Friday, June 25, 2021

Paintings and Poems: Shadows of Caravans Pass

On May 11, 2021 I lost another sister. Unlike Maureen, she was not a victim of a horrendous crime, not the thirty-ninth victim of a mass murderer. That is, unless you consider the snail-slow progress in cancer and dementia research a crime. Colleen was a victim of Lewy Body dementia, as well as mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. One month after her sixty-ninth birthday her suffering ended.

As I returned to writing poems to pair with Veronique Burke's paintings, I was drawn to the image above and found myself awash in memories. Those memories took shape in the following poem:

Shadows of Caravans Pass

Childhood under starlit skies,

her endless stories filling my young ears.

Treading water – who could last longer?

Riding, grooming, feeding, mucking.


Who left the pasture gate open

that day the nag nearly died?

She shouldered the shame,

but it could have been me.


Somewhere over the rainbow …

A forgotten teen production leaving  

no trace of her young voice.

Only echoes of barnyard rehearsals remain.


She left for college, and

our wilderness adventures ended.

A solitary bus ride to her dorm across state:

first jolt of my early independence.


Flower child wedding of flowing white.

Floppy straw hat over fringe of curls.

Bridesmaid skirts of yellow daisies.

What dreams held this young bride’s heart?


Did she imagine caravans in exotic lands?

Long dark shadows on desert sands?

Woman warrior of mystery and magic?

Or perhaps her dreams hung closer to home.


No longer woman warrior,

nor stoic farmer, nor solid teacher.

Where did she travel when life left her?

A long dreamless sleep – nothing more?


Caravans of memories pass,

tethered by cherished moments in parallel lives.

Woman warrior was here.

Now is gone.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Paintings and Poetry: Coastal Dawn

In February I wrote COVID & Creativity, a piece highlighting artist and friend, Veronique Burke, whose creativity finds voice on canvas as well as in paper mache, pottery and mosaic. The joy she experiences through creative expression is clear in her work. 

Recently Veronique decided to assemble a collection of her favorite paintings and asked some of her writer friends to create poems to pair with her work. I loved the idea and the opportunity to join her in this fun project. To date I've completed four pairings. Here's the first I'd like to share ...

Coastal Dawn

On a cold gray Pacific dawn

In a damp bag inside a damp tent

Salt air, seaweed tang, and strong coffee

Permeate the tight air


The coffee drags me from our tent

Ocean vista my reward

He knows this, he does this for me

To get my aching body moving,

to begin a new day


Huddled tight on a driftwood log

Coffee hot in gloved hands, we listen

To gulls and heron call overhead, and

Gentle waves lap the sandy shore


Awash with sunset memories under bluing sky

We plan our day in early morning calm

As the chatter of day hikers invades,

We hoist our backpacks and head out,

in search of solitude