Binghamton Poetry Project – Spring 2017

March was very hectic, but I did manage to attend four of five sessions for the Binghamton Poetry Project. Our reading took place on April first, but I missed it as it was the same afternoon as our University Chorus concert.

I haven’t had a chance to collect my anthology yet, but these three poems are my contribution. The first two were written from prompts during our sessions and the last one I wrote in response to the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of one of the Grapevine Group poets that we each write a snow poem after our big storm.

Enjoy! (And comment if you are so moved…)

Pneumonia

Her breaths are fast and shallow
between coughs.
I untie her sneakers,
work them off,
pull off her socks,
help her out of her shirt and pants,
slip her nightgown on.

She sits on the edge
of the bed,
pivots to lie down,
but needs me to lift
her feet.
I pull up the covers,
close the door,
and wait for the X-ray results.

*****

Two Hearts

Her cardiac rehab is Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

He rides with her in the retirement home van,
helps her navigate into the lift with her walker,
sits with her in the waiting room
until she is called into therapy
where he is not allowed to follow.

He waits.

Her exercises accomplished,
they board the van for the ride
back home to their apartment
where lunch awaits.

After sixty-two years of marriage,
he does not want her to go
alone.

*****

Nor’easter Numbers

The forecast was for an inch overnight
with Five to Eight to follow;
then, One to Three
with Six to Nine.

I rose before the daylight-saving
delayed dawn to find
a foot of snow already down,
consequence of a more westerly
track
plus
a stall.

My strategy,
born of long-ago New England winters,
to clear the overnight
accumulation from the driveway,
then shovel
every few inches,
add in the front walk
and path to the mailbox
as strength allows.

A good plan,
but overly ambitious
for a Five foot One-and-a-half inch
Fifty-six-year-old
alone
with a shovel
contending with the wake
of snowplows
and snow falling at Two
or Three
or Four
inches
an hour,
Twenty-seven inches
by Five o’clock
and still snowing.

Seven bouts of shoveling,
Twelve thousand, ninety-one Fitbit steps,
and Two blessed assists
from the neighbors’ snowblower
yield a driveway cleared to a road
under a county-wide travel ban,
a path to a mailbox that may
be filled with today’s mail
tomorrow,

weather permitting.

triple threat

My mom, known as Nana here at Top of JC’s Mind, has been having some cardiac issues and has been going to rehab twice a week. Last week, she had to miss because of the giant snowstorm and because she seemed to be suffering from a cold.

She had already been to the walk-in medical clinic once for her cough, but on Friday, her condition worsened, so she went back. They were concerned that she might have developed pneumonia so they ordered a chest X-ray from the hospital. The plan had been for her to stay at the hospital until the X-ray was read, but they were so busy, we had to take her home to wait for the results the next morning.

When the X-ray came back positive, we went back to the hospital. We spent the day in the emergency room, while they ran more tests. We were shocked that Nana’s “cold” had actually been type A influenza. The extra-strength flu vaccine that she had received last fall had kept down the usual fever and body aches that one expects from flu.

The other factor involved was some continuing problems with congestive heart failure symptoms. We are hoping to get a better understanding of the cardiac factors involved so we can chart the best possible course going forward.

Nana has been improving steadily with intravenous antibiotics and diuretics. We are hopeful that she will be able to come home in a few days, in time for Paco’s 92nd birthday this weekend.

We would all appreciate any healing thoughts and/or prayers that you might send out on Nana’s behalf.

 

Third anniverary

WordPress helpfully reminded me that today is the third anniversary of Top of JC’s Mind.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my 783 followers and all those who have visited, read, and/or commented over these past three years.

I have learned so much from blogging and plan to continue.

As my regular visitors know, 2016 has been a challenging year for me personally. I have had to cut back almost totally on my own reading and commenting and have posted less frequently than I would have liked.

Even with that, people have taken the time to read and comment and express their support, prayers, and well wishes as my family continues to navigate multiple family health issues and the mourning process after the death of my mother-in-law, known here on the blog as Grandma.

I have no timeline to get back to a more regular blogging practice. With so many variables out of my control, I have learned not to make promises.

But, please, stay tuned.

Florence Foster Jenkins

A family friend when I was a child often said, “Well, bless her heart,” whenever someone did something well-meaning or wholeheartedly.

Meryl Streep discussing Florence Foster Jenkins, whom she portrays in the new film of the same name, says that people at the time had one of two reactions to hearing Florence sing, either “bless her” or laughter.

Both of these are shown in the film.

Florence was a piano prodigy as a child, who lost her ability to play due to a physical condition. She continued to love music and, in adulthood. became an important musical philanthropist in New York City.

Florence liked to sing with heart and emotion. What she didn’t realize was that her physical malady had adversely affected both her ability to sing on pitch and her recognition that she was not singing on pitch. In order not to hurt her, her husband and her friends protected her from finding out the truth.

I love Meryl Streep’s work. She always brings depth into her portrayals as she does here. As a singer myself, although a choral soprano rather than a coloratura who can toss off the “Queen of the Night” aria at the drop of a hat, I was amazed at Streep’s ability to sing as Florence did – almost, but not quite up to the pitch.

On Fandango, the movie is listed as both a comedy and a drama. While there are moments of laughter, I can’t think of the film as a comedy. I think it is better characterized as a reflection on the power of music, service, friendship, and love in the face of adversity.

Florence, bless your heart. Meryl, thank you for bringing this powerful story to us.

cold

The middle of last week, I came down with a cold.

In my younger days, I would have kept going full-tilt and powered my way through – which sometimes worked and sometimes resulted in developing bronchitis or a sinus infection or another not-so-fun complication.

Now, being older and not having so many other people depending on me, I decided to do the wise thing and cancel some of my activities, rest more, eat soup and drink warm beverages, not push myself to work out with my Wii Fit, and generally take care of myself and let B help to take care of me, which, I might add, he does superbly.

I thought I could get well faster and be back to normal strength and activity level in a week.

It’s not quite working out that way.

While I have been able to do more over the last few days, I’m still tired and cold and sniffly and achy and a bit hoarse.

I had hoped to go to poetry open mic tonight. I have been AWOL for months due to travel and other conflicts, so I had hoped to go tonight and read before the next batch of obligations hits.

But, no.

I don’t want to drag myself out in the cold (and possible mixed precipitation) and go on a coughing jag in the little bookstore and mess up the other poets’ readings.

So, I’ll curl up under a throw and rest and try to take it easy for another weekend, hoping to have some voice for chorus rehearsal on Monday. I missed rehearsal last week and can’t afford to miss again.

Don’t I deserve some reward for trying to take better care of myself?

Mass MoCA poetry residency: Monday

Monday is Volta* Day.

This morning was incredibly difficult. I am experiencing a flare of one of my health issues and had had great difficulty sleeping. We went to the Tupelo loft for breakfast together and I was too out of it to do much conversing. I did start drafting a poem about how I might need to start using caffeine, or maybe alcohol…

I chose, however, to pull out every support med in my arsenal to take with breakfast. I don’t usually resort to meds right away, to minimize side effects, but I didn’t have time to let things play out on their own. I’m pleased to report, it worked and I was actually feeling almost decent by the time the session with Jeffrey started this afternoon.

We started with the assignment Jeffrey had given us yesterday. He had promised the results would be amazing, and they were! It was the first time I actually felt that I could keep up with expectations. As part of the exercise, I read my “good luck” poem “Moonlight” https://topofjcsmind.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/binghamton-poetry-project/; I was thrilled when Jeffrey said that he wanted to write one of the lines down so he could “steal” it. I thought that if I could write one line that he liked enough to appropriate, I really was going to be okay.

Next, we had another workshopping session. I actually jumped in when I wanted to be next to share my poem because I was so excited by a poem from the only other poet in the group to have grown up in this area, that I wanted to piggyback on his work and continue the local conversation. I got great feedback on how to strengthen my poem, although the actual work will probably have to wait until I am back home.

After a break, during which I enjoyed some fantastic pumpkin ice cream and some time alone with the Sol Lewitt exhibit at Mass MoCA, we re-convened at Tupelo loft to hear Jeffrey talk about publishing, which was elucidating.

There was one bit of bad news today. Our public reading has been cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. I had been looking forward to inviting a few of the people I still know locally to hear me read, but now I won’t be able to. Two of our poets suggested that instead we convene after supper and have two or three of us read for as many of the nine of us as can make it. We enjoyed the first session of that tonight and it was just the right way to end our Monday.

It’s hard to believe we are already halfway through.

* a volta is a turning point in a poem

Remembrances on Sunday

Today would have been my friend Angie‘s 65th birthday and I just sent a contribution to her memorial fund. In the brief note that I sent to her family, I noted that I can’t imagine that Angie would have “retired” because she was all about love and service and would not have stopped doing that. I am honoring her memory today and remembering her family and friends who have been without her physical presence for over ten years.

As it happens, two of my college friends lost their mothers this month, one unexpectedly and one after a long period of illness, so I am sending thoughts and prayers out to Sally and Tricia, their moms, and their families.

Two friends are dealing with a sudden medical emergency with their loved ones. One’s husband’s life was saved by emergency open heart surgery. The other’s asymptomatic brother was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at his first screening colonoscopy at age 50. Both men are facing a long road to recovery and I am holding them and their whole families in thought and prayer as well.

Yesterday, I attended vigil mass at St. Joseph’s, which was the long-time church home of my friend Marcia, whom we lost to ovarian cancer several years ago.  Last month was ovarian cancer awareness month, with several big fundraising events. There has been some progress in detection and treatment since Marcia died and I hope that the advances will help her descendants to lead long, healthy lives.

It’s a quiet Sunday morning. Soon, B and I will head up to Good Shepherd Village to visit Grandma, Nana, and Paco with an extra measure of thankfulness.

Trouble in Paradise

I realize that you are probably expecting more cheery posts from Hawai’i.

And I promise, they are coming….

Just not quite yet. I managed to get sick – I’ll spare you the details – and will write some posts with photos when I have my act back together.

Until then, aloha!

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