Uncle Johnny's FlagUncle Johnny’s Flag, photo & all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2014 

I remember so many people with special love on Veteran’s Day: my father Don, my father-in-law Len, my brother Dan, Uncle Johnny and the countless others who offered the gift of their service. Today I want to introduce you to Eleanor, mother of Scott (my most long-playing friend) and his beloved sister Andee. Over the years, I was privileged to spend time with the remarkable Eleanor, enjoying her joyful fashion sense, eating her beautifully prepared food and witnessing firsthand her powerful love. Her stunning military funeral inspired the following poem.

(It is cast in a form I created a few years back: the “fulcrum poem,” in which meaning twists on repeated phrases. Since the ear loves repetition but the eye does not, I have placed the fulcrums in superscript. These words should be read twice.  If you like puzzles, read the poem. If you’d rather listen, please click here: Sergeant Eleanor

 

 

SERGEANT ELEANOR IS LAID TO REST

In Which a Bird Appears.

 

Sergeant Eleanor is laid to rest

in fields of blooming yellow mustard eggs

in silver buckets later at the salad bar thoughts

of army women in the service Sergeant

Eleanor was happy. Fought for freedom

and was happy giving and receiving orders

of nuns almost army women in the forties served

a god-shaped army in peacetime

couldn’t use this soldier on did

 

Sergeant Eleanor: husband, baby. Twice.

Third man no better. No matter.

A daughter. A son. Lives to guard, honor

Sergeant Eleanor, who fought for freedom

when divorce drew fierce artillery

of shame as well in purplehearted sacrifice

of factory work of loneliness like flaying

bayonets stripped from barrels by the honor guard

at her grave  looks on the veterans; warring

 

Sergeant Eleanor wore costume jewelry,

turquoise and magenta, fought on vodka,

cigarettes, bedtime stories, in combat

with doctors, bankers, teachers.

For these kids. That clear? Motherhood:

a hundred thousand acts of bravery.

And a helluva lemon meringue.

 

Sergeant Eleanor made herself goddam heard.

Three shots shock like broken eggs’ shells fly

from soldiers’ rifles lay a soldier

in the grave salute flag folded wings

 

 

Sergeant Eleanor’s daughter and son

open the car at the crossroads of dust shrieks

from a rust-ringed feathered throat

Kildeer at the right front tire,

fatherless her dusty nest a gravel patch.

Two speckled eggs warm with life.

 

 

 

 

Publication News: I am pleased to announce that an essay of mine appears in the Connecting: Celebrating the People and Places of The Hudson Highlands, a glorious, freshly-published, coffee-table-worthy book of sumptuous photographs and essays. (I was asked to write about the arts here.) There is a celebration and book-signing at Winter Hill on Thursday, November 20, from 6:00-8:00 pm. I’d be so happy to see you there.

Treeglow: A Writer Wednesday Post

October 8th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Poetry - (12 Comments)

 

treemoreglowTreeglow, photo& all text © Irene O’Garden 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: Treeglow

In the midst of an errand-studded, socially-whirly, travel-mottled fortnight, and in lieu of lamely listing said dance card, I share an image that brings me peace, and the few words which occurred.

 

Early trained to stained glass,

the eye of the beholder falls

on veined archetypal panes.

 

Light guides the eye

and shadow settles it.

Seasons lead and ground us.

 

 

Have a peaceful week.

 

MorningShadow Morning, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 To listen to this post, please click here: Circadia 

 

I am procuring and organizing equipment for next Saturday’s departure to Montana where I will join several family members for a week’s journey in the wilderness. I will be out of all techno-range for the duration and wanted to let you know I won’t be posting next week. But I certainly look forward to sharing with you when I get back. Meanwhile, here’s a poem newly-hatched for you.

 

CIRCADIA

 

I wished for a day made of mornings:

its tissues of night dissolving,

world slipping over my head anew

in easy long-sleeved shadows:

 

a day repeatedly arrayed

in crisp unwrinkled promise.

As it grew limp, or sullied

or scorched, I pulled a fresh start

from the closet again and again—

pristine for each task, for each practice.

 

But seeing what I sacrificed

for the sake of enterprise:

the slanting satin afternoon,

the tulle of twilight, the silk-bodied moon-

I cast off my wish and dance,

wrapped in the aprons of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June Apology: A Writer Wednesday Post

June 11th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Poetry - (12 Comments)

 

Rose voiceRose Voice, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

To listen to this post, please click here:June Apology

 

A poem newer than this bloom–7am today:

 

 

 

I wanted to write you,

yet am I lost

in the voices of roses.

 

I wanted my pen,

not the coaxing touch of peach,

the goatsbeard’s palomino mane,

the sticky resins of fertility.

 

I wanted to write you

of things more important than spring,

but my words are webbed in petals,

scattered over the fields

like daisy and bedstraw,

caught in the purpletipped clover.

 

I cannot gather or release them.

I cannot write or speak them.

I am lost in the voices of roses.

 

 

Vernal Icon: A Writer Wednesday Post

April 16th, 2014 | Posted by Irene in Poetry - (6 Comments)

 

sunny bunny

 Vernal Icon, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Vernal Icon

This stunning vernal icon on our mantelpiece was created by collagist Lisa O’Rourke. (No website yet–her work was offered at  Tracy Strong’s wonderful studio sale.) Though freshly minted, it strikes an ancient chord in me–a fine untarnished image of fertility that feels at once medieval, and somehow older than Easter.

As accompaniment, here is “Rabbit,” from my Voices of Animals collection. I often share it in the classroom with young bunnies.

 

RABBIT

Spring is the heart

of the rabbit. Spring

is the haunch. My ears wing

my sound: melody of morning

runs like water down. My nibble

my gnaw my sweet root. Then danger!

rustling like birdflight,

fans my ceaseless quickenings.

How I love to be afraid!

For I know I am fast—

the holy scent passes my whiskers,

I joy in the whiz of the grass—

know fear’s good; smell speed there.

Blood runs high, worlds blur

in this great bounding game.

 

The turn the twitch

the switch, the hitched haunch

in twisted white wheat loosed

just before the clamping tooth,

slipping spinning kicking

bare along the pounded bank

Will I make my hole

or float above me watching?            

 

Wished I a safe life I’d live

as a mole! Wriggle short fur

grass tuft tail. I have known

severally this great soaring instant

of death. We die as the grass:

not at all.

 

 

How will you enjoy the rites of Spring? 

 

 

Check out One Poem A Day–great seeing folks read favorite poems.(Mine appears next Wednesday.)

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And here, the info about my poetry reading on May 2 in Beacon:

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PeasePeas on Earth, photo © Irene O’Garden 2014, poem © John Pielmeier, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:The Gardener’s Lament

(Apologies for the missing apostrophe above–Wordpress will not let me put it in, despite my particular personal affection for that bit of punctuation!)

How happy I am to plant this timely guest post before you today, written by the literarily nimble John Pielmeier! While known to most of the world as a dramatist and screenwriter, he is also a delightful poet, as you soon shall see–

(Full disclosure: I am myself the wife to whom he refers.)

THE  GARDENER’S LAMENT

Starting on the Ides of March

I have seen my poor wife arch

Her greening brows, begin to plan

Precisely where to plant her can-

teloupes, tomatoes, peas and corn,

Rhubarb, lettuce, Plenty’s Horn.

April brings the seeds a-sprouting

In our kitchen, stemlings mounting

Up our dining rooms bare walls

In our living room and halls,

Bathtub filled with greening babies—

Future yeses, no’s and maybe’s.

May’s the time to plant and crack

The earthen beds and break your back

By heaving tons of sod or mulch or

Some such boons to horticulture.

June—our growing babes are prey

To bugs and slugs; Cocoons of May

Have sprouted into caterpillars;

My wife and I—the June bug killers—

Forgot to spray the tree for leeches—

Whoops! Too bad, we lost the peaches.

Come July the currants red

Are calling us from early bed

To pick and pick and pick and pick

And pick and pick til we grow sick

Of picking. Lo! No end in sight.

It’s time to pray for currant blight.

In August-time the corn is high

As–well—a tallish midget’s eye.

The sun’s been hot—a fierce attack—

And all that’s green has turned to black.

But never fear! My lovely mate is

Overburdened with tomatoes.

September’s crop is fit to burst—

Too bad the deer have got it first.

October’s time to plow it under,

Dream of next year’s harvest plunder,

Calculate the season’s fee—

A dollar-ninety-eight a pea!

For tho’ the snows sift white and deeper,

Winter’s veggies sure are cheaper.

Begging all your green thumb’s pardon,

I bid farewell to this year’s garden,

While ordering Burpee o’er the phone.

There’s nothing like a grow-your-own.

 

 

How does your garden grow?

 

If you find yourself in Beacon NY on Friday night May 2, I will be a featured poet at the Howland Center at 8pm–I’ll be reading some of my newest work. Hope to see you there!

SprungSprung, photo &  all text, © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click hereSprung: A Writer Wednesday Post

Though momentarily concealed, the sun was out long enough this week to bless the dining-room bouquet, soften the earth in the garden and distribute a general feeling of relief here in the Hudson Valley.

Help arrived yesterday and busted up the last crusty, recalcitrant, gravel-studded humps of snow; scraped away the tattered mats of autumn leaves, and leveled all the yellow silhouettes of “winter interest”—those grasses, rosehips, dessicated flowerheads we leave in the bleakened landscape to lift our hearts.

Snowdrops, crocuses, green poking spears –all the lovely little Spring clichés bring comfort, for I’m wrestling with the angel of an old writing project.  Caught myself thinking that finishing it will be quite an accomplishment.

But that approach can be a winter of its own. Does Nature “accomplish” Spring?  Is it a list of tasks she checks off one by one? When she’s finished, does she collapse in a cloud and say “Glad that’s done!”

Those poking crocuses remind us creative projects are not sets of tasks, either, but living things, with their own seasons, growing out of ourselves into themselves and at last, springing free of us.

 

What’s springing up in you these days?

Wanted to let you know about a delightful project our local newspaper, Philipstown.info is doing. Perhaps your community might enjoy creating this as well–I was asked to record one of my poems–it will air later this month

One Poem a Day Won’t Kill You” celebrates April as National Poetry Month by inviting community members to read a favorite poem, original or borrowed.  The project drew such an enthusiastic response that April may be a bit longer than usual this year.  Tune in each day for a new addition to a delightfully inspiring anthology of poems and voices.

 

 

 

St NickHe Is Us, photo and all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden 2013

Just a couple of holiday smiles and happy publication news this week. Above is a Santa paper sculpture I made years ago. Though he looks as if he’s gigantically filling an armchair,  he actually finds his foot-high self on a doorknob every Christmas. What you can’t see is my little pencilled inscription. It became our Christmas card a while back, which sentiment I now share with my newer friends:

“I have met Santa, and he is us.”

On Friday, I received a recording request this week, and while unplanned,  I thought it an appropriate gift for you. Note our stockings hung with care as you listen to this classic: A Visit From St. Nicholas.

Writer Wednesday or not, no one needs email on Christmas, so I won’t be posting next week.

 

In Hopes In Hopes, photo ⓒ Irene O’Garden, 2013

 

Happy Publication News:  Goodbye Fat Girl is now live! You can download and/or gift this e-version of my book Fat Girl in Kindle form here at Amazon. Both Kindle and PDF formats are available here at OmniLit.com. A dedicated iBooks version for iPad and iPhone will be released in January. Don’t forget to enter the signed first edition giveaway through the widget above.

Also, some of you know about my play Little Heart, based on the life of Corita Kent. I am happy to share that “Someday Is Now:The Art of Corita Kent,”a new book detailing her work was just named one of the NY Times ten best visual books of 2013. Interviews I conducted for the play are cited in the book and I am proud to be credited in this handsome volume.

 

 

 

SkyStreak

SkyStreak, photo, poem and all text © Irene O’Garden 2013

 

To listen to this post, please click here:The Pearl at the Heart

 

The Horse, Us

Hoofprints in my fledgling heart embossed.

Prancing crazily down Pennsylvania Avenue:

the barely-restrained emblem of all gone wrong.

 

The horse, us. Our rider tossed.

The boots reversed. Turmoil

unbridled. Vigor entombed.

 

Is childhood always quite so roughly lost?

The Earthrise of emotion has her cost.

 

Fifty years ago this week, I and many others felt a new, simultaneous public awareness: feelings link us not only to those we know, but to people everywhere. The collapse of grief across the nation and the world, and the broadcast of it united us like the picture of Earth from space a few years later.

Today’s children take this awareness in stride, which is the pearl at the heart of this sorrow. And with global communication and broadcasting  literally at our fingertips, amazing expressions of healing abound.

One is taking place in Dallas just now. For the Dallas Love Project,  Pulitzer-prize winning illustrator Karen Blessen called for and gathered thirty thousand pieces of art. In a temporary installation, she and other volunteers have placed them along the motorcade route and throughout the city. Remarkable what inspiration and communication now create.

 

Publication News:  Am delighted to share the news that A Slant Of Light, the anthology of Contemporary Hudson Valley Women Writers has been awarded The USA BOOK NEWS 2013 Best Anthology:Fiction. I’m extremely proud to be part of this book!A Slant Of Light

 

Gaudi eyeDivine Eye, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2013

To listen to this post, please click here:Soulgrowing

Greetings, dear friends. I missed you in September, yet felt you at my side pointing out things and asking questions during our three-week spirit-quenching sojourn in Mediterranea—

While I’m not sure how much of the trip I’ll share here, or even what wants to be worded or painted,  this image feels like its emblem.

Sagrada Familia is the colorful, starry-pinnacled, unfinished basilica whose towers grace many a Barcelona guidebook.  It was designed by Antoni Gaudi, and the photos I’d seen made me think his work quirky. Novel, but arbitrary.  Travel throws my ignorance in high relief, and thereby grows my soul.

The exterior is indeed colorful, syncopated, idiosyncratic, but for now, step out of the hot Spanish noon through the massive bronze doors into cool dim, which in a moment opens on a silver grove dappled with light: golden and white and the rotating wheel of the spectrum.

You are in a spiritual translation of a forest. In this shapely generous space, stone trunks rise, twist, branch, uphold a curved and jagged honeycomb of sky. At one end, through Gaudi’s mastery of mathematics, construction, light, design, and materials, saturated in his love of his work, of nature and of his divine “Client,” he translates the sun for us. It becomes the very Eye of God, and unlike our sun, we can look into it.

Free of cliché, of visual dogma. “This interior gives me faith in the future of human spirituality, “I whispered to John. Fresh, harmonic, flexible. Room for souls to grow.

Gaudi began work on the basilica 1883 and completed but a quarter of his design in his lifetime. He was at peace.  “My client is not in a hurry, “ he said.  Work continues, and according to today’s Huffington Post, plans are to complete it by 2026, the centennial of the architect’s death.

 

 

Omission Resolved!

Apparently the file I recorded of My Shadow (as requested by more than one reader) malfunctioned. Here is is again for My Shadow fans!

My Shadow

 

The Lit Biz

Busy times ahead—this Saturday, October 5, I am proud to be part of the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival with the gifted artist/illustrator Pat Schories. 2pm Sunday, I’ll joyfully be at the Gardiner, New York Library, where Carol Montana is producing a reading of my Off-Broadway play Women On Fire. Q and A will follow. Please join me if you are in either neighborhood! News next week about a wonderful print anthology in which I am delighted to be included.

 

 

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