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September 24, 2012

Fully Alive

A second poem by Wilda Morris. Its beauty and meaning need no introduction.

for Aunt Ersel

by Wilda Morris

Though sickness
racked your fragile body
these last few years,
your special radiance—
hardy laughter and quiet prayer,
deep thoughts and caring conversation—
kept you fully alive until the end.

The strength with which
you lived and died
burns into my heart
a picture of your rising.

I feel your presence
in the lavender dawn
and the rising sun
of this new day.

Poem copyright Wilda Morris, all rights reserved.
Illustration, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved. 

Wilda Morris is past President and current Workshop Chair of Poets & Patrons of Chicago. Her poems have been published in numerous anthologies, literary journals and other publications, including Alive Now, MO: Writings from the River, and Seeding the Snow. Her blog, at  provides a monthly prompt and contest for other poets.

September 20, 2012

Object Lessons

It has been difficult to find time to post, and frustrating, because I have great content from amazing writers to be posting. My apologies to them. Your work WILL appear. Delays and interruptions come in countless forms. The latest one for me occurred when I suddenly had the resources to clear out the storage unit that contained my sister's furniture and other large items. I had the muscle help, the truck, and the time. So, my remaining family members and I "took the will for the deed."

I still clearly remember the morning of the estate sale in which we sold the larger portion of our parents' belongings. My sister was the prime organizer and "chief" of the effort. Before people came in to buy, we looked at each other, tears in our eyes. Even not being materialist in nature, we couldn't deny the fact that we were dismantling the environment, the refuge, the sanctuary our parents had created with and for each other and for their children. How could we do this and not, on some level, feel that we were betraying those we loved most?

We each found compensation in keeping a few furniture pieces for our small homes. It was not, of course, about the objects, but we felt that by keeping them, we honored our parents' hard work, their personal aesthetic, and the memory of who and how they were on this earth. I would never have guessed that my sister would never have the time to move those items into her home and that my brother and I would be left to also dismantle the physical effects of her world.

It felt bad. Like a slow, punishing punch to the gut, an unrelenting pressure deep beneath my surface.

I know that it's good to clear the decks of stuff. I know also that we take nothing with us, that my sister has no need of any of these remainders, that I, too, one day will no longer be here, clearing out storage units, re-organizing my manuscripts and photographs so that whoever comes behind me won't be left with an unmanageable, time-consuming task to dispose of them. If I know this, why--why--do I feel as though this latest clearing out has left me immersed in sadness?

How is it that knowledge and feeling can be so far apart in the same mind, in the same heart? 

The estate agent who is helping us sell the remaining pieces told me that he believes people go through five stages of letting go of a loved one's possessions... reminding me of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages of grief. The last stage he described was "relief." Oh, how I hope he is right, and right all the time, not just some of the time.  How I look forward to the relief of that relief.

In the meantime, I turn, once again, to gratitude. I remain grateful for having known and been known, for having loved and been loved by some very special people, ones I was only too glad to call "family" and others I have been only too glad to call "friends."

When I feel flooded by "saditude," the best medicine I have found is gratitude. A little humor doesn't hurt, either. Shortly after we finished clearing out the storage unit, a large SUV drove past me. Its windows on one side were painted. In the driver's window a peace symbol, in the window behind it, a big pink heart, and in the back window the Greek letters for Chi Omega. "Peace, Love, Chi Omega." My sister loved her Chi Omega sorority, her other "sisters." The timing of the signs I see that include Chi Omega are too specific and too "on-time" not to be messages.  "Peace and Love, Sister," my sister was surely saying to me. Peace and Love.

Even an empty storage unit can be full of these: peace, love, sisterhood. Amen.

September 9, 2012


I like the way in which this poem by Wilda Morris combines metaphor and memory and how it reminds me that reminders of my loved ones are present, perhaps even abundant...if I take time to look for them. Taking time is the key. What have you noticed today, what might you notice tomorrow, that will remind you of the eternal love that you still share with your friend or family member?


by Wilda Morris

for Katherine

Clouds diffuse the early morning light as I go
to the raspberry patch. I watch the bee
fly from leaf to leaf, the daddy-longlegs
explore. But here, on the grape vines,

where the foliage has turned to green
lace, I see coppery beetles, their armor
gleaming as they eat at the life force
of the vine, as leukemia ate yours.

For thirteen years you fought the onslaught
of one disease after another
with your own bright armor of faith
and courage, synthesis of hope and tears.

I pick the beetles off the vine, but could not
remove the cancer cells or fill the holes
they left in your immunity. These raspberries
remind me we still savor the fruits of your love.

Poem copyright Wilda Morris, all rights reserved.

Wilda Morris is past President and current Workshop Chair of Poets & Patrons of Chicago. Her poems have been published in numerous anthologies, literary journals and other publications, including Alive Now, MO: Writings from the River, and Seeding the Snow. Her blog, at  provides a monthly prompt and contest for other poets.

September 1, 2012

When the Circle Breaks Open

Many readers of this blog will have heard the old gospel tune, "May the Circle Be Unbroken." And many of this blog's readers have lived through the tearing apart of our sacred circles. This experience is, I believe, particularly recognizable in the loss of a sibling. Ann Ritter's poem does a remarkable job of capturing that moment when siblings confront the breaking of that circle. Her artistry with the language brings "salve" to the moment and its pain. I've paired her poem with Jeff Damron's photo, "White Chair." When I asked Jeff's permission to post the photo, I learned that the white chair pictured is "keeping watch" in his brother's yard. He took the photo of the chair just a few months before his brother Steve died in 2011.

White Chair by Jeff Damron. All rights reserved.

Miriam’s Wake
by Ann Ritter
Five white chairs wait in a circle
around a perfect green watermelon
and a knife, for the brothers, who,
plus one cousin, will carry her coffin.

Tonight when crickets sing, William,
the eldest, will cut the sweet fruit,
pass slices to John, Wendall, Kenny,
baby Ralph. And stories will run
like juice from their lips.

They will remember the strained summer         
of polio—how the grass grew long
in their parents’ absence from home
and Miriam’s damp hair tangled so
in her hospital bed that it had to be cut off.
In the yard, rust stained her waiting bicycle,
because no one wanted to touch it.
They will remember how her crooked hips
showed in two graduation photos and
through the lace of her wedding dress.

One brother will compare to spider web
the shatter imprint on the windshield
made by Miriam’s head. Another
will repeat the patrolman’s report
of the dozing man whose car struck hers,
who lived for a time on the stretcher to say,
“I killed her; I know that poor lady died.”

As they cinch chairs a bit tighter, knit over
the hole in the family that was Miriam,
silence will fall on the circle, will be broken
only by black seeds shot
like torpedoes
into the sand behind them in the dark.


Poem copyright Ann Ritter, all rights reserved.
Read Ann Ritter's bio at the end of the previous post.
Learn about Jeff Damron's work at Better in Black and White.