it is poetry to my ears

I have been floundering, excited about writing my memoirs but not happy about loosing contact with my poet friends, really, really not happy! So, what should I do? Should I write all of the time? Should I write memoir one day and poetry the next? No, for I haven’t the time. Then I came upon a solution that evolved from a thought that I had last year. Most of you know that I absolutely love Japanese forms of poetry. I was ill for more than 1/2 of last year (yes, it appears to be perennial) during which time I studied Japanese poetry, especially haiku, haiga, haibun, tanka. I committed myself to writing one haiku per day during my illness. This act was a spiritual discipline. That is part one. Secondly, the photos from my mother’s WWII scrap books are the real inspiration for this memoir. I wish to honor her work in London during the bombings. She was an awful mother and I did not like her. I came late in life to understand that her poor mothering was in great part a function of the war. For this reason I can tell you that war reaches down through the ages and effects those of new generations. I have finally concluded that this story can only be told through the lens of my own life. I say why not write it using Japanese forms of poetry? How does that sound? I think that it solves all of my problems! It sounds absolutely perfect. It is poetry to my ears. I do not think that it has been done before. The only thing that even comes close is “Walden Pond” re-done in haiku. Tell me what you think. Am I going out on a limb? And oh, one is supposed to start out with a bang, a whopper of a first sentence, or in my case a whopper of a haibun. You are meant to draw one in to your story. For those who may not know, a haibun is prose followed by a haiku. Traditionally this prose speaks of a place, a person or a scene and today memoir. A haiga is art with a haibun or haiku. the art of which I speak is photography.


I was nine years old. I walked into the employee’s cloakroom of my mother’s place of employment. I was a very little kid. I rifled through all of the coat pockets. In one pocket I found $1000. Wow! I stole it. This was 1955. I knew that I had done something really bad because of the feelings of dread in my tummy. But it was a great feeling to have some money. I went to the general store and I bought some candy. I understood the power of money at that young age. I understood it because I had none and my parents had a good bit which they did not share. It was as if we three kids were poverty stricken. Today I remember little else of this episode. I was confronted and caught by my parents. I am not sure how, but I suspect showing up at the general store with a $100 bill in a town of 500 was a dead giveaway. I cannot remember my punishment. My father remedied this situation by giving me a room in the Big Barn. We had the Big Barn and the Little Barn. The horses, the tack room, our riding ribbons, trophies and a large collection of carriages and sleighs were kept in the Big Barn. In my new room in the Big Barn filled with hay and pigeon droppings he put a small roll-top desk for my use. Perhaps this act was in recognition that everyone needed a room of one’s own. I remember nothing else about it. Years later in the 90s I spoke to my mother about it. She was mortified by these memories. Shame wove a deep, ugly and tight thread through my family. Shame is something that follows one for a lifetime unless one both changes and forgives oneself.

smoldering June heat
night cicadas loud above
gentle breeze leaves move

It takes a long time to perfect a haiku. This one was written last night and needs much reworking.

Liz at five - seven years of age.
Shared with fellow poets at both: Poets United – The Poetry Pantry and dVerse’s Poetry Jam where Kelvin of Kelvin’s Poetry Blog has challenged us to use two idioms to inspire our poetry today. I have used my title and “going out on a limb”. Thank you Kelvin.

28 thoughts on “it is poetry to my ears

  1. I have known someone else whose parents went through the war and who had ‘enough’ but didn’t share with their children. So very strange, I always thought, that these children had to even somehow find a way to get their own deodorant when the parents COULD afford. I do think the affects of war are passed down. So are the affects of the Great Depression. They follow into the next generation. I think now of my childhood, and I still have the same kind of mentality I had as a child as far as spending as I did back then. I don’t want to WASTE. This is because my parents grew up in ‘hard times.’ Sad though when a child does not have money to go to the candy store once in a while though, isn’t it? I bet as an adult you are glad you were caught with that extra money, or it would be hard to live with today. $1000 was MUCH more then than it is now, but even now it is a ton of money for an adult OR a kid. I am glad your dad gave you a room of your own. I do think you are right about shame. It CAN follow a person; but we do need to forgive others….and especially ourselves!

    • Mary, I always felt alone in that department (no money) I am glad to have found out directly that I was not. I worked in the summers from the time I was 13. And I was buying my own clothes etc. You are so right about forgiveness – it is the key to everything. The day that Mummy died I had to immediately go to the banks etc. When done I remember driving up Bromley Mtn. and saying OK Lord I forgive my mother for everything she ever did. I went on later to say: “My mother did the best she could.” You know what? Those words never felt right. So, I revised them to say: My mother did the best that she could but it wasn’t very good.” That felt right. It wasn’t until I discovered that she served in London during WWII in the OWI that I fully “got it.” she was not a soldier but was privy to being bombed. I consider that combat and thus in my opinion she had combat PTSD. Thank you.

      • I like the idea of saying to yourself “My mother did the best she could but it wasn’t very good.” I always think about my mother that whatever she did for me she did out of love. She did not have negative motivation. That is what I have said to my daughters too….that if I made mistakes they were not intentional. I always loved and had their best interests in mind. It isn’t easy being a mother. B ut, of course, your mother’s situation was quite different…it seems. PTSD undoubtedly must have had its effects, and it sounds as if she really wasn’t very nice to you. Forgiveness, as you know, is mostly for you; and I do really LIKE your approach. Perhaps only people ‘of a certain age’ really GET this. I don’t know….

  2. I am happy to see you writing the haibun & studying Japanese poetry forms. They are tricky and challenging to do, I agree~

    $ 1000 is a lot of money in those days (and even today) ~ I do agree with you about those early memories having an affect on us later on ~ I have experienced both, days when there’s little money and days when I have more than I need. ~ And I also like your summer haiku ~ Smiles ~

    • Grace thank you. This has been a decision a long time in coming. I am very excited about. Thanks too for the support. The haiku should relate to the prose. I wanted it to reflect both the bad and be followed by good.

  3. thanks for sharing a bit of your story with us… i agree on the shame part.. the only way to stop it is to forgive – the others or yourself or both.. and i also agree on the haiku – the shorter a verse is, the more difficult it is to write a good one

  4. i remember part of this from the night we were talking story…but you have expanded it nicely…and i agree shame carries forward and into multiple generations and we impress it upon our children….which is sad…and some use it as a tool of control….i really like the haiku because it is a breathe of fresh air in the after…

    • Brian, thank you. Life has always been a set of lessons for me (well probably not at 9. But I could learn later on in life from that experience. Thanks about the haiku. It was meant to reflect the prose, something bad turning out to be good.

  5. I love your idea of writing your memoir through haibun. I feel so much empathy for that little girl, kiddo. I like to think perhaps your father felt some compassion for you, in giving you a space of your own. I hope so, anyway. I, like Brian, felt the haiku as a lift, a breath of fresh air, after the closeness of the memory. Fantastic write!

    • Thank you my friend. Yes, my decision is just right. I tend to feel that if I yammered on in prose alone that I would bog down and become maudlin and boring … at least I would bore myself. I know.

  6. I think your selection of sharing your life’s story (memoir) is going to be awesome in the form of Haiku, Haibun, Haiga, Tanka or whatever flows with the moment and the memory.

    As you know of my mom’s current journey, I have realized in the last few years … she did the best she could with the skills she had, and it wasn’t what I needed to thrive and blossom … many difficult lessons/challenges in my own journey as a reflection of this. Neither of my parents would talk of the Great Depression, and my dad would never talk about his time in the service. For these reasons, and the obstacles it placed in my most formative years — I made the conscious decision NOT to have children (initially) and then cancer confirmed the biological aspect of it. It was too important to me to break the cycle. My dad made a wonderful father though, and my mom should not have had any children. Only now, is she realizing the treasures we are. She is almost too tired in her journey to enjoy us at this point. 😦 Ahh the lessons in life.

    Have a blessed week ~~

    • Thank you Becca. Becca I so appreciate your honesty and transparency. I said in a comment above that once I had forgiven my mother I was able to say: “she did the best that she could.” Boy that did not sound right – so after a year or so of being quite dissatisfied with that phrase, I went on to say: “she did the best she could and it wasn’t very good.” That fit the bill.

      We have learned today that stress of any kind causes much illness. The great depression was an horrific stress from which many did not recover emotionally. And large stressors causes PTSD, brain changes that can cause an inability to cope on the lessor side of high stressors. Many combat veterans go way beyond an inability to cope to lead lives of hell. Very little is know about PTSD probably as a result of thinking such as: “Stiff upper lip, don’t be a cry-baby and men don’t have feelings.” Real work is just beginning with PTSD.

      And no, people definitely do not speak of war. And now that I think of it I can see why they will not speak of the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a huge hole and loss on a global scale. That loss infiltrated peoples, hearts, minds and bodies. There was no food, no security, no future, no present. There was death. No, no one would speak of those things.

      I am sorry about your cancer and I hope that you are healthy. Becca, neither parent was able to reach out to us. I do not know the answer to their Midas like ways for they each came from families that retained their wealth during the depression. I was the apple of my father’s eye when I was born. He took me everywhere. Then at about six years of age that ended. The loss of his love is what directed my life completely until about 1973 when I met God. It did continue to pain me terribly. Oh I understood the rationality of the loss of his love. I even went on to say: “well, it is just biology, you are simply the result of sex.” I have always created family wherever I have gone and that compensated. So it was OK. Then in 2005 I had a second spiritual experience and one aspect of it was that (he died in 2003) I experienced his love flowing over and through me for about three months – It was at that time too thatI knew it was combat PTSD with him. I really look forward to being with him in the here after wherever that might be.

      Becca I know your strength, I know where t comes from. I know that what you are going through is vey difficult. I know too that it will bring you blessings. You don’t have to like her or love her, you just have to do what is right. Thank you Becca for being there for me throughout these past many months. I know that you will be OK. (((hugs))) Liz

  7. Dear Liz,

    …first of all, let me just tell you that you are a very inspiring person…. you just truly are… i admire your good heart with all these experiences & memories you had… i always wondered how it feels like living 50 or 70 years ago… how it feels like being on the time of my mother & father… as a child i also have been thru many rejections… among the 4 children of my parents i was the only one not gifted of excellence with academics… it was always tough back then how while my 3 siblings were enjoying praises for dozens & dozens of medals & recognitions for winning quiz bees, topping the class, graduating valedictorians, etc… i was not… i remember when i graduated in elementary i only got one medal for winning an art competition & neither of my parents were excited to accompany me on stage to receive the medal… i was proud of my li’l achievement because somehow i wasn’t that useless to the family of gifted minds & honor… i got the least of attention from my famil, from our relatives, from everyone because i wasn’t that good enough to bring pride… i grew up like an invisible person for noone recognized my presence, noone bothered to appreciate what i can offer, noone actually got the interest to ask how i felt, noone bothered to understand… i started believing i really wasn’t good enough, that i was just an excess in the family, a big shame… i carried those feelings for many years… became a loner, afraid to have friends, always stayed in the library, my room facing history books, science, math hoping somehow i could be as intelligent as my brother & sisters were… so my dad would finally say he’s proud of me…what do you want for chrismas…for your birthday… i grew up fooling myself, creating a perfect image for my perfect family… i created a monster… i hated my parents because they loved me for what i am not… i hated myself because i let my family loved me for what i am not… but then forgiveness indeed is what will set us free… i am more open now about my feelings, i am tired already of how they treated me, it is not fair… now, my words for everyone & not just for my family is: love me for who i am or love me not at all… smiles…

    …Haibun, i think is the best choice to create a memoir Liz… i loved the idea of writing in prose first then leaving a haiku for reflection… when i get your age i will def pursue the same thing… thank you for the inspiration & my apology for messing up too much your place with my dark memories… i just couldn’t resist… smiles… goodluck to your plans…

    • Kelvin thankyou for your kind words. You make me chuckle at the moment with your question of how does it feel to be (for me) 66 years of age. You pretty much feel the same as you did when you were twenty except for two things. If you have learned your lessons in life you have many more defenses against the pain that you encounter in this world at 66 than at twenty. The other thing is that the body begins to fall apart. And, it is most unpleasant!

      Kelvin, at one point in my life having never been demonstrably loved by my parents ( I think that I was in my late 30s – 40s) I just thought to myself, you know Liz they are just your biological parents nothing more. Biology does not determine love. At this point I will have to say that I had grown as a person beyond them. It was almost as if I was older than either parent. When I got to that point it did not really hurt anymore. Oh, there wasn’t anything “nice” about it but I knew that I was “whole.” And I have always been given family wherever I have gone.

      Kelvin, first you have not come here and messed up my blog. You have come here and lovingly shared your story that is a real blessing and honor for me. It is a wonderful thing when you find things in common with another person, even if those things are painful. You have every right to be tired of how they treated you. When I was 13 and like you said: “Tired of how they treated you,” I started working at the little Inn in town during the summers. The owner was a man who was a Broadway actor and the same generation as my family. He became a loving and wonderful father figure to me. He nurtured me and gave me a family away from home. This was a small town. He was the first gay person whom I had ever known. He loved me like daughter. This was a small Inn as I said, there were only 4 of us on his staff, myself, another woman and two young (older than myself by about 5 years) gay men. We were family. Each summer I worked there until I was 18 and left home for good. After work the two young men and I has fun, had a blast going out dancing and drinking and just having a good time. This loving experience set the stage for a large portion of my life to come. As a result, I have been very close to the gay community for all of my life. I have been a long time advocate and activist for gay rights. The most rewarding work that I have ever done was during the AIDS/HIV crisis in the mid eighties to the late 90s. The gay community has given me more love than I could have ever received from a biological family. And just think, if I had had loving parents this would probably not have happened. I would not trade it for the world.

      Kelvin, you have an exceptionally beautiful face. I was drawn to it when I met you here upon the Internet. I could see that you were a kind and loving human being. I don’t keep up with lots and lots of people here upon the Internet, just two handfuls or so. But each is very special to me. Each is kind and caring and adds to my life. You are one of those people. You are a treasure, never forget it.

Your words of response are greatly appreciated.

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