Felipe and Squash Flowers

Felipe and Squash Flowers

Last year, when I participated in Napowrimo, I worried I wouldn’t be able to write a poem in a day. And as it turned out I could …and couldn’t. This poem, Husband, recited for Felipe on Valentine’s day was written during Napo, but re-vised many times since, including while I was memorizing it, which made retention a little difficult. Ultimately, it required ten months to finish, a little less time than usual, a year is the standard time frame for me to complete a poem.

I thought you might find it interesting to see both versions. This is the finished version.


I wanted to write you a love poem
but all I had were words
made of letters formed from
ideas once pictures
representing things only
considered real

I got to thinking of the languages
you know, you learned by listening
to chickens cluck, and cockle
You look for hawks in their
racket and a lost chick
at their bidding

Your eyes change in the light like
night eyes you’ve shown me, “See–
rabbit’s glow round, look how
they differ from a cat, a skunk–
man, learn them all and you’ll never fear
inevitable darkness”

Being more domesticated, even I
now discern the subtle bark:
people coming, livestock
vehicle, stranger, friend
But I didn’t think to listen
until I witnessed you

all my life, lived in a world full
of language I never heard–I couldn’t find
water following beetles, I didn’t
look in the dust for messages, whisper
with horses sharing breath or even
believe in love

This is the original.
I try to leave something alone once I feel I’ve done my best, but I never think my work is perfect. How do you know when to stop? Is your process fast– standardized? Do you take ‘time off’ from a piece? I’d enjoy hearing about your creative process.

© 2013 Abby Smith, Writer


puritan saying on my grandpa Floyd's coffee cup

puritan saying on my grandpa Floyd’s coffee cup

There’s a spurious ideology afoot: that to practice thrift is to miser oneself out of living abundantly.  Much writing (and selling) is devoted to the idea of envisioning prosperity. I agree with the basic premise, that we create our reality ( in the vein of Jane Roberts or Eckhart Tolle’s books). But in many of these “philosophies” such as The Secret, or Tony Robbin’s approach,the evidence of abundance is largely material, and (because there is nothing to sell) important components of prosperity are ignored.

Truthfully, the fast track to abundance is not acquisition– but lack of desire, and thrift is a perfect vehicle to plenty.  Thrift in Franklinian  terms that is, working productively, consuming wisely, saving proportionally and giving generously.*

In the past, thrift was a value. Yep, in the United States of America, thrift was once desirable, and not because half the country was on the verge of foreclosure. Thrift didn’t mean shopping the sales, buying cheaply, to buy more.  It was an honored skill; the ability to live  comfortably with moderate means, maintain a healthful household, and entertain oneself without staring into a screen.  Activities like canning, darning, the ability to fix a leaky faucet or change your own oil, once basics skills—are  now, sadly, anachronisms.

How do I practice thrift? I mend things: clothes, colanders, flyswatters. I glue broken dishes, grow food, alchemize smidgens of leftovers into culinary feats, and of course, I make art out of rusted, broken junk I find on the ground.  Just a few of my preferred practices of thriftiness.

When I lived in the U.S. I had a loop tape in my head. It went like this: I want, I need– oh, I want one of those, we’re going to need, I’ve GOT to have…insert foods, clothing, and services. Sound familiar?  Listen carefully.  You may be surprised to find how many times a day you tell yourself there’s something you want or need.  I was.

What I was more surprised by, after moving to Mexico, going broke and no longer having the ability to feed the consumption drone’s demands, was that I didn’t need any of it. Once the soundtrack quieted, I realized when I acquired what I thought was indispensable it didn’t quell my desire, but fueled a craving for more.

It took several years of intention and distance to still the shopper within. The space in my mind freed by squelching that dialogue was the room in which I began to write. With an improved memory, greater concentration and diminished anxiety; all benefits of a quiet mind, side effects of thrift, I found there was much to be said, beyond– I want, I need… I have to have…

What are your favorite thrifty practices?

© 2013 Abby Smith, Writer

Hour of Power

I can see myself as a child of four, kneeling before the glow of a large, faux cherrywood, console television. My hands are held before me in prayer and I have tears running down my cheeks, I am alone in the room. I remember being drawn to that spot, into that position, by an ardent baritone.

I can see the others who joined me that night in accepting Jesus Christ into my heart as my personal savior, filing down the aisles of an enormous sanctuary. I can feel the electric sensation I had, a sensation I believed was the Holy Spirit entering my body. My memory transports me to that place on the floor, where I felt united with hundreds of supplicants, as Billy Graham’s tender assurances washed over us. I was saved. I was forgiven. I was a child of God, and I would always be.

The image of my child self, rapt in front of a television, and the knowledge that this was the first significant spiritual moment of my life, is bizarre and sentimental to me as an adult. Even more curious is the anxiety I developed over the household debate about the validity of the once saved always saved doctrine. Continue reading

Grandpa Mac

for Hannah

Does everyone’s life revolve around food, or is it just me? Not even my relationship with my grandfather can escape being defined by the stuff.

My grandfather E. D. was a Flier, (he went by his initials because he didn’t like his name, I won’t dis his memory by sharing it with you) my Grandmother always called him by middle name, Delton, but most people called him Mac.

Mac was a gifted flier, which worked against him, because they made him an instructor instead of letting him go into combat, which is what he really wanted to do.

Grandpa’s fate mingled with mine when he met my Grandmother, Betty Jo; she was sixteen. The circumstances surrounding their courtship are cloudy. I have heard stories from the women in my family and they are all different, my Grandmother has more than one version herself.

My impression is that it was a passionate, tumultuous affair. One thing that is certain is that they married and proceeded to have many children, 7 that is. Due to the financial burden of fatherhood my grandfather abandoned his passion, flight, and sought a stable career, typewriter repair. (I can almost hear the sigh of consolation) By the time I came on the scene Grandpa was an embittered man. I say that because I believe it’s the truth, and yet I hate to say it, because this is how I remember him. Continue reading