Category Archives: National Poetry Month ’08

Amen

by Shari Lynne Smothers

Flury of Cedar Waxwings

Thank you Father, for everything.
For the flowers and the trees
and birds that sing.
For the cool, smooth crooning,
Jazz playing on my stereo.
For all the places You’ve taken me.
For all the experiences I have yet to know.
There are so many things
that I have yet to learn.
There are so many doors that You’ve opened for me
until I know not which way to turn.

I falter at times. Though generally I try hard,
I don’t always put my best foot forward.
Eternally grateful am I that You’re not at all, to me,
indifferent apathetic and untoward.
The ever-vigil watch that You keep,
continuing my very breathing while I sleep
sometimes goes unnoticed.
I can’t always see You through my worries.
I forget that Your graces are
all-powerful through all my stories.
Each scenario I come up with to
worry me to pieces
is a contingent handled. Before I get there
I have been released.

Woe be unto me, not for having been forsaken,
but for forgetting who was in charge of
this light of mine, for forgetting
that Your unerring watch will ever remain unshaken.

from Pebbles in My Shoes ©2004

Back-story: This poem is older than many of the others included in the book. It came from a morning reflection after a particularly hectic time in my life. I was sitting in my car parked at the Lake Front in New Orleans, Louisiana reading a book.

I was distracted by emotion thinking about having finally finished college. And I was grateful. I wanted to capture the gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness I was feeling. I flipped to the back of the book that I was reading and let this flow from my pencil.

Amen represents a culmination of a lifetime of gratitude to that point. It’s in this book because that sense of gratitude is ever present, certainly reinforced by milestones in my life, like the publication of Pebbles in My Shoes.

Gratitude Habit

It’s fitting to end this month with this poem because I’m pleased that I managed to participate even for a short while in National Poetry Month. And I got to do it on my own terms.

Blogging is a great way for me to get my writing out. It’s been pretty exciting since I’m usually not so brave. When I think back, this time last year I hardly knew what the bloggosphere was about. Now I write posts at work and at home and I only want to get better at it.

I’m grateful. And this habit of being thankful has taken over my life. It is something that I consciously cultivated as I reminded myself even in my heaviest hours to be grateful. It’s been joyfully dubbed my gratitude habit by a very dear friend.

Please share your expressions of gratitude. I would love to include a link to your blog in a post in early May.

Oh, the Moon!

by Shari Lynne Smothers

My GrandmotherLuminous full Moon with its
finely etched marble finish.
A beautiful lamp God mounted.

Looks like He put in
a brand new bulb.
I can see the gray markings clearly.

So brightly does it shine
in the cool blue sky,
it radiates out half its own thickness.

If I held up a paper
I could trace exactly
the picture on the side of the moon.

When my grandmother and I
were out on a night like tonight,
She would sing the moon song.

I never learned that song
I don’t even know that I liked it.
Only that I loved to hear her sing it.

She may have been flat
or slightly off key,
but there was pure joy in her voice

that gave me just one thing more
that I would one day miss,
each time I see a beautiful moon

clearly on a night like this.

From Pebbles in My Shoes, ©2004

Back-story: This is another poem from when my grandmother was sick; it was time I spent enjoying what we had left, and who I was losing, by reflecting on things we shared. The only thing left is the rest of the story. In the time since I wrote the poem, March 2003, a full moon still makes me remember, and smile.

Stopped

by Shari Lynne Smothers

Only the sun showed bright.
I couldn’t tell if it was doing it though.
The air was still
the clouds didn’t move
power lines didn’t sway
as there was no breeze.

A green S.U.V. in the
middle of the street
carried people who
didn’t move or speak.
The family dog at the house
across the street

had fur that seemed
to be on pause and a tail
stuck up in the air.
And as I looked around
at the housetops and trees
I saw the telling sign.

In midair was a flightless bird
neither moving forward nor
crashing to the ground.
The world had stopped,
paying homage to
grandmother who was slowing.

A bit longer things held
to let me take it all in.
“We are all on one accord
in sorrow for our passing friend.”

As everything resumed
flying, blowing, wagging, going
and I continued to stand watching
I realized
all that went by was an instant.

From Pebbles in My Shoes, ©2004

Back–Story: This poem came out of a daily writing stint. My goal to write a poem a day happened to fall in the last month of my grandmother’s illness before she succumbed to the ravages of cancer.

On some days I’d write more than one. And often they were not so great. Still, there were those that wrote themselves workably or whole. This one came out mostly whole—much like the long poem for which the collection is titled. But, you’ll have to get the book to read that one.

Not everything that I wrote that month was angry or sad. Some poems were ironically hopeful. But I find a measure of peace in respecting or appreciating the hurting times. I’ll offer you one more bittersweet poem after this one and then I’ll let up.

As a final observation I’ll share, this poem doesn’t make me sad. It’s a remembrance of my history. As with any poem, you have to find your own reflection in the meaning, or not. When you read a poem, cracking it open is often as easy as considering yourself. Start with, “It makes me think of…” and see where you get to.

What Could I Lose?

by Shari Lynne Smothers

post-Hurricane Katrina images

What would
devastate me
should I lose it
in this lifetime
is nothing I
can touch by hand.
For if I can
touch it
someone else
could break it.
Or, I could lose
my hands.
It is nothing
I can see
or smell.
For I could
lose
those senses
as well.
It’s nothing
I could taste.
An edible thing
is transient.
And finally
that sense could
fail me, too.
What would
devastate me
should I lose it
in this lifetime,
would only
disappoint me
in the hereafter.
Only then would
I realize
that I had
lost my mind.

From Pebbles in My Shoes, ©2004

Back-Story: This poem is light and heavy. I sat on the bed in my grandmother’s house and wrote this poem. It was just a passing meditation on what I had that I was willing to lose. Naturally it followed that I began to muse about what I couldn’t bear to lose. And various things came to me including thoughts about the losses I’d already suffered. One by one I reduced the number of things that I would kill and die for.

It really came down to a major appreciation for the things and people that I had. And then I considered that no matter how much I might be willing to sacrifice for a person, they too are perishable. The culmination was this poem. I like it because it describes what could be considered weighty contemplations in a fairly light tone.

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.

Broke
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
something
occurs
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
penniless
certainly
without my gold.

No purchasing power;
no list will I have
I will rejoice in my
broke-ness
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.

Mine

I see in youMy Mom & Dad, Mackie & Helen
hopes and dreams,
mine —
sketched broad,
like soft brush strokes of clouds,
white on a mesmerizing
blue background;

Seedlings of a future,
mine —
tended by loving hands,
nurtured by warm sunlight,
blossoming into a fragrant garden
of beautiful flowers,
the sweetest fruit,
and gorgeous evergreens;

Friendship divine,
mine —
my heaviest moments are
spirited away
on luminous wings,
my brightest times are
enjoyed with you;

A promise,
mine —
that I am held safely,
sincerely
for all time,
secure from the world,
safe in love unconditional.

I see you,
I know I will breathe again.
I am eager for our tomorrows
because I recognize and realize
the best parts of me are
inspired by you.
And I am thankful that you are
mine.

©2002 by Shari Lynne Smothers

I wrote this poem for my brother’s wedding. My sister-in-law (to be, at the time) requested that I write something for their wedding. I didn’t know that I could pull it off; I had doubts for many reasons. After time, journaling, and a bad draft or two, I unearthed these words.

And, in case you’re wondering, the photograph is from my parents’ wedding, not my brother and sister-in-law.