
right under the grove of tall pine, dripping now
with grandfather’s beard?
And farther on, you know how the path
twists to the left and narrows between juniper
and if you go beyond that you arrive
in the clearing with the long stone ridge
bordered by the small field
followed by the big field that tumbles
right back down to the sea
just to the left of the cabin
where there was the singular chair?
That’s a fine place to stop
and catch your breath.

Of course, the journey’s best done with
your hands free. But you know when
you have a load to carry and your hands are so full
you can’t even grasp a sapling?
Just remember that the beginning of the path
is the steepest and, with each step,
the raspberries are getting closer.
And it helps if you have someone
to chat with when you take breaks
and can switch the load from one to the other
up the path to the singular chair.

So, let me know before you set out next time.
I’ll row the dinghy and you can put your hand
on my shoulder as we cross the granite chunks.
Bring a bowl for the raspberry patch
and I’ll bring an old blanket
and we’ll nibble away an afternoon
where there the singular chair once sat
and catch our breath.

By Elizabeth Boquet, April 2018, inspired by “Directions” in Sailing Around the Room by Billy Collins.

 

To Switzerland With Love

I think I’ve finally figured us out.
It took long enough! Twenty-one years, to be exact.
I know, I know, you being the quiet type means
I have to go first.
And I will. But only because
I’m so in love with you, Switzerland.

How’d THAT happen? you wonder.
I want you to embrace this fact — and me — close
even though I’m still just an immigrant.
So, since you asked:

Because, instead of scissors, you gave my kids knitting needles in Kindergarten to   punch along dotted lines so they’d learn precision, perseverance, and patience.
Because you made them walk to school.
Because you made them come home for lunch.
Because you made them walk back to school.
Because you have people with The Secret whom I can call for free, and they’ll make 32 warts on the sole of my foot disappear. Just like that.
Because, by far, you have the sexiest watchmakers in the world.

It took some getting used to, but I’ve learned to love the peace and quiet,
that Sundays are sacred, no matter what your religion; thank you
for insisting that I NOT mow the lawn or shop on Sundays and
for ensuring that nobody vacuums, mows or flushes when we all could be sleeping.

Because you’re the heart of peace processes worldwide but can rarely name your own president.
You have the only direct democracy, Gruyère to die for and the creamiest chocolate on the planet.
You’re neutral but have enough bunkers to house the whole country and
your highways convert into landing strips by removing the guardrails.
And because, even though over half of you have guns, shootings are rare.

Did I mention that your watchmakers are the hottest? Everything keeps on ticking, no matter what — right on time because of your dashing watchmakers. Right on! Right on!
What I won’t do for a blissful kiss from a Swiss Watchmaker!

Because you’re tolerant and inclusive, even though one in four of your residents is foreign — including me and mine.
You even tolerate my French and let me teach you English.
Because I love teaching you English.
You somehow manage to communicate despite having four languages;
perhaps because you demand respect from everybody, and for everybody, and you expect everyone to be on time — except for cocktails,
for which you’re always 15 minutes late, exactly, which is possible
thanks to those clever watchmaking party animals. God, they crack me up!

You expect the world to know that CH stands for Switzerland and
that S is for some other country.
You can adjust your speeding fines to income and your army knives rock.
You have multicolored carpets of Alpine flowers up there,
palm trees down here in Montreux, and
watchmakers in both who get me going — keep me going —
my time would stop without them.

You’re a 5-star country, Switzerland. I get you. I dig you and
the watchmakers who create gloriousness, inside and out,
that reflect you, themselves, and each precious moment in life
and really know how to      make       me       tick.

LizSwissMiss

Said Unsaid

Naomi Shihab Nye awarded the Geneva Writers Literary Prize in Poetry (2nd place, June 2017) for my poem, Said Unsaid. Her comment “A clear, deeply felt poem in which memory of a mother and child’s ongoing disconnection now impact the child, mother herself, and her own child. Perfect, strong ending.”

I had a hunch
that one morning
I’d find her alone
ready for a talk, seated
at the kitchen table
with two cups of coffee.

Come sit with me a moment.
Sure, Mom.

I like to think
that she would have leaned in
that I would have leaned in
that we would have spoken
softly together
for as long as it took.

That after all was sipped
and said and heard, I might have
scooted back my chair
rounded the table
squeezed her shoulders, and
whispered into her hair,

I know, Mom. I’ve always known.
Nothing’s changed. I love you so!

But what really happened was
countless mornings
I came down to breakfast
found her alone
at the kitchen table
sipping her coffee.
Our words would slip away
into the day, and
that day into the next
until she disappeared, leaving
finite coffee rings only
on her side of the table.

I hear my daughter upstairs
getting ready for the day.
The kettle is on.
We’ll have tea for two.

LitPrize3

Mow Down

Published in Offshoots 12 — Writing from Geneva

I can see my little boy
squatting in his sandbox
with pine cone people
guarding stick forts
for an afternoon
in the shade
or
feeding chickadees
or
watching squirrels race
along the picket fence
that keeps out.

I see him – now –
hunched on red sofa
with game console in hand
splattering bodies of blood
for an afternoon
in the dark
and
feeding on ugliness
and

the chickadees go hungry
while squirrels race
along the picket fence
with slats missing.

Mother-Daughter Tankas

Published in Offshoots – Writing from Geneva. Mother to Daughter: Tanka poem to me from my mother, Eve Joanne Linger Hamblett Cassatt:

To Faraway Child at Christmas

Grandfather clock strikes
dinging through the silent house.
Faraway Child, know
in my heart I hold you closer,
perhaps, than when you were here.

Daughter to Mother: Tanka answer to my mother from me:

To Mother from my Garden in May

This morning, Mother,
I caught you hiding in my
white lilac bushes
slowly breathed in your absence.
Dewdrops trickled down my cheeks.

Summer Supper Menu

Thrilled that this poem was featured by National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) 3 April 2015. The generative prompt was from the preceding day:   “…Today, I challenge you to take your gaze upward, and write a poem about the stars… Any form or style will do.”

Starter

peach and cherry sunset cocktails

rimmed with slices of fresh silence

Main

skyful of shooting stars with

lucky tails to slurp like spaghetti —

plenty of stardust sauce to splatter

Dessert

darkest chocolate sky-pie

to nibble and lick towards infinity

until there’s nothing left to do

but roll over into a spoon.