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

Maps and Legends

old-world-map[1]A lot of people don’t like poetry. What many of them tell me is, “I don’t get it”, which makes sense because poetry is its’ own language. The host language is used as a tool to create a personal communication between the poet and the mysteries. Ideally, an effective– an inspired poem, transcends the host language.

I started writing poetry in my tweens after reading… I wish I could say Rimbaud or Whitman, but no, it was Rod McKuen’s, Listen to the Warm.


That was all it took. The suggestion that warm can be heard, crystalized for me all that I had been trying to understand about metaphor. Of course, I also believe that warm can actually be heard, which puts me in the transcendental  poets’ camp I suppose.

Thus, the crux of my mission as a poet: to use language as a tool to transcend language, to break the bonds of representation with symbols– to reveal the paradoxical truths.

The fun part how you use your tool. For example, I love commas. Here is an example of coma usage I was really excited about.

Home, away from Home

Why?( I promise this is the only time I will ever impose explanations of my poetry on you, but it is for a higher purpose.)

Because the comma changes the meaning of this well-known phrase from–when I am in this other locale, it feels similar to being at home, to —being in this locale and the other locale are the same.  The poems meaning; violence in the U.S. and violence in Mexico are equally horrific and by correlation- do not differentiate violence, violence is horrific, is foreshadowed with this simple punctuation. All that from a little comma, if I was successful with the rest of the poem that is.

Recently I was looking at the statistics page of my blog and I noticed that people infrequently click on the links in my posts. Clicking, in “wordpresspeak” means clicking on a link within a post. As I contemplated that, I realized the similarities between links and the tools I use in poetry.

Although many links are pretty straightforward explanation buttons, they are also used by a blogger to create more content depth within a limited format. Many bloggers have a standard word count, frequently 500 words. I shoot for a thousand or less, because I often tell stories, and for me one thousand words is more suitable for storytelling. Still, it is sometimes difficult to get the impact I want within that parameter, and that is where the photos( such as this Don Quixote reference) and links come in.

For example, this is a favorite link, Espanto, from Dinner and a Swat Team. If you read this link you will learn that the Chamula Indians of Chiapas believe humans have 13 souls including one which resides in a wild animal called a wayjel, and that soul loss can occur due to a fall or seeing a demon on a dark night. They also believe that animals and trees have souls, a belief not incongruous with those of a transcendental poet.

Some links are like a map; follow this road and you will reach this destination, a point A to point B situation. But some links are like the map’s legend,— it is a key, and that is where links, like poetry can lead you off the beaten path…come with me

Do you click? Why? Why not?

And  just for fun   Maps and Legends

A couple of interesting articles if this post got you in “clicking mode”


For Mama

The horizon is the place that maintains the memory. The primal memory emerging from the earth itself. The myth the ancients maintained is that the memory of a certain knowledge is within the horizon and it is up to us to find it again.

Lita Albuquerque

The summer I turned five years old, the summer before I went to kindergarten, my mother and I took a trip.  She, I and her boyfriend, who had recently returned from Vietnam, hitched hiked up the east coast and into Canada. They had wanted to spend the summer hitching through Europe but heard that it was inhospitable to hippies that year, so we headed north.

Memory is a curious thing and mine is not particularly good, but what I have realized is that often my memories are composed of ideas I have gotten from photographs, or other people’s stories and are only sometimes actual recollection of events.

I don’t remember riding in the cars of strangers that stopped for us. Only once do I remember standing by the side of the road with my thumb out, near an overpass, I was wearing engineer-striped overalls, it was my favorite outfit.

My uncle Kevin, who is gone now, bought me an entire wardrobe of engineer striped Osh Kosh clothes when he got a job at a fancy men’s apparel store downtown. I thought they were the coolest thing anyone could possibly wear. I will always consider engineer stripes the height of fashion.

There are a few details about that summer that linger in my mind. We stayed in a Hari Krishna commune and there was a communal shower where men and women were naked together. Someone taught me to use finger cymbals, and to chant, Harihari, harihari, harihari Rama. I liked it there. I never noticed any rules, it seemed the most important thing was to sing, and to say Hari Krishna to everyone you saw.

We also went to the world’s fair. It was like a fairy land, there was huge building that was just for kids. Inside it was as if someone had scoured the minds of children and then created every fun thing they could think of.  All of the equipment was made in the shape of flowers and animals. There were platforms (shaped like flowers) on springs for bouncing, ladders, ropes, tubes and slides (shaped like elephant trunks), under which water flowed. All of the surfaces were soft. Falling was the point, to get wet, and try scary new things, knowing it wouldn’t hurt.

When we went to Niagara Falls, all I remember was the veil of mist and a feeling of being pulled through the chest by a compelling force that came from the water. The image is strong but suspiciously like a postcard.

The clearest memory comes in part from my mother, because I didn’t understand my feelings about that moment until I heard the story from her. On the last day of our trip my mother took my hand and purposefully led me along the beach into a crowd of people. I was proud to be with her. I felt brave. We were in Providence.

We were running away. Her boyfriend had been wounded in Vietnam; his illness was hidden until he’d pulled a knife on her. She’d been waiting for the right moment that we could slip into a crowd to escape from him.

What I have carried with me from that summer is this: my hand is in my mother’s hand, I am walking forward but looking away at the long distance horizon of the Alantic Ocean, it was blurry and so tremendous it did not look real–and I felt the undertow that flows on dry land, just as I’d encountered it when I glimpsed the precipice of Niagara.


I have never been to the ocean
I am living on the plains

A pastime of mine is to lie
in a field of long grass, alfalfa
tall corn

The wind which always blows but cannot be
seen or felt but in the leaves and
reeds overhead, Know

this pasture is a conch shell, The moon moves
the tide within, pulls me toward
the vanishing point

leaves me washed up in this cornfield
The waves of magma, the elemental tide
that bears all

makes me wonder about the water
how it flows within and out
and when

I learned this language
of immersion, flesh and stone