The Poem

Over the past few years as I toyed with the idea of starting a blog, I always got sidetracked by the name. I knew what I wanted to say, that the content of the site would showcase my poetry and prose, perhaps an occasional comment on the culture or politics of the moment, maybe even a rant or two, or a humorous take on the day’s events. What always tripped me up was what to name it.

The first challenge in this cyber world was finding a domain name that was available. Next, was how to connect the name to the content, to make it memorable and easily recognizable, to associate it with its owner. A name is a tag that helps one to be found and a good name, a talisman, whose existence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence.

As often happens in this world, the name found its owner. I had been writing a poem. It began first with a small story about baby squirrels falling out of trees. I added a second musing about mankind’s impact on the natural world, then my response to the tragedy of gun violence and vigilantism, and finally, the grief that followed the unexpected death of my sister. Each poem, each story, mixed metaphors about life and death, captured the pathos, humor, beauty and shadows that coexist for each of us in this material world. The name found me, Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!

Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!

True stories about life, death, nature, and spirituality.

I.
A baby squirrel falls out its nest
hitting, then bouncing off my friend Crystal’s head;
another lands in her front lawn. The next day
her partner Janice finds a third orphan,
running in circles in the grass, frantically, mad as a hatter.
Like Alice in Wonderland, or the Wizard of Oz, it’s clear,
we’re not in Kansas anymore.
“It’s raining frogs,” says Janice,
referencing the Bible while mixing metaphors.
Yes, like Chicken Little,
the sky is falling on the crowns of lesbians
and at the feet of Mother Nature.

II.
Canaries in the coal mine
died off years ago;
safety yellow, feathered friends,
early warning signs,
sacrificed their fragile lives saving ours.
Who will sing their songs?
Now bee colonies collapse
from immune-deficiency disorder and from pesticides
designed to kill the mites that kill the bees
now destroy the colonies.
Who will pollinate the crops and flowers?
The southern right whales beach themselves
on Argentina’s Patagonia coast,
80% of the dead are calves,
the future of the species.
Who will birth their babies?
Oil erupts into the Gulf,
an accident caused by greed and exploitation,
spewing, puking, spitting upon, floating, coating,
killing our ancestors,
born from the oceans, shores, and sky,
the birds, fish, crustaceans, and reptiles.
Who will wash their shells, their fins and feathers,
clean their eyes so they may see, clear their mouths so they may breathe?
Mother Nature is in trouble
she cries out for our attention
in tears of acid rain;
the balance of life endangered
as she lays martyrs at the threshold
of our homes, our planet.

III.
Spring has burst forth from winter’s grayscale
in vernal shades of green, lush and vibrant,
green, a color intermediate in the spectrum between
yellow and blue, an effect of the wavelength of light
found in nature, the color of most grass and leaves
while growing, of some fruits while ripening,
and of the sea, where our ancestors crawled to shore
to live in the sun and breathe in the air.

Flowers are reborn, hibernating bulbs,
buried deep beneath the earth, awaken, rise again,
force their shoots through the soil’s veneer,
signaling hope. Crocuses are God’s answered prayers
for new beginnings, as daffodils sing notes
of brilliant yellows, while tulips and hyacinths harmonize
like a rainbow of voices, forsythia bloom
in yellows and whites, magnolias offer
their airbrushed petals to the heavens
in pastel pinks and lilacs and the red and black buds
of silver maples begin to open.

The world is alive in living color, while a boy is dead,
a martyr, a young black man, murdered,
by fear, ignorance, racism, vigilantism and a gun.
I imagine him walking from the corner store
with a youthful skip and swagger, perhaps a hand
holding up his pants as is the current style. Maybe he’s singing
or talking to himself, daydreaming about simple pleasures,
of an iced tea and bag of Skittles.

Most of us never know the moment our life will end.
I imagine Trayvon, yes, let me invoke his name
so we may never forget, Trayvon Martin,
didn’t know this was his last day on earth.
My mind is fixated on the tragedy of his death
and my heart is broken. I’m obsessed with the bag of Skittles
and want to know its meaning as if it will somehow explain
the senseless murder. I think each brightly-colored, fruit-flavored disk,
represents the innocence and brilliant colors
of youth, of dreams unrealized, life unlived,
and the bright hopes of a future unfulfilled.

We mourn, we pray, seek justice; we remember Trayvon Martin.
I envision his body, buried in the earth as his spirit visits
loved ones to say his last goodbyes. I imagine him
look in wonder at the thousands of young black, brown and white youth
wearing hoodies and carrying Skittles like talismans to his memory.
As his soul reaches heaven (and I hope there is one),
a rainbow signals his arrival while a gospel choir
of angels welcomes him home.

IV.
On learning of the unexpected death of my sister

Letting go and grief — and dying
are like falling down the rabbit hole.
You don’t know where you’re going
until you’re already gone.
The trip, first a step, becomes a leap.
When you reach the blackness of the big empty
you’d be remiss if you think
you know the destination;
the journey both a puzzle and recursive rule
is like unfolding nested Chinese boxes or
playing with Russian Matryoshka dolls.
Inside one is another, from big to small — to smaller.
Words like rungs of a ladder help us
reach the opening of the last door
then begins the recapitulation,
leading to revelation, resignation,
but it’s the bleeding,
the tears and the ache in our bones,
that take us home from the beginning to the end
and finally, resolution.

Linda Lenzke

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