12 June 2024

Treasure, Keepsakes, and Time Travel



A chain of lilac buds and two smooth stones
hide in mulch under the azalea bush.
The lilacs fade and the chain melts away
but the stones seem smoother day after day.
Years later and the stones join dried rose buds
and crystals of clear quartz and amethyst
on a crochet-edged doily that Mom made
for the desk with a lamp and tasseled shade.
Later still, stones and dried buds multiplied
and tarot cards, feathers, and candles filled
a bookcase shelf under photographs and
bowls full of seashells, sea glass, and white sand.
Those sweet nature-filled days of youth ended,
and nothing since has been so well tended
as the China cabinet shelves with no
China, only birds, hearts, and globes with snow.
(As I recall images for this poem,
I realize this now of sadness and joy
spent in memory is more precious than
any of the things I recall.  Yes, and
time travel is more precious than this now—
except that now holds the marvel of time
spent then and now, entwined.   Let’s then adore
keepsakes that function to open time's door.)

For my prompt "Keepsakes and Treasure Chests" at What's Going On?

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast

03 June 2024

Sacred Books

River in the Catskills by Thomas Cole (1843)

Before I met God, I read the spirit
in trees and ground, sea and sand, birds, cats,
and hallowed places like churches and groves.
More curious, I opened weighty books:
Torah and Bible, Quran and Vedas,
prayer books, hymnals, and books of scholars.
Still yearning, I turned to biography,
novels, and drama where people faced challenges,
faltered and changed in moving stories.
Here I felt invited back to real life,
where actions reveal God and poetry.
Of books that fed my spirit, one stands out:
"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker.
 “You have to git man off your eyeball,
before you can see anything a'tall."
Shug tells Celie: 
”My first step from the old white man was trees.
Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But
one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling
like a motherless child, which I was,
it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything,
not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree,
my arm would bleed. . . ."
This author took me full circle back to
the wild times of childhood, hours sandwiched
between daily chores and obligations.
I met God in the landscape and water,
sky, and wildlife.  I met God in people,
in their struggles and coping and outcomes.
Sacred books can make the invisible 
visible.  They contain truths that have a

potential to reveal and enhance life.

For Sumana's prompt ''Books / Reading" at What's Going On?

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast

28 May 2024

Sounds Break the Silence: a domestic scene



In the quiet evening, my cat purrs
And I work a poem word by word.

Suddenly the birds chirp up a frenzy.
A squirrel has climbed into the maple tree:
chattering against the chirping
rustling against the nesting.
My cat wakes to watch the show
nose against the closed window.
But sound, not sight rules the day
until the squirrel runs away.
The angry birds calm to silence
after successful defiance.
Not one comes out to scold the squirrel
Who disappears in a swirl.
Yet here at the window sill
the cat and I are watching still.


 For Mary's prompt "Sounds" at What's Going On?

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast

20 May 2024

Creation and the Survival of Whales




Let’s be the whale’s Big Raven and
release stranded whales to the sea.
Let eating mushrooms give me strength;
let the Great Spirit empower me
to re-enact the Inuit
creation myth of unity:
The world cannot be well-ordered
unless we guide whales back to sea.
Whether we help 100 pilot
whales of 170 find the sea,*
or only one orca calf*, we’re
reenacting a mystery.
Ritual return is creation;
creation is our true story.
If we mean the world to survive,
we’ll acknowledge this history.
Again, the Great Spirit rises.
Again Big Raven hears the call.
Again we learn how to strengthen,
so we can be a blessing for all.


Inuit Creation Myth according to Wikipedia: ". . . In Inuit creation myths, when 'Big Raven', a deity in human form, found a stranded whale, he was told by the Great Spirit where to find special mushrooms that would give him the strength to drag the whale back to the sea and thus, return order to the world." 

For Sherry's prompt "WHALES! and other wonders" at What's Going On?

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast

13 May 2024

A Holy Day

The first Mother's Day was celebrated through a service of worship 
at St. Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, 
on Sunday, May 10, 1908.

Boxes and boxes of carnations!
Have you ever seen so many?
All white. 
They say 25 are in each box,
and there are one, five . . . twenty boxes!
That’s why we’re lined up to enter church—
they’re asking each of us if we’re mothers
and giving each mother a flower.
I heard that they’ll ask who has a mother
who is no longer living,
and then deliver to each another flower.
Can’t be more than 100 of us, really more like half that.
The Bishop is going to bless us.
It’s kind of sweet being honored this way,
though it’s not the same as if
my own children brought me a flower or two.
I wonder where they are today?
And what will happen to the rest of the carnations?
Do we have enough vases to keep them all in the church?
Could they all be for that crazy lady’s Mom?
She was a sweet lady.  May she rest in peace.


This year was my first Mother's Day since Mom died. I stayed home with good memories of her, and then turned to my prompt to describe an historical event in poetry.  Why not Mother’s Day?  The first official Mother’s Day was in 1908.  Founded by Anna Jarvis, it was held in only two places: Grafton, West Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The next year, 45 states and Canada and Mexico celebrated the day; and in 1914, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for the observance of Mother's Day.  I found no descriptions of the very first day—except that on that day Anna Jarvis sent 500 white carnations to her mother’s church in West Virginia to be distributed to mothers.  And I found enough about Anna herself to understand that she had a very conservative view of Mother’s Day.  Her mother had wanted to develop a day for mothers to use as they wished, but Anna wanted to—and did—develop a day to honor woman’s role as mothers.  There is nothing wrong with thatbut only in the church?  And without ever taking a stand for or against?  My own mother would not have been honored because she isn't part of a church and doesn't claim mothering as exclusive to women.  She cared about love, neighbors, being inclusive around the world.  In the following poem, I chose to let Anna Jarvis speak for herself: 

Anna Maria Jarvis 
(May 1, 1864 – November 24, 1948)

A Holy Day

I, Anna Jarvis, invented the Mother’s Day—
a holy day to honor my deceased mother
and other individual mothers, living
as well as dead.  But it’s a Mother’s Day,
with a singular apostrophe, because it’s
a personal day about you and your mother, not
you and all the other mothers in the wide world.
Let’s honor her devotion and sacrifice.  Let’s
use the second Sunday in May, when my mother
died.  Let’s keep it sacred and simple: give her a
single carnation and an intimate letter.
Mother’s Day is more appropriate to church than
the marketplace.  I’ll have no commercial claptrap
like store-made and mail-delivered cards and bouquets. 
I will sue those who perjure the day’s true meaning
and profit from it.  No Mother’s Day special luncheons,
please.  And no attaching it to causes like peace
as poet Juliet Ward Howe did way back in
1872.  Besides, that was in June,
not May.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt should have
known better than to use the day to fundraise to
lower high maternal and infant mortality.
That was in 1935.  I tried to stop it. 
I will fight 'til my last breath. You may not believe
motherhood is holy, but it is.  Marriage is sacred.
Don’t desecrate what every state in the Union
believes in: the love of mothers for their children. 
You may think mothers should stand up against guns, war,
and killing of all kinds—and I may agree, too. 
But pick another day, take 364 days, and leave
my Mother’s Day alone. Leave it in the church, please,
where it belongs. Preserve its beauty, like an un-
touched photograph.  Frame it.  Remember it is mine.

For my prompt "An Historical Moment" at What's Going On?

Four Sources:
The Surprisingly Sad Origins of Mother’s Day
Mother's Day creator likely 'spinning in her grave'
Mother’s Day in the USA: Holy Day or Marketing Bonanza? 

Anna Jarvis

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast

11 May 2024

Theatrical magic


Layer up and layer down, take the ladies back to town.  Let the play reveal the things that sub-consciousness to true life brings:

Let's visit a production of “Gloaming, Oh My Darling,” a one-act play by Megan Terry (which has nothing to do with the song or film of similar name).
The 1965 absurdist comedy is about two old ladies in a nursing home who steal a man from another floor and hide him in their beds.
The unlikely man-napping helps them deal with physical aging, memory loss, lack of freedom, the baby talk of aides, and the duty visits of relatives. 
Picture it: Two old ladies, center stage, full of marvelous insults that rival Shakespeare: “You 2-minute egg, you runny slimy, boiled egg!”
They rue the loss of their own eggs, compete over the ownership of the man—Whose husband is he anyway?and sit on him when their families arrive.

What a romp!  But what if the man is real?  What if he is in “the gloaming” of life?  What if the secret presence makes the ladies powerful again?
In their shared scenes, the song, “In the Gloaming” takes them outside the frame of the action to a zone where they are still more alive than almost dead.
And there they stay, in a zone of freedom and love, in a dreamland of dignity, moving, waltzing, flowing, living, becoming, dying.  Hold.  Blackout.

My blog poems are rough drafts.
Please respect my copyright.
© 2024 Susan L. Chast