Magnets and Ladders is an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities such as myself. You’ll find stories, essays, poems, articles about writing, and contest information. Even if you’re not a disabled author, I think you’ll enjoy this publication. It contains, among other things, two of my short stories and one of my poems. I’ll post these works here in coming weeks, but in the meantime, please check out all the wonderful work Magnets and Ladders has to offer at http://www.magnetsandladders.org/wp/.
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?
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 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?
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.
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?
My late husband Bill was my biggest fan. Although he didn’t like poetry, he always read my poems and enjoyed them. He also provided feedback and suggestions for my poems and stories and was quick to point out typographical errors. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates how he felt during the six years I cared for him at home.
From a Husband’s Perspective
She works hard
to care for me, the house.
She cooks, cleans, does laundry,
does everything I’m unable to do.
She writes short stories, novels, essays.
She’ll be a best selling author one day.
I couldn’t do without her.
The first poem I ever read by Marge Piercy is “In Praise of Joe” which can be read here. This poem, about her addiction to coffee, inspired me to write “Ode to Dr. Pepper” which I posted on my blog here. In case you’re wondering what Dr. Pepper and coffee have to do with cats, I just finished reading Marge Piercy’s 2002 memoir, Sleeping with Cats. You can read my review of this book here.
On this day in 2006, three months after we were married, my husband Bill suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. In the evening when I returned home after performing with my singing group, he was lying on the floor, drenched in sweat, with a chair on top of him. This was a night that changed our lives forever. To read more, click here.