Check out another fascinating interview on Nutmeg Chatter. Host J. Timothy Quirk chats with author (and my handsome husband) Eric D. Lehman about his new book.
Find Connecticut Vanguards at your local bookstore or order here!
“I’m looking for a soap dish. . . . ” This is how I begin “Giving up the Chokehold,” an essay about searching and about finding. What I find first is a necklace, actually a bunch of them, “chokers I haven’t worn in years.” One, is woven into a braid, “a thin zig-zag, like trim binding from an old sewing kit. I try this one on. As it’s supposed to, it chokes me.”
Scars, no matter where they lie on our bodies or if we can see them, have a way of silencing us with their visibility. At the very least, they shape who we are. Sometimes we wear them as badges of pain; sometimes we wear them as badges of victory. How to get from one endpoint to another is what that found necklace helped me discover.
When I think back on it, most of the time spent on cover-ups and self-consciousness is rooted in a worldview that I’m not ashamed to hold. There are others in the world whose scar stories are much more heroic. I don’t think my story is heroic because everyone has scars . . .
Hear the full account, here
“Giving up the Chokehold” picks up about 28 minutes into the third part of the Episode One of The Vanguard Podcast.
Byron and Shelley
As we trudged along the varied paths
of the Highland Way you did not let go
to cry, though legs ached with pain
and skewed nerves slipped out of place
screaming for you to stop.
Our last night before we go home,
I read Trelawny’s Recollections
of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron:
Percy’s funeral muddies my mind,
but I cannot unhinge the sable-eyed rival
or the torture of a lame and disfigured foot
that shamed Byron all his days. How skilled
we are at pushing our deformities into
the deepest alcove then turning away from them,
lest they outpace and overcome us.
A red-haired boy—more than a boy—
a young man—travels with us
on the flight back home. His father
who is grey and wears glasses
accompanies him. I see that the boy
is blind, and think he is—how
to say this kindly—lame of mind,
though as I watch him and his father
pace back to their seats, I see that he is
purely sightless, and I feel cruel for thinking
it was something more. All this time
I thought that it was me we were walking for,
the mess upon me and the volume of days
yet unwritten tensing with uncertainty,
smudged with hieroglyphs of caned figures
and the imposing arc of wheels.
Waiting out the rain in Philadelphia
my head slumped in exhaustion, your legs
extended in a futile stretch, I grasp
what it was we were really walking for:
the German girls whom we’ll not see again;
for Gerry, our sturdy guardian, agile as a buoy,
flecks of white in his hair and a harness of years
on his back; for the moments between the rain;
what every boy’s blindness wants to possess;
for Byron’s feet and the contents of Shelley’s coat pockets
washed up on a shore we haven’t yet visited
and may not ever walk upon.
The poem appears in Reconnaissance, published in 2017 by Homebound Publications. Louis Édouard Fournier, The Cremation of Percy Bysshe Shelley, oil on canvas, Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
It’s been over twenty-five years since I wrote these lines:
The doctors invited me to be still.
Then the X-ray revealed
one of van Gogh’s sunflowers
dying inside me, just beneath my ribs.
Not enough sun, they said,
prescribed antibiotics and suggested
lemon juice to ease the pain.
A few of the remedies worked; stillness came, then awakening. Just beneath my ribs, the sunflower lives, and so does the everpresent need to be still, to suggest bright petals and brave possibilities. Thanks, Vincent for this yellow.
Words hold her steady in the dizziness of descent.
“Circumstance” was the second place winner of the 2018 Hamden (CT) Arts Commission Poetry Award, co-sponsored by the Hamden Symphony Orchestra.
The staircase leads down from the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Delft, The Netherlands.
Today’s poem comes from Four Blue Eggs, which won the 2013 Poetry Prize from Homebound Publications. It’s available now in its second edition (with a new cover).
The universe has banished us;
fragile gauze hair on tiny forearms
succumbs to renegade heat waves
and celestial currents, which now and again
sabotage our bones, flaking and peeling skin
like pastry dough. Until we forgo
our ambulant nomad ways, return
to fur, or learn to play possum, our doom
will find us roasted and sagging.
we should find our treeness, wear thick bark
and leaves that canopy over necks.
With years symmetrically bubbling
out of a center trunk, each milestone
would bear another ring of flesh
to shield the hemisphere’s burley snarl.
Hold steady . . . find your still point . . . get used to letting go . . .
I was pleased to by honored recently by the Hamden Arts Commission and the Hamden Symphony Orchestra for my poem “Circumstance.” The poem won second place in the first ever poetry award co-sponsored by both organizations. Also featured during the orchestra’s spring concert were fellow poets Meri Haray and Laura Alshul and the winners of the Young Musicians Concerto Competition. Listen:
I’m also trying out my new voice, mostly recovered from vocal cord paralysis. Work in progress.