NaPoWriMo Day 4

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Prompt 4/30: I Didn’t Like the Prompt, So I Did My Own Thing

 

If I could only speak to you
without crying like a child,
you would see that I am a woman
worth coming home to.

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This work, “Untitled” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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NaPoWriMo Day Three

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3/30 Prompt – Write a List Poem

Recipe for a Balm that Soothes Heartache:

cocoa butter
lavender
calendula
rose petals
beeswax
Nag Champa incense
Billie Holiday albums
Pablo Neruda poetry
rose quartz
fresh figs
unsent letters
ginger tea
warm baths
salty tears

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This work, “Recipe for a Balm that Soothes Heartache” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

NaPoWriMo Day Two

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2/30 Prompt – Write a Poem that Plays with Voice

 you were made for sphagnum and sap/bits of bark and bogs of peat/silver fish in brown lake shimmering/berry stains around the mouth/while naked belly sits on generous lap/you are a feral child barefoot on ancient escarpment/leaves and twigs in matted hair/loon call echoing your heartbeat drum/

I live in a world of pavement. The hot asphalt melts the rubber soles of my shoes, and I rush through constant construction to get from one job to the next. My temporomandibular joint aches from clenching my teeth against the sound of concrete being drilled and my crotch sweats from being confined in pantyhose eighteen hours a day. The streetlights are my stars.

come away love/ splash in rushing rivers/rut in rich humus/antler velvet sloughed off on tree branches/birch paper peeling in gentle breezes/moose grunt and firefly glow/your fire crackles and snaps/taste the smoke/

I am a professional. I am a productive, contributing member of society. I eat my meals with a fork and knife. I take medicines for my acid reflux. I drink water from a bottle. I stay clean. My television and my cell phone tell me the seasons, the weather, and the temperature. I make car and rental payments. I grow tulips in tight rows each spring, making sure the colours complement each other.

do you ever find your heart filled with a longing that can never be satisfied?

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This work, “Untitled” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

NaPoWriMo Day One

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1/30 Prompt: Write About A Secret Shame

 (I)

The sun has just barely begun to paint the sky fiery colours
when she,
stretched wide
and gasping,
births a vibrantly pink 8-pound daughter.
I wipe the blood and shit from the baby
and help her to her mother’s breast.
Later, during the taxi ride home,
I realize the fragrance in the vehicle is coming from me –
Sweat, amniotic fluid, placenta, and colostrum.
I am scented with the feral odours of Life itself.
My body has never contained Life.

(II)

A group of us meet in a busy coffee shop,
our conversations interrupted in short bursts of steam from the espresso machine.
She gently passes me her sleeping one-month old son –
Precious parcel, generous gift, little lovebug, angelic award.
I trace the whorls of his ears with my fingertip,
stroke each tiny digit,
and marvel at the miniscule eyelashes that lavish his dark-blue eyes.
Amidst biscotti, lattes, and genial chatter,
I wipe my silent, salty tears from his face.
No one notices.
When she takes her baby back,
The emptiness of my arms is so heavy.
My body has never contained Life.

(III)

Autumn leaves crunch underfoot and a sapphire sky canopies the earth.
The taste of wood smoke and black earth is in my mouth.
I sit on a park bench, reading a collection of poetry,
the sound of shouting children at play filling my ears.
Parents circle the playground,
observing, interfering, interacting.
They call to each other, identifying themselves by their children –
Timmy’s Mom, Ethan’s Dad, Mackayla’s Mommy.
A friendly father – Marco’s Papa –
plops down on the bench beside me and asks jovially,
“So, which one is yours?”
I vaguely motion to a cluster of youth making sandcastles nearby,
and immediately leave the area, forgetting my poetry book behind.
My body has never contained Life.

 (IV)

Another pregnancy announcement.
Another birth attended.
Another birthday celebration.
I’m not jealous, I tell myself,
as I hand baby after baby back to their parents.
I’m not sad, I tell myself,
as I donate a stack of baby blankets lovingly collected over years to the thrift store.
I’m not resentful, I tell myself,
as I caress round bellies and guide swollen breasts to hungry mouths.
My body has never contained Life.

(V)

“We never spend time together anymore”, I write a friend.
“You always seem to be too busy for me.”
She writes back, “I’m creating precious memories with my family. You’ve never had children. You wouldn’t understand.”
My body has never contained Life.

 

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This work, “Untitled” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

For Jane

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This poem is dedicated to Jane, who asked me write about being incarcerated.

Jane,

I didn’t want to write this poem.
Even as I stand here right now, performing this piece, exactly like you asked me to,
I feel uncomfortable.
I don’t like to tell other people’s stories.
I don’t want to appropriate someone else’s struggle and pretend that it is my own,
And I don’t want to receive accolades for appearing enlightened when I’m just as in the dark as everyone else.
When you begged me to write a poem about you being incarcerated, I immediately told you to write your own poem because your words would mean so much more than my own,
But you refused.
You said, “No one will listen to me and besides, I’ll be dead in a year, anyway.”

Jane,

How do I tell them the story of your life? How do I get them to remember you like I will always remember you?
They will never see the deep lines around your eyes and mouth. They will never smell the cigarettes you couldn’t stop chain-smoking, or see the yellow nicotine stains on your fingertips. They will never hear your throaty laugh, see your long, shiny black hair, or see the incredible beadwork that you meticulously created and showed me with such shy pride.
You are more than a statistic – you are an actual person, with hopes and dreams, and a self-deprecating sense of humour. You are more than your illness, more than your addiction, more than your crimes.
You were abused as a child. You are burdened by mental illness and poverty. You are homeless. You have children that were apprehended by Family and Children’s Services. You are racialized. You are alone.
Crack, heroin, alcohol – your “drugs of choice”…these are your coping mechanisms. Sex work is how you get them. You’re not Julia Roberts being lavished with attention by Richard Gere. How many snowy streets have you strolled hoping for strange men to pick you up in their cars, just so that they could use your body and you could get some crumpled bills?
You told me that your best friend, who was also a sex worker, was murdered and her body parts were scattered across the city in dumpsters. You believe that it is only a matter of time before you are next.

Jane,

Sometimes, when the sky stretches wide and blue above me,
I think about prison and what it must have been like for you there.
You would miss the sky, you told me. You missed weather and starlight and the sunshine on your shoulders.
You said that you had spent more time in prison than out, and that prison was the only life that you understood.
You liked the routines and the accessibility of food, but you hated the lack of privacy.
You called prison “timeless time” – a place where every minute lasted an eternity.

Jane,

How do I describe what it was like for you to be incarcerated?
Do I tell them about that time you told me that you must be an animal because you keep getting locked up like one?
Do I tell them that you still had access to all your drugs of choice?
Do I tell them how you had a greater sense of community with your fellow inmates than you do on the outside?
Do I tell them that if you don’t end up dead first, you’ll be back inside those concrete walls?
Do I tell them that this system isn’t working – that it’s failing you and so many others?

Jane,

I didn’t want to write this poem for you. I didn’t want to put words in your mouth. But most of all, I didn’t want to face the reality that you are either back in prison or that you are dead, and I’ll never know whatever became of you, one more person stuck in an unjust justice system.
I wonder if in your dreams you fly free with the wind in your face.
I want to picture you like that
Twirling and laughing with your hands stretched wide, calling your children to you
Years of sorrow and hardship melting in the drizzle of spring rain.

Jane,

I wrote this poem for you at last.
Fly free.

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This work, “For Jane” by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Heart Daughter

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Chloee,
They told me that you were born missing most of your brain,
But to me, you were perfect.
I’ve fallen in love dozens of times, but nothing prepared me for the way it felt to hold you in my arms and look into your grey-blue eyes:
Calm, still oceans that harboured secrets no one would ever discover.

You were not a child of my body, but you were a child of my heart.

Born to teenage parents who had underestimated the challenge of raising a special needs child, I cared for you in the hospital for the month after your birth while you waited for a foster home.
Doctors and nurses focused on how you wouldn’t live past ten,
But all I could focus on was the way you looked at me whenever I cradled you and sang,
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

Chloee,

What does it mean when a child is born imperfect?
Some people take uncreased sheets of paper just to fold them into shapes called “art”.
Some people pour gold into fractured pottery just to celebrate the beauty of splintered history.
If art and history can be subjective, then who am I to behold the creation of Almighty G-d and call it anything less than spectacular?
You, you are made of the magic of stars and cells, angels and organisms, fairy dust and molecules,
Spackled together by two people who didn’t know how to raise a child who wasn’t like other babies,
And I, I was the witness to this messed-up miracle of a sweet baby girl born imperfectly perfect, perfectly imperfect.
All I could do in your presence was hope that I could kiss you enough for both our lifetimes whenever I cradled you and sang,
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

Chloee,

Your name is a song that dances on my lips in the arabesque of a half-smile or the brise of laughter in a quiet moment.
Time races by in sunrises and sunsets,
Almost as fast now as those hours at the hospital where I counted your fingers, toes, and eyelashes.
Somehow, I have ended up loving you without you much longer than I loved you while knowing you.
The day I handed you to a woman I didn’t know to take you away to a place that I’ll never know, knowing that I’ll never see you again,
I sat down on the pavement outside the hospital and cried in the autumn rain.
They say that motherhood is momentous because it is choosing to forever have your heart walk around outside of your body,
And in that moment, as the raindrops beat down, I became a true mother.

Chloee

You are my Heart Daughter, and wherever you go, I will always long for you.
Every night before I go to sleep, I cradle all my love and hope and wishes for you in my arms and I never forget to sing,
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

Chloee passed away February 22nd, 2018. I will never forget her.

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This work, “Heart Daughter”, by Beth Murch,  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.