Poem Depicts Florida Wildlife Adventure

Last week when I posted “Thirty-Foot Sloop,” a poem about my Pacific Ocean misadventure, someone asked me if I ever tried sailing again after that. Well, I have, but not on the high seas. When I visited my brother and his family in Florida, we often took trips down the Loxahatchee River, which is a lot smoother. Last year, we rented a canoe, and I wrote a poem about what happened. Click on the title below the picture to hear me read it.

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My sister-in-law snapped a photo of this creature with her iPhone before she and my brother back-paddled the canoe away from it as fast as they could. 

THE ALLIGATOR

 

A warm March afternoon under a cloudless Florida sky,

floating down the Loxahatchee River,

I sit on the canoe bottom, cramped,

while others paddle.

In a narrow section,

where we hope to spot wildlife, it appears.

Not a snake, but still a deadly creature,

it stands among plants on the bank,

gazes at its reflection in the gleaming water.

I don’t see it–they do.

After snapping a picture,

we sail far, far away

while icy fingers of fear massage my spine.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Glenda Bealle, An Inspiration

Since 2010, in her studio in Hayesville, North Carolina, Glenda C. Bealle has been teaching and inviting guest instructors to teach classes in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, family history writing, and publishing. Her work has been published in various magazines, anthologies, and newspapers, and she has appeared on The Writers Show in Chattanooga. She has published two books: a poetry collection, Now Might as Well be Then, in 2009, and a family history, Profiles and Pedigrees: Thomas Charles Council and His Descendants, in 1998. She has two blogs: Writer’s Circle and Writing Life Stories. She hosts Coffee with the Poets and Writers at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville monthly and is involved with the North Carolina Writers’ Network-West.

Glenda has worn a variety of hats: painter, schoolteacher, HAM radio operator, caregiver, newsletter editor, Christmas tree farmer, choir member, gardener and public relations and sales person. Having grown up on a farm with six brothers and sisters, she can drive a tractor, a stick shift, and a motorcycle. When she was younger, her favorite activity was horseback riding. Loving animals, especially dogs, she advocates for preventing the birth of unwanted pets by spaying and neutering.

She suffers from MCS, a respiratory disorder that causes her to be sensitive to synthetic chemical fragrances and scented laundry soap and dryer sheets. Most people in public places inadvertently wear such fragrances, but that doesn’t stop her from getting out and promoting her work, networking with other writers, and advocating for clean indoor air.

She loves teaching and helping other writers reach their goals. I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend any of her classes, since I’m in Wyoming, miles away from North Carolina, but her blog posts and other writing have inspired me, and I can imagine what a wonderful teacher she must be. If you live near Hayesville North Carolina, I recommend checking out her studio. If you’re like me, too far away, you can at least visit her blogs and learn more about her published books.

You may wonder why I’m plugging her all of a sudden. Well, she and I follow each other’s blogs, and this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find this post in my email in box. This is one of many articles she has written about me on her blog in which she considers me an inspiration. I’m not that religious, but I’ve always been a fan of The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not remembering the last time I mentioned Glenda on my blog, I realize it’s now time for me to praise her as much as she has praised me.

In her post, she says I make her feel like a do-nothing person. Okay, she doesn’t travel to nursing homes and other facilities with a guitar when not writing, but she gives in other ways. She inspires other writers, not just those who take her classes. Many of my poems and stories don’t really fit literary markets, but Glenda is well-known in such circles, despite the fact that her MCS makes being out in public difficult. I find that truly amazing. I appreciate her saying how much I inspire her, but she also inspires me. One good inspiration deserves another.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Memoir Depicts Life of Negro Poet

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The Big Sea

By Langston Hughes

Copyright 1940

 

Through a series of essays, this well-known Negro author tells the story of his life. He describes growing up in Kansas during the early 20th century where his mother waited tables to support the family. His father left for Mexico where he eventually got rich. Hughes talks about how as a boy, he pretended to be saved at a revival meeting to please his aunt with whom he was staying at the time.

Before his senior year in high school and again after graduation, he spent time with his father in Mexico. He describes how he was disillusioned with his father’s big dreams for him and his ineptness at figures. He also explains how he ended up teaching English to Mexican students and how he eventually persuaded his father to pay his tuition at Columbia University in New York. After a year in college, he dropped out and signed onto various ships. He describes his travels to Africa, France, and Italy with periodic bouts at home with his family. In Paris, he worked as a chef and waiter and met musicians, dancers, and other entertainers.

In the 1920’s, after losing his passport in Italy and working his way home, he decided to go back to college, this time at Lincoln University near Philadelphia. He describes life at this black college with all white faculty and the black society in Harlem where he spent many of his vacations. He did some traveling in the south and gives his impressions of how Negros were treated there as opposed to New York and Washington D.C. where his family eventually re-located.

All the while, he wrote poems and stories which were published in various periodicals and a novel. He explains what inspired many of his poems and provides excerpts.

After he graduated from Lincoln University, a white patron offered to provide financial support while he published his novel. After the book was released, he had a falling out with the rich woman when he couldn’t write anything that pleased her. He also describes another fall-out he had with a fellow author he met in Harlem over a play on which they collaborated but was never produced. In the end, he describes his determination to make a living as a writer.

The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible contains a new introduction written and read by Arnold Rampersad, in which he provides a lengthy synopsis of the book plus excerpts. I found this interesting but a bit redundant after reading the book. As far as I was concerned though, Dominic Hoffman, the book’s narrator, was Langston Hughes.

Since February is Black History Month, a friend recommended this book, and I’m glad she did. It reminded me of another book I was required to read in high school, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, in which the white author describes how he disguised himself as a Negro in order to better understand the black experience in the south. Unlike Hughes, Griffin could walk away from being black, although he was ostracized when his book was published. Hughes had many of the same experiences Griffin describes. I think The Big Sea should also be required reading. The more we can expose our young people to the atrocities of the early 20th century, perhaps the more tolerant of minorities and intolerance of racists they will be when they grow up.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Abbie’s in Love

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No, I haven’t found another man. Although my late husband Bill has been gone four years, I still love him. This Valentine’s Day, while others celebrate love for those still living, I still love a man who has left this world.

In light of Debbie Reynolds’ passing, I thought it would be nice to sing her 1957 hit, “Tammy,” during my performances at Sugarland Ridge and Westview last month. I now realize the song is also about me but in a different way. The following poem illustrates this. Click on the title to hear me read it.

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I’M IN LOVE

 

Like the whispering cottonwood,

hooting owl, whippoorwill,

murmuring breeze,

melting snow dripping off the roof announces it.

The crow in the distance caws it.

The sun in the sky shouts it.

The cold winter breeze sighs it.

Although he’s no longer a part of this world,

He’s still with me in spirit.

I long to be in his arms

where I’ll sing for joy.

 

***

Now here’s my rendition of “Tammy.” Happy Valentine’s Day.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Circus in the Bedroom

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In light of the announcement that the Ringling Brothers circus is closing after 100 years of operation, I decided to re-blog a poem from a couple of months ago that appears in My Ideal Partner. At one point during the six years I cared for my late husband Bill, we had to purchase a mechanical lift to make it easier for home health care aides to transfer him from the bed to the commode in order to give him a shower. As you’ll note from the excerpt below, Bill didn’t like the lift, but I came up with a pretty good solution to that problem. Click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide (the nursing home) for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie. (Bill’s case worker) “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

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UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

***

It’s too bad men on flying trapezes don’t bring in as much money for circuses as elephants do.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Poem Speaks Out Against Trump

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I usually don’t get political here, but when someone in my Third Thursday Poets group suggested we each write a poem about the meaning of January 20th for critique at our last session, I couldn’t resist. Click on the title below to hear me read what I wrote. You’re welcome to comment, whether you agree or not, but if you don’t like what you read or hear, I hope we can simply agree to disagree.

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INAUGURATION DAY

 

 

Today, our country turns over a new leaf.

A different leader takes the Oath of Office.

A billionaire, racist, bigot

with no grasp of foreign policy,

little respect for women or minorities

or concern for impoverished Americans,

the economy, environment,

he won the Presidency, not by popular vote

in an election possibly rigged by Russians.

What will become of America?

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

 

Anthology Depicts Disability Culture

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Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow

Edited by Chris Kuell

Copyright 2016

 

Breath and Shadow is an online magazine featuring poems, stories, and essays by authors with disabilities. Pieces here focus mainly on what it’s like to have a disability and how others treat a person with a disability. This anthology showcases the best work that appeared in the publication over the past twelve years.

It contains dark pieces such as Susan M. Silver’s short story, “I’ll Be Looking at the Moon,” in which the protagonist is dealing with a serious illness. In contrast, there’s Amy Krout-Horn’s essay, “Who Dresses You?” in which she talks about a humorous way she answered this narrow-minded question from a waitress.

Many pieces portray the relationship between a person with a disability and health care professionals such as Lizz Schumer’s essay, “Peace Protest,” in which she talks about convalescing after a fall and wondering if she inherited her grandfather’s brain cancer. Then there’s Chris Kuell’s short story, “The Interview,” in which a blind woman retaliates against a prospective employer who is unwilling to even consider the possibility of hiring her.

I would like to have seen fewer dark pieces. Nevertheless, I think this is a must-read for everyone, especially those in a profession that requires dealing directly with others: waitresses, doctors, nurses, cab drivers, etc. You don’t have to read the whole thing cover to cover. You could read perhaps one or two pieces a day. If you’re one of those narrow-minded persons who take a dim view of what people with disabilities can do, this anthology will force you to think outside the box. If you’re a person with a disability, you’ll read this and realize you’re not the only one. The people in this book, whether real or made-up, will speak to you of their experiences.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.