Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Bulmarito

Poem Day 30--Final day for the November poetry month

The following poem comes from an experience I had years ago in Menan, Idaho, that ended up as an essay not shared with many. After Joanne and I read Elizabeth Acevedo's Clap When You Land, I knew I needed to do what Acevedo did: Construct the story in narrative poetic form. It's rather long but worth the read. Grab your tissues because you will need them....

Bulmarito

In the dark night, a car lleno de niños
full of children
and a father
skid sideway,
smash into a cement embankment,
as the car attempts to round the curb.

The police arrive, red lights flashing,
only to find two young children already dead,
one almost dead who dies
en route to the hospital.

The other three children
and their father
are rushed to the nearby hospital
along the banks of the Snake River.
My call comes early the next morning.

A lump races to my throat,
sticks there like Elmer’s glue in your palm,
and the words “Why?” Why? Why?”
hang on my lips like shreds of cheese
from a hot pizza and cling there,
too afraid to leave and be exposed
to an unwanted answer.

I rush to the hospital,
see their diminutive mother,
standing alone and frail,
who rushes into my arms,
sobbing, shaking from grief, repeating
Mi Mario. Mi Juanita! Mi Benjamin!”
I ask her about the other three niños
and her husband.

We quietly go from room to room.
In one room, her husband is hooked up 
to tube after tube,
wire after wire, in a coma
from whence there is ultimately no return.
Eduardo lies with a broken collar bone
and badly cut up mouth and lips.
Graciela, the oldest, is covered with bruises,
her arm is in a cast,
her hair tangled around her face,
now laced with a scowl,
one that will remain
for some time, maybe even years.

The nurse enters, whispers to me
the little boy is crying for me.
For me? Why not his mother?
I follow the nurse, the words “why”
still on my lips, still stuck,
still unwilling to come out.

His room is dark, quiet,
a whir of machines interrupting
the dark with their sounds and lights.

The nurse tells me they amputated the right leg
just below the knee and even contemplated
taking the other but refrained.

A small white bowl of Jell-O
sits undisturbed by his bed stand.
The nurse said he has not touched any food,
even refused, but that he needs to eat something.
“Will you try to feed him?” she asks quietly.

Bulmarito, estoy aquí” I am here.
I whisper quietly, not wanting to interrupt his peace.
The niño, only eight, looks up at me
through those big butterfly eyes, tries to smile.
Me patita me duele,” My foot hurts,
he whispers through chapped and puffy lips.

I touch his forehead, too warmish,
sweep a couple of black curls out of his eyes.
His small brown face is soft
with no scratches or bruises.
A sense of both pain and peace
rest on his brown cheeks.

I lift a spoon half full of Jell-O.
Hay que comer un poquito, Bulmarito,”
“You have to eat just a little,” I say,
lifting the spoon to his lips.

Poco a poco, little by little,
he slurps bite after bite,
quietly using his tongue and teeth
until each spoonful is gone,
swallowing carefully
until nothing remains in the bowl.

I sit the bowl back on the little table.
I look back at Bulmarito,
so tiny and brown in that big bed,
covered with white blankets and white sheets.

Mi… patita… me… duele…!
My foot hurts!  
he keeps repeating,
Slower slower
until those big eye lashes close shut,
too tired to keep open.

I just stare at him,
wonder about his future,
his family’s future,
more so about tomorrow,
while my own tears stream down my cheeks
and land plentifully on the white blanket.

I then smooth out the blanket
where his right leg should have been.


 

Monday, November 29, 2021

I am a connoisseur of potatoes

Poem Day 29

Thanks to https://www.idahofb.org/ for the use of the photo of Idaho spuds.

I am a connoisseur of potatoes

Potatoes or spuds grow naturally in Idaho.
Sometimes, I think someone planted them
there right after the volcanic ash turned into
this deep rich soil that loves potatoes,
coos them to grow big and delicious
and grow they do, feeling right at home
with hot days and cool high desert evenings.

I picked spuds as a kid, filling
those rubberized wired baskets x 2
for about seven cents a sack.
Our lunches probably cost us more
than what we made, but the moon pies were great,
washed down with Shasta Tiki Punch.

I have eaten potatoes in so many ways—
baked, fried, cut up in French fries drenched
in olive oil and sprinkled with ranch powder
and baked in the oven, au gratin, cheesy potatoes,
fake potatoes made from pearl flakes,
(on gloomy days renamed funeral potatoes),
boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy,
hash browns, crinkle cut, potato chips,
and even raw potatoes with lots of salt
when you are hungry out moving
sprinkler pipe on a sweltering day.

On wet lines, you could literally bury your hand
deep into the sandy soil, feel around
for a new potato, gently freeing it
from its root, not disturbing the others,
wash it off in the sprinkler water, probably not as sanitary
as mother would have liked, pulled out
your Morton mini-salt shaker,
kept in your back pocket for opportune times
like these, sprinkling on an appropriate amount of salt,
and biting into it, savoring and mincing a bit
the crispness and raw flavor of spuds.

I have to say, though, baked potatoes are my favorite,
topped with all the accoutrements of fine dining:
chili, onions, cheese, sometimes broccoli or cauliflower,
some butter but mostly ranch dressing, a smidge
of sour cream, with a boiled egg cut delicately
and sprinkled on top of the whole potato.
Of course, I never liked the skins—
I know where they have been.
Some say the skins are the best part…Really?
These people must be from another planet.

I just like the white fluffy innards of baked Russets
with all those ingredient smooshed together.
There is something about the delicate naturalness
of spuds, no matter how you cook them.
I guess you could say I am a connoisseur of potatoes,
commonly known as spuds in eastern Idaho.

Photo by Dennis Hammon of Dennis Hammon Photograph
The Menan Buttes: a view from Rexburg


Sunday, November 28, 2021

We can learn a lot in Church...

Poem Day 28

Sunset over the Church

We can learn a lot in Church....

We can learn a lot in Church
by listening a bit even with masks.

We can learn that life is not always fun
and delightful and cheerful.

Challenging things plop into our lives
way more times than we want.

We need to pour out our hearts
to God, especially in the most challenging times.

Falling short seems to be the natural way
for most of us, but there is always a way
to climb out of the abyss that we often fall into.

We must be grateful for all that comes to us—
good things and things not as good as we want them.

Our children need tender loving care,
even though their behavior overwhelms us.

The Lord needs us to shine every day
and during the most challenging times.
That’s when we grow and develop
and become better than we were.

We have to believe, have faith, strive
with all our might, mind, and strength.

Learning comes during challenging times
and hardships much to our chagrin and moaning.

It all works out in the end.

Always.

We have to just endure to the end—
the end of the hardship,
the end of the challenge,
the end of our lives, knowing
and hoping the challenging times will end.

Hardships have no beginning or end dates.

We need to “let our hearts be comforted;
yea, rejoice evermore,

and in everything give thanks”—
all the time “waiting patiently on the Lord.”

His timeline is not ours.

We must see a far off and remember
why we chose to come to earth.

We must come to understand
“all these things shall give thee experience,
and shall be for thy good.”

It’s a good thing we have time
to contemplate and think
about these things
“with great earnestness”
and letting ourselves
“cheerfully do all things
that lie in our power…”
and then let the Lord do all the rest.

It’s the only way.

End of lesson.

Doorway in Chichen Itza




Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Putting Up of the Christmas Tree After Thanksgiving

Poem Day 27


The Putting Up of the Christmas Tree After Thanksgiving

Today we put up the Christmas tree,
wrapped the new lights around each limb,
made sure each had lights, except one branch
that we skipped over for some reason,
not out of disrespect but from sure
forgetfulness and carelessness.
We recognized our error
three quarters way up the tree.

Too late to make a change, we promised
to place some of the best ornaments
to make up for our blunder
It’s been four years since
we gathered our own
personal ornaments and collections,
all perfectly stored or encased
dusty or Styrofoam boxes.

All have special significance,
gathered over the last forty plus years
from places we have been or visited.
Putting on the ornaments takes
the longest time because each one has a story.
We select each one, reminisce about it
for just a moment before we carefully place it.
Some have their special place on the tree.

Our most precious are the homemade ones
Joanne made when we were poor college students
and after, each with a date or others
like her 1990 counted cross stitched stocking
stands among the elite
or the Christmas tree made
with tiny wood thimbles,
wrapped Christmas fabric.

Of course, how can you not hang
Anna Rose’s grade school potpourri-filled
heart with her picture in the middle
or Hailey’s first grade picture, wrapped 
in a green fluff piping wreath with a bow?
Grandmother Boltz’s unique ceramic bears
dangle from many limb.
One of Joanne’s favorites

is a mesh wire ball full of potpourri
from Joanne’s sister’s wedding,
some fifty years ago.
On some of our travels,
we attempted to find ornaments
like the Maid of Mist from Niagara Falls;
the national monument, enshrouded in gold,
from Washington, D.C.; one with Kansas’ sunflowers

in picture of a typical farm;
a piece of jade encased in red cording
from Dalian, China; the Tillamook Rock
and a blue blown glass ornament from Oregon;
even a cowboy snowman from Montana;
and so many others that make up our tree.
Then, we carefully place a gold
Angel Moroni atop the tree,

facing east, waiting for that final day.
To finalize the tradition,
Joanne places her quilted tree skirt
around the tree to guard it and keep it warm.
Now, for at least a month, we will sit
in the evenings and stare at the tree,
wrapped in lights and memories,
and bask in the goodness of life.





Friday, November 26, 2021

Exhaling

Poem Day 26

Provo sunset reflecting on Maple Mountain
the day after Thanksgiving 2021

Exhaling

Perhaps, it is the night sounds,
the ones that beckon us or drive us
deeper between the wind-dried sheets.

Perhaps, it the soft music billowing
from downstairs on grandma’s phonograph
or the quiet breezes outside,
the window wide open in early summer
to catch their coolness and memories.

Perhaps, it is just me, trying to see
through the darkness, thinking of past times,
the cooing of barn pigeons on the roof tops,
the whistle of the window through the cottonwoods,
or even the overhead flight of mallards.

Tonight, though, I lie tranquil, hoping
to hear the past seeping in
through the cracks in the walls,
a soft creak of the stairs,
even a brushing of weeping willows
on the window, now shut tight.

But it is quiet as if someone
is holding her breath, waiting
for the right moment to exhale.

Sunset in Provo, Utah, day after Thanksgiving 2021


Thursday, November 25, 2021

My Psalm at Thanksgiving

Poem Day 25--Happy Thanksgiving!

The Darrel and Joanne Hammon Family

My Psalm at Thanksgiving

The day we call Thanksgiving comes just once a year
although we should celebrate giving thanks every day.
Each day my prayers are long, sometimes longer
when more blessings come and I feel the need.
Blessings arrive in so many ways, some subtle,
some grandiose, some as every day gifts.

For me, my blessings are plentiful and powerful reminders.

I am always thankful my for dear Joanne
for her 42 years and counting of putting up with me
and her consistent love and those sly smiles.

Our daughters Anna Rose and Hailey,
both miracles from a loving Heavenly Father,
for our sweet memories as we moved from place to place,
new adventures for everyone and their adaptability
to new situations, trying to fit in, and adjusting,
no matter where we were and now their own adventures
with their doting husbands and our sweet grandchildren.

My brothers and sisters and the many memories
I have of and with them, each of us
with our own version of the memory.

The knowledge I can repent and be forgiven
because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The words of pure truth and revelations
from modern-day apostles and prophets.
The knowledge and understanding of the covenant path.

Our missionaries who have become part of our family
and still stay connected in a variety of ways.
Our missionary friends from the Caribbean
whose lives and examples made us better.

Our callings and those whom we serve or have served.
Our friends throughout the world who keep in touch.

Temples that allow me a peek into eternity
and a life that could be ours if we are obedient.

For our health that keeps changing and moving along,
despite the aging process that we tolerate.

For learning Spanish long ago in Chile
and being able to communicate in two languages.
Our ability to volunteer and help others.

For real Idaho potatoes in any form,
particularly baked potatoes and all the trimmings.
For pork chops; red licorice; ice cream,
pretty much any flavor, but especially
mint chocolate chip and lemon sherbet.
For Kit Kats, Lemon Heads, pie a la mode.

For clouds, sunsets and sunrises, mountains, streams,
seasons, and a camera to take pictures of all those.

The ability to dress in a suit and tie once in a while.
The privilege to read and write to anyone.
The daily opportunity to always smile
at the craziness the world offers us.

More particularly, knowing who and whose I really am
and why I am as we trundle through this world,
trying to progress, grow, and become better.

And so many, many more that trickle and often flood in each day.
Thanksgiving should not be just one day but 365 days
and all the hours and minutes in between.

I am truly thankful for all that I have and will have.

Thanks to Dennis Hammon for taking this
incredible photo of the Idaho Falls Temple!


 

 



Wednesday, November 24, 2021

My Mother Made Me

Poem Day 24


My Mother Made Me

My Mother made me
take social dance as a junior.
When I questioned her why—
at least a dozen times,
causing her anger to singe my ears—
she said, You will need to know
how someday, trust me.”

Like a dutiful son that I was,
I signed up for the class—grudgingly, hesitating.
The registrar raised her eyebrows just a little.
I nodded, grimacing at my plight,
sealed for the semester,
trying to convince myself it was okay
since it still counted as P.E.

While my friends took real PE, played
b-ball on the other side of the divider in the gym,
I learned to dance the two-step, the fox trot,
the waltz, the polka with—catch this—
girls, not the prettiest in the batch but passable.
I had to touch them—hand in their hand,
my hand on their waist or the small of their back,
our bodies ostensibly moving with the music.

At first, my shyness caught me by surprise,
and I didn’t look my partner in the eye,
just at my feet, whispering
and simultaneously counting
1 2 together and 1 2 together.

Sometimes the bouncing stopped across the way,
several eyes peering around the great divide.
We heard snickers, then bouncing again,
amid uproarious laughter.
I kept counting and looking down
at my size 12 feet stuffed in Tony Llamas.

By midterm, I tore my ligaments, skiing
an out-of-sync polka at Kelly’s Canyon in the dark.
I told the ski patrol snow snakes grabbed me
from behind, pulled me down
and twisted my ankles for good measure.

For a couple of weeks, I sat on the hard bleachers,
watching the dancers cavort on our side of the gym.
Once my walking cast was on, I charged forward,
not minding too much the dancing, the attention.
I could actually dance in a cast.

Then a substitute took over for a week,
saw my cast, cooed dismay at my bum luck.
Wincing like it hurt, I shook my head and succumbed
to the opportunity, didn’t say a word,
just slipped around the corner of the divider
and danced my own dance—
shooting hoops with the boys.


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