Brenda’s Favorite Things

Patriot Coffee Cream Cruffin from Born & Bread Bakehouse

Patriot Coffee Cream Cruffin from Born & Bread Bakehouse

To start this post-election season off right, I’ve decided to share things that make me happy. I’m calling it Brenda’s Favorite Things. Once a week for the next month, I’m giving away one of my favorite things to one lucky person. You don’t have to be local to take advantage of the giveaway. I’m offering an alternate prize (a $5 Amazon gift card) if you’re out of the area.

Last year, I fell in love with a cruffin. So much so that I wrote a poem, Umami, about it on pinacasa, my poetry blog. Jennifer Smurr, maker of my beloved cruffins (Yes, Jenn, I’ve claimed them as my own!) and owner of Born & Bread Bakehouse, is still making magic…and cruffins.

I’m starting off Brenda’s Favorite Things with a cruffin (or another one of Jenn’s pastry creations) giveaway. For a chance to win, all you have to do is 1) share one of my previous Facebook posts or one of my pinacasa posts, 2) join my email list on my website, and 3) leave a comment on this Facebook post letting me know.

Giveaway ends Friday, November 18, 2016 at 5 p.m. EST. I’ll contact the winner shortly after.
Good luck!!

World-building

According to Junot Diaz (and ok, a lot of other writers), world-building is important in all fiction writing. Actually, I’d expand that thought to all writing–and life.

Writers or not, we all are world builders. We choose between the couscous or the rice pilaf. We choose friends and lifemates. With every decision, we make our world.

Juan Felipe Herrera unveiled his project, la familia (the family), for his stint as our new U.S. Poet Laureate. La familia (the family) is a collaborative project open to all Americans to help in telling America’s (our) story.

World-building, if you will, and giving us all a part in it.

I’m excited about having a chance to be part of such a big thing. I want to dive in and add my voice to project…BUT I’m also afraid. Afraid my voice is too insignificant, my writing too juvenile. That I’m too…silly, somehow.

So I’ve decided to start on a small scale and locally (or as local as the internet and social media allows) to begin, InCollaboration, my own collaborative poem project with you. I invite you — poet and non-poet — to help me fashion a series of poems.

Together we’ll build a world.

 

I Often Feel Silly

It grabs on the point of waking
a previous night’s remark
or the moment of my birth.

In the middle of joyful dance
I become ankles, elbows,
geometric angles.

After the echo of our lovemaking,
I cringe. There is no place, no
time, it is not. Even here–

my voice, now,
speaking to you.

Things Afoot

Rambunctious. Radical. Raring to go. Reckless.

Have you ever felt like that? I feel all of it and more. I’m coming out of my skin.  Out of this old skin, into something…new?

Or is this just me finally coming into bloom?

Whatever it is, it’s electrifying. Or, in the words of poet Nikky Finney, pencilfrying.

Something is definitely afoot.  Watch this spot!

 

The Blackened Alphabet
by Nikky Finney

 

While others sleep
My black skillet sizzles
Alphabets dance and I hit the return key
On my tired But ever jumping eyes
I want more I hold out for some    more
While others just now turn over
shut down alarms
I am on I am on
I am pencilfrying
sweet Black alphabets
in an allnight oil

 

Lynn Carol Nikky Finney, “The Blackened Alphabet” from Rice. Copyright © 1995 published by Sister Vision: Black Women and Women of Color Press.

Refinement

Write every day.  That’s the advice every writer gets at some point in her/his life.  Which sounds paradoxically daunting and enticing.

Years ago, when I was in love with writing but fear kept me away, I read books by Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron among others.  From Natalie, author of Writing Down the Bones, came the idea of fearlessness and trying new things, like spontaneous writing booths and timed writing, along the writing journey.  From Julia, author of The Artist’s Way, came the idea of morning pages and ignoring the inner critic.  I tried both off and on–more off than on–for years but fear kept it all from sticking.

I keep discovering life has a way of reinventing itself and dragging me along with it.  Morning pages became evening pages for me and the discovery of the website, 750 Words, birthed the poem below.

 

 

Refinement

 

My head is on fire, a blush of heat

rises from my chest.  I split

my skin, pulling it down and off

the scaffolding of bones.  Air it out,

this center of me.  Unsecret the deepest

parts.  Light cleansing all dark corners

and dim fetid parts.  It is good

in the simplest and best way.   Open

to the elements and self.

 

Room for others

Sometimes I have to remind myself it’s not all about me.  I have to make room in this life for others.  Otherwise, life’s not worth living.

With that  firmly in mind, I’m sharing a most excellent poem, Happiness, from The Poetry Foundation by a favorite poet of mine, the late Jane Kenyon.

Happiness

by Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Jane Kenyon, “Happiness” from Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Poetry (February 1995).

 

La Vie En Rose

Recently I stumbled upon a reference to La Vie En Rose, an old favorite of mine, in a romance and had to hear Edith Piaf. It was so wonderful listening to it, evoking my first trip to Europe: my hubby and me sitting at a small table in a narrow cobblestone alleyway in Sorrento, enveloped in a mixture of accents: Italian, German, Spanish and, of course, French.

La Vie En Rose

Piaf’s voice, a lazy tremolo,
dresses me in gray      a pencil skirt
black piping at the sides
stockings seamed along the length of leg

a creamy silk blouse slips
along both arms           smoothing over
my torso to disappear
into the skirt’s snug embrace

in the charged space at record’s end
a resonant answer       you in dove gray
broadcloth warmed from your body
stalwart thighs in cuffed black slacks

At Home in the World

Some years ago, I went to New York and Connecticut.  I attended the New Yorker Festival; hit the Metropolitan Museum; took a train from Grand Central Station to visit friends and walked miles. It was glorious.

Yet, my small town heart suffered.  Where I’m from, we speak to people on the street, whether you know them or not.   Heck, we even say Hey! to drivers in cars as we wait to cross the street.  In Riverside Park, I met a most wondrous little pug named Olive.  She made me feel right at home.

Riverside, Manhattan, New York

The verdant piece of parkland at 80th and Riverside,
a repotted scrap of home, is filled with clusters
of walkers, dogs and owners in tow.  My small town heart
breaks its restraints and I call unacknowledged

hellos to pets and their humans, to squirrels in hiding
and flocks of sparrows barely visible among browning
leaves and grass.  I move deeper into the park, chilled
out and in, when she makes her move.  Her brindled body

travels in the perfect trajectory of meeting.  Unsure of intent,
I turn to face her.  A lolling smile, the radiating warmth
of flesh leaning into flesh and a rapid swipe of tongue
against my leg and she’s off to her next welcome.

Color A World

There’s nothing like the smell of crayons to reclaim childhood.  As a kid, I spent hours sprawled on the floor–coloring book center stage and all of a 64-count box of Crayola crayons scattered around me.  Coloring was my meditation and play well into junior high school.  Now I’m well into adulthood and I rediscover the joy of coloring books, crayons (and gel pens) every 15 years or so.  Long Live Crayola!

 

you take a gel pen and place
a chartreuse swipe within the lines
of a flower        maybe gerbera
or ox-eye          could be sunflower

 

you follow the curve of petal
remake it into yours in saffron
in azure       is it rudbeckia
or black-eyed susan

 

you don’t care about realism
whether it follows proper form
because it is whatever you want
your need right now

 

you focus on the drawing
let it fill your eye’s horizon     color
a hand-reach outside expectation
bold enough to muffle feeling

 

 

Take A Look

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

 

Look up in the mirror
The mirror look at me
The mirror be like baby you the sh*t
God dammit you the sh*t
You the sh*t, you the sh*t
God dammit you the sh*t
God dammit you the sh*t
You the sh*t, yes sir

 from Feelin’ Myself by  will.i.am and Wiz Khalifa

 

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to look at yourself in the mirror.

 

 

Take A Look

 

Do you see that face reflected there?  The one
dark and sharp with yearning. How to answer
the question those eyes ask. You tremble
when they hold your own, don’t you?

 
Hold still now and take it.  Interrogation
is daunting, is it not?  Especially face to face.
Turning away won’t save you. Come back.
This a face you know.

 

It is yours.

 

Umami

I’ve never understood people who say they only eat to live.  As for me, food is my friend.  Just as you would with a close friend, I spend a lot of time with it on my mind.  😀  So imagine my surprise when saw this picture about five weeks ago. I had never heard of a cruffin.  Now it’s all I can think of thanks to a new bakery I found out about.

Interestingly enough, I am not even remotely a “bread” person usually but… Too bad I’m already taken or I’d marry that coffee cream cruffin in a snap.  Funny, the things you discover about yourself.

Umami

crust, burnished and butttery
dusted in white grains of sweetness filled
with the lush unctiousness of coffeed cream
a deep-bodied bouquet of dark chocolate
and round-jaggedness of salt
or the sunny wholesomeness of strawberry
married to the airy neutrality of yeast