Unappreciated Aspects of Modern Life

The carpool. If there are gods and goddesses out there who are not overseeing the sheer brilliance of the carpool, I do not know who is. I thank my lucky stars for sharing the daily and weekly rides to activities and camps and appointments with all kinds of parents. Some I have never even met in person. I have been fortunate to be a part of several over this past year and the effort it takes to arrange and drive a carpool is so worth the saved time and driving. I bow down to the carpool gods and hope that they continue to bestow their quiet beneficence on me.

The soft serve ice cream cone. Dairy Queen does it best, but pick your brand. Anytime you hand me a soft serve (especially with a chocolate twist) ice cream you can be sure I will remember you in my will. You can have your mix-ins and your chunky ice creams with designer flavors (lemon basil –what is that?! Cardamom pecan—get away!)   I love soft serve on a hot summer day. We do not praise its name nearly enough. Go soft serve!!

Outdoor Dining. I love eating outdoors. I love breeze and sunshine and fireflies while I dine. I love patios with twinkly lights. I love being served a cold drink on a hot day at a shady table. There is something incredibly civilized about dining al fresco and I intend to keep up the practice. Keep in mind that outdoor dining is way different than picnicking. I like picnicking but it is way more work.

Prose Poetry. These days it seems you can write any old thing down on paper and call it a poem. This is as it should be. Words are poetic no matter what the form. Lace. Perpetuity. Ad infinitum. Popsicle. Roast Beef. Plausible. Barnacle. Fever. Wristwatch. See!

Podcasts. I love the ladies and gentleman who whisper stories, and fun facts and interesting bon mots in my ear when I walk or drive or do the laundry. It seems they can make these podcasts in their own kitchens or closets or the back seat of someone’s van. Email me for my favorites. Send me yours.Self check-out at the Library. No really. I order books at the library on-line portal. They email me

when they have pulled them. They wait on a special shelf with my name attached. I walk in during library hours and check them out myself. I walk out. What’s more, my library auto renews two times if there is no one else waiting for the book. That means I can pretend it is my book for as long as nine whole weeks. I sometimes gaze longingly at my hold list. Hopefully the old lady who used to check out my books has her feet up somewhere enjoying a Mai Thai and the latest from Malcolm Gladwell.

Open windows. Did you know that modern buildings all have sealed windows? It’s an environmental thing. Sealed windows are better for the environment. (This seems to fly in the face of all logic but there it is.) All new buildings or remodeled buildings have permanently closed windows. I have occupied them at my work now for more than 10 years. This means I cannot open a window at work on a spring day to feel the breeze come in, or on a summer day to hear a thunderstorm, or when the heat is working overtime and I need some cool air, or any one of a thousand reasons why someone might want to open a window to the atmosphere—the real live earth air that we rely on for our very sustenance. So when I am at a place where the windows actually open, I say a special thank you to the gods of the air and the open windows. I bless you for your beneficence.

Old friends keeping in touch via facebook. I am so happy I know what is going on with Ann’s children and Jim’s career and Gina’s job and move to Texas. I am gladdened (is that still a ward?) to see my high school friends kids are graduating from high school themselves and my old work-study students are having babies and getting married. I am happy that I found a person I used to work with at a retail store long ago and a woman who used to be my nemesis but with whom I now have a lot in common. I found a friend who has an adopted daughter from China like me, and we both know what red couch photos are. I like to know they bike ride and run marathons and quilt and travel and criticize their government and give to important charities. This social media abundance is worth every wasted moment. For thee I give thanks.

Landscapers. They toil away in the hot sun planting, digging, weeding, watering and mowing so that campuses and parks and median strips and hospital memory gardens can be beautiful and bring peace and tranquility to us mere mortals. Next time you pass a sweaty man or woman who is careful tilling the soil in the flower planter by your parking lot or an hourly working digging cigarette butts out of the rose garden walkway tell them thank you. What you do is a beautiful thing. We need more like you. Amen



Being a writer is being a window – an interface between inside and out.  On one side, you can see into the other.  Inside, from outside – point of view.  Inside, a fire, cocoa warm bath with whip cream bubbles.  Outside, from inside a dry winter, or cold drizzle.  I sit from the inside well and warm, look to the outside icy death.  I stand on the outside with elements on my skin, staring into the interior-life.  Sometimes, when I look through the window, nothing is there – no one…sometimes, I can tell someone has just been there by the bits of clothing strewn near the overturn lamp.  Strange how something is the same about being in or out – – point of view.  I always recognize there is ‘some other place.’  Somewhere where I am not.

Being a writer is being a window – touching both places: simultaneous.  One side old with rain worn paint, the other radiating heat.  It is the interface between.  Itself remains clear.  When it is dark, outside a window, inside (often) there is light.

Allison for the Poplar Grove Muse

Of Summers Gone

A candle flickers in the dimming last light of a summer night and the sweet smell of citronella and lemongrass float on the air as I sit on the back deck, smoking cigarettes with my mom.  Inside, in a puddle of lamplight, a little girl in bare feet and a floral nightgown is perched at the kitchen table, her long dark hair still wet from the bath, the slightest citrus scent still lingering from the detangling spray.  She is eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream in big heaping spoonfuls, so big in fact that they cannot pass her lips without leaving brown skid marks at the corners of her mouth.   A little brown dog, just a baby of a dog, is asleep in my lap, her head heavy and hanging a bit off the edge of my leg as I stroke the smooth space of her neck, down her chest, to the plump little belly and its bare spot of warm skin.

These nights, I know there is still much to be done – there are puppies and girls to feed and raise and teach and train.  But I will get to that tomorrow, and for many a tomorrow.  But for these blessed moments at the end of a summer evening, when the dishes from dinner are already being wizzed clean and the bathroom floor has already been dried, and Ariel and her friends are drip-drying on the edge of a clean tub.  These moments before goodnights and sleeptights, are perfectly in between, as the candle light dances and flickers in the dark.


~DRH for The Poplar Grove Muse

Soul Collage March 2017

Duality Times Two

I am one who dreams of morphing
into at least four of me:
One, the me who feathers my nest with memories;
feeds my family and friends laughter and love
and lots of soup.
Two, the me who watches Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy
with my lonely mother;
fries skillet-size corncakes for her
and slathers them with butter.
Three, the me who throws myself with vim and vigor
(probably more vim than vigor)
into political action—
marches, carries signs, maybe even gets arrested
with a dozen other grandmothers—
for peace, equal rights, and justice.
Four, the me who writes poems and stories,
letters and essays and songs,
and aspires to perform, to sing,
and (one of these days) to piece together a book
from my heaping scrap pile of strung together words.
I am one who strides forth with confidence (sometimes)
and good intentions (always),
giving as much of my one true self as I know how to give
to whomever or whatever calls my name
at any given moment.
My fantasy (duality times two) hovers near my left ear,
whispers affirmations, reminds me
of possibilities and limitations,
teaches me about balance:  the complementary strengths
of dark and light, male and female,
earth tones, sky tones, and the bare bones
of the one me that is wrapped up in the duality
of what it means to be a human being.


I Breathe and Pray

      I plant my feet on spongey soil between knobby roots of Grandmother Sycamore.  I plant my hands on spongey moss-covered bark. I breathe, breathe, breathe.

      I breathe my legs, my feet, my toes into forest floor—stretch, reach, burrow them down, down to the deep, vast aquafer below.  I breathe my body into the trunk of the tree, as thick and solid as twenty of me, my heart into throbbing heartwood, my blood into life-giving sap.

      I grow tall and call to the spirit of all living things as I breathe my arms, hands, and fingers into touching-sky branches.  Liquid sky.  Living sky.  I feel the blue as fragile and silky as butterfly wings between my fingertips.

      I breathe my prayers, my cares, my fears and tears, my carefree play and earthborn-sacred up through ice-cold-water-sucking toes to my sky-dipped, blue-tipped fingers.  I rest my forehead against moss and cry saltwater tears.

      My breathing, praying, singing draws all that I love and cherish—hummingbirds, human beings and humpbacked whales; ground-hugging violets and redwood giants; my red-blooded, blue-blooded, green-blooded family—up through my soles, in through my lips, down through my fingertips and into my soul.

Into my soul.
Out to the world.
Into my soul.
Out to the world.
I breathe and pray.
Breathe and pray.
Breathe and pray again.

Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse






Blank Slate


Iona is a blank slate.

So much of her is non-color.

Flat gray stone as canvas,

backdrop of sage green hills

warming to brighter days.

I am drawn again to the fire station

and its rusty brown stone wall,

and flash of shiny red on the doors.

As I walk along I spy the inside of a half-shell,

pearly like the back of a baby’s neck.

And I look toward the bay at a fishing trawler

with its startling orange floats popping

on the deck like the erupted skin

of a teenage boy

just before his first date.

In the air floats a gull

over tinseled water, sun shining its whitest white

on its charcoal tipped wings.

Then the dissonant sound of the cruise guide,

“yellow tags line up here” and no one pays attention;

no one lines up in their

sensible brown shoes

and their green waxed coats.

And I walk back toward the Argyll Hotel

with its gray, grayer, grayest stone walls


and its windows and door

outlined in delphinium blue.





I Am Gannet


I am gannet, seabird,

soaring with my gray,

white and yellow-feathered body

off the volcanic shore of Iona.

The sparkling waters

in Martyrs Bay

tempt and tease me

as they race over

their bounty hidden

deep below the surface.


I climb skyward high

over the bouncing waves

as they strive for shore.

Now. Turn. Somersault.

Beak first, speeding straight down

wings sleek along my body,



Capture one shiny silver fish.

Burst up through the waves.

Slowly and steadily I balance

on top of the water. One gulp.

Fish gone, sustenance begins.

As I’m being nourished

rich nutrients coursing through me,

my mind clears, my eyesight sharpens

I open my beak to call out gratitude.


Rebekah Spivey for the Poplar Grove Muse


Georgic: How to Start a Black Walnut Tree Farm


This poem was written as a response to one of the prompts from NaPoWriMo, the celebration of April as National Poetry Month. The prompt was “Georgic”, a poem which could be a simple set of instructions on how to grow or care for something, but it could also incorporate larger themes as to how land should be used (or not used), or for what purposes.

Step I:

Have one tree already growing

On the property you are eyeing

For the farm.

Step II:

Make sure at least one squirrel

Lives nearby.

Step III:

Let the ripened nuts

In their prickly

Green husks

Fall to the ground.

Step IV:

Leave them there.

Step V:

Watch the squirrels pick them up

And bury them nearby.

Step VI:

Watch the ones

The squirrels forget about

Sprout the next year.

Step VII:

Let them grow for about

Four years

Then thin them out

So that the stronger ones


Step VIII:

Harvest the smaller ones

And sell them to folks

Who make them into

Pen barrels

And other small objects

Which are sold as

Much desired possessions

To folks who have everything.

Be mindful, though.

Those pens may be used

To sign Presidential Executive Orders

Bev Hartford







Remembering As I Go

How many moments in your life can you recall  a time you were doing practically nothing, when a sharp sense of “I need to remember this” came over you? Perhaps you were ten. You could have been younger.  Some feeling washed over you that indicated time was passing, that the beautiful, sun-dappled sidewalk you were moseying along, the spring breeze,  so lovely,  would be different or gone in 10 years. That the moment was pretty perfect.  You needed to somehow capture it; to remember it exactly as it was that day for your older self later, in case she forgets.

There was a large double swing at my College that hung from an enormous tree on front campus. Swinging with my best friend one pristine autumn day my freshman year, I was free and smart and at peace with my new-found (though sheltered) independence, knowing I’d probably never be so completely un-encumbered and on the cusp of infinite possibility again.  “Remember this.” I thought, “You’ll need to remember this one day.”

 Paddling shirtless in the upper Ontario wilderness a couple years later: “Do not forget you were this strong, this connected to water and sky.”

 Pregnant after pregnancy losses, looking out at the pines from a back porch Carolina rocking chair when it looked like the baby inside me would be born soon: “This is what you’ve wanted, don’t forget what life growing inside you feels like, your profound terror, this absolute certainty”.

The one or two or maybe few days of any given year that assure you that you are a living witness –not just to an event or in some cases non-event, but to the feeling you want to remember about it: the astonishment of holding the feet of your dying friend, her struggle, her release, your sense of calm in letting her go. Or of observing the kindness of the busy fresh produce guy, patiently helping the non-english-speaking grandma at Kroger sort out one pepper over another, the way it made you cry with gratitude for a simple kindness in a crappy world. The couple in a long embrace at a corner, the man with his dog, asleep under a blooming redbud in the park.

My girl self, communing with the 18-year- old who left home, ”Don’t forget that home”, she said. “The people who lived there. The person you were”. The 20 -something me who spoke to the young Mother me, overwhelmed by her cluelessness, her loss of self. “You knew yourself under stars alone in the wilderness, you’ll know yourself here.” The younger mother I can barely remember, (so much has happened in the past two decades), told me recently that mothering was the best work of my life. And I think she’s right. And the 10 year old me, reminding us all again, it’s right to remember as you go, so you can tell yourself later how it was and what you know because of it.

I’ve been accused of being overly nostalgic. Maybe, but I think I’ve simply had a knack for keeping track and keeping all the girls and women I’ve been in my life in touch with one another.

Today the dogwood blooms in the backyard where my daughters once climbed trees and made forts. One dog, three rabbits, 2 rats, 2 hamsters, and the ashes of 2 other dogs are buried here. As I moved dirt, and cleared a new path through an overgrown section I imagine making into some kind of meditation garden, I thought “I need to remember how great I felt today, whole and happy in my slightly- aching body, losing track of time while clearing and making things. At 57, I still like finding the shape of something new in the familiar, changing ground under my feet”.

I hope we’ll all be together in another 10 years. All the pieces of me remembering together, so none of us forgets.


BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse

The Bread

The Bread


Our guide in Jerusalem took us into the Muslim Quarter—through the Lions gate—into the Old Walled City. He took 49 pilgrims down a narrow stone street and told us to walk into a bread shop to look and see where they baked the bread. We saw big bread ovens with hot sweaty Arab men tossing big sheet pans of bread in and out of stone ovens. It was a rainy day and the warm bakery seemed dark and a long way from the Kroger bakery that was familiar.

Then he passed around loaves of hot fresh sesame bread which he called Kai. He told us it was the best bread in the old city. We stood around the alley eating warm bread. 

He said, “I would be a bad Arab if I didn’t show you hospitality. I want you to feel like this is your home too.”

He referred to his home as the entire area in the old walled city. All of it. The shops and the stores and the churches. He gestures above us. More than once he reminded us that this was a living city. He showed us antennae and laundry and children on their way to school. We ate bread in the rain, awkward tourists, communion.


Later that day as we stood outside a street that marked where he lived as a child he talked more about the bread. Our tour guide, said, “Remember the bread I gave you? Anywhere you go in the old city you would get bread as good as the bread I gave you, but outside the city the bread is the same but not as good to eat. Why is that?”

He always asked us rhetorical questions, so we squirmed uncomfortably not sure of the right answer, and then he answered his own question, “Perhaps they are just better bakers in the city, or perhaps it is the spices and dust from ancient days in the air that mingles with the bread and gives it a special flavor, or perhaps it is the spirituality in the old walls–the religion of two millennia that gets baked into the bread. Whatever the reason, the bread, made by bakers in the old city is the best bread. Don’t you agree? “

And we did.

Amy for the PGM


A “secret” Facebook community of WWf(a)C writers participates in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) each April/National Poetry Month.  Many of us look forward to this communal wordfest all year.  This is my second full-fledged, all-in experience, and I LOVE IT!!

PLEASE, if you have any inclination to do so, join us!  It’s only Day 6. Interesting info on poets, poetry, different forms and formulations are posted fresh each day at: http://www.napowrimo.net/ Contact me or any other participant for an invitation to our page, and see where it might take you!

Here are two of my favorite personal efforts from this month.

Day 3: Elegy

Elegy for a Killshot

She comes to me more
and more often
in dream.
Embraced again
in the comfort
of her shining,
made whole again,
as from childhood,
I ache
with longing.
She never wavered.

In those last nights,
as she faded
from herself,
occasional terror,
and a never-before-seen
of sharp intellect
on a world unprepared.
a glimpse into where
that killer croquet shot,
on her grandfather’s farm,
even on her own
small, surprised children,
lived unimagined.

Day 4: Enigma

You came
from nothing, and,
they say,
to nothing
you will return.

We rubbed two sticks together,
ancient, archetypal rituals,
et voila,
you were.
A miracle,
a sudden, startling
presence in the room,
fiercely observant,
utterly there.

We do our very best,
pour ourselves
day upon day
into the miraculous
vessel, the presence
that day after day,
becomes more resplendent,
resonant, responsive.

And then, seemingly as soon
as you appeared,
you are nearly
out of sight,
on the horizon,
almost mirage.
like absence,
but for your indelible
imprint of unbearable love.

Mary Peckham for the Poplar Grove Muse

In the Garage on Jensen Street

I was gifted a 1976 banana yellow Buick Skylark back before I learned how to say no. My grandmother’s house needed to be sold. My father wanted the car to stay in the family, and I was in college without a car. We argued about it. I said it was too much. He disagreed.

Before making its way to me in the mountains of Appalachia, the car sat idle for decades in my grandparent’s garage. A large white steering, an old push button radio and two long white leather bench seats made up the interior. My parents hung a tropical air freshener from the rear view mirror to mask its musty, sat too long smell. They told me not to worry about the rusty trunk, but the mechanic who fixed the car for the second or third time in the couple months I owned it, told me whatever I put in the there would find its way onto the highway sooner than later.

I did love this car once, back when it lived in the Gleason’s garage on Jensen Street. Those days meant Grammie was squeezing us, frying hot dogs in butter, and there was plenty of Tropicana OJ, something Mom didn’t buy.

Twice a year we headed from Virginia to my grandparent’s house in West Hartford, Connecticut. My grandfather, paralyzed and no longer able to drive, sat in his brown recliner, while my grandmother, who was rarely able to leave the house, cared for him. Once in a while, my father took the Buick out for a drive, but mostly it lived in the stories he told. We’d laugh no matter how many times he said the car, once sky blue, was painted yellow when my grandmother forgot where she parked one too many times.

While my parents helped my grandparents and visited, my sister and I played in the deep New England snow, and in the summer walked to my father’s old elementary school hoping there were kids to play with on the playground. We watched hours of Madonna and Cindy Lauper on MTV, made up dances to Like a Virgin and Girls Just Wanta Have Fun way before we knew what the songs were about, and ate all our meals on TV trays. Sometimes I’d listen while my grandmother searched through the boxes she kept all the cards and letters she’d ever received. Too young to remember them, I loved the same stories, over and over again.

My love of my grandparents and her stories didn’t transfer to their actual car. Too big for my college’s tiny mountain streets and the fact I’d only had my license a year, I was as terrified to drive as I knew I’d be, sure it was a matter of time before I mowed someone down. Issue after issue, the yellow Buick and I spent a lot of time getting to know the town’s mechanics. Finally, after a couple of months mostly parked, I called my mother sobbing. Please just take this thing.

On the drive back to my parent’s home, the car’s brakes failed, relinquishing me of my guilt for not wanting the car. It was too much car for me and, truth be told, not something my father wanted sitting in his garage.

Dad sold it for a cent on eBay, back when eBay was new and allowed a person to undo that sort of thing. The man who eventually bought it wrote to say how much he enjoyed how well it drove. It was well cared for, he said.

We tried to keep it, take good care, but the truth is it wasn’t the car we ever wanted, not unless it was back, parked in the garage on Jensen Street.