This Tree – Revisited

This week, my family will be welcoming the first of a new flock of chickens. Those of you who have been with me a long time might know that we used to live out on acreage, complete with chickens, ducks, turkeys, and a large garden. We had relocated to the Madison area a few years ago and bought a house in town. While it had its conveniences, we all missed the land and the birds.

Last fall, we moved back into the country on ten acres in the beautiful Driftless Region of Wisconsin, land untouched by the last glaciation. In a few days, we will welcome the first of our new flock, three Cuckoo Maran hens. For me, it feels a bit like welcoming old friends home.

When the threat of coronavirus passes, we will all come out of our homes and reconnect with family and friends, strengthening our deepest bonds, breathing the fresh air, and revisiting familiar places. We will pick up where we left off, albeit with the changes that life demands. Still, we will pick up and carry on.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

This Tree

I’ve hiked this trail before
winding through a wooded wonderland
in awe
today,
air sweet with the detritus
dampened
by spring’s morning mists,
I breathe
lost in a tree-born revere
my soul plays in the canopy
my toe, earth bound,
snags the arching twist
of an exposed root
hiding under last fall’s rotting leaves
I stumble, startled
catch myself against a tree
its rough bark—a finger hold—
steadies me
I rest my back against this strong friend
yes, this one
whose rude root
tripped me
I trace the root back to this tree
Guilty!
Old Confidant!
this friend
responds with shaking laughter
as the wind rattles
bare limbs
just stretching from
winter’s rest
this tree chuckles
and
breathes me

~

Words and Photography ©2019 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

Posted in poetry & free verse.

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A Teaser…

US Major League Baseball season has been postponed due to the COVID-19, but tomorrow at the godoggocafe.com, we will step up to batting practice with our first drafts in hand. Join me in the Writer’s Workshop for some friendly encouragement, an editorial challenge, and few words from Stephen King. Even if you don’t have a prompt draft, feel free to hop in to the discussion. Participation is welcome at any time.

Stay healthy everyone!

Tanya

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A Grateful Haiku

larval-shaped Monarch

shows Milkweed deep gratitude

with devouring bites

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©2020 Tanya Cliff

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No Turning Back

There is no turning back
Each push,
this birth a struggle
we will win
you and I,
my winsome child
Each push
a little closer
as you cross this swaying bridge
tethered
I’ve got you
almost in my arms
Let there be storms
I will hold you
comfort you, guide you
Each push
we’re almost there now
There is no turning back
to womb’s warmth
Fight through
the pain
the fear
and
cross
Welcome to your life
There is no turning back

my response to the following prompts from these awesome humans:

Beth’s “there will be storms”

Eugi’s “winsome”

Sadje’s photo prompt

Stephen’s Level UP Challenge that combines them with a twist

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

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An Inviting Haiku #2

hand-held wand crackles

casts sparkling, inviting spells

on warm summer nights

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

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Pedal On

We were supposed to turn our swords into plowshares
our spears into pruning hooks,
I thought, as the bombs fell,
as the city fell,
as the dream fell,
through miles of explosions, carnage, blood
This was the wrong stuff haunting my dreams
Pedal on
Pedal on, pedal on
Pedal on
for miles through the end of nightmare streams
flowing like toxic sludge,
clogging the living artery
where hope
in heart-attacked, arrhythmic disturbance
beats on
Don’t stop in this dystopian flow
I never want that again
Don’t end it here
Beat on
Dream on
Pedal on
a road less traveled, rarely journeyed on
few find it
Pedal on
Take up the garden hoe, put down the gun
LOVE your neighbor
LOVE mine
Pedal on
Pedal on, pedal on
Pedal on
to clearly streaming consciousness,
visions stellar
Peace
Take up the garden hoe
and plant
Pedal on
through miles of mountains, valleys, stream
This is the right stuff filling my dreams

~

My response to the prompts from the following wonderful bloggers, taken collectively in Stephen’s Level UP Challenge:

Tuesday Writing Prompt Challenge: Tuesday, 25, 2020

Eugi's Weekly Prompt – Stellar – February 24, 2020

https://lifeafter50forwomen.com/category/what-do-you-see/

(New!) Wednesday’s Level UP Challenge, 2/26/20 and Tuesday’ Writing Prompt Challenge Round UP

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It is also my cry out after yet another mass shooting, this time in Milwaukee, not far from my home.

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

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Cardinals

The sun travels along the arch of a low horizon—the short path
of a winter day
when cold air aches
pressing into our bones
Later, ice-glazed tree limbs crackle
in the midnight winds
heard outside our shut-tight glass
Snow falls, covering
paths, dead leaves, and seeds
In the frigid morning, the birds seek
a meal to sustain them
They gather on our deck
where the filled feeder hangs like a beacon
juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice
jostle with their larger brethren
the hairy woodpeckers with their zebra-striped backs
and the hungry cardinals,
their flaming feathers, a florescent highlighter against the snow,
marking the places where the seed falls
They write their stories in footprints as we watch them:
the male cardinals wait while their partners eat their fill,
then battle with each other for the choicest remains
Chivalrous? or cavalier?
Crimson heroes to their girls
Red villains to each other
Can a man be both things?
Do the history books tell?
For the cardinals, the chronicle of this winter journey
will melt, the empty seed shells scattered
will dissolve
into fresh earth and green grass
But we will remember both hero and villain,
their footprints transcribed in letters
of our poems and prose

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

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Did I Say?

Did I say that I want you?

Alice enters the room and stares at Jimmy, waiting. How can he not remember? He yelled her name three times a few minutes ago. Her knees need replacing, and the hallway—stacked with bins of her half-finished crafts and quilts—requires negotiating. He had sounded afraid, almost panicked. She responded as fast as she could hobble, but, now, he looks up at her, baffled.

Alice’s children had warned her about getting involved with a man that late in life. Her daughter had complained, “He just wants someone to take care of him.” Her son had been less tactful, “He is broke. He needs your money.” What money? Her mortgage had been paid off a few months before her husband died (eleven years ago, but it feels like yesterday), and she is the sole the beneficiary of the modest life insurance policy he left behind. It covers the property tax and puts food on the table, not much more than that. She had heeded their warnings for two years, but Jimmy’s persistent pursuit had proven charming. Or maybe she had just grown weary of driving herself around town and pulling the garbage to the curb once a week.

Jimmy takes the garbage out now, at least if she reminds him; and he is a good driver, provided she pays attention and tells him where to go. When the kids ask her about Jimmy’s driving, she ignores them. (She doesn’t tell them about the woman he nearly hit in the parking lot of the grocery store last month or how she had to grab the steering wheel last week when turned the wrong way down Highway 35.) She hides the car keys from him, so he can only drive when she is with him.

Did I say that I need you?

He had told her that he was going to rake the leaves out back and then watch the golf tournament on tv. His shoes sit on the mat by the back door, clean, empty. He looks at Alice, vacant, the television remote upside down in his hands. The tv is off, the leaves, not raked. Jimmy turns away and stares at the blank tv screen.

Alice wants to yell at him, no, to scream, but Alice loves Jimmy too much to raise her voice. She walks over to him without saying a word and presses the power button on the remote control. He grins as “Wheel of Fortune” lights up the screen. As he fist pumps a correctly guessed letter, he shreds her dreams in a dignified air of victory.

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

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This is my response to Stephen’s Level Up Challenge that combines several prompts. Thanks to all these talented humans for the prompts:

https://godoggocafe.com/2020/02/11/level-up-writing-challenge-2-11-moves-to-the-cafe/

https://godoggocafe.com/2020/02/11/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-tuesday-february-11-2020/

https://lifeafter50forwomen.com/2020/02/10/what-do-you-see-16-february-10-2020/

https://amanpan.com/2020/02/10/eugis-weekly-challenge-love-february-10-2020/

The Playlist

Back from the dead
The tomb did not consume
I am being dramatic
It was just an MRI
It felt like a tomb,
except for the meditation music
I could have selected Alternative Rock
Is there a Spotify playlist across the River Styx?
What tunes comfort that lonely sail?
I don’t know; it was just an MRI
You enter an MRI breast scan face-down,
midsection supported by a narrow bar, breasts—
one still bruised from biopsy—dangling,
Don’t move, for 45 minutes
It is uncomfortable
I am not being dramatic
Technicians cover your eyes with a warm cloth before you enter,
pipe music through headphones
to distract you
from the loud bangs, clicks, whirs
of the mechanical tomb
You choose the tune,
The playlist, so you don’t forget
This isn’t a tomb
Don’t move
It felt like a tomb—
cramped, ill-fitted, distressing, dark
I am back
I am not being dramatic
I am struck by the light at the end of the MRI tunnel
Comforted by the playlist

~

©2020 Tanya Cliff

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