Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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A creative mother, or how I learned to love dance again

My mother once said that one of Martha Graham’s dancers was awful to her husband and little boy, but when one saw her on stage none of that mattered any more. My teenage psyche salted that one away as ammunition for the future.

Originally this was going to be a plaintive piece about my mother, life with a parent whose art was in many ways more important to her than her children, much like the childhood she herself had experienced as the daughter of a composer. Years on the memories don’t have the power to hurt the way they used to, because along with having a fairly self-absorbed modern dancer mother, I’ve come to appreciate an artist mother who painted zoo animals, including a never-forgotten giraffe, all over our Colorado Springs bathroom walls.

I had a mother who continued to learn and grow and create well into her eighties. I had a mother who regained a love life in her sixties after a long drought, meeting a wonderful man who was her partner for almost twenty years, who took photos while she sketched, was her personal “sag wagon” driver on the many Cross Minnesota Bike Rides she did, and with whom she could open up again. I had a mother who morphed from a modern dance teacher and choreographer into a fitness visionary and advocate for homebound seniors in the Twin Cities. I had a mother who loved me, but couldn’t always show it.

No turnaround happens all at once. My friend Susan was a magazine culture writer in Washington, whose perk was tickets to everything, and she loved to take friends along on their birthdays. One year she took me to the Trocks, aka Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

We watched this all male dance troupe perform technically brilliant and hilarious parodies of ballet and modern dance. Re-imagining Pavlova’s “dying Swan” with molting feathers. A hysterical Dance of The Little Swans. Side-splitting send ups of Balanchine, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey.

Enjoying dance without resentment for the first time in years, I knew exactly what I was watching, understood the finer points of the parody, appreciated the incredible technique and elegance of those men en pointe, all of it a gift from my mother. That night my life began to change.

I became more settled into adulthood, though not to the point of losing wonder and delight as daily companions. More along the lines of coming to terms with a parent’s humanity and limitations, acknowledging her often ill-expressed love, and eventually moving on, setting aside things I now understood better and for the most part no longer mourned.

With emotional dreck hoovered away, my brain cleaner and tidier, it began to fill up again. Clueless until it began to happen, it became obvious that the best new stuff would be things of my own, eventually leading to a creative bender of sorts that shows no sign of slowing down.

A few years ago life took a powerful turn. I joined a virtual creative group, and cannonballed into the deep end with little idea of what direction to take. I still find myself zooming about, trying things that look interesting or challenging. At first it was easy to hang back. Now I know the answer is to do whatever shows up. The wonderful thing about an opened up mind, and its natural partner creativity, is that they take up so much less room, feeding the spirit instead of diminishing it.


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Stepping onto grass

A sip of camomile
to soften nerves,
a quiet moment on the porch
observing fire flies
punctuate the trees.
Travels through cloud rain,
waiting for the sun
to shiver start the day.
Mind’s eye reaching for
the girl child of my heart,
lace tokening her gaze.
Her brother
brought to sudden tears
on catching sight
of unanticipated beauty
tethered by her father’s arm.
Last moments as the impish girl
who stood upon his feet to waltz,
then stepping firmly
onto sea scent grass
to speak her promises
and dance, love wrapped
as woman on her way.

________________________________
twenty three years on, that lovely day still resonates.

BH in the field


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Elegy

And with his end all lifeline letters stopped
akin to clocks hushed at a death,
leaving smothered laughter or kind words
confetti-chopped to ricochet at will

Those daily orts grown into thoughts,
inked heiroglyphs sardined with scattered
pencil nonpareils, bright chrome
yellow sheets, they will come no more

He lived for wordy news, recounted histories,
rich mirrors of our minds, but people hanging
on a vapid phone were never tolerated
much beyond a minute any day

In all of this we saw and felt the gifts his
writing brought, quiet kindness in our grasp,
connection, palatable family glue,
admonishments or clapping hands

He never did hold back bursts of rant
against extinction of a simpler life
or razing of an older barn, sunblot
politic dizziness, or inept modernity

Today we hold those pages fiercely
knowing he is gone, and reread again
to briefly feel his warmth born of quiet
brilliance, a rich legacy of love disguised

__________________________
NaPoWriMo 2017, Day 3. the prompt was to write an elegy, and a particular facet of the person or thing mourned.


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the first present

there are trees here too
grown out of deep soil pockets
heads above the hardy root dug
mountain friends of home
this gathered woody host a nest
to hold a house containing
every one I love
still sleeping as the light
creeps up all cloudy
through the rain
a christmas only minds eye white
no clear skied sunrise
catching tree tops
by surprise
red bronze briefly
glistened by those gone ahead
dropstrings of love and memory
beams creak awake
almost the hour
for letting loose small bodies
counting moments since last night
behind me thumps and sighs
two sets of eyes meet mine
my patient dogs
the first gift of the day
belongs to them
and we are kitchen bound

_____________________________________
a small gift of words, a time filled with more love than things, christmas as it should be. my heart is very full.


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Haiku for Elizabeth with notes

gift from love’s pilgrim
my words have danced in your heart
they leap free again

_____________________________________
Yesterday the Third Cousins Club met again. three cousins, Cassie, Elizabeth, and me, descended in separate lines from the same great great grandfather, knowing nothing of the others until an accidental discovery grew into a connection that has joined three family lines. Elizabeth’s sister Susan was there at the beginning with all of us, but she died this year. So Elizabeth has just made what I can only think of as a pilgrimage to the ocean places they loved together. What a brave and loving sister gift this was, saying goodbye again, ashes left to be a part of memories.

the green veil


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the green veil

a scrim of green now masks the woods
and blankets its recycling brown
and fading winter tale

with upstart life rolled out
to mountain slopes
I know are there

another green veil lives
across the timegone paths
that memories illuminate

backlighting those
just out of reach
until we call them close

a flash of thought
to pierce opaque divides
and fill the mind’s eye arms

then hold them quiet and at peace
sweet moderation’s gift
remembering

_____________________________________
A poem for 5/8, mother’s day. The photo was actually taken much later in summer, when I was shooting the morning mist that comes off my garage roof after the sun comes over the mountain arm, and a series of remarkable night-built spider’s webs in the trees (one is faintly visible on the right).


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Formerly dear Molly

So it began
another opening salvo
written grapeshot,
sibling letters
masking fury longhand
weighted by a lifetime’s
alkaline asides,
presupposing mal intent
in every word,
an older generation
hamstrung by
paper clad
civility

________________________________
Day 16 of NaPoWriMo, where the prompt was an almanac poem, one of the items being a scrap of a letter. clearing out my family’s place in Rhode Island (emptying a place filling my soul) we found hundred of letters, one of which began “Molly, formerly dear Molly”. While I found this amusing, clearly the writer, and one supposes the recipient, did not.


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blue lune

objects from the past
held close still
I am loath to let go

do they hold a pulse
core of life
beating at our touch

or arresting fade
tender shells
husks holding wishes

shall I cast them off
finding peace
in open spaces

or indecisive
wait to act
until the new lune

____________________________
The first day of NaPoWriMo 2016. This is a lune* made up of five 5-3-5 stanzas.
*3 lines of 5-3-5 syllables