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Thanksgiving Poem

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Joining in the widespread nostalgia this year for those big extended family gatherings.

Mashed Potatoes

            “ . . . are to give everybody enough.”
                              Ruth Krauss, A Hole Is to Dig

So there must be gravy
and a decision about who’s to make it.
Thanksgiving celebrates acquisitions,
mergers: his family’s sauerkraut,
her neighbor’s homegrown squash
will be replicated for decades.
Four burners heat six pots
when the niece comes in to make
macaroni for the youngest ones
whose urgent hunger cider and celery
cannot satisfy.  A lump in the potatoes
proves they’re real.  The masher
blames distractions, so many
people in the kitchen. The gravy maker
stays focused while other pans
change places, the drawer
at his elbow opens, closes, opens.

First published in The Broken City, thebrokencitymag.org, 2013

There is much to be thankful for, even in 2020.

Just Ten More Days

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to order my new chapbook, TRANSPORTED with Finishing Line Press:

Here’s a sample poem, which focuses on the after: the effect on my life of the travels when I was twelve:

Greece

A school year in Egypt,
most of the next
in Rome, but it was Greece
that grabbed and held me.
In three weeks Athens’ high
templed hill, ruined porches
of the Agora, theater of Dionysus,
tucked themselves into memory
like a candle-filled side chapel
that roused my senses
in the cathedral called Europe
so packed with past centuries
it overwhelmed. 
                                    I left
to become an American teen,
romantic, imagining gold
jewelry, Latin lovers.
Greek stones pulled me back.

Greece was my field of study for years, and the fascination with times past has continued into the present.  Before Greece, there were ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, as I explain in “Beginnings”:

Everywhere mysterious signs.  Baffled
by Arabic script I copied the crisp symbols of antiquity:
            n, the running river,
            alef, the vulture
            m, the owl.
Letters I could not weave into words became
ciphers to conjure with.  This was the first time
I chose the past over the present.

Somewhere I still have a notebook filled with those enchanting symbols.

If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, please have a look.

More on My New Chapbook

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Finishing Line Press is featuring my new chapbook, TRANSPORTED, today. Read more about it at the link below.

It’s a good time to share the opening poem, which will demonstrate that the book covers more than the simple recollections of a twelve year old. I hope it intrigues you and makes you curious to read more.

Suitcases

We packed a trunk for Egypt,
following lists of “things you can’t
easily get there,” had it shipped direct,
carried our clothes with us
in thin rectangular suitcases.

Years earlier the British packed trunks
to set up residence in Egypt,
displacing the French.  Only a travelling
salesman would carry his own suitcase.

Now every case has wheels,
an expectation of smooth surfaces.

The trunk, shipped home full
of souvenirs—inlaid plates, foot
cushions to be stuffed, kohl bottles—
sits in my bedroom, holding remnants
of childhood, my wedding dress, my
children’s art. 

Two ceramic geese sit on the green cloth
which covers it like a very low coffee table.
It has shrunk.

Wheeled cases wait in the closet.

Sharing My Poetry

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I had the pleasure of an interview with Lynn Moorer this week about my poetry book Made and Remade on KTAL, the Las Cruces Community Radio station. The interview is now on their website at:

https://www.lccommunityradio.org/archives

It was fun to return to this book published in 2014 and feel that the poems still resonate. As I read “Shared Ground” it occurred to me that the end has current relevance:

If the universe has a maker
is it made less lonely?
My legs being made for walking
their notion settles my spirit.

I thought of how many are frustrated in their isolation these days. I hope all have, as I do, the release of something like walking to keep yourselves in balance.

Check out the link to hear that and six more poems.

Thanks to Lynn for this opportunity.

My new chapbook TRANSPORTED is open for pre-orders at Finishing Line Press!

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England, Paris, Greece, Rome: a European grand tour at age 12?

Evacuation from Egypt was the pivot point of a two-year adventure during my childhood when my father got a Fulbright grant to teach English abroad.  The poems in TRANSPORTED describe and reflect on that experience and how it shaped the person I became.

TRANSPORTED is listed on the Finishing Line Press website at:
https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/transported-by-ellen-roberts-young/.

Preorders are what make the publication happen. The period for preorders closes November 28.

The cost is $14.99 plus $2.99 shipping.
The intended ship date is January 22, 2021.

I invite all my friends and relations and readers to have a look, and place an order if you like what you see.

Thanks and Praise for San Pedro River Review

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The latest issue of San Pedro River Review includes a poem of mine.  More on that below.  It’s an all poetry journal which fits some sixty poets into an issue.  Some of the names are familiar to me from their submissions to Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, which makes me feel that there is indeed a community of poets.

And I like the fact that they don’t print the poems in order by the poets’ last names (being a Young, this has often bothered me) but take the time to arrange the poems in an interesting sequence.  This is something I’ve recently learned to do as an editor of Sin Fronteras.

The poem they’ve printed is, for me, a longer one called “Crossing the Heartland,” It draws on over a decade, now past, of driving from New Mexico to Maine and back every year.  It attempts to combine the routine of such travel with the ruminations of the mind as one drives.

Wind hits the car as an old
eighteen-wheeler without deflector passes.
Shielded in metal and glass we drive
for hours between corn fields and bean fields,

Here is my view of two familiar highways:

U.S. Highways, sensible and straight
in the west, trick us: Highway 54,
so lean and lovely through Kansas,
winds into Missouri hills, the main street
of bustling lakeside resorts.  Highway 50,
broad and smooth into West Virginia,
turns Appalachian, weary, worn
and ragged as the homes it passes.

San Pedro River Review is edited by Jeffrey and Tobi Alfier.  It comes out twice a year.  More information can be found at http://www.bluehorsepress.com

Delight in Distraction

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Thinking about fires in a fireplace, because we have a fire in our summer cottage on cool mornings when I’m writing, I ask myself whether “hearth” refers only to what the fire rests on or the whole fireplace.

I open the dictionary.  It means the stone under the fire.  But my eye catches the word “hearth-tax.”  In seventeenth century England and Wales, I read, a hearth tax of two shillings a year was levied for each hearth.

Now I want to know:  Is this the original form of the property taxes we pay for our houses?  How much did two shillings buy in the 1600s?  Did people complain about what their tax was paying for and how high it was?

Could I use this in a poem?  And how am I supposed to get back to work?

But I couldn’t write without a dictionary.  Mine is a one volume version of the OED.  When I pause to look up a word – usually for its etymology, its base meaning – I feel fully engaged in my language.

Another Minor Poem for this Time

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This came from the prompt: what is an inanimate object trying to tell you?

Messages

He says the microwave is talking to him.
What’s she saying, Henry?  She says,
“Noli me tangere.  The last person
may have been exposed.”  She says
it’s time to work from home.

We have no microwave at home;
our toaster oven serves us very well.
“Don’t take me for granted,” toaster
protests, “I can only do what I can.”

Does the second line sound familiar?  It’s a quotation from Finian’s Rainbow.  The boy Henry interprets the message of the mute dancer.  A traveling company performed the musical in my high school auditorium in my youth.  Some things stick for a long time, reappearing when least expected.  That’s one of the deep pleasures of writing.

Prompted

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In April I subscribed to the daily prompts put out by Two Sylvias Press.  I’ve done this before, I always get behind, and I do well if half of the prompts lead to something useful.  A few prompts spark new poems, but more often I produce what I think of as “pomelets” (“pome -lets” sounds better to me than “po-emlets”).

Here’s one, my response to the prompt: write a journal entry for a famous fictional character:

Roadrunner’s Journal

It’s a living, harassing Coyote,
somebody has to do it,
but is it a life?  Wish I could
find a mate, breed chicks,
a next generation, a legacy of sorts,
though I hear offspring can be unreliable,
reject their parents’ values,
go off their own way.  Mine
wouldn’t leave the desert would they?
That golf course, damp and green,
might tempt them to deny their heritage.
I only go to visit, briefly.

Roadrunners have a challenge figuring out how to coexist with the increasing number of humans, and their golf courses, in their territory.  I saw two in a neighbor’s front yard on one of my walks recently and wondered where they make their nest.

Image Problem, In Reverse

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Has anyone else been struck by how elegant, how almost attractive, some of the images for the coronavirus are on television?

Image Problem

All those flower-like
protrusions as if marketing
designed a logo for it, as if
it were not ugly—and
too small to see.

Are these trumpets signaling
attack, mouths to gobble
the good microbes, suction
cups structured to latch
onto surfaces or cells?

What marks the defense
against this enemy?  Where
are their marketers, their
support-our-troops posters?

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