Friday, March 29, 2024

Poetry Friday, Good Friday

We met in Kampala to remember the cross. A series of readers read the story aloud in a series of accents. Gray Parrots flew overhead, their red tails flashing; back and forth they flew. At the part about the cock crowing after Peter’s denial of Jesus, it wasn’t a rooster that called, but a group of Eastern Plaintain-Eaters, with their mocking laughter.

Many people stayed with Jesus that day; we heard about the women following, wailing and sobbing. We heard about His friends at the foot of the cross. And His mother. When Mary took her eight day old baby to the temple, she had been told by the old man, Simeon, that a sword would pierce her heart, but I’m sure she never imagined this particular piercing pain she felt as she looked up at her dying child.

We walked home in the dark after taking Communion with pieces of white Ugandan bread dipped in Ribena. Body and blood. Grief in a tropical evening.

She stayed til the end
then held the dead body close,
her crucified son


©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Tricia has the roundup here.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Poetry Friday: Bird Heart


I was looking at an Antillean Mango in my yard on Delmas 83 in Port-au-Prince one day four years ago, right at the moment when the news came that the streets were on fire (again) and we needed to stay home. 


What grief could that bird's heart know? None, I imagined; the bird looked so happy, dancing up there on the wire as we rushed worriedly back into the house. I felt jealous of its obliviousness, even while reminding myself that it had plenty of its own problems. 

Now I'm seven thousand miles away from that yard where the hummingbird danced. My little bird heart can't hold all the emotions I feel about Haiti. The love and sadness and guilt and fear fly all around me like feathers in a hurricane. Why am I not there, looking up at a hummingbird and smelling the burning?  

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

Rose has this week's roundup.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Reading Update

Book #13 of the year was Stone Blind, by Natalie Haynes. It's the story of Medusa, and it's weird and great.


Book #14 was Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, by Bruce Feiler. The main thing I got from this book is that life isn't linear. There are no predictable stages that everyone goes through. At all. The book is made up of an enormous series of interviews with people who have gone through every imaginable life change. Check out his website here. This is a truly fascinating book about how people navigate change.

Book #15 was The Leftover Woman, by Jean Kwok. It's a story of cross-cultural adoption and it's just all-around sad. Nobody comes out very well.

Book #16 was The Frozen River, by Ariel Lawhon. I read this with my book club, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The main character is a midwife, so that's always a plus, and the historical setting was fascinating and well-handled. It was a mystery, and there were lots of characters, and it's based on true events (plus there's a detailed author's note at the end explaining what's real and what's not). I recommend this one!

Book #17 was The Rachel Incident, by Caroline O'Donoghue. The incident referred to in the title is just awful, messing up several lives in permanent ways. The reviews make it sound light-hearted and sparkling, but I didn't really find it either. Plus there's so...much...drinking.

Book #18 was Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling. I read the first one in this series last year. The protagonist has no arms, and in this book she starts high school. It's painful. 

Book #19 was Jhumpa Lahiri's Roman Stories. Lahiri wrote this book of short stories in Italian (her third language, I believe), and then translated the stories back into English with a translator. I mean - that's just so amazing. The characters in these stories all live in Rome, but they are all from other places. Living in Rome is beautiful but also difficult. The writing is wonderful, but I feel like I should read the stories again, because they all ran together a bit. Here's a taste:

"Regardless, she thinks that it's good to live in a place that's both familiar and full of secrets, with discoveries that reveal themselves only slowly and by chance."

And another:

"It's strange that maternal anxiety grows with time, that you get worse with the years. I'd have thought the opposite, but how can we bear the distances, the absences, the silences our own children generate?"

Book #20 was You Could Make This Place Beautiful, Maggie Smith's memoir about poetry, divorce, and recovery. I liked this, because it's so much the way we - or at least I - process trauma. It's very recursive and she tries on one metaphor after another. I enjoyed reading it, and it made me want to write.

Friday, March 08, 2024

SJT and Poetry Friday: Praise What Comes

Parker Palmer posted a poem this week that resonated with me and I'm going to share it today. I decided that it can do double duty for SJT (Spiritual Journey Thursday) and PF (Poetry Friday). The SJT theme for March is Gathering Goodness. (You can find the roundup here at Ramona's place.) And Laura's hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup.


There have been lots of hard things lately. I won't go into them except to mention that watching Haiti deteriorate still further has been painful. I feel helpless and a bit guilty for not being there and suffering along with everyone else. 


There's more tough stuff too, but I'm trying hard to gather goodness, focusing on positive things like our lakeside Sports Day yesterday (see photo), our day off today for International Women's Day, the fact that I got in to see a dentist right away without an appointment and am now pain-free, our poetry month celebrations at school (March here, not April) for which I'm writing daily, and the lifer Red-headed Lovebirds that I saw last weekend (see photo from eBird).

Photo Source:

This link has three lovely poems from Jeanne Lohmann, all three of which speak to my current condition, but the one that Parker Palmer posted (and he probably picked a peck of pickled peppers, too) was the second at the link, "Praise What Comes." Here's part of it:

Surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven't deserved
of days and solitude, your body's immoderate good health
that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise
talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books
that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks
before sleep.
from "Praise What Comes," by Jeanne Lohmann

Friday, March 01, 2024

Poetry Friday: Holy

I've been doing a writing project during Lent, using daily prompts, and today's word, Holy, made me think of this poem that I've posted twice before here, once in 2012 and once in 2016. (Here's the more recent one, and it has a link to the other.) I love this poem because it's about nature in an urban context, and the way it can dazzle and rearrange our brains to be exposed to natural beauty.

Dennis Craig

I have never learnt the names of flowers.
From beginning, my world has been a place
Of pot-holed streets where thick, sluggish gutters race
In slow time, away from garbage heaps and sewers
Past blanched old houses around which cowers
Stagnant earth.  There, scarce green thing grew to chase
The dull-gray squalor of sick dust; no trace
Of plant save few sparse weeds; just these, no flowers.

One day, they cleared a space and made a park
There in the city’s slums; and suddenly
Came stark glory like lightning in the dark,
While perfume and bright petals thundered slowly.
I learnt no names, but hue, shape and scent mark
My mind, even now, with symbols holy.
You can find today's roundup here, at Linda's place. And below, please enjoy some recent flower photos taken here in Kampala, Uganda.