Safe Harbors

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by Marilyn Yocum

came to visit,
stayed for years,
understood Mom
more than Mom did.
When storm flags flew,
she shuffled to her room,
waved us little girls in,
blew smoke rings
and spoke of vaudeville
to cover the sounds of thunder
just the other side of the door.

an hour’s drive away,
still in the house
where she’d seen my father
off to war
and back again
with a bride
wearing a fox fur stole,
the likes of which
had never been seen
in those parts.
I spent a week each summer
dry-docked there
in the rays of her sunshine.
She burnt me scrambled eggs
I’ve spent a life trying to duplicate,
no luck.
When I asked how she knew
about the straight As, she said,
“A little squirrel told me.”
I spent years pondering the possibility,
wondering which squirrel it was,
knowing the joy of feeling watched over.

These two
slow movers
set the rudder of my life.

Poem: Written last October for the Tweetspeak workshop I was in.

Image: There they are, my two grandmothers, front row in my parents’ wedding picture.

Posted in missing relatives, most excellent gifts, poems, safe harbors | 1 Comment

One Thing I Would Have Changed


Dear Barb,

Today in English class, I told the story about
you having straight hair
and me having curly
and both of us wishing we had the other,

and about the Saturday
I gave you a perm
and you put straightener on mine,
and how it hadn’t made a difference,
except you had a single bump
right in the back
for the longest time.

The story used many words they’ve learned recently,
plus I spoke slowly and used a lot of hand motions,
which has become
my normal manner of speaking now.
(Might need to do something about that.)

Everyone laughed.
The Latinas, the Nepalis,
the Arabic speakers.
Everyone, even the teachers and helpers.

I guess
everyone’s tried to change something about themselves,
everyone’s had an accomplice –
sibling, cousin, friend.
Thanks for being mine.

Did either of us imagine
way back when
I’d be telling that story now?

Posted in friendship, refugees | Leave a comment

Guts to Do It


FORMER President George W. Bush’s book of paintings comes out today. I’m third in line for it at the library.

I was so inspired to read about this book because nobody thinks of him as a painter and now look what he’s done, painted enough for a book.

I have a tortured history with art. And by the word “art,” I’m referring to drawing and painting, not the wider world of creativity. All the art genes from the family gene pool went to my 4 siblings.

My tortured history with art is a lot like my tortured history with dogs, which lasted a long time, until, at 42, I got my first dog – a Maltese puppy, a whopping 3 pounds. I was terrified of it, but it must have been a good step. I’m on my 5th dog now and somewhere along the line, I lost my fear.

My relationship with art is a lot like that.

At some point in my 40s – my 40s must have been my fearless decade – I started carrying a small sketch pad around with me. I’d pull it out every so often when nobody else was around and try to capture some small thing. I guess I was building on my progress with the dog thing. Eventually, I bought some colored pencils, then a set of watercolor paints. I’m no Degas, but I’m doing fewer stick figures now.

Do you have any idea how useful the ability to quickly sketch something is when teaching English as a second language? I had no idea in my 40s I’d be doing this work today.

All to say, go for it. I’m all for defying critics by going ahead and doing a thing, especially if the critics reside in your own head. That’ll show ’em! It’s a very grown-up way of thumbing one’s nose.

Profiles of Courage features 60 paintings of members of the United States military who have served our nation with honor since 9/11. Proceeds go to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative works to ensure that post-9/11 veterans and their families make successful transitions to civilian life.

Posted in @ play, creativity, fear of failure, Uncategorized | 1 Comment