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Last weekend a writing group friend, Bob Kralapp, and I did a poetry reading at Clare Bridge in Middleton. Clare Bridge is a “memory care facility” and, from what I could tell, a very nice, caring one. When you’re buzzed in, the front room has a fireplace burning, comfy couches and wing chairs. There are framed photos of residents in various activities in perched on tables and the mantle. Also very obvious was the lack of smell I’m going to just call “disinfectant” — that smell is what actually kick-starts the fear in your lizard brain. That smell transports you back to the time when you were little and went to visit Grandma in The Home, or had to go to the hospital when you broke your collar bone or sit in the waiting room while your Dad went to visit Uncle Bob at rehab. . . It was so not there, that I noticed it.

Some residents were waiting for us in the activity room when Bob and I came in. Most were ambulatory and sat in chairs with walkers parked at hand. A few were in wheelchairs. Most of the women were dressed specifically for Valentine’s Day in pink or red, with heart-shaped jewelry.

As we read, they were (mostly) quiet, but sometimes commented randomly. Not all that different from a coffee-shop poetry slam now that I think of it. One resident did call me “ornery,” though. I’ve tucked that away for some future poems.

Here’s a poem I read for them:

 

This Winter

This winter is the winter I catch him.

What? You don’t believe that old myth, do you?

 

I’ll layer up and slog through snowy drifts.

Zillions of snowflakes dizzying down around me.

Everyone else will be inside cupped around cocoa

and melty marshmallows, but they’ll miss the clues.

 

This winter I finally know when to catch him.

It won’t be during an early November or even December snow.

This winter, he’ll wait until late,

when our backs are achy and

even the snow angels have gotten up, dusted off,

and left for choir practice. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Don’t scorn your life just because it’s not dramatic, or it’s impoverished, or it looks dull, or it’s workaday. Don’t scorn it. It is where poetry is taking place if you’ve got the sensitivity to see it, if your eyes are open.”

Philip Levine, describing what he learned from William Carlos Williams

NPR aired a story this morning about Philip Levine, who died this last weekend at 87. As I heard listened to the story, I re-opened my eyes on my drive to work. Here are just a few of the things I saw:

A big red garage door, vanity on long beige metal building

A license plate that read HUG after the numbers – did they do that on purpose?  or lucky?

The cars driving around me, their shiny colors muted by dried salt and grime

Three men statued on the sidewalk in front of the building, heads bent over their phones as I walked by -They’re missing stuff! What if I had been young and pretty?

Read or listen to the full story here: http://www.npr.org/2015/02/15/384096472/philip-levine-who-found-poetry-on-detroits-assembly-lines-dies-at-87 . Then go notice something.