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

Taking you along on the Villanelle ride: Poem

So I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the villanelle form, but I have written three so far. Villanelles 2 and 3 are nowhere near ready for others to see, but number 1 is not too bad, and, thanks to some feedback from a writer friend (thanks, Brandon!), much better than it was.

I’m going to publish it here even though I started out the day with major imposter syndrome after reading Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song“. You should definitely read it if you haven’t. It’s what I will strive for in my villanelles. I’m not there. Not anywhere near it. But what is life if you’re not trying to perfect something?

Villanelle #1

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Follow the direction of your heart.

It’s the best way to spend your time—

and the only real way to make a start.

There is no other way to map or chart

the treacherous mountains you must climb.

Just follow the direction of your heart.

Life may want to rip you apart,

but the map of the heart is sublime

and the only real way to make a start.

Reach for reason and long for art!

It will never be considered a crime

to follow the direction of your heart.

There’s no confusion when you depart.

Even if you can’t find the right rhyme,

you know it’s the way to make your start

The sting of winter may yet smart

even when you’re in your prime.

But follow the direction of your heart!

It’s the only real way to make a start.

Crepe myrtle. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Motherhood

This isn’t exactly a new poem. It was inspired by my oldest son but over the course of the past year I’ve seen more and more instances of strength in all three of my kids. They’ve been generous with that strength, too, loaning it to me when I needed it. Like a warm coat they take off their own shoulders to place over mine.

So thank you, kiddoes. Without you I wouldn’t be me.

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 22, Verse 22

All I wanna do is write poetry.

And draw pretty pictures.

lol

Poem and illustration copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

National Poetry Month, Day 2, Verse 2

I actually wrote an entire haiku before I remembered verse 2 is only fourteen syllables and two lines… I’m not totally unhappy with the edits.

Poem and Illustration copyright Michelle Garren-Flye 2022

Poem: Dead Dragon

Dead Dragon

By Michelle Garren Flye

There’s a dead dragon curled inside.

He made his home in my chest;

Years ago, you put him there

And then he died when you left.

He’s heavy to carry around,

And he makes it hard to rest—

I think he might have petrified

The way he bounces about,

Like a stone or an ice cube.

Each ricochet off my ribs

Brings back old memories

I wish I could forget.

But maybe it’s all right, you know?

That he’s still in there, I mean.

Maybe even a dead dragon—

Cold…

Hard…

Still…

Maybe he’s better

Than no dragon at all.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

UnSong: Illustrated Poems (4 days away!)

We interrupt our regularly scheduled stream of illustrated haiku for a special message:

UnSong, my collection of illustrated poems (which does contain some haiku but also has free verse, sonnets, etc.), will be published on Friday, April 30! I’ve already seen a hard copy proof and it’s pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

And I don’t totally have to say so myself. I’ve been lucky enough to get some glowing advance reviews for UnSong from poets and writers I respect a great deal. Of course, I’m going to smash all of them onto the back cover (I already have and I’m hoping the type will be big enough to read…) But I also wanted to take some moments to brag a little and explain why each of these advance reviews means so much to me. So this week, I’ll be putting up early reviews from these wonderful, talented people so you’ll feel more confident when you go to buy UnSong.

Here’s one from the best poet you may never have heard of but should:

UnSong by Michelle Garren Flye is a wicked-smart mash up of verse and graphic art. Early in the book, an elegy to Ruth Bader Ginsberg is paired with a portrait of a woman in a black dress, seen from behind, her arms raised as if to enthrall an unseen crowd. Later, a brilliant untitled haiku takes as its subject our “Covid Days.” My favorite work in the book is a piece called River Bones: “… water rolls back to caress and cover the river’s bones with the touch of a lover …” Illustrated poetry books are hard to get right. UnSong nails it, the book rising above any limitations of the format. Buy this book! 

—Dennis Mahagin, author of Grand Mal, and Longshot & Ghazal

I’ve “known” Dennis for several years. We’re both what I consider graduates of an online writers group called Zoetrope. Dennis was one of the first poets I knew in real/online life that I became a fan of. His poems are edgy and true, with a sprinkling of genius in some of the ways he uses words that I have never been able to capture in my own work. So he was one of the first people I approached with a request for a blurb. When he responded with the above paragraph, I felt a little like I’d won a prize or hit the best-seller list or…something pretty awesome.

If you want to check out some of Dennis’s work (and I do encourage it), Google him for some of his many online publishing credits, but you can also find his collection Grand Mal on Amazon, and he has a tumbler blog.

Happy Birthday to Me! (with another teaser for UnSong)

Today is my birthday, and I’m celebrating by writing, but not just writing. I’m writing whatever I want. I’m also going back and reading some of what I’ve written in the past. If that sounds like self-gratification, keep in mind that I write what I want to read. It’s the main reason I enjoy it so much.

But I wanted to share another little bit from UnSong. I’m still working hard on the illustrations, and I’ve done most of the easy ones (and by that, I mean the ones that lend themselves to illustration more easily—they have a definite image. Poetry being poetry, not all of the poems in my volume do…or the image they have is a bit difficult for a novice artist like me to put on the page.

My point is, I’m getting there. The book is taking definite shape now. And I’m using Scrivener to build it, so I’m kind of proud of that, too.

I guess old dogs can learn new tricks.

Illustration and poem by Michelle Garren Flye copyright 2021