Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THE HONEST TRUTH - A SECRET IN THE HOUSE April Month of Poetry

The poem you are about to read is true. And I am not the first to discuss the information. The New Yorker, October 21, 2013 Issue  Books - Briefly Noted gives a short review of Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding. Faced with a new life raising two children, the book opens with the children having head lice. I will have to read it and compare it to my experience.

Which is a major panic. The ordeal of buying every lice killing product for the scalp and armloads of spray for every surface anyone may have touched in the house. And bagging up any pillow, comforter, hat, stuffed animal, couch cushion into outdoor bags for smotherification, tossed into the garage. Not to be opened for a month or two. (?) The constant inspection. Switching products. Sleeping under fumigated bedding. It can drive a body mad.

I give you my honest rendition.


A SECRET IN THE HOUSE

Alas, my beautiful hair
Did not survive a menacing snare.
No more trips to the chic salon,
I bought new “hair” and pulled it on.
This lack of locks was not from stress or disease.
I had a secret in my house
-a louse who wouldn’t leave.
Lucky me, the patient survived.
But after days of living in the waiting room
I discovered my “guest” in glorious bloom.
Despite my constant perusal
This thing was not easily removable.
Lathered in chemical foams with label warnings
Of damage to my brain,
A fortune in prescriptions washed down the drain.
After months of hidden despair I gave up my medicated hair.
Fresh and free and bald as a baby,
No longer crazy over a bug too small to see
Without good light and scrutiny.
Society thinks “nice” people do not have lice
But no one is immune.
I survived the menacing snare.
All it cost me was my hair.

Amy Holt Taylor @2011

Sunday, April 22, 2018

FRED THE TOM CAT - THE FIRST



April always sweeps me away. Then I come to my senses and realize April is Poetry Month. And I have not presented a post about one of my favorite subjects. Today is the day. One of the first of more to come. But just in case, I have picked three quick, simple poems.

Fred The Tom Cat is my first poem complete with illustration. I found this gem in a book titled Stories and Poems. In all of my eleven year old glory. As is.

FRED TOM CAT

Hello, I'm Fred Tom Cat
When I walk by people
they say, "Scat you dirty
rat!"
Now lets make this clear.
I should cause no fear.
I do not bite.
Even though I fight.
I have a wife,
She leads a normal
life.
I have three kittens,
They have their own mittens.
Our house is a big box,
Our beds are a couple
of socks.
My salery is fair,
Even though its is a
terrfic scare.
We eat fish,
Right out of a dish.
Today put out some cream
If a Tom Cat gulps it
down, don't scream.

*********

Seven Falls was written for the last page of my daughter's high school graduation scrapbook. The poem is placed next to a photo of the maple trees - the picture shot on the very fall day we danced as three.

SEVEN FALLS

BabyBird,
your story begins with a pile of leaves from the red maple trees
standing in front of Mama and Daddy’s home.
A student was raking leaves for the BSU at the U of A.
He caught my Mama’s eye,
and she was not the type of Mama who had ever gotten caught
worrying over beaus and grooms.
She just handed him a broom.
Months later, in the middle of summer
she was reading the paper and said,
“There’s my friend.”
I could not have known then
when she first said his name—
our traveled road would be the same.
On the fall afternoon when he had finished his job
he told Mama goodbye and handed her the broom—
the unsuspecting groom—
none of us ever would have guessed.
Seven falls down the road would find we three—
our family—
dancing with you in our arms
beneath the glow of the red maple trees
where he’d raked leaves seven years before. 

*********

Three 3 O'clock A.M. In the middle of the night, really morning. Waking up, putting on my robe and walking into the den. Turning on the lamp. A bump in the night wakes me up. In this case, snoring. I have written poems in total darkness but a circle of light is my preference. A clear spot on any piece of paper will do. 


THREE O’CLOCK A.M.

Three o’clock in the morning
Sounds like a snoring wall,
Joints creaking in relaxation,
The power of 1 AA battery marking the second
boxed in a red metal clock high on the shelf.
Dark and quiet.
When most people are fast asleep.
A.M.
I am awake without effort
Or caffeine
But a mind that won’t stop
Counting numbers in the dark
Without thinking
Of what to wear in ten days
On a Saturday
Three days after I turn fifty
And the color on my toes
But paler on my fingers
I will wear “Happy to Me.”
Happy to be me
Maybe not always
But always grateful for the love in my life
That has helped me get here.
A station in life
Not the stop I wanted
Or the brochure picked out
But still waiting
Breathless
Excited for the next trip.
Always grateful
Even for an illness trying to pull me down,
Showing me weak and on my knees.
Grateful for grace
That reaches down and lifts me
Back to a good day walking
Across a pebbled lot crunching
With the sun in my face
And air in my lungs.
Life in my bones,
These fifty year old bones

Carrying around the heart of a sixteen year old girl.



Amy Holt Taylor@2018




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

FULL VOICE (Spring Break)

Taking a spring break. Originally published March 31, 2015.


I usually miss the official spring service of The Messiah.  But not on purpose.  I grew up hearing my Daddy practicing the music as he prepared for the yearly Easter event at our church. Humming, whistling or just bursting out with a word here or there.  Wonderful.  Counselor.  He loved to sing. And he loved to improvise on the piano in his own special method.  Having played in the band, he knew music but I don't know if he ever took piano lessons.

I'm not up with the roosters.  I'm up with those earliest of morning birds.  My favorite morning birds bursting with the joy in a dark morning.  I don't know what wakes them up but you could set your watch by them.

When I was little, for some reason, I would wake up in the middle of the dark early morning which seems to be the darkest time of day.  I was wide awake and afraid, probably because every noise in the night had to have a reason and I would lie in bed trying to figure out in my nine year old mind what caused the noise.

One particular morning I was terrified.  I woke up and thought a man was crouched in the shadow at the end of my twin bed.  I had a foot board so I couldn't see but I had hung a small hat at the top of the short poster.  It may sound funny now but  I was scared beyond scared.  I couldn't decide what to do.  I could see the man and he wasn't moving and he wasn't leaving.  Of course, my mind probably couldn't reason enough to realize a real person couldn't crouch in this position forever and especially not breathing!

After what seemed an eternity of not moving my own position, I came up with a plan.  I can hear my trembling voice as if I were saying the words right now.  I didn't want anyone to be hurt and I wanted him to leave. Most of all, as a fan of too many detective movies, I knew I didn't want to see his face.  You have to believe me when I say I had been waiting a long time figuring this out.  This person's knees were most likely permanently frozen into place.  But I didn't know that.  I knew I wanted my Daddy.

I yelled out into the dark.  "STAY DOWN! STAY DOWN!  I don't want to see your face.  STAY DOWN!  STAY DOWN!"  Of course my plan had not gone much farther as to who would leave the room first.  Well, he didn't move.  In the background, I could hear the first early bird beginning to chirp.  To this day, I love that sound of morning around the corner.  And then another different bird.  I cried out again so loud I hoped my father would wake up and hear me.

He came hurrying down the hall, opened the door and turned on the light, running to my side.  What was wrong?  Of course, then all my bravery of resisting the man at the foot of the bed gave way to tears, finally.  My father picked up the cap on the poster, holding it up to show me.  He didn't laugh at me because he could see it wasn't funny.

How blessed to have a father who would come running to me, in the dark as I cried out, too scared to move.  And how wonderful to have a Heavenly Father perching The Early Bird on a branch near my window, reminding me it may be dark now but morning light is just around the corner.  And a chorus of morning birds singing Hallelujah, The Prince of Peace.






Sunday, February 11, 2018

BUT LATELY, I'VE LEARNED ALOT

I didn't know a collarbone could get old. Or there could be too much chocolate. Maybe the Patriots could be beaten. Or too much plaid was too much plaid. But, lately, I've learned alot.

I don't even think about my collarbone. How dare it age on me? I drink my milk. I don't flash it in daring, fashionable revelation. And yet the disadvantage of time called me to attention in less than three days. But not three regular days of just sitting around typing, napping or watching Wheel of Fortune. 

At first, I thought the pain was not a "good' pain, the maybe I should tell someone just in case pain. I took some Tylenol and hit the pillow. And now, a week later, I still have occasional discomfort. I have learned my sixteen year old mind is attached to a little bit older physical body. Helping Cate and Finn move was physically taxing but necessary work.

We all learned that the mover doesn't have to show up on a cold, drizzly February day if there might be any chance of precipitation. But we are over that stress. And maybe there wasn't a lot of job security involved when you know the movees will be thrilled with the next day - On the next day, the day after the Super Bowl, I failed to ask the movers if they were happy with the outcome. We were too blitzed to even watch the last ten minutes. Go Team!

I have learned that by the end of my visit I am just beginning to tolerate going up the stairs from the street to the front door. Eight or ten. A person could eventually accomplish the up part. But the down part still leaves me hunched over like Old Mother Hubbard looking for her cane. Which makes it hard for me to carry boxes down to the car. But we now have new front steps that are manageable. And new basement stairs. 

I call them Reagan Planes. When I wake up early in the morning and the totally dark curtains have a faint piping of earliest light, I can hear the beginning of the day as the planes begin to fly in and out of my Capitol city. For the rest of the day, I might notice one or two others.

This wasn't a plane. I had an armload and was getting ready to head up three steps at the new house. But I hesitated curbside and looked up at the noise which caught my attention. Loud and so low, I wondered if they were looking down on me looking up. Three Black Hawk helicopters in a row with another large helicopter at the rear. Major military might going right over my head. Impressive. I could see that.

I have seen every President in my lifetime except for Eisenhower and Ford. And on this afternoon, I learned I was most likely watching Trump in escort to a function. According to my experts. I will take that sighting as my best ever Presidential flyover in my Presidential check off column.  

A homeless man of sturdy stature carrying/pushing two large bags through the cafe where we are eating hamburgers. He is getting a large coffee with cream. It is cold outside and I can't imagine how it feels to sit or sleep outdoors. An employee brings the man a hamburger basket piled with french fries. I think maybe I should go buy the man more food. He is nice-looking and not eroded from a long life on the streets. But he looks different. He goes outside to a table and writes in a small notebook. I don't know what I have to offer him. I haven't learned this part. Later, Finn tells me the man paid with a card. Maybe I could carry a few pre-paid credit cards for this situation. In the middle of the night, when I wake up, I think about that man sleeping in the cold.

I have learned that you can lose your boarding pass but not your cool while the TSA agent is nothing but nice. Of course, no one was in line, thankfully, while you pull little receipts out of your crossover bag and lipstick and a credit card and the "pill" tin and the phone and take the suggestion to go print another one. Never in my life does happen. And away from the stress of the TSA, another perusal turns up my boarding pass in the possession of my cool and collected traveling companion. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I have learned how well we train Navy Intelligence Officers and their canny abilities even in retirement. He told me about Polish City Chicken and Michigan and Cast Iron Skillets. What did I not tell him? He was very pleasant. 

I have learned that 4,000 miles in one month is alot of travel. And trying to do life in the between of washing and packing and bill paying and participating in my two favorite groups and learning a new phone and entertaining and beautifying and dealing.

Learning not to have throw down, screaming fits when the Internet and the refrigerator both glitch out not totally but sporadically because the final curtain is always so much better and definite than maybe or maybe not milk will be cold when you pick up the Fire to read the blank page of a book that expires in 3 days on 43% read. For almost two weeks in the middle of the coming and the going. In progress. 

But most of all, I've learned children grow up. And thank goodness, they have figured alot of stuff out. Not everything but plenty enough to go there and through without you, when necessary. Because you have to remember how much you knew when you were their age. How fresh the world seemed and new products could be mastered and new stuff actually anticipated just for the newness. 

There is much they still don't know but they don't know they need it, yet. But thankfully, they still know they need you and they are getting to an age when it's okay to finally admit they always did and always will. 

I have learned they are really physically stronger and even their corrected vision might view better, those new eyes. Those new views on the future and where they are and where they will go. They are only beginning but theirs' is so much and so long in front of them. They are not afraid of change because they haven't lived long enough for much. So they change without a big deal. 

Their collarbones won't hurt for a long time. Hopefully, with blessing and bidding, they will fly through relatively unscathed. But even then I have learned and I have seen, shoulders hoisting boxes and running up and down stairs in the coldest night air. Strength for days just because. Problems solved. Love and forgiveness. Two sheltering three. Solid.










Friday, December 29, 2017

MOUNTAINBURG




Not a thing lies hidden
behind the bare branch –
          the days before emergent buds.

Sycamores silver and white
          golden autumn cast to the ground.

White limbs reaching to the sky, seeking,
          silver fingers thrusting out, pleading,
          bare tips looking to heaven, expecting.

Snow,
like manna,
catching in the bends,
brushing branches,
          clinging to loosened bark and hardened knots.

Whirling,
          lacing cedar trees.

Tabled outcroppings spreading for feasting.

God steps back and says “It is good. It is pure.”


12-27-17

Saturday, December 16, 2017

TO SEE AND HEAR

Sarah and Ezekiel caught my eye this Christmas season.  They were in two very different places.  But the gift these little children gave me this season has stayed with me.

I met Ezekiel at the grocery store.  On a day when grocery store lines were running about ten carts deep and every available bagger and checker were in position and working hard.  Everyone had milk and bread and eggs and frozen pizza and chips and Ravioli and tunafish and Vienna sausage and marshmallows and peanut butter.  Rations for an ice storm.  Or power outage or both.


Ezekiel did not bounce off the walls or swing on the basket or run back and forth begging for another item.  He stood politely and talked to his grandmother about the frozen pizza in their basket and how much fun they were going to have making it for supper.  I started chatting with her because I always chat. I do not live in a solemn world. 

Then I began talking to Ezekiel.  He was also a willing chatter.  He was five.  He told me about school and the pizza.  I asked him if he had been a good boy.  Have you ever met a child who wasn't?  Yes, he had been good.  I asked him what he wanted for Christmas.  He said he wanted Santa to bring him paints.  And some kind of toy I have no knowledge of - maybe a game.  He said he was an artist.  And he was pleased that I was pleased that he was one.  He had done six pictures of his family and he liked to just sit and draw.  Smiling, I asked him if he would go home with me.  He smiled without hesitation and asked if he could bring his games with him.  His grandmother laughed and said she could loan him out.  I leaned down and told him that would be fun.  Then looking out from under his hood somberly, his bright eyes looked up at me and he whispered in the reverence only reserved for the most special things in a child's life.  "I love candy."  A smile broke across his face.  "But not too much."  Chocolate.  We agreed that was the best.  I told him since he was an artist he could draw pictures of candy.  His eyes shot sideways in the new thought.  I told him that people have jobs drawing candy packages and cookie and pizza packages.  The wheels were spinning.  I left there with a little soft spot in my heart for a delightful young man named Ezekiel.

Sarah caught my eye at church.  She was standing at the Advent Table with her family as they lit the first candle of the season.  She and her brother were a little more than eye level with the velvet covered table holding five candles.  Her mother lit one candle.  Our pastor began to lead us in prayer.  Sarah bowed her head and then looked up.  She wasn't looking at the crowd or at her parents or her brother.  She was looking straight into the candle as the spark burned on the candle's wick.  Her face glowed, reflected in the light of the candle so close to her.  The childlike amazement was in her eyes.  She barely smiled.  I went away from church that morning with a fresh view of the amazement of Christmas.

I have probably never talked to Sarah.  I do know her parents.  She has certainly not spent time telling me what she wants for Christmas.  I don't know if she likes frozen pizza or the color pink or chocolate candy.  I do know Sarah walks.  But in the fall, with school just starting, she suffered a very rare stroke and her precious young life was almost lost.  But now, both sides of her body work like a little girl's body should and she can almost run again.

I think of Mary, barely a young woman.  Making a journey to a new land of great difficulty.  On a donkey.  Better than walking, maybe.  Young, with only a new, inexperienced husband for support.  No mother or sisters to ease her path.  I see her eyes with tears, in excitement, fear and pain.  But her husband is steady and confident and protective.

Ezekiel and his talent.  His bright eyes smiling.  A whisper in his ears - you have the miracle.

Sarah smiling, running.  A whisper in her ears - you are a miracle.

Mary, riding into a new life.  A whisper in her ears - you carry The Miracle.

May you hear the whisper.



**Originally published 12-24-13

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A TWENTY IN MY POCKET



We couldn’t get on the road until well after dark. Years ago, I would pack a Thermos of coffee and a few snacks.  Little towns had yet to see yellow arches. Gas stations offered pots of coffee which had usually been sitting for a couple of hours. On a bitter November night, a few swigs of black bean hit the spot.

Just off the interstate, the rest area was fairly new and sat at the top of a little mountain which gave down into miles of harvested land. Other mountains were nearby but the scraggy fields and far spaced small towns reflected nothing but space. I got out of the car and gazed up into the night sky.  

A few cars were parked at the curb next to the brick building. Park benches and picnic tables stood away from the building. Another car was parked more closely than the others. It was old and battle worn. A man leaned under the hood, messing with something.  A non-descript item like a pillow or blanket and paper trash were smashed up into the rear window and blocked a passenger window.
Burt and I walked into the rest area without mentioning the old car.

I walked into the Ladies and immediately got the picture. I said hello. The room was stuffy from the two hand dryers hanging near the faucet. Harsh lighting and yellow tiles reflected into a wavy polished metal mirror scratched by more than just an uneven lipstick. I walked past and into a stall.

Instant dilemma. What should I do? I had never seen anything like this before. A mother was standing by a hand dryer. The sound never seemed to end as she regularly pushed the button to keep the warm air near her daughters. I had never seen anyone like her before. She was a large woman draped in ill-fitting clothes that appeared to have been worn a long time without washing. Her face and hair were not clean.

At her feet, two little girls huddled together on a blanket, children sitting on the floor of a rest area in a blanket to be used for sleeping. They were wearing thin clothing. There was no hint of the rosy blush of a sweet childhood. They needed good food, warm clothes, hot water and a soft bed.

Frankly, my twenty-two years were in shock over this situation. What could I do to help them?
I had a twenty in my pocket. A twenty would buy a week’s worth of groceries.  My parents always gave me money for my pocket when Burt and I were leaving. I could give the woman the twenty. I felt compelled that this was the right thing for me to do.

I listened to some of her story. I could only help this much but I hoped it would get them down the road. She was very appreciative and blessed me profusely. I almost had to turn my eyes away from the girls. I had never seen two little girls in such a dire situation. They didn’t offer any smiles, huddled together on the blanket, on the floor of the restroom, warming under the hand dryers like baby chicks under a light.

I had had an almost religious experience giving the woman the twenty dollars. In my immature twenties, I didn’t know if she was there to bless me and my generosity or if I was there to offer her hope and a minimum of salvation. My heart seemed to overflow, no matter which reason. I even thought maybe she was an angel. 

But in not too many more minutes, Burt pointed out it was probably a scam. I should have tried to get the little girls help on that bitter November night. I failed even though I thought I had offered Christian charity. After the Thanksgiving holiday, I waved goodbye to my parents. I left without anyone giving me even one dollar bill.

Last week, a young man walked up to a group of my friends as we stood outside saying goodbye. When he first walked up, I assumed he was a high school boy going into the restaurant. He was wearing khakis and a yellow hoodie. His hair was neat. 

He stopped and asked if we could help him. Those words. “Can you help me?” He had run out of gas and the filling station (next door) wanted 14.95 to loan a gas can. Here was a picture of his car. Here was the phone screen where he had tried to call his father. He was 17 and lived in “Pricey Neighborhood.” Just a few miles down the road. He was politely pleading, to this group of ladies – grandmothers, retired ladies, working women - a very compassionate group to come across in your time of need – good Christian women.

Three of us walked to our cars, the only cars on the other side of the building. First one friend pulled out of her place and then the friend next to me. I backed out and put my car in drive. I am startled to see the boy running across the grass, straight for my car. I brake to stop. My window was barely rolled down. He has pulled up his hood and is standing with his hands in his pocket. So close to my window I can see the cratered skin of severe drug abuse.

“Mam, please, anything. Change. Just quarters.” For a minute I remember I have a handful of quarters in my purse. But something in me remains resolute. I had a twenty in my pocket. But I was afraid. He was so close to my car. My antenna went up. I drove off.  The paper has been full of purse snatchings and robberies. 

Was I supposed to put my car into park, open my purse and look for quarters or pull the twenty from my pocket? My instinct urged me to drive away.  

I doubt he was seventeen or lived in the nearby fancy neighborhood. But he belongs to someone. Is a Mama sitting in a chair, unable to sleep, thinking about her son? What if he were my son? I could only hope someone would help him.

I’ll never know if he was a scam or a thief waiting for me to roll down the window. His face is still clear in my mind. I don’t know how much favor I can afford him.

People are literally running to us for help. Blocking our pathways. Interupting our conversations. Startling our senses. So many people need help that we are overwhelmed, frightened and exhausted. What can we do? How do we know?

A little voice inside of me. Lord, give me heart and courage. And a pocketful of twenties.