“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #20: “Root-Cave”

DIANE M. LABODA

Root-Cave

I know this tree well.
When I walk out in the woods looking for
firewood I seek it out, knowing I’ll get
a good armful to take back home.

I also try the hole in its roots on for size,
in case I need a place to hide. You never know
when dad has too many beers or mom goes
all bitch-faced and wild.

Each day I bring a few things with me to put
inside the hole formed by the roots of this ancient tree,
things I’d need if I were going to live here for a few days
inside this root-cave, just big enough for one.

I have a stash of crackers and a pot of cheese,
a rolled-up sleeping bag, my rubber boots and parka.
I know I’d be found if I took a flashlight so leave that behind,
but take a dog whistle to scare away the wolves.

I want to tell my little sister, but I know she’ll tell mom
and give us away, so I keep my secret. I’ll spend one afternoon
snug in my root-cave. I know one day it will be my only home,
and its clever arms will embrace me when no one else would.

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Diane M. Laboda is a former teacher-librarian and retired WCC executive assistant. She enjoys exploring life’s mysteries and sharing with others in her writing and artwork. She’s published poetry, short stories, articles, and photos in literary journals and anthologies both online and in print. She has published two chapbooks, Facing the Mirror and This Poet’s Journey, and is working on her first book-length collection of poetry on grief and care giving.

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #19: “Rivers and Trees”

DIANE M. LABODA

Rivers and Trees

The stand-tall trees of the forest—rooted,
indigenous, steeped in the language
of wind and rain—give away nothing about
what they’re thinking. Mute and fossiled
monuments, they give up their history
in their ringed hearts, a silent story
told only in their death.

What lives after them feeds the forest floor,
cradles a nursery of their seedlings, breaking
down generation after generation—leaves of
their storybook climb toward the sky.
Once steeped and cultured, the dregs leach
far down, like deciduous tea flowing through
snow and rain into its cousin river.

River swallows hard, races past without
a thank-you or shadow, whisks away its
mineral brew, chafes unsuspecting boulders,
rises to every occasion. River has at its heart
no boundaries, no game plan except flow.
It rushes past the borders of men, feeds
what it must, claims what it will, drives
a hard bargain.

Tree wishes only to stand strong,
overseeing wild tangles of green,
deep roots in a family warren.
River wishes only to be free,
running marathons to the sea,
seeking the conversation of waves.

Neither wishes to know man.

_______________________________________________________________

Diane M. Laboda is a former teacher-librarian and retired WCC executive assistant. She enjoys exploring life’s mysteries and sharing with others in her writing and artwork. She’s published poetry, short stories, articles, and photos in literary journals and anthologies both online and in print. She has published two chapbooks, Facing the Mirror and This Poet’s Journey, and is working on her first book-length collection of poetry on grief and care giving.

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #18: “What Trees Know”

DIANE M. LABODA

What Trees Know

What is it that trees know about dying?
They do it so gracefully every fall,
over and over practicing letting go.

What if we could know what they know?
Could we also slip from our tethers
and move into death with the same ease
as going on vacation?

What if we could shed our dependence
on the sun rising every day, shed our
inadequate language, our own insecurities?

What could we learn about letting go
that doesn’t define the act of dying?
Would we cherish our place
on the family tree?

Would we stop wasting time
as if we had an overabundance?
Would we see our way back into
the present moment, mindfully?

Would we make each day count,
like adding more pearls to a necklace?
Could we make a positive choice?

What is it that trees know?
Is it that their hope is as much in
the shedding of leaves, gathering
and storing as in their solitude?

Knowing full well that as visible life
recedes, restorative soul life carries on,
silent and sure in God’s care.

_________________________________________________________________

Diane M. Laboda is a former teacher-librarian and retired WCC executive assistant. She enjoys exploring life’s mysteries and sharing with others in her writing and artwork. She’s published poetry, short stories, articles, and photos in literary journals and anthologies both online and in print. She has published two chapbooks, Facing the Mirror and This Poet’s Journey, and is working on her first book-length collection of poetry on grief and care giving.

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #17: “Golden”

ADRIANNA GREEN

Golden

Tears of gold adorn her face
Wisdom beyond years allow her grace
Eyes dark as night
but pools of Amber in morning light
Curves carved by the gods
But Smile marred by life

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Adrianna Green writes, “I’m a wcc student who loves writing and reading in my spare time!”

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #16: “True Beauty”

ADRIANNA GREEN

True Beauty 

Society has put this burden on me of who I should be
They have turned beauty into a tangible thing
Height weight, age these numbers do not define me
they are not me,
nor will they ever be
Short
Daughter
Fat
I call myself these because I am
But I also call myself beautiful
Because despite of what society thinks
Beauty is not a number. It is not a thing
I didn’t always think that,
but now I know
Society’s the beast?
You and me were the beauty.

________________________________________________________________________

Adrianna Green writes, “I’m a wcc student who loves writing and reading in my spare time!”

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #15: “Dear John Keats”

MARYAM BARRIE

Dear John Keats

_____The persuasion that I shall see her no more will kill me…
_____I can bear to die – I cannot bear to leave her  
________–John Keats in a letter to Charles Brown,
________  during the fatal trip to Italy

I imagine you, well-loved by your small circle of friends,
by Fanny, saturated with poetry, worn down by nursing
your mother and brother to their consumptive deaths,
thinking your way through the big literary questions
in your early twenties, before tuberculosis consumed
your lungs and mercury corroded your stomach.
You write to your brothers of negative capability,
charge yourself with accepting
uncertainties, mysteries, doubts,
without any irritable reaching after fact and reason
.
If you are right, and you usually are,
the poet must be permeable, susceptible.

It is too easy to say I have fallen under your sway,
that you are my new dead boyfriend.
Your words have hunkered into me and their impressions
in the clay of my body have flooded with feeling.
I fill my brain with stories of love lost, or almost lost,
and your words thread their way through the synapses
between my neurons, glimmering all the way from Rome,
where unopened letters from Fanny, and a lock of her hair,
lay with your bones under your last poem, your own epitaph:
here lies one whose name was writ in water.

I am breathing into the human warmth of your letters –
I want to take them up to the red light of my own small heart
and bear their weight in my blunt brown hands.
When you write to Fanny, You have absorb’d me,
I think of the heat in the packets of poems
and pictures I sent weekly to my own beloved
when I dove into him, his waters deep and safe,
and mine, mine, mine. I swore vows and oaths,
remember saying, “I’d rob a gas station for you!”
You write her My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet,
and the fire I am for him and our daughters glows red at the bone.

I see my whole life reflected back to me in each letter,
know that I am projecting my hillocks and chasms
onto your landscape. I see nothing but thorns
for the future…Oh, Brown, I have coals of fire in my breast.
I have been lost and wandering in the dark swamp
of personal history, paying for imaginary sins.
I yearn for your prickly sweetness, the idea of you
echoed now in pages and dust, fragments of bone.

When I read your last letter, the last anything you wrote,
my eyes well with your longing for Fanny and your death,
as if they were the same thing.  I wait with Fanny
until December 1865, through her husband and three children,
until the moment she slides out of her body and finally
comes back into your arms. I imagine my own heart sore
with longing for my beloved, the peace of joining again after.

______________________________________________________________

Maryam Barrie‘s bio: Married mother, lives in woods, writes.

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #14: “Break in the Back”

S.L. SCHULTZ

Break in the Back

(for the City of Angels)

It must have been the fires
__that ignited our urge to live
____after the storm of ashes had settled
______and the embers red as blood had died,
the smoke billowing up like sails
____like clouds like apparitions
swept away by the ebbing breath of the wind.

The heroes had converged en masse upon the land
__and in the skies
____spraying water and dropping water
______on the fingers of flame
that reached through our frail bodies
______pulling out our hearts
________destroying our materials
__________but saving our souls.
For it was the fires that ignited our urge to live.

Each of the elements had a life of their own,
__the wind, the fire, the water, the air.
They danced a mad tango
__a purifying death that grants a rebirth
a transformation we cannot deny.

The breath came first.
What began as a simple sigh
__became a panting and then a blast
____swirling through the canyons around the trees
______over the fields and up against the walls
somersaulting back to the way it began.

Somewhere
__the spark occurred.
An accident?  A perversion?  The will of Great Spirit?  Or chaos?
Somewhere
__the spark occurred
____catching on a brittle branch
______eating through the tender timber
____and fanned into a fire.
First an inch tall but growing fast into a dragon

roaring and thrashing and rolling and leaping
____with what looked to be the speed of light.
Do not doubt that this dragon was alive
__filled with the fury of lost values, corrupt morals,
____and a break in the back of spirit.
Those glinting pots of gold that drew us here
__became tarnished, misplaced, and then lost
outside of us forever.

Somewhere
__another spark occurred.
An accident?  A perversion?  The will of Great Spirit?  Or chaos?
Another spark occurred
__and another and another and
____the Earth cried out (the trees, the bushes, the grasses, the grains)
______“Sweep me clean if you must but I beg you please
leave me my roots.  Leave me with how my life begins
deep inside the womb of my mother pulled up and out
of the surface by the light and warmth of the sun.
Please leave me my roots I beg you.”
The dragons took reign of the hillsides and the canyon
__roaring and thrashing and rolling and
leaping and…

As the heroes continued with their quest,
__the humans frantically circled
____shuffling their feet, clenching their hands
______sorting through photographs, jewelry,
sweet mementos and the cash,
__crying out
____“Who will save us?  How will we rebuild?
There is but one choice that is to surrender.”
And they did
__except for the lone man watering
____the roof of his house with a hose.
He screamed,
__“This is mine.  This is mine.  You cannot have it
though you are much bigger than me.
I am a knight and with the sword of intent
I will defeat you.”

Meanwhile the animals
__the swimmers, the crawlers, the four legged
____and the winged ones
traveled further away from the dragons
__further away from the dragons
____they are still traveling further…
If only we had watched them closer
__their every sound and move
they would have taught us how to live.

Thank you thank you for the water
__quenching the thirst of the dragons
____roaring and thrashing and rolling and leaping
The Earth, sighing in her relief
__reveling in her comfort
____“Our roots have been saved.”
The water fell from the sky like the tears of angels
__weeping over the lost values, corrupt morals
____and the break in the back of spirit.
Tears falling in rivers
__water rushing to the shores
____as the wind began to tame.
Through the whine of its exhaustion
__or maybe through the intent
____of something greater than we
it unwound.

The tango of the elements became a waltz
__and whispered to a stop within the smoky air.
The embers red as blood cooled in the stillness,
__the embers of what was left of things.
The dragons retreated to their dens
__unseen but not gone
____poised to reappear when the fears
inside humans need a face.

We did not ask for the fires.
But perhaps they were conjured
__through our vain search in mirrors;
____our hopes to win the lotto;
______our smallness never acknowledged against the power
of something greater whoever whatever it be.

We did not ask for the fires.
But it was the fires
__that saved our souls
and ignited our urge to live.

_________________________________________________________________________

S.L. Schultz, a graduate of California State University-Long Beach, teaches English Comp and Creative Writing for WCC and works as a faculty tutor at Jackson College. She writes in various genres, including poetry, short prose, and novel. Nature is her cathedral, culture her muse, and travel her passion.

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #13: “Mami”

DRAGANEL MAGDA

Mami

She . . .

Wasn’t an Officer dressed in blue
Wasn’t a Soldier bold and true
Wasn’t a Firefighter fighting fires
Wasn’t a Doctor saving lives

She . . .

Couldn’t stop criminals in their tracks
Couldn’t respond to an enemy’s attacks
Couldn’t have rescued cats from trees
Couldn’t diagnose and treat disease

She . . .

Didn’t attempt to arrest a soul
Didn’t train to be on patrol
Didn’t respond to emergencies
Didn’t assist in surgeries

She . . .

Did forgive me when I made a mistake
Did sacrifice for her family’s sake
Did protect me from the start
Did love me with all her heart

She . . .

Could be caring, kind, and strong
Could be firm when I did wrong
Could brighten spirits with her laugh
Could advocate on my behalf

She . . .

Was a woman of a selfless breed
Was a confidant in times of need
Was my comforter in times of sorrow
Was my mother . . . my personal hero

_________________________________________________________________________

Draganel Magda writes, “This poem is dedicated to my mother, who was my personal hero. ‘Mami’ is what I called her as a child. It is a Romanian term of endearment for mother, and is the English equivalent of ‘Mommy’ with the same pronunciation.”

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #12: “Coming Home”

MEGAN JOHNSON

Coming Home 

MeganJohnson_ComingHome

________________________________________________________________________

Megan Johnson (@the_redhead_lefty on Instagram) writes:

“This piece was inspired by a favorite Broadway musical of mine about World War II veterans, called Bandstand. One of the main themes of the musical is about the different kinds of unseen weight that each character carries because of the war, including the loss of friends in combat. 

“My artwork is a visual depiction of this. A soldier standing in a train station, finally free to return home to a world made brighter by his service. But the shadow of a lost friend lingers at his shoulder— holding him back and tying him to a traumatic past, or standing at his side as a comforting presence and memory, or perhaps somehow both at once. 

“People often make massive sacrifices with the most precious parts of their lives, and yet the shadows of those sacrifices are seen only by themselves. Veterans, and heroes of all kinds, deserve our deepest respect and thanks.”

“Poetry Sustains: Heroes” Post #11: “The Selfless Youth”

ANASTASIIA NOGUIER

The Selfless Youth

The world we live in was at first,
A source of knowledge to calm the thirst.
But now it is an evil place,
That brings the worst of most in grace.

When people are exposed to hate,
They tend to fall in it with fate.
However, there is still some hope,
The selfless youth will cut the rope.

The rope of hate and lies
Will fall from truth and smiles.
They sing along with those alike,
To save the world with warmth.

The heroes that embrace the soul
Of broken dreams and injustice of the world
As I believe, there is still hope,
To build the future for the mob.

_______________________________________________________________________

Anastasiia Noguier is a nontraditional student and an immigrant who discovered creative writing as a way to enjoy life and spread ideas. Anastasiia’s main interests are social and environmental injustice and technology.