Monday, September 1, 2014

Crayola Paradise Lost

We moved between cool cubes of crisp White after White, neatly aligned,
  topped by meticulous matrices of Indian Red,
    shielding us from the melting heat of suspended Lemon Yellow.

Fading memory conveniently omits the incessant Gray interlopers,
  puffs of wet that daily battle to deny Sky Blue its due dominance above.
    My mind relaxes in shaded memories of only richest Blue.

The tropics surprised me, too, with foliage of Sepia and Yellow Orange,
  even as the defining tapestry was a Forest Green so out-of-the-box lush,
    that the Box Itself later cried for redesign to express such riches:

Jungle Green,
  Tropical Rain Forest,
    even Mango Tango to match the gooey feel
                that danced between my sandaled toes.

A never-ending strip of White along the edge of the Universe,
  ten yards wide, glistening with myriad microscopic flecks of Silver,
    a barrier against the vast Blue Green.

Beyond that loomed a world
  comfortably out of childhood’s sight,
    and incompatible with crayon happiness.

Author's Note: If you got value from this post, please “Share” it.

Originally published September 1, 2014 at Open Salon, where I wrote under my own name, Kent Pitman.

Crayola® is a registered trademark of Crayola LLC.

Tags (from Open Salon): youth, memory, recollection, recall, memoir, remembrance, color, colorful, colour, colourful, vivid, impressions, crayola, crayons, crayola crayons, poem, poetry, panama, canal zone, panama canal zone, utopia, paradise, paradise lost, simple, simplicity, tropical, mango, jungle, ocean, beach, sand, sun, sky, rain forest

Background & Context: I took a MOOC online course called How Writers Write Poetry at the University of Iowa’s online arm, Writing University. It was a lot of fun. Most of the lectures and exercises were interesting and useful, as was the the discussion with fellow students and occasional site moderators. This is one of several poems I wrote as part of the class exercises.

They have a course coming up soon called How Writers Write Fiction. It starts Friday, September 26 and runs two months to Friday, November 21.

Memory is a fragile thing, and even those memories we intend to share are difficult to articulate. However, for better or worse, this poem above is my attempt to share some memories of my days in the Panama Canal Zone in the mid 1970’s. The photo below is cropped from a photo I got from a friend, which he represents as being, like my memories, quite old. In any case, he thought it has fallen into the public domain, though I can’t easily verify that. My memories of the simple, crisply drawn colors that characterized that lovely place and time inspired me to write the poem. The photo illustrates a little of that, and the poem hopefully gives you a sense of the full palette.

Speaking of palettes, the Crayola® collection of 64 colors from the time of my youth is something I tried to stick to in the poem. In this regard, I relied on some online lists like those in Wikipedia’s List of Crayola Crayon Colors and another that wasn't quite as complete but was easier to reference. Another offered the timeline in easy form, and still another was just visually compelling, not to mention contained useful RGB values.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Turn at the Darkness

caged bird

Every poet has died.

I mourn that this night has come.
Yet, as I mourn, I see the morning light.
Poets die, but poetry lives.

Poetry is humanity’s plight.
It is the human fight,
 sacred duty and cherished right.
At times at risk of sounding trite.
Yet, even so, both might and light.

Life itself is poetry played out,
 a chain of existence extending across time,
  each of us the next precious link,
   paced and metered.
We are life’s stanzas,
 but our each existence is a fractally recurring chain as well,
  a daily rhythm of linked events,
   chaos out of which we struggle to see reason and achieve rhyme,
    to distill verse from adversity.
Our personal poems join to form a greater epic poem.

We stand as witness to the miracle of this chain’s creation,
 even as we are the chain itself.
We play within its parts,
 and ultimately we play without them.

Awed by the oddity that is the world around us,
 we turn to poetry for context,
   for understanding,
   for perspective,
   for love,
   and for acceptance.

From first words spoken around a fire,
 to modern social gatherings,
  we have only each other,
   —and our poetry.

Who is next we ask, looking around the room?
 Who will speak for us, to stay the darkness,
  bringing the light, even becoming it,
   if only for this moment.

Maya Angelou spoke,
 and brought such light.
Now she is dead,
 but she is also born—

Her life’s text, under constant revision,
 is finally published.

Her link in life’s chain is complete.

And what a joy to have been alive for its creation.

She was EveryPoet, and now EveryPoet has died.
 Her time to stand and speak against the night has run its course.
Her turn played out, she sits to rest.
 But we are left inspired.

She was EveryPoet,
 but every poet will rise in her place.

Even from death’s cage,
 the legacy of EveryPoet sings.
She sings to each of us,
 challenging us to spend our lifetimes actually living,
  seizing the stage and strutting proudly in the light awhile,
   before the coming night.

What option is there?
 Only these:
  Next to live, or
  next to die.

Who will speak next?

Author's Note: Originally published July 4, 2014 at Open Salon, where I wrote under my own name, Kent Pitman.

Tags (from Open Salon): comforting, comfort, entertainment, englightenment, light, against the darkness, darkness, everypoet, every poet, storytelling, story, taking a stand, stand, fear, cave, society, fellowship, camaraderie, comradery, love, companionship, sisterhood, brotherhood, inspiration, human condition, humanity, power, loneliness, death, life, tribute, death, maya angelou, angelou, philosophy, art, poetry, poem

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Change of Climate

I sit on a wooden bench, held by wrought iron curves in a hallway of sandstones. An antique building, lovingly refurbished in layers of creeping modernity, the mortar that probably once held these stones long since bolstered, replaced, or just newly imitated by concrete. And yet in the old style. A curvature of bricks overhead, forming an arch down the hallway. The terrace at my feet is well-worn criss-crossed stone.

It is cool in here, outside the reach of the piercing midday sun, but I can see the sky at the end of this tunnel of a hall—and through a rectangular stone opening. The blue of that distant sky beckons, beyond tall trees that seem designed to emphasize the sky’s elusive height. Wisps of cumulus clouds dart about, seeming to float higher than they belong, and yet with the occasional light cirrus streak well above that. The sky is big here, and even the tallest trees struggle to reach it. Crooked pine-like trees, unlike the pines at home, with only a few broad branches high up, not the triangles of New England pines, but more like large green dandelions or fuzzy umbrellas. Ivy works its way up part of their shafts, adding to the exotic look, but giving up the climb long before the top.

The valley stretches for miles, with row upon row of contented buildings, with their red tile roofs and distinctive walls of muted orange and sun-drunk beige. Nothing is in particularly neat lines, yet there is still a relaxed order to it all, a comfortableness perhaps borne of tradition, a peace with the pace of existence, a well-worn efficiency that I imagine to come of understanding what is necessary or beautiful to life, and what can be rightly ignored. Even where there is wear on things here, it seems less product of neglect and more just a well-earned badge of honor.

There is a timeless quality to it all, like a place that has existed in essentially this form since long before me, and that will go on this way long after. The residents are adapted to life here. They know its rhythms. They are in harmony with how things are.

I’ll miss all of that.

Not when I leave, I mean, because I could return.

But because the harmony is a property not only of the people with the earth, but the earth with the people.

And Climate Change will take all of that away, never to return.

I’m glad I saw this place before it became a desert, unable to grow olives and grapes. I’m glad I saw this place when its people were prosperous and proud.

Science is an odd thing, and hard for some to trust. But science sees things that others do not. Things in the distance, and yet not always that far distant, because we can be so very nearsighted when we wish to be.

The earth has a cancer, and cancer starts innocently, unpresumingly. If you wait until it’s obvious, it’s too late. There are those among us who would wait to fix the Climate until it’s obvious. And that will be too late.

So I’m glad I saw this place before the effect of that indifference takes hold. It was a great achievement, that easy civilization.

I will miss it. I think we all will.

Assuming any of us are even left to do so.

Author's Note: If you got value from this post, please “Share” it.

Originally published June 11, 2014 at Open Salon, where I wrote under my own name, Kent Pitman.

Tags (from Open Salon): extinction, cancer, death, life, desert, drought, climate change, climate, memory, beauty, beautiful view, scene, view, le santucce, tuscany, italy

The photo, titled "Tuscany Italy Countryside" by Linnaea Mallette was obtained from, which asserts that it is in the public domain.

Background & Context: I wrote this last week while at a writing retreat hosted by Cary Tennis at Le Santucce in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy last week. It was a beautiful place to sit and think, but devastating Climate effects will not discriminate as to venue. They'll happen everywhere and to all of us.