I am From–A Poem About Place

I am from doughboy pools and homemade Barbie houses

from Huffy bikes and Helms Bakery donuts.

I am from three sisters to a room and broad green bermuda lawns.

I am from bright sandy beaches and weeping willows

whose drooping green sheltered me from California’s sun.

I am from Coppertone and Sun-In

from Helen and Wes and John.

I am from belting out a tune and scribbling in the dark

from roller skating and tree-fort-building

from fighting at the top of my lungs and finding quiet at any cost.

I am from Bible stories with Mrs. Cluck and anywhere-you-can-take-5-kids-on-a-Sunday.

I am from the Hebjums and Lindseys, a Best at heart with an adopted name

from porkchops and sauerkraut, applesauce and meatloaf

from a father two generations back that made a grown girl flee

and a mother who lived chasing beauty wherever she could find it, rich or poor.

But mostly poor.

I am from luaus and carnivals, beach trips and berry-picking

babysitting and in charge at age 12 and hiding with a book to make it all go away.

I am from those moments of running, singing, writing, hiding, lying in the sun

but never far from the watchful eye of an invisible Father

held in arms more real than scratchy lawns and doughboy pools and donuts and

roller skates.

A Father more present than my own skin, closer than the sunshine on my bright brown hair.

Lover of my soul who was there every meandering minute, keeping time until I came home. 

~~~~~~~

I had the joy last weekend of participating in a gathering called “What’s Your Story? Discovering the Gift of Hearing and Telling our Stories.” Guest speakers were Cornelia Seigneur, founder and director of the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference, and Velynn Brown, mentor and speaker. They are both from the Portland area.

I’m grateful to Velynn for sharing her “I Am From” poem with us and modeling how to write our own. The original form and idea comes from George Ella Lyon, writer and teacher.  If you’d like to write an “I Am From,” there are resources and examples on Georgia’s website. Mr. Google can also oblige.

A Prayer for America

I wrote this poem the week of the Inauguration and it appeared on my poetry blog ‘another facet’. The words seem fitting again, in this week that we are reminded of our freedom and how we need to look up to our Creator for His help alone.

~~~~~

I wish I could collect
the light, landing its shadows
on this page as it creeps
ever brighter through the gray.
Pour it out to wash my heart,
salve the wound of this
present heaviness, the sighs
that never end.Hold it lightly aloft, praying
no sharp wind or
quiet, steady breeze
snuff it out, for we
need it so.

Father, carry us,
ferry us through storms,
silent and proud as we
shine hope in the right
direction–people-ward
up ward.

Send us, spread us
like the daily sure rising
of your sun, that moves ever
on into the distant dark.

——
In this holiday week as we celebrate the country’s independence it seems that all manner of circumstances would give us reason to despair. I’m choosing more often than not to turn off the news and turn to prayer over my kitchen sink instead.
May God Bless America.

May, March and April in Books #ReadUpstream

In keeping with the inauguration of the #ReadUpstream movement, I’m going to speak a little about what I’ve been reading and maybe entice you to do your own reading ‘upstream’; i.e. choosing classics and good books that speak to your heart, even if no one else is reading them. More about the origin of #ReadUpstream is here.

~*~*~*~*

When it comes to those things that bring me joy, I’m not sure whether I fancy birds or books more. Perhaps equally. I have books with ‘birds’ in the title melding those two—a love of reading and a fascination with my avian friends. There is much I learn from both—life lessons from the birds, echoing God’s message of carefree, trust-filled living and lessons in the lines of the many books that populate my home.

I often am reading many books at one time, which is why the title of this post is “March, April and May in Books.” There are many books that continue to engage me, but I will attempt to whittle down the list to include some of my current favorites.

  1. Fierce Convictions—The Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, Karen Swallow Prior

I first learned the name of Hannah More in the film ‘Amazing Grace’ (2006) about William Wilberforce and his campaign against the slave trade. There was a small part played by a feisty young woman named Hannah, whose name I catalogued for later. The later arrived with the release in 2014 of this book by Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English at Liberty University.

Hannah More’s life was set in the backdrop of Bristol, England in the early 1700’s, a historical period that was the height of the slave trade in Europe. I’ve only just begun reading how Hannah and her sisters started a school for women, an outright novelty for the day and age, as well as learning of the unheard of practice for her to spend time–imagine this–writing in a place of her own-mostly poetry. This particular privilege was made possible by the allowance of kind benefactor who was a previous suitor.

Hannah and I have much in common—a love of writing and reading and a background in education. Of course, the part we don’t share is an experience in opposing the slave trade. That tale is ahead of me in this book and I look forward to reading it.

Continue reading “May, March and April in Books #ReadUpstream”

Home-A Poem in Three Parts

Beginning

Years and miles evaporate

like the morning’s ocean fog where

the strong, bright gleam of

friendship holds true.

Holds true like trees that have

weathered decades of sun as we

weathered our own wearying

waves of life, lapping at the edge

of our friendship, threatening

to erode the years of tears

and laughter, the breaking

in between.

In between we hold on, reach

out past the yesterdays touching this

day as we raise high our glasses,

crystal etching the air, the sound

like a chime announcing

we are still here.

Middle

I threw myself at roaring rolls

of foam and froth, abandoned

my limbs skyward as I jumped

the tops of broken, bowing

breakers, exploded in laughter,

surprised after all these years that

I still know how to dive when needed,

that my body remembers the bounce

and bob of moving water and most

of all, recalls the healing taste of salt,

the wondrous sky-blaze balm

that is the sun.

End

The melodious midnight insistence

of cricket backdrops my sleep.

I drift into memories of summer

nights when this accompaniment

was the only sound, a lullaby

for my youthful self; I rest

with a song.

-c. Jody Lee Collins 2017

 ~~~~~

I recently returned from a 5 day visit to Southern California, the land where I grew up. I spent my days and evenings with family and friends, enjoying the rich, singular experience of a place that is buried deep in my bones. My mind was flooded with memories when I came home and, as usual, poured out into words. (‘Beginning’ first appeared on this blog in September, 2016).

 

 

To the Tune of ‘Lilies’, a Poem

There is a song in petals,

the rainsound of notes on thirsty

earth feeding spring’s new flowers.

There is a melody in the making

of a garden where silent, shriveled

seeds wait to burst, pushing

through wet soil with their magic

strength inside.

There is a harmony in the golden

leafwhisper and silent shout

of green dusting the tips of

dogwood and rose, tulip, lilac, moss.

The symphony grows as God

bouquets the Earth with color

and we hear that far off tune,

the resounding music that calls

us beyond this heaven to our home.

~*~*~*

I was reading Psalm 45 this morning; the Scripture that God spoke to me years ago when I began writing, “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” I noticed the text said it was written to the “tune of ‘Lilies'”, perhaps a song…and I wondered, what do lilies sound like? 

Writer’s Break

I’ve been awash in words

of late, missing out on the

wind waving through steel

branches, blue and white

sky. Eyes too crowded to

take note of the weather

which goes on without me,

whether I watch it or not.

A glance through the dining

room glass speaks loudly

in all caps.

I am listening.

“There is no earth-changing

work worth writing that

can compare to the lines written

in the night sky on an early

March evening.”

Memory safely deposited for

another day, I bank on the Holy

Spirit’s call to tug at my downward

eyes next time I am consumed

with my own importance.

I will myself to remember–look up.

~:~:~:~:~

I’ve been soaking myself in poet/writer/editor John D. Blase’s poems in “The Jubilee”, a collection recently released for his 50th ‘jubilee’ birthday. Each piece packs a wallop in the words; if you enjoy poetry, may I suggest you run, click or drive to get yourself a copy? 

When Your Workout Includes Wait Training

I want to fly these dumbbells

up, down, up, down

quick! The momentum of each

lift rising at my side pushing past

perhaps what’s safe or wise

in the name of what? Speed

or yes, the checklist-exercise-

done! When I slow instead,

face the window and raise

these weighted arms slow,

slow, slow-up; slow, slow, slow-

down-the strain increases but the

work muscle-wise is longer lasting.

I feel the wait and wonder if speed

is highly overrated. Aware of the

answer, I rest into the process

lifting again, lowering at my leisure.

Repeat.Relax.Rest.Return.

And find a lesson in these weights,

an exercise written over taut skin,

reaching to my soul.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m heading to the Cascade Mountains of Washington for a weeklong writing project (first draft of my little book!). I covet your prayers for this process–I’d like to speed it up, but God keeps reminding me He’s with me while I wait on Him for the words.