I have been reading my poetry occasionally on a virtual open mic based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is called Wednesday Night Poetry, WNP. For almost all its life, it has been live in person in a coffee shop in Hot Springs – until the pandemic struck. Because it is the longest running open mic in the country, Kai Coggin, the host, took it to Facebook to keep it going. We send videos of our readings, and she puts them together into a collage of poetry.

Kai is finally taking WNP back to the coffee shop on Wednesday, June 16, so this Wednesday, June 9, is the last weekly virtual offering. She is going to ease us into this change by continuing the virtual open mics on the second Wednesdays of the months July – December of this year.

It is my plan to go to Hot Springs someday, hopefully soon, to read in person. Since it’s only about a five-hour drive from Springfield, Missouri, where I am, it’s a very real possibility.

Kai has been introducing themes for the readings to stimulate ideas for poems. The theme for this final weekly reading is Love. I wrote and read this poem:

Real Love

I loved the idea of love,
how I imagined it could be
in its purest form,
something I aspired to
and dreamed could exist
in forever. I let that go.

What I kept is the
reality of love,
the miracle that it can be
experienced in the now,
with all the anger, fear,
and messiness that is life.

It still glows there
through adversity and pain
and holds me up
when life hurts too much,
or takes too much from me,
when I think I can bear no more.

Love is real and warm
in life’s cold loneliness.
It gives me hope
that I can survive,
and even thrive,
in its embrace.

If you are interested you can watch any of the readings on the Facebook page, “Wednesday Night Poetry.”

What is your definition of “real” love? Write all about your musings on this topic.

With whom have you felt real love based on your definition?

Write a love poem to someone, whether or not you intend to give it to that person. It will raise your spirits just writing it.

PS: Happy Summer (on June 20)!

Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day in the US in 1907 when she celebrated her mother in a memorial service at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. She lobbied to make it a national holiday, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson declared it a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday in May. It originally was meant to be dedicated to peace, as Anna Jarvis was a peace activist, but it wasn’t long before it became commercialized with cards and gifts and flowers, especially the carnation. Jarvis was angered by this change in emphasis and even organized boycotts against Mother’s Day.

You might notice that Mother’s Day is spelled as a singular possessive rather than the plural, Mothers’ Day. That is because Jarvis meant it to be a celebration of individual mothers by their families rather than the collective mothers of the world. I thought this was an interesting fact that I’d never heard before.

There are Mother’s Days around the world in different months and dates with varying traditions and histories and many that celebrate on the same day as the US. Celebrate your mother on May 9 this year in maybe a quiet way Anna Jarvis would appreciate. But please do remember her in some way by calling or sending a card (or both).

I’m lucky to still have my mother alive and doing reasonably well. I will be seeing her soon for her birthday in June. She reared five children under sometimes difficult conditions, but we’re all thriving in our individual lives.

I wrote an alpha poem using the word “mother.”

Moving quietly through the house checking on everyone already asleep,
Overseeing the ending of the day, she
Trusts that all is well in her world.
Her love creates a shield against forces she can’t control, an
Ever present shelter from the world outside the walls of home,
Reviving her family’s spirits so they can thrive another day.

Write a brief story about something your mother has done that you remember still. It could be something funny, sad, or heartfelt.

Write your own alpha poem using the word “mother.” I’d love to see it in the comments below.

Describe your mother in detail, including physical and behavioral traits that make her Mom.

My magnolias are blooming in full! They started a couple of weeks ago during a very cold snap, and I told them I hoped they wouldn’t be disappointed. They carried on, however, and in what seemed to be only hours, they burst open to spring. The air is full of their fragrance, and fallen blossoms carpet the new grass coming up. I guess it was time after all. Every year I marvel at how quickly flowers and trees and lawns spring to life. It’s a real spirit-raiser.

It came at the right time for me this year, because a friend’s son died unexpectedly, and I, as well I’m sure she, needed this season of renewal and rebirth to help her get through it. It made me think about the juxtaposition of sadness and joy, beauty and ugliness, life and death. The cycle of life includes death; we just hope we have plenty of time to do what we want to do with the life part, but sometimes we don’t. That’s why I stood outside in the sun for a brief time on the first day of spring while waiting to go in to the funeral. Then, when I got home, I wrote this poem:

Spring

It slipped in quietly this year,

and beautifully,

but I spent the afternoon

attending a funeral

for a young man,

the son of a friend,

who died suddenly and unexpectedly.

As I rest in the stream of sunlight

pouring from the sky,

a man is being lowered

into perpetual darkness.

He was a son, a father,

and a friend to many,

a heartbreaking loss

on such a glorious day

of renewal and rebirth,

but continuing the natural cycle of life,

through grief and joy,

an odd pairing

but existing together nevertheless.

Standing in the warm clean air

a breeze brushing my face,

I see beyond the edges of time and place,

see myself fading into

whatever is out there,

then opening my arms to Spring.

© 2021 Dorothy A Joslyn

 

Write about a time when joy and grief came together for you.

Write a spring poem that expresses your feelings about its arrival.

Think about your life up to now, and write about your intentions for moving forward, knowing of course that there will be an ending.

It’s been a year since the Covid-19 pandemic began. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to believe I’ve been wearing a mask, physical distancing and spending a lot of time at home alone for an entire year. One would think the year would have dragged, but for me it has raced on by, and here I am in March, 2021 already. There seems to be hope now, with two, and soon to be three, vaccines being administered. It remains to be seen if they will work or last for a significant amount of time, but people are lining up to get them, which I think is a good thing. I’m willing to give them a chance.

The other big thing that hasn’t been addressed and continues unabated in our country is racism. We couldn’t avoid looking at it anymore last year, but we need to do more than just see it; we need to find the remedy for it, too. Who is racing to find that cure? I think it’s up to all of us, not some company or government. I am reading a book right now, Me and White Supremacy, which is actually a workbook with challenging, thought-provoking questions and tough journaling prompts that I sometimes have trouble writing to. But I’m continuing to press on through, hoping to come out on the other side with understanding and a mandate to action.

2020

We didn’t see it coming,
though there was rumbling
in some sectors
that there was a possibility. . .
but not a certainty. . .
and it didn’t creep up on us, either;
it roared in like a stream roller
and squashed us.
They gave it a name:
Covid-19,
and it disabled our entire country.
The race began to find a cure,
or at least something to stop its rampage.
At the end of the year,
vaccines and hope blossomed.

George Floyd wasn’t the first,
and he certainly wasn’t the last,
black man to die last year,
but we watched it happen on TV,
horrified at the graphic video
we saw again and again.
They gave it a name, too:
murder by police,
and unrest exploded.
There was no race for a cure,
and more black men died
before the year ended.
There are no vaccines for hate,
only ordinary people like us
who must see the racism in ourselves
and cure our hearts and minds
of the inaction that plagues us.

© 2021 Dorothy A Joslyn

How has Covid-19 impacted you, and what are you doing about it? Write your heart out.

Write about the vaccines: Are you getting one? Do you think they will work? Write your fears and hopes.

Where do you stand on racism in our country? Write until you find your answer.

How can you begin your journey to end your own racism? (Yes, there is no doubt that some racism is in your DNA passed down from your ancestors.) Like me, you might want to start small and work up to bravery.

A friend of mine and I meet weekly at my house for breakfast, conversation and writing. We have been writing alpha poems for the past few weeks using the word “light.” An alpha poem, or acrostic, uses each letter of a word as the first letter in a line of poetry:

Lingering in a spot of sun coming through my window,
I ignore work that needs to be done. Instead I
Give myself a moment of peaceful contemplation,
Holding on to time stopped,
Throwing to the wind my good intentions.

It’s a fun exercise and makes us think of words and put them together in coherent ways. Some of our poems have been silly, lighthearted, or even profound.

There are many definitions of light: something in the universe that allows us to see (the sun lights the day), an expression of mood or emotion (lighthearted), illuminate (turn on a light), ignite (light a fire), not heavy (light load), and others that I’m sure you can think of.

In this time of coronavirus, thoughts often feel heavy and weigh us down. We’re uncertain of what’s going to happen or when: will we contract it? when can we get the vaccine? will the vaccine work? Maybe we can take some time out and think lighter thoughts, thoughts that may make us feel lighter for a while. What might they be for you? Maybe a memory of something you’ve done with a good friend. Maybe your favorite food (then fix it and eat it!). Maybe just a beautiful day when the sun is out and the temperature is warm for this time of year. We need the break! Or you can pick one of the prompts below and write lightly!

Use “light” or think of another positive word and write an alpha poem.

Write about light in some form or another, how it speaks to you, how it resonates.

Think of another word that might make you stop and wonder what all the meanings might be. Then look up the definition, and write a brief piece on the word.

And as an afterthought: in this month of Valentine’s Day, I wrote an alpha poem using the word “love.” Maybe you can create one, too.

Living day to day, frequently
Oblivious to emotions that arise in me, but
Venturing forward today into a morass of feelings
Ever present but not often acknowledged.

Another year has ended and a new one is beginning. 2020 has been a very rough year in many ways, and I hope, as you probably do too, that 2021 will be an improvement. New vaccines have been developed to stop the COVID-19 virus, and essential healthcare workers are getting them first, as well as people living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. They will be available to the rest of us as time passes. It remains to be seen if they will work, but there are high hopes that they will if the majority of people get them.

Fires, hurricanes and floods plagued various parts of the country last year, and though we may not be able to stop them from occurring again this year, we can work to save our physical world and help those affected by those disasters. Climate change is real as evidenced by these occurrences. We must do what we can in our daily living to slow down the destruction of our planet. I read somewhere this quote, “There is no plan(et) B,” at least not one we have found.

Major racial unrest continues, as well it should. Black men are still being targeted and killed by police, and all people of color are still being marginalized and treated unfairly in all phases of their lives. In 2021 we MUST stop the continuing racism. Those of us who are privileged white people must look within, find our own racism, and work to flush it out of our systems for good.

I don’t pretend to be able to suggest solutions in this short space, but we must find ways to heal our country and our world. We have been badly wounded and broken, but I know we can repair the damage if each of us finds a way to work in our small corner of the world to make it better.

My word for 2021 is Resilience. That, and kindness, should get me through this coming year.

Resilience

It comes when the door to my life is being pushed in by uninvited guests
who arrive unannounced and find me unprepared.
I can try to push back and lock the door
or let them in to discover their purposes and find a way to welcome them.
Are there things for me to learn from them?
Can I become stronger because of them?
Illness, disasters, prejudices elbow their way into my comfortable existence;
I can’t ignore them or wish them away.
They are taking up space where strength and resolve and kindness belong.
They are stealing my energy and wearing me down,
but I can reverse the effects of their arrival
by acknowledging their existence, reducing their power,
and moving them slowly back out the door.
I can reach out beyond my sheltering space
and invite in the light, embrace the work before me, roll up my sleeves,
and clean up the cobwebs of darkness disturbing my peace.
It is the rest of my life’s work, and I am up for the task.

© Dorothy A Joslyn

What is keeping you from reclaiming your strength and power?

Define what resilience means to you. How can it get you through the rough times?

What can you do in your corner of the world to stop racism?

What are you doing to help stop and/or reverse climate change?

Be kind to everyone you encounter, and watch how it transforms your life. Write about your experiences.

Is it an oxymoron – quiet and celebration in the same phrase? Maybe not. Maybe it can be done.

It is frightening to hear the updated coronavirus numbers every day. We are all tired of the restrictions, and many are ignoring them and doing what they want and going where they want anyway. I wonder why so many people are taking the risks that are spreading the virus, especially at this time of year when we are thinking about the gifts of hope and love and sharing (good things, not the virus!) Are we such optimists? Are we thinking it can’t happen to us? I’m an optimist, too, most of the time, but what accompanies that is doing what will help fulfill my optimistic nature.

I’m not saying I haven’t strayed out into the world during these many months, but I don’t think I’ve done what so many are doing during this holiday season: flying, congregating in large groups, shopping (Thank heavens for internet shopping!), attending events, etc. I have foregone my past activities: the symphony (I am grateful for live streaming and Zoom.), the theater, eating out, and so many other things. It has been difficult, and I don’t like it, but contracting the virus sounds much worse than missing a few enjoyable activities. I have confidence that I will be able to enjoy all those things again when the pandemic is over, which I believe will happen – eventually.

Meanwhile, the December holidays are upon us, and we have to decide how we’re going to negotiate the season safely and hopefully with a few pleasurable activities. We will all make decisions with which we feel comfortable, and that will be different for each of us. I won’t be flying, but I’ll be driving to my mother’s house a few hours away with minimal stops and no partying once I get there. We aren’t shopping this year, either, and are fixing our holiday meal at home. Low key will be our way and just being happy to be together.

I will be feeling grateful for what I have: staying well thus far, the gift of presence, still having a mother, and the love of family and friends. It will be enough. I wish all of you a healthy, happy holiday season. Let’s all get through this trying time with the support of each other. Let’s celebrate quietly!

What are your holiday plans? Write about them and how you can minimize exposure to the coronavirus and still enjoy yourself.

Think about how you are feeling right here, right now, and spill those feelings out on the page, whatever they are. Then reread what you’ve written and reflect on it. Do you still feel the same, or have you gotten some insights that may get you through this time?

Write about what you have to be grateful for. Make a list, then choose one or two to expand on in your journal. Does it make you feel better to think about your blessings for at least a short time?

Regardless of the chaos we seem to be living in currently, the bigger picture includes opportunities to be grateful. Sometimes it’s difficult to find gratitude in our hearts; we have to dig deep to find things, even small things, that enhance our lives. But they are there. For example, the past few days at my house have been cold, rainy and gloomy, but today the sun is out, and it’s a beautiful day. It raised my spirits. There was even something good about the preceding days; we needed rain badly, and the earth drank it in.

I continue to maintain my gratitude journal; I list at least five things a day that I’m grateful for, and I always find them as I rethink my days. Doing that task helps me sleep better.

Can we find gratitude in the undeniable facts of our world: a nail biter of an election, Covid-19, wildfires in the west, hurricanes in the south and east, deep racial unrest that must be addressed? Those are all serious issues that we can’t just gloss over; we have to meet them head on and work through them. So, I’m not talking about a Pollyannaish view of things, just an invitation to take brief breaks from the negative reality to look at what it positive, which is also reality. Doing that may help sooth our fears and anger at all the carnage around us.

The first thing we must do at the beginning of this month is vote. It’s a concrete way to have our say and is critical in these times. If you haven’t already voted, please do so.

Another thing we must do is work toward our goal of corralling the coronavirus by wearing masks, washing our hands, physical distancing and staying away from crowds. These are easy things to do, and they have been shown to help.

We may not be able to do anything directly about the fires and hurricanes, but we can support in whatever ways we can those who are helping relieve the devastation of both of these natural disasters.

We can educate ourselves about racial injustice, and follow through with whatever actions we can take to stop the oppression of races other than white. Why I have to write that confounds me. It is long, long overdue.

Then, November 26 is Thanksgiving Day. Let’s take a little time to rest in what is good in our lives. The chaos will still be there on the 27th, and we can continue to deal with it then.

Another thing that can help get us where we want to go is write about our experiences, feelings, actions and all the things that matter to us. Here are a few prompts to get you started.

Think about something you can do to contribute to solutions to the problems that face us as individuals and as a part of the community of all people and write about your conclusions. . . or questions if that’s all you have right now.

Make a list of gratitudes you have. Include everything you can think of, no matter how small or how inconsequential they may seem. They all matter and can make you happy to write them down.

What is the most important issue to you right now? Write down everything you can think of about it and why it means so much to you.

Make Your Voice Heard

I can hear you.
Your voice is clear and strong.
Don’t be afraid of how you feel.
Listen to your heart;
it will tell you the truth.
What you know deep within
will be revealed.
Do what makes you walk away
satisfied with your decisions.
Oh, don’t give up;
there is still time to make a difference.
Align yourself with good and honor.
Hold your head high,
and watch for where you belong.
Step in, step up, go around if you must,
but move forward;
make your mark without hesitation.
Victory will come.
Open yourself to what feels right.
Take your place among the participants.
Everything you do counts.

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn

Write about what helps you make important decisions.

Write about what you are going to do on November 3, 2020. Remember, your journal is a private document that doesn’t have to be shared.

How do you feel about our current political climate, and what can you do to make it more hospitable?

Fall is coming rapidly, and some days feel like it. Others remind us it’s still summer. But some other things haven’t changed, either. Covid-19 rages on and another black man has been shot by police. But many people are going about their lives as if nothing is happening. I am going through the motions for the most part; I limit my trips into the world to where I think I’m safe, I wear my mask, I wash my hands consistently and often. But it’s as if I’m holding my breath, waiting for something to change. I’m unmotivated to act on anything, yet restless to do something. I’m tired in many ways, and I think it’s going to last for a while. Has anyone else been here? If so, what have you done to motivate yourself again, to find a goal or a reason to keep moving forward, and what are you moving forward toward?

Some schools are opening up full force, others are going virtual, and some are trying a hybrid of the two methods. It remains to be seen how any and all of these ways of education will work and if the virus will become even more virulent in the in-person scenarios. It feels like chaos to me, but I have to admire those who are pressing on and trying to make their lives “normal,” whatever that means to them.

Protests and violence rage around the country, and I get it, maybe not the violence, but the anger, the frustration, the pain. Change must come. We must listen to people of color; we must loosen the stranglehold we have on them and allow them to be real citizens of this country. It’s way past time. It’s the naysayers we must leave behind. They are the ones we must push down or bring around to the realities of how we want our country to be. I hope we are the majority and can get this done.

Maybe this is what change is like; chaotic, unsettled, frightening, angry, painful. I think it must take great courage to go from here to there. Am I up to it? I don’t know. I hope so, and I hope I find my place in the stream moving forward to act and promote that change.

Change

Fear rages just as the violence escalates.
I am not afraid of change
but what it may take to get there.

I admire those who have courage,
who press on
regardless of the consequences.

I am insulated from the fray;
it has not touched me yet,
but I think it must

before I see the realities
of what is to come,
what must come.

I must move out of my comfort zone
into the unknown,
reach out for what lies beyond

my experience,
my knowledge,
my understanding.

Will I be able to do it?
Will I have courage
and the heart to persist?

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn

How do you feel about current events and what is happening in our country? How are you coping?

Where do you fall on the courage line? What are you doing, or want to do, to bring our country into what must be our next steps? What do you think those steps are?

Take a few moments to think about the people who have been devastated by the hurricanes and fires and send them good vibes, as well as any other tangible help you can give. I actually think our positive vibrations can help; how about you?