Much of the group attended our annual party at Erica’s home, our usual meeting place. Everyone brought something delicious with the emphasis on desert!
April was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 as National Poetry Month. It’s a time when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country celebrate and honor poetry, reminding us all of its vital place in our history and in our culture and to our future. See http://www.poets.org for more information on ways to celebrate the month – my favorite is Poem In Your Pocket Day, April 26th.
The writers at The Last Sunday Writers celebrate with a month of poetry…
By Mary Rose Betten
I am seventy-six years of age, newly divorced after 41 years of marriage and a retired Member of 53 years as an actress with The Screen Actors Guild. I am applying for the Position you advertised as a receptionist. I am good with people on the phone and in Person, but prefer not to use a computer. I can bring my own portable typewriter. As an applicant I have signed many leases as an occupant and currently live a full life in a one bedroom apartment and can offer you much experience also as a pedestrian, Able to cross the street within the space of time required while the light is green. As a shopper I have been commended for my ability to recall my pen number by memory and swiftly swipe my card on the first try, I only require glasses to sign my name. A good driver I boast only two speeding tickets thus far this year and those were limited to the same thing of going 80 on the freeway, I have no offenses driving within the city limits. As a passenger I require no assistance getting in and out of an automobile and as an active parishioner I volunteer to arrive early to unlock the side door to the church to enable the disabled to enter. My Pastor is proud to write a reference should you be Interested in my auditioning as your employee to be considered as your receptionist.
I’m lost and cannot find my way back home.
A princess who can’t sit upon her throne
I need to be swept up and carried there,
To live a life that’s just and kind and fair.
My needs will be scaled back for just today.
Another game of Mother If I May.
Decisions careful will grant me some peace.
For now, my fears for days to come can cease.
The care I crave must come from only me.
I know exactly what I want, you see.
I need to pull back, help myself emerge.
Protect myself, remembering this urge
And when I feel the need to scream and yell,
My pen is where my story I can tell.
Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes,” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine sharp.”
That’s a pro.
from The War on Art
Two major hurdles to sitting down and writing: time and finding inspiration! The writers of TLS can’t help with time – you have to create your own habits for the work of writing, but we can offer monthly prompts to wake up that muse sitting at the edge of your computer screen. We always begin our writing sessions with a prompt and five minutes of journal writing. This month’s prompt comes from a student of mine who stepped up to the opportunity to lead and I hope the day comes when she finds her inner leadership and goes on to great teaching!
We invite you to use the comment section to post your own journal response to our monthly prompts.
Here’s to daily writing…
The Writers at The Last Sunday Writers Blog
When the Day comes…
Venus is in her ascendency
winging her way through the night sky
a lantern for the homeward bound
at dusk or dawn in a half-lit sky,
enticing the big one, Jupiter, to play
tag among the twinkling stars,
to follow on the path she treads,
to make a twin lantern to her glow
to smile in tandem on the earth.
By Laura Hoopes
I in the last twelve years at least have been working out everyday in some way at the gym or taking long walks to the beach and back home. But, as I look around me at the gym and see the hordes of beautiful young bodies and way folks are able to move compared to the older folks who walk all bent over or with canes, I wonder when the day will come when I can no longer keep up my pace. Right now I don’t have any aches and pains, my hips and ankles and knees are still supporting my purpose, but I can already tell I’m moving slower than I used to. My problem is that I’m always challenging myself and trying to work through any resistance I feel in my body. But how much longer can I still do it. My husband always says it’s hell to grow old, and I always tell him it’s a matter of attitude. So I press on mainly because I know the benefits are tremendous. I don’t want to wither away like some of the older folks I’ve seen. I don’t want to sit on my couch and eat bon-bons and watch TV. That will only take me to the hell of old age way too soon. So until that day comes along, I’ll be doing my workout thing every day, day after day. And that’s a good thing.
by Madeline Sharples
When the day comes… that no one tells me what I ought to be doing, or asks, “Why don’t you…” or “Why didn’t you…” or “You really should…” I’m not sure that I will know what to do with myself.
At my age, as social standing is no longer at stake, I hear things coming out of me like “I don’t want to…” or “That’s not important or of
any interest to me…” as I look over my shoulder to see who said that. Is it beginning Alzheimers or Maxine? I feel me patting myself on the back. Hey, I’ve never done that before. I like these new shoes I’m wearing. They don’t have to be the kind everyone else wants anymore.
By Rity Keeley Brown
When The day comes I finally believe in myself I hope I won’t be dead.
I want to develop thought patterns that say; NOW. Always now. Heaven is now. Not tomorrow or next week when it will be more comfortable.
I want to sit in God’s lap as the grown up schooled by “little Mary Rose,” with the golden curls.
I want my hopes for others to be sacred, the “I believe in miracles kind of hope, ” the “We can go far on God’s love ,” kind of hope.
I’ve started not getting out of bed until I’ve thank God for the idea that joy is learnable. I can do it, I can, learning joy is feel-able.
Even if Frances the feral cat walks on my head I stay there in bed till I’ve checked where in my body I feel joy
and it doesn’t have to be in my vagina, it can be in my heart or my toes.
And I’ve decided I don’t believe in original sin. I believe we were born into bliss and all we need to do is breath bliss out and in.
The day will come when dawn becomes a joy exchange between me and the world
so the joy I learned joy will become a light for others to see their day come.
By Mary Rose Betten
I hear that line, when the day comes, and I wonder what day? It sounds religious – when the day comes all men will be free, family feuds won’t involve the imprisoning of children or the bargaining over virgins, drugs won’t take our good and bad men, the dispute over gay marriage will be nothing but a footnote and abortion questions will permanently be locked in discussion between pregnant mother and whoever she sees fit –
Or is it more global; shining lights, freedom and peace for all – the rapture?
I keep seeing this day some eighteen months from now when my son leaves for college – when my son leaves. Will we expand into the open spaces his absence creates? Or will we tip toe over his footsteps not wanting to disturb his imprint? And it comes with its own religiousity, no more praying to the late night gods of safety and speed limits and good judgment. What I don’t know, I can’t wait up for…I am an imbecile, I believe in the joy of the innocent – when the day comes where love is wagered on a phone call and the by yearly bill from the registrar’s office.
By Erica Jamieson
When the day comes that I am all alone; no cat, no dog, no kids, no man–
No house, no job, no obligations, no ambitions—
That is the day when my life ends.
For life is: cats and dogs who wag and purr
And life is: kids who love fully and laugh loudly—
And life is relationships—the tug of war
And life is built inside houses
And jobs are what fill our days
And obligations are as basic as our inhalations and our exhalations—
For without them
By Lisa Solis DeLong
This was too important to just leave as a side bar! So here is a link to one of our writer’s blogs, Laura L. Mays Hoopes, including an interview of our writer, Lisa De Long!
“She sat on the edge of the bed. She wanted to take her glasses of, fling them across the room. To tear the new hat from her head and fling it, too. Put her hands to her scalp and peel off the homely face. Unbutton the dress, unbuckle the belt, remove the frail slip. She wanted to reach behind her neck and unhook the flesh from the bone, open it along the zipper of her spine, step out of her skin, and throw it to the floor. Back, shoulder, stomach, and breast. Trample it. Raise a fist to God for how he had shaped her in that first darkness; unlovely and unloved.”Alice McDermott From Someone
I was reading McDermott’s short story in the New Yorker Magazine on my Kindle Fire (best magazine app!) and was struck by this paragraph. In the over exhausted mantra that emerging writers chant “Show don’t tell” I was overwhelmed with the intense emotion shown in this writing. Although most good reading is a twisting exchange between showing and telling – was it Richard Bausch in a classroom at Breadloaf last summer who called the mantra an old saw? Reading this over and over again I am exhausted by Marie’s self hatred, her embarrassment over her short comings, over having dressed for the unexpected break up, over her looks, her body, her fate in life – there isn’t one among us who can’t relate to that feeling and yet never in the paragraph are we told she hated herself, or that she was embarrassed or disappointed.
Here is showing at its best. And I’m telling you – that’s the goal we should strive for in our own writing!
Feel free to comment with posts of other writings that have stopped you in your reading tracks…
Writers, dear writers
As we enter this new year may
Our thoughts resonate as a gong
Our meaning reflect our Ommmm
Our words find a place to belong
~Mary Rose Betten
After discarding the party hats, alleviating my overindulgence with an alka-seltzer or two, and venturing on this exciting new chapter titled 2012, my wish for all of you, my friends, is simple. May we always continue to find fascination with the simple things that surround us, create never-ending awe inspiring wonder from within, and tirelessly work in seeking remarkable words to fill this brand new clean slate.
- Rossana D’Antonio
In the year to come, may our eyes be open to colors and shapes, may our ears hear the birds and laughter of children, may our tongues taste sweet, salt, and umami and a trace of bitter and sour, may we smell the onions and the roses, may our fingers run over velvet and the ‘cro’ side of velcro, and may we write our experiences into our work so it comes alive for all of our readers.
- Laura Hoopes
The old year exits bitter sweet. How to judge the passing time. Pages filled on journals line, stories edited, abandoned, rejected, -
Should I judge the year in words?
To rise with the dawn of a new day, A New Year! Pen and paper at the ready, fill my cup o’Joe and open my heart. Let words wander my way thus -
To those like me, and you know who you are, we troll in letters, fish for scaled sentences, scrape the depths of soul for pearled paragraphs –
The old year escapes bitter sweet, but in it’s wake empty journal pages unfurl, lines untangle, dare I say stories begin -Poise your pens, troll away, dear friends, write, write and write again! Celebrate the coming 365 with words, words and words again!
- E.W. Jamieson*********************** 12 minutes left on the clock and my first thought is that Jacob, 12 years old, 6 years post leukemia, asked me last week if he could get a new pair of shoes. He showed me the bottom of his soles and they were worn out. I asked “how did you wear out your shoes so fast?”
His reply, “From shuffling Mom,” and he began sliding his feet back and forth in the popular dance. This is the first time Jacob has ever worn out a pair of shoes. To do so dancing is the best!
May you wear out a pair doing something playful and full of joy!
- Lisa De Long
Dear Erica Jamieson
Santa assures me you’ve been a good girl so I’ll answer your blog. To be honest with you Erica I’m not exactly sure what blogging means. It sounds like it has to do with snow. Does it involve reindeer? Like tobogganing? Or is it an inside activity like yule logging? Well, sweetie by the time I find out Christmas will be over so I’m just gonna do what you asked and call it blogging. Hope it isn’t something dirty, but then l ike I said, I know you’re a good girl so I’ll do what you asked and describe my interview with the man his followers call, “The voice in the wilderness.” Child, he is a man of few words, well, one word to be exact, whoops, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here is the best I can recall of my interview on the River Jordan…
“Yew, hoo, yew hoo,” I kept callin’ out till I got where I could see him…at first I thought it was a bush…the man never combs his hair…Santa sent him some chocolate-covered locusts, I hollered ‘cross the river…”John, John, the Babptist?”…I thought he was waving, (he might have been swatting at locusts – they just swarm ’round his hair, it’s all matted with honey. ”John the Baptizer”.. he’s really sunburned, very, very brown, camels hair, not a coat, a sorta of what to call it? Off the shoulder, camels hair…bushy eyebrows, you wouldn’t wanna be too close if he sneezed. When he yells REPENT he puts his whole self into it, you can see his teeth, course they’re brown too.
“John,” I called, well actually I called, “John….the…Can I call you Jack?”
Again, he kinda waved. ”Jack, sweeties, yelling REPENT all the time, it’s pretty tense. How ’bout ‘hello’ first? One quick hello. People don’t cotton to being yelled at. ‘REPENT’ is…kinda… piercing. Ya know? Not festive for Christmas time. So, Jack, hope you like the chocolate covered locusts Santa sent…I didn’t say REPENT.
“Santa wanted me to offer you a makeover this year, ya know? LIke those folks at ‘What Not To War.’ Whadaya say? Replace that camels hair…No…REPLACE, I did not say REPENT!…Jack, you need a hobby. Cross word puzzles! Learn new words!
“These days real fur isn’t…well, it’s just not worn. Fake fur would be good. Cover both shoulders?
“How ’bout this…we print a card, like a business card that says ‘REPENT!?’ That’s all it says. You don’t yell ‘REPENT’ you just hand ‘em the business card, stroke your beard, course you’d have to shampoo first so your hand won’t get stuck. Bells, maybe a little jingle jangle?
“Next on the makeover…Jack…I don’t know how to say this…Jack, we need to discuss your breath. All those dead locusts, and …working so close to people.
“And Jack, this constant…’I must decrease. He must increase.’ Where’s your self image? Step outta the widnerness…maybe book your act on a cruise ship? You’d have enough water to dunk everybody…a combo behind you…singing: ‘REPENT, REPENT!’
“Listen Jack, The Messiah is your cousin. You must’ve noticed he told stories, he drank wine. Sure, everybody noticed…it’s there in writing: ‘Jesus, and the twelve apostles went to the wedding feast at Cana. The wine failed.’
“And your diet…Let’s teach you the four food groups. Locusts…are they meat or vegetable?
“You do everything the opposite of the Messiah. Why is that?
“To prepare His way? Prepare His way??? What kinda answer is that? I know all about preparing the way. But you don’t see me riding high, chug-a-lugging hot chocolate, munching home-made cookies, popping out chimneys. Oh no, I’m preparing the way, keeping elves out of egg nog, nobody suggests I go on a cruise ship. Who do you think prepare Santa’s big night in the clouds yelling, ‘ On Dancer, On Prancer?’ while I stumble over elves checkin’ off who’s naughty and nice? Well, I’m spent!! I tell you. I’m spent. I did NOT say REPENT. Don’t start with me. Whatcha coin’ Jack swaying back and forth…is it the wind? The chocolate too rich on the locusts? Sing? Sing with you? You sing, I’ll hum.
“Pre-e-e-pare yee the way of the Lord…Pree e-e pare yes the way of the…Jack we’re dancing’!
“Your breath, Jack, it’s sweeter than wine. I’m sorry I hollered at you dear boy. I really am sorry.
“Your eyes are so clear, but you’re fading. Jack, you’re decreasing. He must be coming.
“Jack, I think I see him!!!
“I do, oh Jack, he’s a little baby, small as a lamb. Jack…Jack, where are you?
“Can you see them? His mother, His dad, and a lamb, a tiny lamb.
“Jack, he has your eyes, the Christmas lamb, he had your eyes.”
The Last Sunday Writer’s Blog is about celebrating our writing and our writing successes, about trying out new things, giving kudos where kudos is needed. On one day last week, November 3, kudos could be found in droves for three of our writers, Rossana D’Antonio, Laura Hoopes and Lisa De Long.
Rossana organizes and hosts the Power Works Women’s Leadership Conference held annually in Montebello. The theme this year was the Power of You. There were over six hundred attendees, eleven speakers, tons of sponsors, and delicious food. It was a celebration of women – the strengths and passions that lead to leadership.
Laura L. Mays Hoopes, Ph.D, Halstead-Bent Professor of Biology, Department of Biology, Pomona College spoke about her memoir Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling – leadership through passion and perseverance. Lisa DeLong, author of “Blood Brothers” and activist in the fight against Leukemia, spoke on her journey of leadership through adversity. Congratulations to our TLS writers! And a shout out to Rob Daly, video/sound system/computer guru extraordinaire – we await the video presentation of our writers speaking!
Here are some photos showing our writers in the throngs of fans!
For the first time in years I don’t hear the TV blaring as I approach the door of her apartment. I use the key she gave me when she started spending less time outside and more time in her high back Ethan Allen chair watching TV, reading large print mysteries, and doing crossword puzzles. Marcy’s worn SAS walking shoes, once taking her miles to the bus stop then to Hollywood park for an afternoon at the races, rest side by side next to her chair.
The stillness hangs heavy in the air like a black cloud weighted with rain. Stepping inside, I wonder if this section of floor — right here by the door– is where she’d fallen. Or was it over there, just below the coffee table, where a dark streak of something unthinkable stains the tan carpet? Had she cried out when she realized she couldn’t get up? Were her yells for help directed towards the dozens of photographs of me and my family scattered around her tiny studio apartment? Did her voice carry above and beyond the drone of the Lifetime movies? Oh the phone, just out of reach, up on the kitchen counter. Did she count how many days turned into nights and back into days until the fire department finally broke down her door?
Every chair and square inch of the couch contains a handmade needlepoint pillow designed from photos of my childhood pets. I pile them in a huge moving box, sure that one day I’ll un-stuff them and sew them together into a quilt. Over the 30 years she worked at my parents’ house, whenever homegrown chaos ensued, Marcy was in the next room dusting furniture. Or cleaning windows. Bringing order. Bearing witness.
On this day I approach the filing cabinet in the middle of her closet with trepidation, having no clue what I’ll find. Unlocking the top drawer I see impeccably organized files — bank statements, receipts, social security card, birth certificate, bills. Evidence of her life. Of her death. Insignificant pieces of paper. My ears throb from the quiet.
I yank sweat suits and nightgowns from their pink plastic hangers and quickly toss them into the box with underwear, bras, heating pads, sheets and blankets. The faster I work, the less I notice. Salvation. Army. Then I come across her red Pea coat. Marcy used to take the bus across town for an afternoon of games and deli sandwiches with me and the children. From blocks away, I could see the tiny dot of her bright red pea coat grow as she’d steadily make the uphill trek to my house. When she arrived, the first thing she’d do was hang up that coat, sweep the children into her arms, then sit on the sofa and brush my daughter’s long brown hair into spun gold, just as she used to mine.
After Marcy became homebound I’d regularly bring her pictures of family and school events. She had no one else. While enjoying cheeseburger happy meals and diet cokes we’d take our time removing the old ones from her extra large corkboard, and tacking up the new. My guilt over leaving was ameliorated by knowing that her next few hours would be filled with transferring the loose photos into albums. Towers of red, pink and blue albums, (that’s where she’d put them) line the perimeter of her closet.
The tiny studio apartment glows golden with afternoon sun, an unfamiliar sight since family dinner would always call me home by this hour. I missed dinner today in order to pack Marcy’s life into labeled moving boxes bound for a homeless shelter and black trash bags forced down the chute. Her cherished furniture enthusiastically offered in high resolution photos on Craig’s list. Excellent Condition. Like New!
I open a window. Sounds of the street 4 floors below pour in like ocean waves, diluting the ivory soap scent of Marcy and the parts of me she held for safekeeping.
The conversation goes like this.
Michael: “Where do you want to go for our anniversary?”
Me: “Paris! I’d love to go to Paris. Everybody we know has gone to Paris this year.”
Michael: “You do know our anniversary is in six weeks.”
Me: “Yep, the date’s been tattooed into my brain for only about 25 years.”
Michael: “That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to plan Paris. What about Hawaii?”
Michael: “I’m going to do some research online.”
So, we’ve had only about 25 years to figure out where we want to go for our Silver Anniversary. And, to be fair, most of those years have been busy with the beautiful milestones we have shared as husband and wife. The birth of three children, buying and selling three different homes, me graduating from college, Michael starting a business. Not to mention all the bumps and bruises that come with almost 25 years of marriage kids and life itself.
So, planning this trip should have been a priority within, say, the last year, or even six months. And, we have tried. We have talked about, and subsequently dismissed: Paris, the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, Costa Rica, Tuscany, the Willamette Valley, Kona, Maui, Boston, Manhattan and a “Fall Foliage” cruise along the east coast.
Another conversation goes like this.
Me: “I was reading online about this great yarn store in Washington. It’s on Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle. It’s a yarn and tea shop, is that perfect for me or what?”
Michael: “Do you want to go to Seattle for our anniversary? I could drop you off at the yarn store and then go fishing.”
Me: “Perfect, let’s spend our anniversary doing two different things…what about Paris?”
Michael: “What about Napa?”
Napa is our idea of heaven. The lush valley, the hills lined with perfectly formed rows of vines growing, yellow carpets of wild mustard, thousands of pastel tulips hidden in a meadow off Zinfandel Lane, the aromas of garlic and grapes permeating the air.
We’ve gone to Napa twice already for anniversaries and more recently for short trips when we’re already in Northern California taking or picking up Adam at college. The last time we were in the valley, we stopped and gathered “For Sale” fliers at a realtor’s office. Napa is where we plan to move when our nest is empty.
We’ve met some wonderful people in Napa. Derek and Roxanne, the British ex-pat and his wife the nurse, who own the B&B where we like to stay. Vito and Judy, the hairdresser and his beautiful lady, almost twenty years older than us and on vacation from Long Island who became dear travel friends in just a few short days. Justin, the adorable local young man who sat with us one afternoon talking about his recent vacation in Jamaica and how he couldn’t wait to get home to the valley. The sweet young girl pouring bubbly wine on the Mumm patio who told us she came to Napa for a friend’s wedding and never left. Roger, who was happy to drive a motor home across the country with his wife when her bank transferred to a new job in Sonoma. The couples from Pennsylvania, Texas and New York who chat like you’re old friends.
So maybe Napa is the reason that we haven’t booked a flight abroad or across the Pacific. The first 25 years have been a celebration of the past and present. Perhaps this vacation is supposed to be the jumping off point of the future.
Here’s how I think tonight’s conversation will go.
Me: “Napa is where I want to go for our anniversary.”
Michael: “Are you sure? I found this great website to make last-minute vacation plans. We might be able to work out Paris.”
Me: “I’m sure. Paris sounds amazing and we’ll go there sometime soon. But, I want to go to Napa. I can’t wait to go home.”