Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges — A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Make Visible: Childhood

I’m a poet with a particular point of view. In these next blog posts I’ll post poems on different subjects from my point of view. Each poem is an expression, through me, of inspiration or Spirit or emotion. What you see in this light is what you bring to the poem.

These are memories from childhood. They aren’t strictly accurate, but they do capture the flavor of my childhood. Sometimes truth is more important than accuracy. Memory is a maze of images that we can get lost in easily. Try writing poems about your childhood. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with!

Car Trip

“It’s so hot,” Mom said for the 500th time,

Bubble gum melted like pink vinyl onto the back seat,
Dad pulled over, “Sir, you were doing at least
65” by the State Patrol—just a warning.
I threw up Hershey bars and Coke, carsick on my
Cousin Keith from Minnesota, we stopped at the “one
And only” reptile farm—snake shows and a 10
Foot python. We stayed at a motel that went nowhere,
Looked like a train, everyone saw Old Faithful except me,
I was in the Ladies room.
In Nevada we bought fireworks for the 4th, my brother
Exploded a cherry bomb in the toilet and stole
All the Dunes ashtrays.
My mom swore we’d never go on a trip like that again,
In our cool air-conditioned living room, while I played
Cards, a picture of the sunshine state on the backs.

Dad said “Next summer let’s go to Disneyland.”

© Anne Westlund


Come back on Friday, July 26th for Make Visible: Communication

“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”~Robert Bresson, French Film Director


Using Music to set A Mood

WP_20130517_002A recent post  on MuseItUp Publishing’s blog on using music  to set a mood set me to considering the subject. Although I don’t usually listen to music when I write — I’m a serious amateur musician and often find myself listening to the music — I do make use of musical references in the poems I write.

I’ve written more than one poem containing references to popular songs. In Crack Up, the first poem below, I was listening to the radio when a Kenny Chesney song came on, and I started composing the poem below in my head. I ended up on Kenny’s website looking for the songs I needed to complete the poem as I envisioned it.

In the second poem, Green Peas, I was already very familiar with the songs involved, and hopefully y’all are, too.

Do you listen to music while you work? How do you use musical references in your own writing, and how do you react to them in the writing of others? Leave a comment and let me know.

Crack Up

Swish through car-lit darkness
Past squares of light,
street signs sparkling green and white.
Roll down your window,
feel the lemon air
ruffle what’s left of your hair.
Kenny Chesney blaring on the radio
loud enough to silence the thoughts in your head
waiting to be drowned in a cold beer.

Your wheels slide through ghosts of clouds,
past skeleton trees waving bare arms,
past lighted windows with families eating
roast chicken, green beans, potatoes
while the letter from your daughter
crinkles in your back pocket,
your seat belt chafing as
Kenny croons Who you’d Be Today.

The smell of leaf smoke drifts
through the window
as you drive at twenty-five miles per hour
past the cop in the turn-out on your left,
as the rain starts dripping down your windshield
and your windshield wipers quit.
You reach for a beer
as Kenny starts singing Keg in the Closet.

Your car drifts into the center of the road
as you drop the empty on the floor,
reach behind you for another,
one hand on the wheel.
The car skids on wet leaves
going around that curve in the road
you forgot was there
and Kenny sings Steamy Windows.

The sweat drips down your neck
as you wrestle with the steering wheel,
brake on the empties,
your seat belt unfastened.
Skid into the tree.
Glass arrows your cheek your eye.
You’re bleeding from your ear.
Somewhere Kenny’s singing How Forever Feels.

Green Peas, A poem-song

1. Mom: Tune: Greensleeves

Alas my son you know it’s wrong
to leave the table discourteously.
Don’t give me “pretty please,” come along.
Sit down and finish your green peas.

2: Son: Tune: Red River Valley

How can you serve these peas, knowing
I hate them; I’ve told you six times.
Don’t give me that stuff about growing.
You must think that I’m still a child!

3: Sister: Tune: Sixteen Tons

Sixteen year old, is this what I get?
If you want to chase me out, well, now you’re all set.
If Peter calls, just say I’m out, that’s all you know.
Can’t stay another minute, Mom, I’ve got to go.

4: Dad: Tune: Good King Wenceslas

What’s this fighting all about?
Please give me a reason.
Everyone can hear you shout
clear over at the Gleason’s.

Give him a break just for tonight,
you are being cruel.
All you do is scream and shout.
I think you’re a fool.

5: Mom: Tune: Greensleeves

Green peas were for the boy,
but green peas aren’t worth a fight.
Green peas have brought no joy.
Forget about eating those green peas.

Why and How I Write Poetry

On June 1 and 8 this year, I co-presented a two-part poetry workshop at the Eugene Public Library, as part of their Summer Series. I described the method of my madness about a couple of poems I’d written recently, and some of my Poet’s Toolbox techniques that helped me polish the poems. Let me know what you think, and any other tools you could share to help others. I finished this portion of the workshop with a very different poem — much lighter.

Inside My Head:

I see the world in images, flashes that bounce around in my head, the equivalent of “ear worms” – a brilliant term I read recently that describes snatches of songs that pop into consciousness and won’t let go – usually until shoved aside by a new ear worm.

I also feel the world viscerally. Words can choke me, make the hair on my arms stand up, surge through my gut like a gallon of bile, leave me speechless with tears – any number of physical, emotional, and/or mental reactions that sneak up to replay unexpectedly, any time, anywhere.

Words and images power my life, clutter my brain, and beg to be put to paper if I ever hope to understand and process them. I will share three poems, the first two described below. Poem #3 is a change-of-pace / true slice-of-life about the bossiest member of my family.

About these Poems:

In April, Annette Funicello, died. I watched the Mickey Mouse Club as a kid, but I had no fan connection to Annette, and read the first obits without any sense of loss of someone I’d miss.

I knew she had MS, but no clue about how completely her form of the disease devastated. Then I followed a link and watched a short clip showing what her life had been like, having lost most of her ability to even communicate. She resembled a sloppy rag-doll version of her former self.

After the clip was made, she went into a coma and was kept in that state for “several years”. I was haunted by the images, her extended coma, and why, ultimately, the plug was pulled. Two poems, Why No Mercy? and And The Answer Is …, are my attempt to make sense of it.

The Tool Box:

1. My CRITIQUE GROUPS said my images were confusing, when I shared my original poem; they didn’t know if I was talking about a person or an animal. Didn’t get the terrible core – how I was now aware of yet one more way we can die while being forced to keep breathing. After my revision and edits, I read them again to my Crit Groups to see if I’d fixed the problems.

2. I used a partial “LEAPFROG” or “LEAPING POETRY” effort with the poems, looked at each line, image, phrase; the sequence and flow; to dig deep for the truth of what I was trying to say. Sometimes I must write so I can excavate the words for the critical essence, figure out how the parts fit, and fashion bridges to connect what is known with what is missing. Sometimes the results have little in common with the original poem, except the heart.

(There are multiple approaches to Leaping Poetry – most bordering on deep surrealistic juxtapositioning of images, the conscious and unconscious minds, etc. The simpler one, my method, is to look inside each image and phrase, then “leap” to what it conjures up, to see if that’s closer to what I want to say. The new image or phrase replaces the previous one, thus “leaping” closer to my target.)

3. “…Mercy…” became a PERSONA poem, written from the narrator’s point of view, changed from third-person (outside) to first-person (inside the poem).

4. Where possible, I edited to present tense for a sense of immediacy.

5. These are PHOTO/ART poems, inspired by the video described above.

6. Both were written for PROMPTS (to write a Hunter poem and a Hunted poem) during the April 2013 Poem A Day (PAD) Challenge on Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides. (Link below)

7. I REVISED for content, then EDITED to polish the poems.

8. I READ MY POEMS ALOUD several times before they reached the current version, to see how the words flowed (or didn’t), pacing, and “mouth feel”.

Revise and Conquer: 

 Revision is not a dirty word – it’s the first step to clarity. None of the tools in my arsenal could be used until the words were down on paper. Think of it as a Treasure Hunt; you gotta start your search somewhere. Take what you write today and explore where it wants to go.

I had to admit to myself that the poems clearly were not about Annette. Her life and death were merely the vehicle for an emotional overload of my inner, stinging terror at losing control of my life, unable to make my decisions or wants or needs known. Perhaps it’s a form of claustrophobia, fear of being locked into a tight space, unable to think or help myself, not knowing who holds the key, why I’m being held, or if I’ll ever be released.

So, as you read the poems, know that I’m sharing my own nightmare, and attempting to reason with my own psyche. The poems are still works in progress, delving deep into the whispered realms we seldom share.


1. A version of the video about Annette:–ds

2. Robert Brewer’s Poetic Asides blog:


First Draft Opening Lines:

The Hunted:  Why No Mercy?

Last night, in voyeur garb,
I saw the ravaged carcass
of what was once a beautiful creature
the image of wholesome grace . . .

(I include a reference to Oregonian Ken Keysey’s 1962 novel (and 1975 movie) One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest. The revised poems follow.)

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes . . .”
Title of former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello’s 1994 autobiography, named after the song from Cinderella.


Why No Mercy?

Last night, my gauzy,
sooty voyeur’s shroud
snagged, ruthlessly tangled,
caught on demon’s flypaper,
sucked into someone else’s life

a once beautiful creature,
the image of wholesome grace,
now a ravaged carcass

tortured, slowly, methodically,
prisoner entombed,
hidden away allegedly with love,

but shown no mercy

Locked in a body no longer mine,
I rage in limbo, not dead, perhaps,
but surely not alive

How long did they keep me
in that madness?
— several years, I heard –
tethered to the eternal drip
of excruciating, painful optimism

For whom, I wonder. Who gained
as I wasted away
to less than nothingness?
Why NOW did they release me?
Why not before?

Ken Kesey had it right.
My Cookoo’s Nest needed a fly-by
many moons earlier, someone
to give me passage by pillow,
admit, like the Indian,
it wasn’t me any more.

May my memory be a blessing
and a warning, give pause.
This is not the dream,
the wish my heart made.


And The Answer Is …

‘Twas done for love
The chance we’d find
That bit of magic,
The only thing left,
To bring you back

 Agony does not do justice to
our hopes dashed, crashed
repeatedly on the rocks
as we prayed to any deities
on call who would, could, respond

We conjured spirits
begged them
for a sign we’d been heard,
acknowledged by the cosmos,
… A single candle’s flicker …

Something, anything, to show
there is — or was — a reason
to believe in belief itself

If only we held on long enough,
prayed hard enough,
sacrificed whatever was required,
perhaps . . .

Finally we knew
No One was home,
wherever home was,
to take the call

Our only mercy
was to let you go.

Perhaps your molecules of pain
were all we had left
to pray with, be heard
not by Gods on high,
but creatures of the earth.
Michele M. Graf


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