My daughter mornings into the kitchen. Stands in light stratum from the back door window. When she turns, I see she is wearing a shirt inscripted with one word. Kale. I can’t escape the laughter, as I look down and point at my shirt which reads Collards. We are in the midst of a t-shirt battle, a vegetable stand-off, before the coffee is ground and rivers our lips. Hers, a gift from the boutique grocery store where she works. Mine, a token from my sweet sister; a faded green material with block letters. Hers a Kelly and script. My vegetable, a piece of my childhood. My Southerness. Steeped and sizzled in fat back and served on New Year’s Day, plated at Granny’s with homemade chow-chow, and a staple during hard times. Briny and robust. Her leaves have quercetin and kaempferol and half of the vitamin alphabet. All hail kale. Raw kale, kale pesto, kale wraps, kale chips, kale sips, and even kale dips. She is the cook in this multigenerational home. A healthy cook. Kale is revered. Has its own refrigerator drawer, a dog-eared cookbook. Fat-back does not dare cross the threshold of this home. Does not putty the eaves and nooks with sass and Southern splatters. Collards are scarce, too. No collard wrap, spread, not on salad or bread. Collard must be content to have my memories, my faded green t-shirt.
As I write this, I am suffering from a wee bit of sciatica. I hate it when my body betrays me.I’ve always been healthy, so when Mother Nature knocks me on the head, to remind me of who is the boss, I pout for a bit. It has been an usual week filled with highs and lows, but upon reflection of the past seven days, I notice that for me it has been a week filled with strong women, and yes that includes, Mother Nature with her crazy winds, rain, and reminder to me.
Shakira kicked off the week with a nod to her Lebanese and Columbian cultures in the Super Bowl half-time performance. In a show filled with violinists, a Champeta dance, and the “controversial”(to the buttoned-up way too tight and uninformed), amazingly beautiful zaghrouta. She defines what a strong, intelligent, and passionate woman can be in less than ten minutes. If you have time checkout her # ChampetaChallenge on Instagram.
As a mother, I find much to be proud of in my strong daughter, who despite working full-time, has returned to school to get her Masters. She is wise, hard-working, and incredibly funny. I am honored to have old friends such as Carol Cabrera and Kim Hughes, to reach out via text, and new friend/colleague Kasey Elliott to vent to when I’m fed up with work. These strong women impact young people daily. They literally change the world.
On Thursday, Christina Koch returned to Earth after 11 months aboard the International Space Station. Her accomplishment will go down in history, and she has also become the envy of “no peopling” people all over the world.
I want to honor Nancy Pelosi. I actually want to embrace and kiss her, but she’s too dignified for that. And despite what appalled conservatives are saying, she is dignified. She politely and neatly, did what every intelligent woman in America has wanted to do at least once(and probably more) to a man-splainer...she shut down a racist, ignorant, bullying, child haring, self-serving, lying, cheating man by shredding his “manifesto of mistruths”.
Lastly, I would like to mention Amy Klobuchar. If you have not decided on a Democratic candidate, please consider her. She has a winning record, Midwestern common sense, and the chutzpah to stand up to Trump.
I don’t have a poem for this week, but consider all of these strong women and the ones that you know, to be sonnets of power, grace, and wisdom.
The rain is dripping and plopping, and two of the cats have engaged in a fight that has moved through three rooms and a set of steps, so far. It’s a good day for a new blog from the crazy, cat-filled House on Greenbrier.
I enjoy writing poems that have many layers and meanings. Additionally, I relish the idea of weaving nature throughout my poems(even my “take a stand” poems). The process becomes a brain exercise for me. But I also love college sports, especially my Clemson Tigers. Ironically enough, my most accessed/viewed poems are not my deep, thinking babies, but instead my spoetry(sports’ poetry). My first piece was published quite a few years back. The Kansas Jayhawks Athletics department, under the suggestion of Coach Bill Self, bought the poem, and have used it several times. “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk Chant” is still on the school website; featured as a screensaver. Coach Dany Herz was extremely instrumental in getting that poem recognized and entered into the world. Thanks, Coach.
Lately, I have been composing tributes to Clemson football players who have recently graduated or have left the program. These babies are under the “FanPost” section of ShakintheSouthland. They are rhymed poems of celebration for Chase Brice, Tee Higgins, and Isaiah Simmons. The Chase Brice tribute has gotten the most traffic at twitter. Chase is a Clemson fan favorite. These pieces and fun, silly, and full of love and admiration.
So, lesson learned-take the time to write about what you enjoy and celebrate...when an idea moves you, explore it in your writing. Have a poetic Saturday!
If you wish to peruse blogs by other poets, please visit Kelli Russell Agodon at
Scratches, hisses, and crickets. These three words define my writing routine. I teach full time and again, I serve as a department head(I am still not sure how that happened). Consequently, Monday through Friday, my writing is comprised of many starts and stops. I write on my phone, on the back of my grocery list, in between classes, in the middle of the night, and sometimes at traffic lights. I am a prolific writer in spurts. I may write 30 poems in 30 days and then not write for 30 days. In the quiet times, I edit, keep up my author page, submit to magazines, read other poets, and try to appreciate the down time, the time of the crickets.I take writing classes at the Muse in Norfolk several times a year.
On the weekend, I am able to focus more on my writing. The House on Greenbrier has an amazing office. My sister, Kelly, gifted me with the vanity the two of us shared when we were young. The office has floor to ceiling windows on two sides, so I sit at the vanity surrounded by nature as I work my craft. This past week, I composed a fanpost about my love of Clemson football for SB Nation’s Shakin’ the Southland. And I received word that Dead Eyes Lit Mag(which includes two of my poems) was released and ready for purchase. My current lifestyle does not allow for a focus on my writing seven days a week from sun-up to sun-down. It is instead a series of scratches, hisses, and long spells of crickets. Below you will find a poem written in the office in the House on Greenbrier ( originally published in Contemporary Haibun Online in July of 2018).
The Song of the Red Fox
We moved to Virginia in late summer. Each season in this old Cape Cod home was a mystery to unfold. I swiftly learned the pattern of the Cardinal’s path, to recognize the Elderberry, Hawthorn, and Bee Balm, and experienced the zip and sting of a Commonwealth mosquito. As autumn approached, so did the brisk breezes from the Elizabeth River Estuary. I opened the windows, aired out the blinds, and swept the river sand from the wide slat floors. A volunteer pumpkin vine unfurled candy of burnt oranges and deep ambers. We carved and candled them. Wearing scarves and mittens, I saw green go to brown. Leaves, grass, and buds curl up like kittens, and freefall to carpet the fraying yard. The first substantial snow came in February. It was not light nor kind, but a boisterous blizzard with bountiful snow and an angry river wind. At that time I learned the song and the search for survival of the red fox.
Surround the oak
Dog bowl empty
As I swept and polished the wood floors in the living room this morning, I noticed no two planks were alike and some showed a great deal of wear. There is a dark stain smack-dab in the middle of the room. One board near the piano sings to me every time I step on it. All of these imperfections and signs of age are a large piece of what pushed me to select this home. It has character, has withstood the test of time, and parts of it are bent and almost broken. This house is me. Still standing despite set-backs, loss, and a profession wrought with stress. I am the 1938 Cape Cod on Greenbrier.
In July of 2017, I purchased the 1938 Cape Cod home in Virginia. This blog will recount how this home has helped me to deal with loss, to handle stress, to become a better me, and how moving here inspired me to begin writing again.. Shout