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

Extend your love bubble

The blessing/curse of the empathic poet is that you are constantly searching for meaning in the pain of life. It’s not comfortable. Sometimes you have to ponder for a loooooooooong time before you come to any conclusion and sometimes it happens like a lightning strike.

That happened to me today. I almost literally stumbled across a truth about life. And I think it revealed to me the purpose behind the thing we all want in spite of how vulnerable it makes us.

Love.

How did it happen?

I was on my way to work. About a block away a young man carrying a rake who was obviously getting ready to work in one of my neighbors’ yards (in the 95-feels-like-150-degree heat) stumbled. He recovered quickly and looked around to see if anyone had seen. I immediately pretended to be looking straight ahead, not at him at all, and sent him a reassuring thought. Didn’t see anything. You’re safe.

I immediately wondered. Why did I think “You’re safe”? And I realized that’s what we all want. As we stumble through this world full of sharp spikes and tripwires, all we really want is to feel safe. And that’s nearly impossible to achieve, especially in this day and age when you just might be caught on camera and if you are, your stumble might go viral.

I recently made a playlist of songs that make me feel like everything is going to be okay. My life sometimes feels completely messed up. I have even been glad I only have another 30-40 years of it (if I’m lucky). And my life is a good one. I have people to love and who love me. They cushion some of the blows, guard me against some of the spikes, and pick me up when I trip.

And that’s why I think I’ve figured out what the purpose of love is. Love is like a bubble around us, one that gives us a sense of security. Safety. The thing is, if we do love right, it can give others that same sense. Even those we don’t know. Imagine extending your bubble of love to people around you. There are people in need all around us, whether they’re tripping over a rake or hurting for some deeper reason. Maybe you can’t actually help them. Maybe you don’t have resources beyond what you need yourself.

But instead of laughing when someone stumbles or posting someone’s misfortune on the internet for “hits” or “likes”, you can send them a reassuring thought. “It’s okay. I got you. You’re safe.”

Imagine if we could all feel safe?

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Favorite Song

Yesterday I wrote a poem. It’s the first in a series of poems that will concentrate on happiness.

I’m an autobiographical poet. When I write poetry, it comes from inside me. Sometimes it’s like I’ve slapped blood and guts onto the page (or my computer screen…side note: don’t do that). I have poems I’ve written that I probably won’t ever want anyone to read. I’ve deleted poems after writing them, not because they were bad, but because they were too good.

They showed too much of me.

What I’m getting at is that I often dwell on my dark places. Not always, but too much.

I’m going to do my best to focus on the good stuff in my life from now on. I’m starting small.

Favorite Song
By Michelle Garren-Flye

It's that moment when your favorite song begins
and your stomach that had been so heavy?
(weighed down by worries
about the kids
and parents
and bills
and the rats in the basement?)
—all of it disappears
pushed back into the ether that houses those things—
the ugly things that snatch pieces from our hearts
and leave us lonely (and broken if we let them)...
But it's all gone with that first note
and you and the song are together—
the one thing that lifts you away,
the only thing that can.
Probably the cover? Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

I want. (TMI?)

I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those weird stream-of-consciousness posts that might actually be TMI but nobody’s probably gonna read all of it anyway, so what the hell? Caution to the wind, live in the moment, seize the day…

I’ve been thinking a lot about being happy where I am. It’s hard. I don’t want to be happy here because here is prosaic. I want poetry. I want flower paths and sea breezes and to dance among the stars.

I want. And I think it’s okay to want. I think it’s okay to work toward the things you want. But it’s also essential to appreciate the things in your life that are already good. They might be prosy instead of rosy, but they’re still cool.

That’s why I’m dancing more. Even if it’s in my bookstore and not in the night sky tripping through the stars. And when I walk my dog, I stop to take pictures of flowers along the way. They might not exactly line my path, my steps may not be softened by their petals, but they’re still beautiful. And when a breeze lifts my hair and cools my neck, I close my eyes and imagine I’m standing on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the sea. Even if I’m mowing my lawn.

None of this means I don’t still want the things I want. I’m fifty-two years old and I haven’t yet achieved my dreams. Does that mean I won’t? Nope.

Maybe I’m just taking longer to get there so I can enjoy the journey.

A flower from my walk. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poetography: Not My Gardenia

Not My Gardenia

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Arrested by your scent on my walk

I look longingly your way—

but you’re not my gardenia!

No matter how you beckon and call

or raise my hopes, I know:

you’ll never be mine to sniff…

No, you’re not my gardenia at all.

Go on, keep your invitation.

I won’t listen anymore!

You’ll never be my gardenia.

Better not to have this conversation

about what can never be…

But who am I kidding?

I’m cursed to eternal damnation.

How to beat this craven desire

to add you to my garden,

to have you as my own?

Oh, how to put out this lit fire?

Will you help me please?

It’s not disingenuous

when I really mean to inquire.

Photos and poem copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Which Wolf Do You Choose?

Fear and hope. One can easily defeat the other. It’s a matter of which wolf we choose to feed.

I’ve fed both in the past. Fear is a scavenging beast of a wolf. His ribs always show, regardless of how much you feed him. He’s always wanting more. More of your confidence, more of your dreams, more of your self. He brings nothing but doubt.

Hope is a mighty warrior when you feed her. She’ll slay Fear before he can eat your soul. She’ll encourage you to reach for those dreams, even when it seems there’s no way you’ll ever achieve them. She brings joy and life and love.

I am almost finished with my next poetry book Hypercreativity. During the course of putting it together, I realized that although I always want to choose to fill Hope’s bowl with kibble, I often dribble it into Fear’s. Because you have to consciously make a choice to feed Hope, but Fear is always there, waiting.

I made a conscious decision to finish my book with a healthy feeding for Hope. I’m pleased with that decision because my entire writing life is built on Hope. She needs to be strong.

Illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Sunfall

It’s been a few days since the end of National Poetry Month, and I’ve been busy writing and editing a newsletter for the store, the literary magazine, my own poetry book…

And today I stopped for a minute and read the news.

Bad idea. Bad. Very bad.

You know how I thought we all rush toward our end? The world is doing that right now. But the end isn’t going to be bright and glorious and swift for us all. It’s going to be slow and painful for the unlucky ones.

Please stop rushing toward it.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 30, Verse 30

And so we have rushed, headlong, to the end. The end of April, the end of the beginning of spring, the end of National Poetry Month, and the end of my renga.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life up to this point. I should definitely be past the beginning of spring. Well established in my, ahem, fifties, however, I’m not certain if I ever had one.

This year, this project forced me to look closely at the spring that was not just happening, but living and breathing all around me. I saw how the flowers bloomed, how they started as tiny buds, but because they knew from the beginning what they were supposed to do, they just did it without question. They spread petals, inviting the visits of pollinators and the gentle brush of spring breeze to spread the pollen that not only makes us sneeze but also carries their DNA to another willing recipient.

The flowers do this because they know what they are meant for. As human beings, we question. We doubt our talents and our abilities and our purpose. This leads to anger and resentment and despair. Most of us never fully experience our spring and are therefore not ready for summer because we’re stuck in that thawing stage at the beginning, unable to fully realize our potential because we just don’t believe.

(As an example, I’m doubting these words even as I write them.)

It’s a difficult thing believing in yourself. Going all in for what you want to do and be. More and more I’m trying to do that. Maybe even at this point in my life, it’s not too late for spring.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 29, Verse 29

Ever considered doing something kinda nuts (nuts just because it’s totally out of character for you, not like dangerous or anything)? I feel like I’ve spent most of my life rushing headlong toward the end and now I want to put on the brakes and just enjoy. I might get whiplash if I put them on too hard, though, so I’m still hesitating. Hesitating while rushing onward.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye