A Poem for the Marcellus

I had to share this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-steingraber/marcellus-shale_b_1428030.html, which leads to an essay and poem by biologist/poet, Dr. Sandra Steingraber.  She is one of the heroes in the fight to keep unconventional fossil fuel extraction, aka fracking, out of New York State and to rein in this and all toxic industrial activity everywhere. The poem is mind-blowing for me, partly because of its depth of composition and partly because I have spent a lot of time in the fight, too, although in the role of citizen advocate/commenter, not expert/lecturer/author.

Slam(ish) Poem

My new and exciting experience this month is attending my first ever workshop with the Binghamton Poetry Project., which is a weekly, five-week community poetry working/learning hour with (mostly grad) students from Binghamton University facilitating. Our facilitators present a topic, which includes a couple of example poems, and then we write and some volunteer to read what they have just written from prompts based on the poems.

This was week three, and I finally got brave enough to read my prior week’s poem at the beginning of class. In fact, I got so brave that I also performed the poem I wrote during class. I say performed rather than read because we had an introduction to slam poetry and our prompts were to try out the style, which isn’t meant to be read from the page but experienced in performance. I was (perhaps inordinately but quietly) proud of myself for attempting this, given that I am not current/hip/adventurous enough to have ever been exposed to the style, and more so because I was the only class member that actually was brave/foolhardy enough to attempt it, rather than writing something else that was in their head that had nothing to do with the prompts.

So, here I am breaking the rules, presenting my first – and perhaps only – attempt at slam poetry in written form, rather than as a performance video, because a) I am not technically able to produce and post a video, b) I am not skilled enough as a performer for it to really make a difference, and c) it’s easier to potentially embarrass myself once in a room of about twenty people than to post it to the internet where I could be embarrassed permanently.

Yes, I am a feminist.
No, I do not hate men.
Yes, I went to Smith, but
No, that does not automatically make me a lesbian,
– although what difference would it make if I was?
Yes, I am Catholic, but
No, I don’t just do what the bishop says.
Yes to primacy of conscience.
No to denying my own God-given talents.
Yes, my worth is not tied to money ‘cuz
No, I’m not paid for the work I do.
Yes, I’m a poet.
No, I’ve never sold a poem.
Yes, I make a difference.
No, you can’t make me feel worthless.
Yes, I have silver hair.
No, I do not qualify for your senior discount.
Yes, I am blessed – or lucky –
if you don’t believe in blessings.
No, I won’t stand for being abused
or letting others be.
Yes, I’ve got my troubles, too.
No, I can’t let them define me.
Yes to knowing who I am.
No to being stuffed into your stereotype.

poem for K and in memory of M

For K and M

The last time I saw you -
     layers of winter clothing
     not quite obscuring
     a bloated belly
     on your thin frame -
you felt full
eating a single egg.

I tried not to panic -
     remembering the last friend
     with a similar story
     that became a stage three
     ovarian cancer patient -
soon enough to win a couple of battles
but not the war.

You had new doctors
with your new ACA insurance -
     some blood tests done
     office visits coming
     maybe some digestive problem?
     gall bladder? -
diagnosis pending.

Yesterday, the news -
     abdominal tumor
     entwined with multiple organs
     origin uncertain -
oncologist acquired.

Indian Pudding for Thanksgiving

National Indian Pudding Day was November 13. NPR did a piece about it:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/13/244983031/its-national-indian-pudding-day-heres-why-you-should-celebrate.

I had not previously realized that there was such a thing as a National Day for this purpose, but, as a New England native, I was certainly a fan of Indian pudding. We make a recipe that came to us from my husband’s Great-Aunt Gert. We aren’t sure from whom she received the recipe, but we know it is an old one.

I made it earlier this fall when I went out to visit my college roommate and her husband in Colorado. They had never had it before but enjoyed it. Today, we made a batch to have as part of our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. We like to make it the day before serving, as the molasses flavor intensifies after it has set for a day in the refrigerator and is then re-heated to serve with vanilla ice cream. Besides, given that the pudding needs to bake for two hours, it is impractical to do it along with the turkey, dressing, baked squash with apple, and onions that also are vying for oven space.

Here is (at least the first draft of) my poem in honor of Indian Pudding:

Making Aunt Gert’s Indian Pudding

The recipe calls for butter the size of an egg,
Conjuring the image of scooping butter
From the crock in the creamery,
Instead of slicing a few tablespoons
From a stick of Land ‘o Lakes.

Simple and New-England-frugal,
no spices are required,
That expense unnecessary
Due to the wonders of molasses,
Slow-baked and intensified.

The summer corn
Stored as meal and
The fresh milk from the cows
Meld to warm us in the chill of Thanksgiving,
Honoring our New England roots.


The TSA screener at BGM was very efficient and very personable, which was nice at 5AM. I don’t fly often and enjoy sitting in window seats so I can look out. I was supposed to be in the back corner, but an older gentleman was in my seat and asked if he could stay. I guessed he wanted to sleep, so I let him stay there. I was still able to see out a bit as we moved from the (nearly) full moon and starlight to the horizon starting to show orange and pink as we continued. It was a chilly morning with lots of valley fog. I forget that fog has ridges and bumps when you see it from above.

I have my journal with me, so thought I’d share a poem with an aviation theme. I wrote this on November 2, 2012, as we began our journey to Hawai’i to attend our daughter’s wedding.

Landing Gear

Nestled beneath the Dash 8’s wing
Watching the spokes disappear
in the blur of acceleration
The arm extends
Allowing one last moment of contact
Then gracefully folds and retreats

I am airborne.