Monday, March 30, 2009

Introducing D.S. Pearson

The poet is a dear friend. Godfather to my older son. Best man in my wedding.
He has been writing poetry since high school. By permission of the poet, I present to you....


morose emptiness
sometimes rendered
one's windowsill

D.S. Pearson 4-15-08
Paininting by John James Audubon

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rendering Rapture

Well that was the original title of this poem. I am not certain it fits, but I have not yet thought of one I like better. I have added St. Jude's story to a list of links for those of you who read that post a few days ago. And related to those events, I share with you the poem (published in the Auburn University Sunsource 1991) in which I attempted to describe a single moment. The photo was made a year before the surgery. My son was in PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) for three days after a 12 hour surgery on March 29, 1989 to remove a tumor located in the center of his head. His surgeon met with my husband and me immediately after the operation to explain what she had accomplished. When she finished, I folded her hands inside mine and and gave a prayer of thanks for for her gifts as a surgeon and her dedication to the children she served. She put her arms around me and said, "God is my co-pilot."
Today, I dedicate this poem to Dr. Patricia Aronin, who --along with her Co-pilot--made this moment possible.
True, I held you as a newborn and
marvelled at your hands and tiny fingers
curling 'round my thumb.
Through baby years and kindergarten tears
and many times over
you were in my arms.
But never, never, never had I held you...

Eyes swollen and bruised
Swelled out from white gauze
Swathed 'round your skull,
Your every vital organ attached
To monitor, catheter, EEG, IV.

Three days I watched the screens and fluids.
The needles and nurses came and went.
Your only words through week tears
And whispering, quivering mouth,
"I'm so unhappy."

A hospital is the singular, most inhospitable place
Especially in P I C U
Where tiny infants and young children
Are wheeled in, struggle, and sometimes die.
But beside your bed, amid the cold and sterile scene
A warmly varnished reminder
Of contented nursing during newborn nights:
A spacious, cradling rocking chair held me.

Hour after cavernous hour, I watched and rocked
And waited with arms useless,
Needing only your slender, little form
To come against my aching soul.

Stable. Making progress. Everything came off.
No tubes, no wires, nothing attached.
"Would you like me to hold you?"
Your heavy, bandaged head could just move
A determined, nodding "Yes."

I pushed my arms under your neck and body
Guiding every move with care and grace
Far beyond any ventured on the newborn you seven years before.
Careful. Careful. Caution upon caution,
For I was reclaiming the most priceless
Treasure I would ever touch.
As I gathered you into my embrace,
Every nerve and sinew in my being burst into
A rapture of the purest form.

And if I should live through all Eternity,
Never will there be such an unattended,
Permanently suspended moment
As when the rockers curved themselves against the world
And made us something holy.

Sunsource 1991

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" ...but not a good writer: Happy Birthday, Flannery!

Today is the birthday of writer Flannery O'Connor. She was born in Savannah in 1925 and attended parochial schools there. She lived much of her adult life in Milledgeville, Georgia with her mother. Another famous short story is "Good Country People" which is populated with her familiar yet odd characters wrapped in the Bible Belt mentality and tangled up in sin and redemption.

One of the best sources for understanding who she really was is The Habit of Being: Letters , a collection of her personal letters and correspondences with her editors. Once in an interview with a critic from New York, Miss O'Connor was asked, "Why do Southern writers write about such freaks?" After a thoughtful pause, her reply, "Because we still recognise one when we see one." Considering that she suffered from lupus beginning in 1950 and managed to produce a considerable body of work, it is right that many judge her to be one of the most important American writers of fiction. She died on August 3, 1964 at age 39.

A deeply religious Roman Catholic, she wrote mostly about fundamentalist protestant Southern dilemmas. The New Georgia Encyclopedia says that she is "the strongest apologist for Roman Catholicism in the twentieth century." I am not so sure I agree with that sweeping conclusion, but I do see in her characters a search for Truth. And the truth about Flannery is --the girl could tell a story! One of the road trips I have planned for this summer is a drive to Milledgeville to visit her farm house which has been made into a museum.

I wonder what she would have to say about it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hey Saint Jude

Today is not Saint Jude's official feast day, but he has been greatly discussed, researched, celebrated, and remembered at my house this weekend.
Willow's photo of her gold Saint Francis medal and question about a treasured piece of jewelry was an important reminder to me of a Saint Jude's medal which belongs to my younger son, Cuyler, now 27.

On this date, twenty years ago, he, his father, older brother, and I were sitting in numbing silence while we were waiting the results a CAT scan he had just undergone. He was 7 and in the first grade. The previous day, he had complained of a headache upon waking, "My head hurts so bad that I can't move." I took him to his pediatrician immediately. After a thorough examination, his doctor consulted with three other colleagues in the practice and ordered the scan. (The hospital had just received its first MRI and the technicians were still learning how to us it.) When Dr. Smalley stepped in the waiting room, he looked at my older son, age 19 at the time, "Cameron, you stay with your little brother while I talk to Mom and Dad." We looked at the films and everything seemed in a blurred time warp. I remember the doctor very methodically stating the details. A tumor in the center of his brain. Most likely malignant. Neurosurgeon. The best. But the most important thing he had to say, all worked out in detail before ever calling us back, "Here is the plan!" He had already talked with the specialist at Children's Hospital, three hours drive away. "Get Cuyler some lunch; go home and pack a suitcase, and be there by five this evening."

My husband ever the officer, relied on his background, and said we should go ahead, while he and Cameron took care of things and closed up the house. Later that evening, after we were all at the hospital, my husband pulled out a medal on a chain. He had just ten days before returned from Germany where he had found it in the drawer of an old barracks there. I had seen it on his desk along with some German coins, but I never turned it over or really examined it. Cuyler put it on.

After several days of examinations and tests, a surgery was scheduled for March 29th. We left the hospital on Good Friday, the 24th and spent Easter weekend with my sister who lived only fifteen miles from the hospital. The doctor had explained that the particular steroid Cuyler was taking to reduce the tumor's pressure was powerful and dangerous so we needed to stay close. It was good to be with family.

The next two weeks are burned into my memory. The only thing I can relate to those days are accounts we hear of soldiers in battle. As a couple, as a family, I must borrow from Churchill , and say for us, they were our "finest hour" regarding holding on to one another and keeping the faith and praying and feeling the warmth and love from caring friends. After surgery, three days in PICU, three nights in McDonald House, and many goodbyes to nurses and doctors we ended our stay at Children's.

When we returned home, to a living room filled with gifts, cards, baskets, virtually from the whole town, it was truly overwhelming. I remember just sitting in a wing chair holding my little boy and reading card after card from Sunday school classes representing churches all over town. It was during one of those readings that I took the medal in my fingertips and turned it over, and read on the back: St. Jude's Shrine, Our Lady's Chapel, 600 Pleasant Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts. My husband and I both agreed we had mistook it for a St. Christopher. Even then, having come to the Episcopal church as a young adult not raised with the saints, I thought, "Ah yes, patron saint of children." Not satisfied, I pulled my 1957 World Book off a shelf, only to read, "St. Jude, patron saint of desperate cases, or as in modern times, cancer patients." I was stunned. Awestruck. Though I had been filled with great apprehension alternating with night terrors and crying spells (if I had to go anywhere in car away from Cuyler I would break down in sobs) about the impending radiation treatment, months of MRI's, and annual checkups, it all ended with reading those words in the World Book and on the medal. I read it aloud several times. I know now that a peace came to me, a comfort, that made me know that divine Grace had intervened for this child .

While there are many other details related to this episode of our lives as a family, some I will add here later, none are more compelling than the story of the little medal, that travelled to Europe, was left behind in a drawer, found by a father who somehow knew his son would want to wear it, and replaced crippling despair and fear with hope and strength and faith. Peace be with you.

I will post a link to the biography of Saint Jude later this week.
His feast day is October 28, three days before Cuyler's birthday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Honor of the Day...More Irish Poetry

After several rainy, cold days, Sun came out today as if he knew I had been feeling rather cloudy. Thank you, Sun! For my brave and oh so talented followers, let me just say that I have experienced a huge wave of both excitement at working on my blog and overwhelming insecurity every time I read one of yours. My work schedule has barely a space for much MeMe activity. (Derrick, that is a term for the many Facts About Me Lists, I presume?) Work with me here as I am often trapped in my own little world from which I am eagerly attempting escape! I have had too many ideas for this post, but Tom's comment helped me settle on one: More Yeats. I was doing a little research on the soon to be extinct species, the redhead, when I came upon this one painted by Sir John Everett Millais in 1871, The Martyr of the Solway. Margaret Wilson was actually Scottish and was drowned for not swearing allegiance to the King's rather than her church. Check out wiki for more details. Her beautiful face made me think of W.B. 's muse, Maud Gonne. As the old rock'n roll song goes, "She put the hurt on him!"

Never Give All the Heart

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that's lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost. 1905

Sunday, March 15, 2009


This is the first of several paintings of the poet by Augustus Johns. It is from the Tate Collection. Naturally, W. B. Yeats is haunting my newly created Keeping Room today. It may be that part I played in The Hour Glass during college or all the hours I poured over his works during an NEH Seminar for Teachers one summer, but he just will not rest until he is honored here. I do love his work. The critics were sometimes cruel, but he gave it right back in certain poems. Anyone who has ever been afraid to go public with an original poem should gain courage from this one:

A Coat

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
In walking naked. 1914

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Edmund Burke (1729-97)

This is the week to celebrate all that is Irish. Today I have been re-reading The Dubliners and this evening listening to Christy Moore on Georgia Public Radio's The Green Island Radio show out of Savannah. So for something a little different, I offer a suggested reading for those who love language from Edmund Burke's A PHILOSOPHICAL INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN OF OUR IDEAS OF THE SUBLIME AND BEAUTIFUL, Part V: Sections VI & VII wherein he explores "How WORDS influence the passions" and "POETRY not strictly an imitative art." This work is very rich in ideas on the nature of poetry, both reading it and creating it. I found it in my three volume set of THE FIELD DAY ANTHOLOGY OF IRISH WRITING.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where can you find a Bernese Mountain Dog?

Generally lying across your feet!
Meet my therapist: Gracie the Wonder Dog.
She enjoys petting people, reclining on the garden
bench, and greeting her family with much tail wagging
and robust barking.
She is nearly eight years old, but loves her long walks and rides in the car. She does have a powerful bark; Lord Byron would surely have liked her..... Click on photo to enlarge.

" 'Tis sweet to to hear the watch-dog's honest bark
Bay deep-mouthed welcome as we draw near home;
'Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark,
Our coming, and look brighter when we come."
from Don Juan by Lord Byron

A Beginning

A keeping room is a small place in the home just off the kitchen, a warm, inviting nook where one may settle in front of the fireplace and be alone or with a friend...a space in which to think and muse and reflect. Here is a corner of mine...the teapot is filled and wearing its cozy! Cup and saucer or a mug? Milk and sugar?

About Me

My photo
Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat