the way azaleas grow

Every year around Jase’s birthday, I find myself writing about azaleas. Here’s a poem I scratched out last week in the notes app on my phone:

the way azaleas grow

after a skinned knee
he climbs on my lap

arms and legs tucked in close
to my chest
like the azalea buds
yet to loosen
on their reaching stems

this is the posture of a son
beloved
a bundle of petals
collecting sun
before
they unfurl

every year I consider
the way azalea’s grow
the dormant sticks
wake up and rise

pronged leaves turn green
and part to make
way for a bud
that will become a blaring
trumpet of beauty
an announcement of
defiant life: spring

when he feels better
he unlocks his arms
like the petals as they release
into a new season

he leaves my side
knowing there is always
a place for him close
to my heart

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit*

A thin layer of frost
covers January leaves—
the ones swept into piles
months ago and left on
either side of the path

I pick up a single leaf and bring it
close, zooming in on the
detail. I’m amazed by the tiny crystals
formed so intricately overnight.

Was it a delicate process like
sugar falling on a pastry or did
the frost appear suddenly, cracking
like the frozen edges of the river?

Perhaps we are like these leaves
and this is one way we
encounter God’s glory.
Fragile, bare, forgotten

until one morning when the frost
appears
and what was meant to kill us off for good
highlights our veins and edges.

Blessed are the poor in spirit
the ones who have fallen off display,
the ones who feel discarded.
For theirs,
in dependency
in beauty
in surrender,

is the Kingdom

——
*This is the first poem in a series based on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10)

when you were three (for Ev)

when you were three (for Ev)

you say i don’t love you
so we count it out on our fingers
my
mom
i begin
loves
me
you finish
each of our four fingers uncurl
with each word until they are
spread out and waving.
we say it again
and again
closing our fists and opening them
slowly
again
and again
until my hand relaxes
and my arms reach toward you
to hold you and
repeat:
I
will
always
love you

Happy New Year!

I went into 2017 thinking I would revive this ol’ blog with deep thoughts and regular posts, but I ended up posting less than I ever have. (I’ve been blogging since 1999, you guys)

It was a weird year for my writing. I felt really self conscious about it and at the same time determined to write something I could submit for publication. It’s not surprising that this mindset shut me down creatively and I barely wrote at all. I filled notebooks and journals, but I had a hard time finishing anything.

I’ve finally swung back around to the reasons I write in the first place, and it feels really good to be grounded again. I write to remember, to pay attention, to thank God.

(also because I want to and have to and need to.)

Anyway, I’m back in this humble little space (hi mom!) resolved to keep at it, whatever that looks like.

——

It seems important to document what’s on my mind at the beginning of 2018. This is the kind of thing that will be interesting to look back on someday, right?

essay
The Sentimentality Trap by Benjamin Myers (I keep coming back to this one.)

(theme)song
Father, Let Your Kingdom Come (featuring Urban Doxology, Liz Vice, and Latifah Alattas)

book (currently reading)
The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick

poem
Letter to Alice by Jane Kenyon

podcasts
Upside Down
Taking Route

I would love to know what you’re into as well.

Sunset on a Winter Evening at the Close of 2017

Sunlight flings across the parking lot onto
the apartment building
diagonal from us.
I watch as light drips down the windows
like the freshest egg yolk.

It’s dinnertime and inside, on the 5th floor,
I am making pancakes
listening as the egg cracks
watching as the yolk sinks into the batter

So-long to this winter day
to the sunlight now removed from
the hours we sat inside reading
and resting.

Three horses gallup in the dim living room
as I whisk the runny pancake mixture
and outside the sun drips all the way down.

Miracles

Under the deepest blue canopy
I search for miracles as I watch
my toddler in his fleece-lined jeans
run against the pull of stiff fabric.

He is like a pigeon determined to get away.

He walks through the leaves with
a stick in his hand.
He is not afraid to run off
into the road.

As I pull him back from the curb,
I imagine the baby in a manger,
fragile and brand new,
safe in his own mother’s arms.

Walking away from the Downtown Library

The road is damp from
snow that didn’t stay

Through the open windows of
the tofu restaurant I hear ladies
clamoring and chatting,
presumably, about
their personal lives

The convenience store across the street
hasn’t changed in a while.
The outside walls are worn like a favorite
kitchen apron with grease stains and other
predictable signs of wear.
Faithful customers gather at plastic tables
out front,
people-watching and smoking cigarettes

I walk between these comfortable
places, through the snow that could have been

Looking down I see the word painted on the road
reads “slow” in Korean.

Carpet Angels

Light from the south facing window
slides in between the blinds
onto the new rug
where yesterday the children
flipped around in wonder.

Is this what snow feels like?
They ask as they lie down
to make carpet angels
again.

Couch Poem

I tend to agree with Ted Kooser when
he says you should never send a poem into
the world with its shirt untucked.

But what if the poem invites us in?

Maybe there’s a place for
unfinished drafts written by
a tired mama on her sofa after dark.
Poems in pajamas, words in a hurry.
Fragments of documentation,
the absurd and the full-of-delight.
Here on this worn out couch with
uncomfortable springs,
I scribble out vulnerable messes—

an exercise in paying attention,
in gratitude,
in giving the critic inside
a drink of water and sending her
back to bed.

———
Found this earlier draft of the same poem, and I can’t decide which version I like more:

Ted Kooser advises
not to send poems into the world
with their shirts untucked.
I agree wholeheartedly, but perhaps there
Is also a place for drafts
Written by a tired mama on her sofa after dark.
Words underlined for later.
Perhaps one day I will come back to these scribbles
to clean them up and make them more presentable.
But right now they spill out of notebooks and files,
and I would rather send them off
With love than hide them away inside.
Take these for what they are:
vulnerable messes in disguise,
Fragments of delight

This is what I have to offer—my heart,
my sleeves, my shirt untucked.