Category Archives: Essay

In Full Force

A friend asked me not long ago, if I ever took time to write. I told him I just don’t have time, can’t make time to get back to me. Not sure if there are any of my own words left in the Guff.

It occurred to me that he knew what I didn’t fully embrace, that my lifeline, my words, would never be lost to me, but I did have to make the effort to wend my way back to the reservoir. And that it was something I needed to do.

Drinking Deeply

Last week, at the start of my salvation, I sat on Sunday evening and wrote a poem for myself. Strangely, it popped out of my hand from things my soul had taken in. I remembered how I can go from here at any time and am good with that. Always was, since I can remember. But, today, there are little people that make me happy to be here, to see them grow. Events I would like to see unfold in the world. Changes I would like to see come about in my community. And so came the poem.

And then came another. And another. And in the space of a few hours, I had written poems through Saturday, May 10, 2014. I say through Saturday because, instead of posting them all at once, I scheduled them all, one daily at 06:30. When I had to work to get the last one done, I realized I had written to my heart’s content, and it was good.


I chose that publishing time, because it would give me enough room to give a final check before I have to leave for work — if I were so inclined.

I was not. I wrote each poem, revised and edited as it asked, scheduled it, and moved on until I felt content. In keeping with the original intent of this blog, I let them stand as they were. Each poem came in its own time, and reached an acceptable level that made me comfortable with putting it out there. Not perfect, but that doesn’t exist so it’s okay.

This, My Play Area

This is where I encourage ideas to flow freely and try to capture them. The decent ones I share. Those not quite ‘there’ I delete, and reproduce elsewhere to be worked on, if I think they merit it.

What you see here is the fruit of the joy and freedom of what I find most compelling and saving about writing. It is the place where I can only reach my success by freeing and then embracing, that which is ultimately, uniquely, profoundly, humbly me. This site was not fun for a while because of all the life stuff I let get in the way. Even play takes work. But, I realize anew that this fun is another way to play through my trials and triumphs.

I forgot how much I thrive because of this, and I do believe I’m home again.

It’s important for me to make time to play. And I suspect it must be the case for others too. Do you have writing as a lifeline and want to share? Leave me a comment if you’re so inclined. Or, write about it and invite me to your blog.

We The People Said Yes Please, and Thank You

I wrote this in February, before the unfortunate folly that was Bobby Jindal’s response to the President’s address, before the R-leader bowed to the radio personality, before a man got air time and said the words “…The people want bipartisan leadership; they may not know what that means…” and on. Let’s just say that since I wrote this, the hits just keep on coming.

Let’s Play a Game

What if I told you that I wanted to be friends? You agree, and after chatting we find that we like board games. A group of my friends play once a month and next get-together is to play Monopoly.

You agreed to come to play. However, between the time you agreed and the play date, your friends tell you that its’ really stupid. They tell you to insist on shooting games. Whether you agree or not, you decide to do what your friends say because…

You like Monopoly, that’s not the problem. You’ve just thought better of your agreement after distilling it through the filter that is your other friends.

So, when you bring this gun play idea to us, the Monopoly group, we refuse to play. We don’t want to play with guns and never did. Because we stand our ground you put forth the idea that we’re not playing fair. You leave the group, never playing Monopoly as you initially agreed, and thinking very poorly of us.
Continue reading We The People Said Yes Please, and Thank You

Graces Like Mercies

The Hard Parts

Graceful Birds

I was preparing to leave my dad’s hospital room. He was very sick with cancer and other complications. He had suffered and recovered from setbacks that required surgeries, but he couldn’t seem to shake everything. Blood clots were his problem four years earlier and he still was plagued with them. We saw him through so much, but he was leaving us.

This day was a peculiarly gentle, warm day nearing fall. It had rained and then the sun came beaming out. It hurt every time leaving my dad in the hospital because I knew how much he hated being there. It didn’t matter that he was understanding about my leaving, he complained enough for me to understand that his heart wasn’t in that. And I understood that because I knew his personality. Still, I had to keep things in perspective so that I could just keep going. This particular day, dad was not ready for me to leave, and asked for different things “before you leave.”

Light in the Middle Parts

I stayed a little longer and did a few more things for him and just sat awhile longer. I told him that I’d return tomorrow, or maybe even pass back after I finished my errands. His spirits lifted and I was content that he was satisfied. As I left the hospital, I started to feel a little lighter because with just a little more time, dad was better prepared to be without family for the evening. Driving down the street the day was shimmering and such a feeling came over me. It was a promise I could almost hear. I called my mom, I just couldn’t wait to get to her house. I told her that things were about to change for us all. Mom asked me, “Like what? What do you mean?” “I don’t know really. That’s all I got.” She said okay and that she felt that way too.

In the weeks that passed, dad started to show some improvement. And he did get a little better—enough to get home. I got some good job offers. My youngest brother came to town to see my dad before he got really sick. My family and friends kept my mind occupied and life just felt tolerable with good stuff in the middle. I was laughing and talking and appreciating good things that were coming my way, as I grieved the illness that had invaded my dad’s body.

I was talking to one friend and he asked my how I was doing. I told him I was well, and that made me pause because I didn’t know how I was well. It was amazing to me that in the face of my abject sorrow, I was still able to smile and laugh from my soul—I could still touch my joy.

Dad went back into the hospital a time or two and each time I went with him. When I could, I spent the whole day with him. We would talk about the things that I was working on, like my editing course, or learning HTML. Sometimes he would sleep, and he would apologize for not being a good host. It never mattered to me and I told him so. Sometimes we would both sleep. We just spent time at the hospital then at home. After a time, my daddy died at home.

Always Learning: Lessons are Everywhere

Looking back now over these 7 months since my dad died, and I try to track how we got through it. I wasn’t as “prepared” as I thought I’d be, and yet I survived. I appreciated all the good things that dad and I did for each other, and the time that we spent. It came to me one day when I was considering how it is that I survived:

There’s plenty of excitement in my days. Life has a way of showering down graces like mercies in difficult times. And I am drenched with reasons to be grateful.

It’s easy to be grateful for the good things that come my way, no matter how small. What was a deliberate practice years ago is now a habit of gratitude. The other part that helps me is searching for the meaning in difficult times. In my darkest times, I try not to get maudlin. But I do try to take a straight-on look at things; my goal is to take up some treasure from the muck. Writing them down helps to soothe me. The poem Life Lessons (at the end of the post, I Write for Me First) is from a sifting expedition; one that took me passed the why and straight to appreciation.

Death and why
don’t sit together in me for long.
It makes me feel too inept.
Because without exception,
I come back to accepting that
it happens

Dillard University Reunion Class of 1958

Mother’s Day with Mom

This past Mother’s Day weekend, I met up with my mother in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was there to celebrate with her Dillard University graduating class, their 50th Reunion. It is a big deal to the University as it may be at other universities as well. And it was special to classmates. You see, their Dillard University class studied and lived and grew as a community. They were part of each others’ lives. Some had matriculated from as far back as grade school together. It was very special to me too, for different reasons.

Willie Dempsey sang at mom & dad's wedding A face I seem to know since forever

My mom introduced me to the man who sang at her and daddy’s wedding. She introduced me to a lady who was stunned by how much I look like my daddy. And Aromenta’s familiar face that was part of my growing up years.

I watched my mom enjoy herself. And I paid attention to her appreciation for the life she lived and how she lived it. Even though they didn’t keep in touch regularly, these friends seemed to delight in their time togetherr. Mom introduced me to one man, and I moved to shake his hand. He held out his arms and said, “Mackie’s daughter? I have to hug you.” People made it a point to tell me how highly they thought of my dad. There’s so much I took away from the two days that I spent with mom and her classmates, so much feeling and appreciating.

It seems I watch my mom a lot more closely since my dad died. And, I watched her spend time with her friends, talking and catching up before they go their separate ways. She and they seemed to take full advantage of the time that they had. No matter how often I watch them spend time with their friends, the fundamental lessons I take from them are lived out before my eyes. And my mom reinforced them once again:

  1. First, carry on
  2. Second, cherish my history
  3. Third, never underestimate the power of friendship

Helen & Roxy

Appreciating Where I’m From

My mom, Helen, is on the left
and her dear friend Roxy on the right.
They’re smiling together
posing for the photo,
reveling in the moment.

I shot the picture
remembering Roxy dancing
in my parents’ bedroom on Annette Street.
She’d come by to see our new baby;
probably it was my brother Damon.

I remember how I was enthralled by her dancing.
I’d managed to stay in the room
as the grown-ups chatted.
Her energy filled the room
the hem of her mini skirt shimmied
her necklace almost touching it
swaying as she and my mom laughed
and shared girl talk and friendship.

Time has passed and geography separates them.
My daddy always nearby
is now passed away almost seven months.
What I see watching mom and her friends,
their expressions as they talk together
the bonds forged in their youth
is only more seasoned, a given,
unmoved by the distance between them.

It was a lovely day, warm with a nice breeze
blowing silently through the majestic oaks,
clear enough for my cameras to
capture what I wanted to keep.
My dad almost made it
but my mom’s still here to celebrate it.
In me is enough of both of them
to attend, appreciate and enjoy
the friendships they forged
and be back in time for work on Monday.
I was able to send pictures
and details to my family
who couldn’t be in attendance.
In all of this I am thankful.

And I continue.
Life is good with all that’s gone from me.
I’m grateful for all I have
and events and time and stuff left to do.
Whatever will be my future,
at these events, I glimpse insights of
parts and people that impacted my parents
who in turn shaped me.
I like knowing.

© 2008 by Shari Lynne Smothers

Poetry Just Because

by Shari Lynne SmothersYou may be wondering what’s with all the poetry. Poetry is a lovely way to tell stories. And since it’s April, and writing poems is a joy for me, I thought I’d step it up a bit for the last few days of the month.

You see, April is National Poetry Month. It’s a time when poetry is pushed to the forefront in many arenas to increase attention to the genre. I didn’t take the time to do all that I wanted to; so I’m posting some of my poems for my participation.

Writing poetry is a pleasure for me because it requires me to sit longer with my thoughts. It relaxes me. With all the other writing I do lately at work and at home, I don’t write poems as much as I used to.

For this project, I’ve decided to revisit and share several of my poems, some from my book Pebbles in My Shoes, ©2004. Some of the poems have a little of their back-stories. And some I’ve posted with pictures which I’d not done before.

Pictures can be very powerful and I think they infuse the words. If you’re not careful, though, they can limit the full breadth of what can be experienced. So, enjoy the images but don’t let them stop you from going all the places the words can take you.

Finding Verses

If you haven’t written a poem yet this month, you should try it. I find reading poetry stimulating. They sometimes offer fodder for my own writing.

Words Beget Words – My friend Kirk sent me a brilliant poem entitled The Same as Gold by Alice Walker, from her book, Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth ©2003. He sent it to me after my last grandmother died. I read it over and over and over and then I wrote. And I included this in my book.

by Shari Lynne Smothers

A friend sent me
a poem by
Alice Walker
in which
she tells us
that grief
is comparable to gold.

My wealth knows
no limits.
It’s boundless
and never
is fully spent.
For when it’s low
when I’m almost out
to replenish it.

I’ll never be
completely broke
in this life.
But one day
I will leave
all this wealth
behind me.
I’ll move
to another place
without my gold.

No purchasing power;
no list will I have
I will rejoice in my
and be fully
glad of it.

Words from Photographs – Catching up on my blog reading today, returned to Sharp Words. There, I came across a nice poem entitled Holes in the World by Catherine of Sharp Words. It’s a very nice response to a picture that she saw of the New York skyline.

There are several ways to get to verses. Fundamentally, though, it requires you to look through to the marrow of a thing and yourself. The poem is the record of your interaction. And translating that to others is where the artistry shows.

If you want to write a poem, try some of these approaches and see what you come up with. And by all means, feel free to share with me the fruits of your labor.

Resisting the Feeling that I’m Not Enough

I suffered an invisibility crisis. Being unappreciated was an associated feeling. It wasn’t from passing insecurities, but from the words. And I marveled again at how cutting and devastating they can be. I may have been out of practice because it’s been a while since anyone hurt my feelings. But just a brief sentence sent me reeling.

Partly Cloudy

Overcast without a cloud
no external indication
save for the
sarcastic tones
of address
and heavy sighs
of discontent.

Always the sense
of having fallen short
of the mark
expected for me to reach.

I took time to regain my balance. Returning to my center was going to take some doing. I didn’t have time to just sit with it because there was so much going on. The first chance I got to think and to meditate and be, I was too upset to focus.

It’s always intrigues me how God put things and people and messages in our paths at just the right time. It’s because of Morning B.R.E.W. sessions that I can step outside of most things quickly. And even closer to the event, the day before, the church sermon was for me. Pastor Edwards’ message was to ask for mercy that fits my case. Figure out what I need according to me and tell it to God.

My soul cried out in anguish. And I sent up prayers of thanks because I knew that I didn’t have to stay in this way. Watching, praying, grateful that I just trusted that better was moments away.

At home, I checked my email and found the message I needed in my BREW series newsletter, the Monday Morning Inspiration.

Date : 2008-04-07


Dear God,
Help me to be
still enough
long enough
to know that there is a place within
on the other side of silence

where love lives.

©2008 by Kirk Byron Jones

My prayers were a guide for what I needed. I learned that my efforts were not appreciated or even seen. And I had to accept that but I needed to know that I am enough. My focus was then on what could make me whole again, make me want to continue to try. This prayer/poem was the perfect message for me, from God through Kirk Byron Jones.

Once again, I am granted what I asked for, peace of mind. In this and many instances besides, I attest to the power of prayer and meditation and Morning B.R.E.W. time.

Partly Cloudy is from my poetry collection called Pebbles in My Shoes, published by Author House in 2004. It’s where the feelings took me for a while.