Poem: Ash

Ash

By Michelle Garren Flye

why would you think all

the fire in the world is yours

you are left with ash

tiny candle flames

will not light your way to bed

the wick is all gone

firelight burned long ago

leaves only the stench of days

already gone by

and i claim the sun

as my own personal lamp

i’ll leave none for you

look in the ashtrays

search the burned out homes you left

as a memory

dig your way into dust

and cinders, the residue

of the lives ruined

when you claimed the light

and the fire and the passion

was yours for taking

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Haiku quest continues…

A few more of my better ones.

#14

Wind and rain lover’s

Knuckles brushing over cheek

Gentle but solid

#15

Rain beats the leaves down

Rushes on the ground to pool

Over the tree’s roots

#16

Inspiration comes

After storm falls on our heads

Umbrella is nice

#17

Irrational want

Desire what can never be

Love has no place here

#20

This excellent trip

Will end eventually

What happens then, love?

#21

Restless sleep tonight

The moon flows full over trees

Inviting rambles

#23

Why sleep in the night?

Fight circadian rhythms—

Living time is dear.

#24

Read haiku poem

Prepare for inspiration

Bursting with longing

#27

I love the rain sounds

On the glass paneled windows

Safe in my bookstore

#29

Summer evening

Alien ratchets and song

Wish I weren’t alone

#31

Scarlet cardinal

Takes flight, leaves the rest of us

Behind, bound to earth

#32

Late blooming flower

Pure and alone on the bush

I guess you forgot

#33

Bizarre masked people

Eating at sidewalk cafes

Through open zippers

#34

Can’t really decide

If surroundings are muted

Or are you just bright

#35

Reality runs

After me, chases, leaps and

Follows my retreat

Late blooming gardenia. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: No Edges

No Edges

By Michelle Garren Flye

I decided to be edgy much too late

Soft living makes soft edges

And those are just curves

Rounded spaces don’t agree

With razor sharpness

Anyway

So I’ll just go on preserving

Circular surroundings

(Circles have no end, no beginning

They mean forever

And a day

But that’s too long for anyone sane)

And leave the sharp spears

To the young people

Those who can still afford

To poke holes

Where they don’t belong.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Thirteen Haiku

I’ve been studying haiku and how to write it, what it’s supposed to mean. It’s interesting. Haiku used to seem like an incredibly easy format to me. It doesn’t have to rhyme. It’s just a certain number of syllables and lines. Turns out that’s not really all haiku is.

By reading some original Japanese haiku from Matsuo Basho, I’ve learned that there’s more to haiku than just counting syllables and lines. It’s more about the feeling you are left with at the end of the poem. So haiku isn’t so much about what’s there as what’s left. If that makes any sense.

Anyway, here are thirteen haiku I’ve written over the course of the last few days. I’d love to know if you have a favorite. Do any of them leave you with anything?

#1

The gardener prunes

But new growth won’t be restrained

Bright green emerges

#2

Fireworks entertain

But divisive words excite

Rebellion looms near

#3

Stained glass wings hover

Glory in the hot summer

Swoop fast, stop away

#4

2020 sucks

plague, famine, deluge and war

make a new start now

#5

it’s the halfway point

the race isn’t won yet

can we just restart?

#6

Heartfelt empathy

Pain from any side will hurt

Shut down the spirit

#7

No lightning tonight

Just rain falling in the pines

Sounds lonely alone

#8

Dark voices cry out

I search for them in the sky

Black wings spread, take flight

#9

Crows call murderous

Shrieks splitting the morning light

I listen and smile

#10

Desirous waking

Leads to newspaper reading

This day just the same

#11

Stay home to be safe

Wear a mask, don’t go out there

Life is lived this way

#12

Spiders don’t frighten

But dark doubts creep up on me

Fear takes over life

#13

Disaster movie

Background characters await

Saving grace. The end.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Poem: My True Name (for the NRA)

My True Name

By Michelle Garren Flye

Horrible, beautiful monster,

Come here into my embrace.

It’s only with your care

I feel I will win the race.

watch, watch, watch

be always on guard

behind your camouflage

ready to do your part

And then it happens—so quick!

Safety is naught but the feel—

The cold, the smooth, the slick—

Dangerous sensation of steel.

stalk the enemy, be ready

they’re coming for you now

fight the bastards…steady

into their midst you plow

But it’s blood, not rain that falls

When the shooting starts.

Patriotic freedom palls

And before me a red sea parts—

beautiful monster, you cry

shall I whisper in your ear?

Death is the name I go by

and when you call, I’m here.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

poem: hope

hope

by michelle garren flye

just when all is lost and

the warriors are all gone

leaving dust and bones

swirling at my feet

“look here” you whisper

and I turn to find a rainbow

arching over ruins

as if growing from death

it sparkles like magic

made from diamond tears

wept by poets for politicians

abandoned in the quagmire

it’s a gentle misdirection

and I a willing participant

in your ongoing seduction

of whispered promises

I surrender to your will

surely nothing can be needed

when hope springs from death

and arcs over destruction

surely this is a sign—

the one we’ve waited for

that life will be better soon

that there’s always hope

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Don’t burn the bookstore your ancestors fought for.

Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, “Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes and fill up my heart.” That is indeed what reading is for many today. But it’s also a privilege and a right that human beings of all races had to fight for.

Before the invention of the printing press, only the upper classes had books to read. They were just too expensive for the common folk. Too busy surviving plague and poverty, many of these people never learned to read. Bibles, especially, were kept to the clergy and the church, mainly because they were the only ones who could read it in its original Latin. God forbid that the lower classes read it for themselves and start thinking and interpreting religion for themselves.

But then came the English translation of the Bible—which was banned for that very reason. It was smuggled into English hands by determined bibliophiles, but William Tyndale, the translator who lived in exile in Europe in order to complete his life’s work, was executed.

Of course slaves were not allowed to learn to read. Not only were there no schools for them, it was against the law to teach them in most slave states. But learning finds a way. Some slave owners allowed their slaves to learn to read as part of Christian education, and some educators found interesting ways around the laws, including a floating school on the Mississippi River.

My point here is that all cultures and races have fought at some point for the right to read and write, and in an era such as the one Americans are going through right now, we need to preserve every last bit of that right. Our president threatens social media and the press, bookstores in Minnesota are battered by protestors and looters, and all of this is happening against a backdrop where independent bookstores and small presses are struggling for survival anyway.

So my plea is this: Don’t be part of the forces that would oppress you and take the light of knowledge away. Don’t burn the bookstore your ancestors fought for.

Today’s anti-information, non-factual age is a dangerous one for local bookstores, the media and science. In the end, it is up to us to make certain our heritage and ways of life are preserved. Protect what generations of every culture have fought for. Keep our bookstores open.

Poem: Rain and Shine (for Chris)

Rain and Shine

By Michelle Garren Flye

When did it rain?

I never heard thunder

Or wind or raindrops.

When did they fall?

It must have happened

Behind the scenes

While we were busy

Doing something else.

Something important.

Raising kids, living life,

Paying bills…surviving.

I didn’t know it rained.

Just like so many other

Things have happened

In the background.

It’s funny how you start:

Focused on each other,

Certain nothing will change.

But then it does.

Work and family and life

All change you.

And rain falls unnoticed

Until you see the puddles,

And then you notice the wet

And open an umbrella.

Only then do I see

A gardenia has bloomed.

Sometime in the night

It burst from the bud

In pure and splendid beauty.

Would it have bloomed

If the rain hadn’t come?

If we’d watched all day

In the sun, would it appear?

I don’t even know if it matters.

Drops of rain cling to the petals,

Magnifiying a single ray of sun.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Happy 25th and 18th: An anniversary, a book and a poem.

Today is, in a very real way, a very big day for me. It’s my 25th wedding anniversary and the day I officially release my 18th book.

Thank you.

It’s hard to celebrate right now, as I have good reason to know. My 50th birthday fell right at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. My son and my daughter also have celebrated birthdays. Today I have no actual plans to celebrate. I once envisioned a busy day full of well wishing friends for both my book and my marriage. I mean, not as many people make it to their silver wedding anniversary as used to, right? And quite a few authors never see 18 books with their name on the front.

But celebrating is hard right now. People are still sick, still dying. I’m working hard to make sure I’m not one of them. I have nightmares that my family is. And life goes on.

And still, I am happy to announce the publication of my 18th book, Magic at Sea, the seventh book of my Sleight of Hand series (and still a standalone, so you can read it even if you haven’t kept up with the series!). And I am happier still to be married to the same wonderful man for twenty-five years. Rain or shine, we’ve had them both.

Rain or Shine

By Michelle Garren Flye

When did it rain?

I never heard thunder

Or wind or raindrops.

When did they fall?

It must have happened

Behind the scenes

While we were busy

Doing something else.

Something important.

Raising kids, living life,

Paying bills…surviving.

I didn’t know it rained.

Just like so many other

Things have happened

In the background.

It’s funny how you start:

Focused on each other,

Certain nothing will change.

But then it does.

Work and family and life

All change you.

And rain falls unnoticed

Until you see the puddles,

And then you notice the wet

And open an umbrella.

Happy anniversary to my patient, supportive, loving husband. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

It’s Magnolia Time (poem): Mourning the loss of refuge

My bookstore has been a lot of things for me from the time I took it over in January. The realization of a lifelong dream. A haven. A happy place for me, and I hoped, the art community and book lovers in my town. One thing I didn’t want it to become was a place of negativity, and I refused from the beginning to allow politics in the door.

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, but the worst for me so far is that it has taken that from me. In order to preserve a healthy workspace for myself and avoid the potential of taking home something horrible to my family, I asked that my customers wear masks in the store. When it became obvious just the asking wouldn’t work, I began requiring them. If a customer arrived without one, I provided a simple handmade one to them. My customers were very agreeable about this. I began to relax. I began to believe that the people in my town, regardless of personal beliefs, were well bred enough to honor my rule.

Yesterday, that belief was shattered. A customer turned away when I told them masks were required in the store. Another argued with me that masks did no good, using talking points I’ve heard on conservative news outlets. The CDC has an agenda. Cloth masks are useless and will only hold germs against your own face, not protect you. I didn’t tell him that was the point, that I wanted him to keep his germs to himself. I asked him to leave.

And that’s when my store stopped being a refuge. I went home and cried because I’d never intended for this to happen there. I hate that it has happened. I hate that potential customers who might enjoy the otherwise welcoming atmosphere in my little store may now just go to Amazon or Books a Million. I hate it, but I can’t help it.

And so today I mourn the loss of the chance to share my refuge. I will continue to require masks until the danger of COVID-19 is gone. I realize many won’t come into the store if I do. I will miss them.

It’s Magnolia Time

By Michelle Garren Flye

Yesterday she was just a bud,

But today she’s purest wonder

against leaves of darkest green—

out of reach of all but the worthy.

It’s magnolia time now, folks,

and she knows what that means.

She’s got the strength she needs

to survive the stormiest weather.

The toughest of flowers, nothing

easy or giving in her breast.

She reigns above your head

because magnolias won’t be plucked.

A gale won’t blow her down,

no man’s hand can push her around.

She’s here to stay, so get used to it

because it’s magnolia time.

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye