An Encounter with a Drunk Indian

When I was a student at Rocky Mountain College and Montana State University, both located in Billings, I often traveled the 150-mile trip home to Sheridan by bus. Years later, I heard a radio interview with a writer who published a collection of poems based on her experiences traveling across the country on a bus. After hearing her read some of her poems about people she encountered on her journeys, I remembered a particular experience I had and was inspired to write the following poem which appears in this year’s issue of Serendipity Poets Journal.

Intoxicated Crow on a Trailways Bus

December, 1984, in the early afternoon,

I board a bus in Billings, Montana,

for the three-hour trip to Sheridan, Wyoming.

A college student going home for Christmas,

I sit behind and to the right of the driver.

Storm clouds gather, as the bus leaves town.

 

An hour later, he gets on at Crow Agency,

sits next to me, tells me he’s Crow.

I tell him I’m one small part Cherokee,

the truth, but he doesn’t respond.

I ask where he’s going.

He says nothing—we ride in silence.

It starts to snow.

 

In the darkness about twenty miles outside of Sheridan,

the bus is surrounded by white.

The driver, a robust black man, slows down.

Wipers slap their own rhythm against the windshield.

 

The Crow tells me he’s scared.

I ask why—he doesn’t reply.

He stands, stumbles to the back,

returns, places his long legs over my short ones.

 

The busybody behind me asks if I’m comfortable.

I tell her I’m fine—I’m almost home, anyway.

She marches to the driver,

tells him about the drunk Indian on my lap.

After glancing in our direction,

the driver pulls the bus to the side of the road,

approaches the Crow, gives his shoulders a rough shake,

carries him off the bus.

Driver and Crow disappear in the swirling white.

 

I see no buildings, no trees,

nothing to shelter one ejected from a bus.

The driver returns, mumbles,

puts the bus in gear.

Wondering, I disembark in Sheridan

to begin my Christmas vacation.

Have you ever traveled anywhere on a Trailways or Greyhound bus? Did you meet any interesting people?

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

 

 

More about National Poetry Month

abbiejohnsontaylor:

Since this is the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and this month is National Poetry Month, you might enjoy this post from Alice Massa, a fellow writer in my Behind Our Eyes group. You may have seen her comments on previous posts. She’s a retired teacher who loves to write so I hope you enjoy what she has to say.

Originally posted on alice13wordwalk:

 

One Poem and Many Ideas for a Poem

For this post in the midst of Nationl Poetry Month, I am sharing with you a poem about clichés and a list of ideas for writing a poem. Throughout my years of teaching writing, I, of course, encouraged my students to avoid clichés in their writings. After I retired, I thought writing a poem consisting primarily of clichés might be fun. Although I wrote this short poem on May 13, 2012, its references to The Wizard of Oz make the poem more pertinent this year, which is the 75th anniversary of the famous movie.

Immediately after the poem, you will find lists of ideas to help you write a poem for National Poetry Month.

The Art of Writing Clichés–Ruby Clichés

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

No rhapsody in the blues–

I want to think in the pink,

wear rose-colored glasses,

and…

View original 798 more words

A Poem and an Interview

Last week, I posted poems written for my nieces Isabella, ten, and Anna, thirteen. Anna will actually be my step-niece in July when her mother marries my brother. Now, here’s a poem I wrote for Isabella several years ago after observing her in a dance recital. It appears in this year’s issue of Serendipity Poets Journal.

To Isabella at Five

With Hannah Montana, Dora the Explorer,

dance through your life,

whirl, twirl, spin around the room,

little Miss Muffet on your tuffet.

When the spider comes, dance away,

up mountains, across streams.

Follow the rainbow on ballet slippers

till it leads to your dream.

Do you remember when you took dance lessons or when your daughter or granddaughter took dance lessons?

I was recently interviewed, along with other authors, on a radio program called The Writing Mama Show. It lasts about an hour, and you can listen here. When you get to the page, you may hear a brief commercial. Just ignore it, and keep listening.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

 

 

Poems for My Nieces

I just received word from Wilda Morris that one of my poems is a March winner in her monthly poetry challenge on her blog. Last month’s challenge was to write a lullaby poem so I wrote one for my niece Isabella who is ten years old. You can read it plus other winning poems here.

Isabella’s not the only niece for whom I wrote a poem. Anna isn’t technically my niece, but she’ll be my step-niece in July when her mother marries my brother. After visiting them in Florida last Christmas, I was inspired to write the following poem which will appear in my new chapbook, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

THAT’S LIFE

 

For Anna

Oh you of thirteen years,

when told you can’t go to the mall

or sleep over with a friend,

please understand that’s the way life is.

If you grow up thinking

you’ll always have your way,

you’ll be sadly disappointed

so better put on your big girl pants—

deal with it.

 

Have you ever written a poem for a loved one?

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Where Is Spring?

Last week was the first day of the season, but now we’re back to winter. When my husband was alive, he looked forward to spring because he enjoyed sitting outside. The more the sun shone, the better. Having grown up in southern Colorado and lived in California for years, he wasn’t used to Wyoming’s brutal winters.

The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates this concept. This poetic form is called a haibun. It combines two or more paragraphs of prose with one haiku.

 

SPRING’S HOPELESSNESS

 

Spring comes wet with little sun. Hope is dashed by the wind that buffets the house, rattles wind chimes, rain that drums on the roof. Without enough warmth, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs won’t grow.

He loves the sun, can’t get enough. It’s one of his few pleasures since he can no longer walk or use his left arm or care for himself. After a brutal winter with endless snow, frigid temperatures, he longs to enjoy the sun’s healing warmth.

wishes for the sun

fall on the deaf ears of God

wait for warmth to come

 

Aren’t you sick of winter? Don’t you long for spring?

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Reliving

Last week, I read an interesting story in The New Yorker, “The Relive Box” by T. Coraghessan Boyle. This is a fantasy tale about a father and his teen-aged daughter who use a machine to relive their past. They can pick a year, date, and time and watch themselves in their memories on a screen. They can freeze, fast forward, and rewind images as if they were watching a video.

This got me to thinking about what moment in time I would like to relive if I could. That moment would be during my wedding to my late husband Bill on September 10th, 2005. The event took place in Grandma’s back yard, adjacent to a busy street, but as I stood at the altar with Bill, I didn’t hear the traffic, although cars continued to rush by as if seventy people weren’t gathered there to witness a life-changing event. As we held hands and said our vows, neither of us had any idea that Bill would suffer a stroke four months later that would paralyze his left side and that I would care for him at home for six years before his death.

The following poem illustrates this moment. It will appear in my collection, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

Life Change

On a sunny day, a strong breeze

lifts hems of dresses.

Balloons, tree branches sway.

Framed by an arch of pink and purple flowers,

as traffic rushes by,

we stand before those we love,

look deep into each other’s eyes,

say, “I do.”

If you could relive any moment in your life, what moment would that be?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

What If…

Thanks to Writing Life Stories for inspiring this. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you did something different in life, gone to a different college, married a different spouse? When I was a senior in high school in 1980, one of the many representatives from the various colleges who visited the counseling center was a nun from St. Mary’s College. My family wasn’t Catholic, but I knew people who were and found some of their religious practices fascinating so I took an interest in this particular institution of higher learning.

My parents teased me, saying I wanted to be a nun. Another relative told me that there was a federal penitentiary in Levenworth, and I could bake cookies for the inmates. I liked the idea that St. Mary’s College was only for girls because I didn’t have much luck with boys and figured I could do without them. For some reason however, I decided to stay here in Wyoming and go to Sheridan College for the first two years of my education after high school.

What if I had gone to St. Mary’s College in Levenworth, Kansas? After studying Greek, Latin, and other subjects they required, would I have decided to take up the monastic life after all? Instead of playing my guitar and singing for elderly nursing home residents as I did for fifteen years, would I be providing spiritual guidance to residents at the Levenworth prison? Like Sister Helen Prejean who wrote Dead Man Walking, would I be working with death row inmates, playing my guitar and singing as they breathed their last after being injected with lethal drugs? As a nun, I wouldn’t have met and married my late husband Bill, would I?

In 1984 while Bill was living in Glendale, California, I visited Los Angeles with my family in order to attend my uncle’s wedding. Bill later told me that I wasn’t too far from where he lived. What if our paths crossed then instead of twenty years later? With the nineteen-year age difference, would he have found me as attractive back then as he did in 2004? Would we have married after meeting in 1984 and had twenty good years before he suffered the strokes that paralyzed his left side?

At first, I didn’t consider a career in writing. My mother did most of my writing assignments for me when I was in high school and during the first two years of my college education. I could have easily typed my own papers, but when I did that, after proofreading them, she immediately rewrote them. When I asked why she didn’t like the way I wrote them, she said, “What if I have ideas.”

What if I had stood up to her, said, “Mother, this is my paper. What if I like the way I wrote it, and when I go to college, what if I major in English and get and MFA in creative writing.” If I actually followed through, would I now be a best-selling author? Would I have met and married Bill?

One thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a singer. What if instead of going to college and becoming a registered music therapist, I left home and somehow found my way to New York or Los Angeles? Would I now be a superstar with dozens of CDs on the best-seller list, traveling all over the country with a myriad of buses and trucks carrying people and equipment? Instead of playing the piano and singing for elderly nursing home residents, would I be singing with a band in crowded amphitheaters? Would I have met and married Bill or would he have been just another fan waiting in line for me to autograph his CDs?

It’s hard to say what the future would have held in store for us if we’d done things differently but fun to speculate, don’t you think?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver