Poem: Echoes in a Fangirl Heart

Confession time. I am and always have been a fangirl. It has taken various forms over time. Some things have stuck, others have worn off, and some have…grown. For instance, my current obsession with K-Pop has expanded from one or two groups and styles to multiple. As long as I don’t understand more than half of what they say, I’m in. (LOL, it’s not really based on the language, but you get my drift.) Oh, and K-Dramas, too. I’m actually picking up a bit of the Korean language now…thanks to all the subtitles.

I became a fan of David Bowie early in my life thanks to my older brother and Major Tom. Space Oddity actually came out several months before I was even born, but I remember my brother playing it on the jukebox at our local Pizza Hut. I was maybe five or six years old at the time but I remember listening and dancing next to the table with my little brother.

In 1977 I distinctly remember watching the Bing Crosby Christmas special where he sang “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” with Bowie. I was seven years old and had no idea that what I was witnessing was a miracle of negotiation and compromise between two diametrically opposite human beings. I also remember the debut of Bowie’s “Heroes” music video during the commercial break. Again, I was too young to fully comprehend the importance of that music video debuting at that time when people like my parents were the audience, but I now feel certain that bit of strategic marketing contributed heavily to Bowie’s career.

Bowie songs came and went and got stuck in my head over the years. I really became a true fangirl in 1986 when I saw Labyrinth. I fell head over heels in love with Bowie’s mysterious, sinister portrayal of the regal Jareth, but the songs were what captivated me. “Underground” in particular. I fairly ran to the store to snatch up the cassette tape, lol. And I was done for after that. A fangirl of Bowie’s for life.

The obsession faded, of course. I was distracted by other 80s hair bands like Bon Jovi and Ratt for a time. I even fangirled over them a bit. As an adult, I had a beach music/Jimmy Buffett phase. But I still listened to Bowie. And then the word came that he had died.

That news hit me pretty hard. I’d never really gotten over Bowie. In fact, although I hadn’t listened to him regularly in a long time, I immediately pulled out all my old Bowie music, downloaded even more and spent more than a year listening to him exclusively.

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of Bowie’s death. I saw all sorts of tributes to him on the internet. I heard his songs again, sometimes just playing on repeat in my head and echoing in my heart. And I wrote a little something. Because, I guess, that’s what fangirls do.

Echoes in a Fangirl Heart

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Hello, Starman.

Where have you been?

Admiring the sky I caught sight

of you quite by accident,

pale shadow.

Welcome back, Hero.

Where did you go?

The sun came up, the curtain fell…

I never gave up though,

Astronaut.

Insane lads leave me distraught…

How come they can’t be caught?

Image distorted, I can’t see your face,

going against all I was taught…

…Alien.

Greetings, my long-lost friend.

Just on the other side of the moon

is where I find you now,

even though it all ends too soon,

Spaceboy.

Full moon at sunset. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2023 Michelle Garren-Flye

New Year’s Eve reflections about life in the dark

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come whispering, “It will be happier.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson

I wrote my last post about light on the darkest day of the year. Today, the eve of a new year (New Year’s Day in some places already), is supposed to be all about light and hope. And in spite of my optimistic Winter Solstice resolutions about hoping without reason and loving without expectation (and I intend to stick to those, I promise), I cannot help but think about the previous New Year’s Eves when I threw open my front door to welcome those years into my life:

New Year’s Eve 2019: The end of a decade, the beginning of a new one! (uhhh…guess what 2020 has in store? Pandemic.)

New Year’s Eve 2020: God, I’m glad this year is over, let’s move on! (still pandemicking…and personal crap broke me…)

New Year’s Eve 2021: Well, that year sucked. Let’s try next year on for size! (still pandemicking and the personal crap intensified…)

I think it’s best to approach the end of 2022 without expecting too much from 2023. Instead, let’s look inside for the change we need. That’s why I intend to stick to my two Winter Solstice resolutions.

Hope. Even when it’s dark and it’s been dark and you’re bone cold and can’t imagine warmth ever again. Hope because if you believe the light is coming, maybe it will. If you give up on it, though, you will never see it even if it does come.

Love. Let love be its own reward. Love your family if you’re lucky enough to have them. Love the people around you. Love things. Love music. Love a flower that peeks up through the sidewalk if that’s the only thing you can find to love. Love the feel of the sun when it shines. Just love because it feels good to love and it will give you strength.

I will still open the door at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I will welcome the new year with hope even if there’s no reason to. I will love the new year, but I won’t expect anything from it. Because life is indifferent to me, and I will have to accept it all…good and bad…regardless. But if I believe the light is coming, at least I’ll have my eyes open when it does.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye. Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Winter Solstice reflections about life in the light

Yesterday was an important day that often goes unnoticed. In the Northern Hemisphere, it was the darkest day of the year. Winter Solstice.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved the idea of the Winter Solstice. I remember my mother always marked it. She was one of those people whose mood is affected by the light. The darkness of winter depressed her, so the Winter Solstice was a time of change for the good. Because every day after would be brighter. The days are getting longer now, she’d say in the hopeful voice I loved to hear.

Yesterday was a good day for me. I almost forgot it was the shortest day of the year because it seemed bright. Good news, new music, a great day at my store and time with my kids…when I looked at my watch and saw it was almost time for the solstice, though, I knew I needed to mark it. Because every chance I get to make things brighter, I need to take it.

So at 4:48 p.m. I lit a candle. I burned it until midnight and I tried to picture my life…brighter. I came up with two resolutions.

I will hope without reason.

I will love without expectation.

I think if I can hold onto these two resolutions, I can live a brighter life. Too often we wait for life to give us a reason to hope. If we can just hold hope in our hearts, we can live in the light more often. I don’t know what you hope for. I’m sometimes not even certain what I hope for. But I know without hope for something, we might as well curl up and die. So hope.

And loving without expectation is something we all struggle with, I think. I’ve always found it easy to love…things, people, places, pets, food. But in loving, I too often expect something in return. I have a plan in mind for my love, a path it should follow, rewards I should get in return for it, whatever. But I don’t control the object of my love, so I cannot control the results of my love and am often disappointed. Love itself has to be the reward, and if I can achieve that, I will surely live brightly.

I’m sure these two resolutions are not unique. Buddha or Gandhi probably came up with them long ago. Perhaps this is what they tried to teach me in Sunday School when I was a child. Is this what faith is? Or is it just the ramblings of a middle-aged would-be poet? You decide. It won’t matter to me. I’ll be over here hoping for a brighter future and loving you.

I’ll be in the light if you’d like to join me.

candle

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2022

Dead Butterfly on a December Sidewalk

It’s cold here today. Yesterday it was mid 60s. This morning? In the 30s. That’s why it wasn’t really surprising to see a dead butterfly on the sidewalk. Poor insect is as confused as I am about the weather. Yesterday, shirtsleeves, today, winter coat. But he didn’t have a winter coat. He was frozen but still beautiful.

It reminded me of poetry. Is that morbid? Definitely dark. But then, I’m one of the best poets you’ve never heard of, and I’m thinking it might be difficult for many people to name ten living poets off the top of their head, anyway. Because poets don’t become household names anymore.

Robert Frost said, “Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat.”

Carl Sandburg said, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.”

Considering the competition between these two poets, sometimes one-sided, it’s not surprising that these two poets had very different views of poetry. What has always intrigued me was that people paid attention to that rivalry. It was a different time, I suppose. These days, poetry is a hard sale. I see it every day in my store. I have shelves of used poetry—some modern, some classic—in my bookstore. I also have a section of local poetry, including my own.

It’s the classic poetry people still want. Byron, Dickinson…Frost, Sandburg. I understand that want. Those poets wrote about things that aren’t our reality. They’re a higher brow type of escapism than bestselling fiction. I myself have two poetry books sitting on my desk right now. One is The Complete Haiku of Matsuo Basho and the other is A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry (published in 1950). I study haiku, so that’s my excuse for that one, but I love the pastoral themes of past poets. I adore reading about love and beauty and passion as if I hadn’t a care in the world.

But I know modern poets are important. We are dreamers and truth speakers, but when we put those dreams of truth out into the cold December mornings, there’s the danger that they may die of the cold.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Happy Thanksgiving…have a fortune cookie?

I’ve picked up an interesting tradition? habit? madness? (You pick)

Every few days I have a fortune cookie. And I either shrug off the fortune inside or spend the next few days pondering it. Yesterday I got a fortune that read “A person who wants to sing will find a song.” (Or something to that effect. I think I lost the fortune…)

That one has stuck with me. Because it’s true, and I have spent far too much time living my life for wishes to think it isn’t. Because I can make as many wishes as I want, but there’s no wish fairy out there fulfilling them. Wishing is, quite simply, a way to focus my intent on something I want.

I want success, so I’m finding ways to make it happen.

I want happiness, so I’m learning to concentrate on the things I have in my life that make me happy. (And deal with the things that don’t without letting them upset my apple cart.)

I want a cherry red Ferrari for free— Okay, maybe not. (Adam Sandler fans will get that one.)

I’m still looking for the song I want to sing. I will have to write it myself, and I know that it won’t be easy, it won’t look exactly like I once pictured, and it won’t be the only thing in my life.

Nobody’s life is filled with one thing. It’s mixed up with the good and the bad, but if I want the good, I can choose it. If I want to be happy, I’ll find that happy in the middle of everything else. I can succeed if I’m willing to put in the work. And for this knowledge, among all the other good things in my life, I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

A villanelle from Learning Curve. Illustration and poem copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye.

Putting on my author hat…over my bookseller one.

This Sunday, November 20, I get to do something I don’t often get to do anymore. I’ll be just an author selling her books.

I’m not totally certain I remember how to do that…

Running a bookstore was a dream of mine for a long time. I used to haunt the two little bookstores in my hometown. The Book Nook was my favorite because it was used books that I could actually afford. (I did buy my first new hardback book there, though. Black Beauty and Other Horse Stories. It cost $15 and I still own it.) Highland Books was where I went to dream. I didn’t have enough money usually to buy the books, but the owners were tolerant and didn’t say anything if I curled up in a corner with a brand new science fiction novel they knew I couldn’t buy. I wonder how many people bought books there that I had already read?

But I digress. I dreamed of owning my own bookstore for a long time but I didn’t realize that when I got one, I couldn’t just be an author anymore. Yes, I write in my bookstore. And sometimes I sell one of my own books. I’m on the bestseller table here, so I do sell some here and there, and it’s definitely exciting when I do. But I’m mostly here to sell other people’s books.

On Sunday, however, I will be at the New Bern Farmer’s Market from 1-4 p.m. with a slew of other authors, all selling our own books! I’m planning to take all the books I have here at the store (well, maybe leave one copy of each on the shelf) and hope to sell them and maybe get some people reading my poetry.

And still I won’t be able to resist asking what kind of book people like to read. And I know enough of the other authors there so I’ll know if their books are a better fit than mine. And I won’t hesitate to send them that way…so it might not be that different from being in my little bookstore at all. 🙂

Meraki, a risk worth taking.

lol.

Of course.

I have sold literally dozens of a certain book recently. Great news, right? (Keep in mind I don’t sell dozens of books usually.)

Except I don’t actually like this particular book…

It’s not a badly written book. I don’t write bad. It’s even got a more complex plot than some of my simpler romances. It’s just that I tried an experiment with this one and I don’t think it worked. At the time I wrote it I’d been writing romances with the typical sweet, likable, strong female protagonists who had faced down challenges in their lives and come out the better for it. (huh) So I decided to write a less likable female protagonist for this one. She’s supposed to be brittle on the outside with a soft core. She’s a bit bitchy, to be honest. And while she was sort of fun to write, I never really connected with her.

I recently heard a word that I relate to. A friend posted it on Facebook. The word is meraki. It is Greek for leaving something of yourself in everything you do. Every artist strives to do this, I think. It’s a risk, though. When you leave something of yourself in your work and it’s rejected, that’s a part of you that suffers. Maybe at the time I chose to write a romance with less of me in it than usual without thinking I’d be less likely to connect to it? Maybe that’s why I am loving poetry so much now. Because it’s easier to leave me in my poetry because if I’m writing it right, I’m lost in it anyway.

Whatever the reason I wrote that way then and this way now, every time I see the numbers tick up on this particular book, I think, No, not that one! Because there’s no meraki to it. There’s not enough me.

From Learning Curve, coming soon! Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

What do you do when you’re bored of flowers?

I’m not really bored of flowers. (should that be with flowers? I like of so I’m keeping it.) But for the moment, I’ve discovered mushrooms are super interesting.

lol

This interest in mushrooms started when my daughter developed a love for them so I started taking pictures of them for her while I was on my walks taking pictures of pretty flowers.

Now I’m bored of flowers and mushrooms seem so much more interesting. Of course I know these are actually toadstools (at least I assume they are), but they’re really cool. And our hot, wet summer has produced an amazing variety of them. I often mow them down in my lawn. Not before I stop and take a picture, though.

Just make a left

Do you ever just wish you could stop following all the rules?

I know I do. I see other people doing it. In the carpool lane when it’s obvious there’s a faster way than the long line of cars leading to the proper exit. Just make a left instead of a right. You’ll get out a lot faster.

Forget the rules.

Who’s gonna care?

Ah, but I’m a rule follower. It’s about honesty in my opinion. There are no shortcuts. No legal ones, anyway. No honest ones.

It’s like that in my writing as well. If I’m writing a haiku, it’s going to have the proper number of syllables in each line. I know even haiku master Matsuo Basho said if it’s better with the wrong number of syllables, it’s better to write it that way, but I’d rather write and rewrite and rethink and restructure until I’m happy with it. Because I have to follow the rules.

I was considering entering a poetry contest with some of my villanelles. (I’m that pleased with how they’re coming out.) This contest had a section for traditional rhyming poetry, something few editors have an appreciation for. I was encouraged, so I looked up some of their past winners. One of them was a “villanelle”. I pulled it up and read it.

It broke all the rules.

There were no rhymes where there were supposed to be rhymes.

There were no repeated lines or even words.

It was written in paragraph form.

What’s the fun of that? It’s like writing a short story and calling it a haiku. There’s no challenge. I remember my father saying something that has stuck with me for most of my life, “You can call it whatever you want, it doesn’t make it that.”

Hey judges, it’s not a villanelle if it doesn’t follow the rules.

I’m going to keep plugging along writing my haiku and villanelles and following rules. I have no idea why. I could break the rules and write a paragraph and call it a villanelle. I could write a novel and call it a haiku. I might even win some contests that way. But I won’t.

It’s just that I’m a rule follower.

Villanelle #21

Just make a left instead of right!
It'll get you there much faster,
and your schedule's really tight.

Nobody's gonna care if you take flight
and look for a greener pasture.
Just make a left instead of a right.

I don't mean to make light;
I'm certainly not your master,
and your schedule's really tight

No one can really know your plight.
It can't possibly lead to disaster
if you make a left instead of a right

Rules are not always right.
They're not molded in plaster,
and your schedule's really tight.

Perhaps you'll never feel Karma's bite
graze rear skin of alabaster.
Just make a left instead of a right—
after all, your schedule's really tight.

—Michelle Garren-Flye
Fall is around the corner. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Let’s go swimming: Poem and thoughts about breathing

I’m thinking of changing the title of this blog. I named it “Breathe” way back. Years ago. When it felt like I didn’t have time to breathe. It was supposed to remind me and maybe others to take a moment. A moment to breathe is a precious thing.

Breathing took on a different meaning for me later on. Sometimes breathing isn’t easy. Sometimes this necessary thing hurts.

But maybe you still need the reminder.

I’m still on the villanelle ride. It’s not easy, either. I’m writing and rewriting and rhyming and re-rhyming (that’s a thing!). I’m up to eleven now. I thought I’d share one with you. Not the one with profanity, which is repeated multiple times because this is a villanelle lol.

This is one of my favorites, though.

Villanelle #6

I’m going swimming in a blue lake;

I want to do it once before I die.

Come with me when you wake.

This note will replace what I take.

I hope you’ll understand why

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

I know you’re here for my sake;

our souls are bound by that tie,

so come with me when you wake.

There’s nothing between us that’s fake,

and there’s nothing sad about goodbye.

I’m just going swimming in a blue lake.

I can’t seem to heal this ache…

it just won’t seem to comply.

Come with me when you awake.

Don’t worry, your love I won’t forsake

though I know you hear me sigh.

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

Come with me when you wake.

Summer Rose. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye