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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Tipping Point

Not the moment
you came down the stairs
that first night and
I recognized the future

Not the sight of you
after a year apart
walking out of the airport fog
with love on your lips

Not the joy of raising children
our hands clasped hard
to speak love in silence
our shield against their fledging

Not the words
that turned time finite
and wanting to leave I stayed
knowing you would have

The love that whispered
its long goodbye, until
I found you one cold morning
and knew your heart
had left without me

It was this

________________________________
For Mike


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Thinning time

Seven mornings in a row
the early eastern light
has snatched me away from sleep
filling my eyes with huge slashes
of sunrise, dark angry and pink
The first was on samhain, and
I could see the hand of Rage
reaching slyly toward the thinning 
scrim of time’s divide
its camp follower Fire hoping
to slip through alongside
compressed to nothing
like the soft bones of mice
The whispers of my genes begged
shout No and cry many tears
They will thicken the dawn
refusing entry to this surfeit of evil
All you love depends on them

Audio: Read by the author.



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The right note

Tomorrow might have been fifty-two
not just thirteen since thirty-nine
Aligned with family and gratitude
the day always reflected joy,
the heat of our love folded into stuffing
The missing of him has gotten harder
but it seems he knows. I came upon
the sound of his small gasp
that wrapped me up each time
in beauty gauze, when finally ready
I presented myself to his gaze
before our evenings out
Deliciousness itself, just knowing
that he would when I did
that he always meant it.
And I can smile now, the memory
a pitch perfect gift

.

.


Audio: Read by the author.


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Waiting

She pried my eye open,
brilliant Venus did, balanced
just above the pine spikes,
tired of waiting for me
to get on with dreaming.
A clear sky, meteors done,
still hours away from light.
Sleep brained, back to bed
with snoring dogs,
a dream of love waiting
across a bog, only reached
by floating stones,
until I balked and stepped
to solid ground.
She knew this one
was in the queue, and
did not want it buried
in the dreamless part of sleep,
but felt, and have me warned.


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Late present

The moon brought me a gift
last night, before the
solstice rain moved in.
I left the crispness
of my northern woods
to walk the dew off grass again
with you. It’s late, the
house lights dark, the night
all midsummer lushness,
bell buoys ringing softly.
We know the way by feel
across the lawns and
down the hill to home,
but cannot pass the garden
with its flat topped walls.
We sit, shoulders touching,
stone still warm, and let our
breath find a rhythm together
after days apart. Then on
our way again, to soft
lamp light on varnished
wood, and pick up where
we were before the first
mosquito bit.
This morning I still feel
your hands, your skin on mine,
and smile.

 

 


Audio:
Read by the author.

 


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Until then

There may still be
wind, that has not kissed
my face

Or light on vernal
water, not seen through
my lens

Or singing, that has
yet to hum along
my bones

Or time with friends, dancing
in green waves, sand on
my feet

Or words to share, flowing
from the mouth of
my heart

But, there was always love, with
you, so if I skip the rest
to waltz out in your arms,

It will be enough to
know these gifts waited
with me, just in case.

 

 


Audio: Read by the author.

 

_____________________________________________
A birthday poem for Mike


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Sans Bliss

We were long split atoms
even then the possibility of us
had ricocheted into echoes
competing thoughts composted
into a white sound mask.
Inexperienced, I flung my satin stole
of certainty over each shoulder
and stormed away, convinced
I was right, but too young
and wrong headed, ignorant of
the deeper dance of lust and love
that finally shook its head
and left to visit other lives
Leaving behind memories of touch
by tantalizing milkweed silk
of hearing a fluted thrush note
fading every time I would have
ventured back

____________________________
for S


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sideways view

I can see you, all of you
from where I sit
a few thousand miles
up or out, take your pick
your lives are match flares
as we pass away from light
small bursts of color
flaming out, why green
or red or blue tonight?
my whims connect the dots
entertaining tales that may be
lies or just bad guesses
we know you watch us, singing
songs and writing maudlin verse
to our cold rocks and shifting shape
light breathed in and out to wax and wane
you could not know that we are joined
silly schizoid world, for you
it’s either his billboard smile
oddly neutered, hardly male
or country place of, me
who lives to hunt, a
woman with a wicked bow
one would never see us as
a pair much less coupled by
love up on our pockmarked
fluorescent lighted sphere
sling shot surfing
to the beat of star pulsed
fragments of forgotten gravities
we have a running bet to see
which way you leap as
we sail by silvering the clouds
our tote board running neck and neck
for half a million years

_______________________________
Doug Anderson’s weekly writing workshop has us all digging deep, and laughing a lot. the prompt: a myth from other lips.


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Not quite endings

The music stops and echos
shimmer then fade
our voices stilled waiting
for the flood of response
I fall into the silence
all energy given away
to singing’s singular joy

A long goodbye jumps the queue
to sudden extinction
Love lives on the mountain
ashes soaking into moss
his spirit coming back
to say that 40 years were
worth it all in all
and how are things

The chatter quieted
and in its place
a single sound takes shape
One note clearly formed
on endless breath
I find it comes from me
I had been singing all along
and never knew

_________________________________
a prompt from tonight’s writing group with Doug Anderson: endings


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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.