Poem-A-Day: Stephanie Pilar

We had some interesting weather in Houston in the wee hours of this morning. A hundreds-of-miles-long squall line of impressive thunderstorms stretching from west of Austin to east of New Orleans tore through the region, the thunder and lightning interrupting our sleep. Even after all the hurricanes I’ve lived through, and there have been some doozies, I admit I still like thunderstorms at night when I’m sleeping and my whole family is home and safe. This morning we awoke to an area-wide internet outage that lasted for many nerve-wracking hours, but others in our city fared far worse by losing all power.

My relationship with the weather is complicated. I was terrified of storms when I was a child; I stopped having anxiety attacks over them literally in ninth grade. I remember the exact moment of it: I was sitting in my French class on the second floor of the school building, facing the windows. The view was normally filtered through the green foliage of the trees in the courtyard below us, but that day was a thunderstorm day, and everything past the window blinds was wet and dark and eerie. I said to myself, You’re in high school now. It’s time to grow up. It’s just rain.

I cannot explain the mechanics of how that miracle occurred.

So now I try not to get worked up about storms, and on the menu of things I could panic about, somehow these have mostly fallen off. I’m not going to question it; I’m just grateful and hope it lasts.

Tonight, I hope you’ll enjoy this poem by Mutabilis Press poet Stephanie Pilar. It touches on some of the bonkers contradictions of Houston’s rich and weird culture.

 

Hurricane Years Are Snow Years

My overgrown oak,
she hides the world from me.
She has sucked up all the hurricane.
Now she houses birds, all the birds.

Winter has hard killed so much of the bayou.

The neighbors say that this is what happens,
a hurricane later brings snow,
and that this was foretold, it has happened before,
hurricane years are snow years.

I never know where science is in all this.
The bayou is filled with magic and superstition
and God and Fox News.

“Have a blessed day,” they say.
I say it right back.

Does it matter what you believe?
Or does it matter what everyone else believes?

Even the most materialistic says,
not just that the hurricane foretold snow
but the solar eclipse may have set things in motion,
or at least been a sign of what had already been set in motion.

The universe shifts gears uncomfortably, we feel the grinding.

Are the gods angry? Or just laughing?

The sky is framed by branches more beautiful
than any sculpture in a museum.

We walk the installation of our streets.

Every tree reveals its nest.

Sea mists and mockingbirds.
Gray and white and silver and still.

So still.

Still.

 

***

Go to this month’s first Poem-A-Day to learn how to participate in a game as part of this year’s series. You can have just a little involvement or go all the way and write a cento. I hope you’ll join in!

***

Stephanie Pilar first visited Big Bend National Park in 2010 and had the good fortune of moving to Friendswood, Texas, in 2011. Before that, her adventures in Texas included a childhood road-trip from Colorado to Guatemala, during which time she saw her first roadrunner and giant cacti while listening to her stepdad yodel, “I’m A Long Tall Texan,” as he pretended to drive the long, straight roads with his eyes closed. She would always “Remember the Alamo.” And the Riverwalk. And the silence. And all the stars…

Monday Earworm: The Scorpions (again)

Back at the end of August last year, Hurricane Harvey really did a number on the Gulf Coast. And in Houston, where I live, the devastation was widespread and long-lasting; our city got a lot of attention because it’s so big, but many other communities in this region were even more ravaged than we were. And here we are, the next summer, and a lot of people whose homes were flooded have either just started moving back into their renovated houses or are still displaced.

But as Houston has demonstrated time and again, we are nothing if not resilient. We need mind-bogglingly massive updates to our enormous infrastructure and a much, much more competent state government, but until we get those, we at least have our attitude. After Harvey, my Monday Earworm was “Rock You Like A Hurricane” by The Scorpions.

To kick off the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season last week, I’m restarting the Monday Earworm series again with another really excellent Scorpions song. Although the connotation in the song is really different from how I feel about my city, and especially about its ridiculous weather for half the year and its current unreasonable heat wave, dear Houston, there’s no one like you.

 

Poem-A-Day: Carol Louise Munn

The weather in Houston has been somewhat typical for 21st-century April around here. Winter is generally over, but about once a week we’re getting serious cold fronts coming through on the coattails of spectacular thunderstorms. They wake us from slumber then rock us back to sleep, and in the morning we have to dig our coats back out for the morning commute. A day or two later, perhaps after what feels like one last fire in the fireplace, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the temps are trending warmish, the breezes feel glorious, and I’m excited about our weather for just a little while.

I try to savor these days. Sometimes I go out dressed not quite warmly enough just so I can appreciate the cold one last time before the heat sets in. Come summer, it will oh it will. I think the gardening industry is going to have to create a new zone for us. I don’t think zone 9 or 10 really can capture how it gets here in July and August.

***

Severity

What we water in July may live
or may curl black onto one stalk
dark in the crisp ground.
So begins the middle of summer:
birds fighting over the birdbath,
bats flitting above the empty lot
next door. Morning Glories thin
on the vine, brown strings
tying the yellowed leaves
together. Only the oleander
thrives in drought.
Pink petals extend the length
of branched spires reaching
for sun. We wake early
for the respite before dawn
when we work outside
trimming visible death.
We live for morning when hot
coffee tastes good in our mouths.
The heat will rise like mountains
certain as the will to survive.

***

Carol Louise Munn teaches Creative Writing to adults at the Women’s Institute of Houston after a long career of teaching English and Creative Writing in schools and universities both in the U.S. and in Spain. She earned her MFA at the University of Michigan where she won an Academy of American Poets prize. She has been published in Poetry, Mutabilis Press, Houston Poetry Anthology, and other literary journals, and she presents Creative Writing workshops in several schools in Houston.

12 Days of Christmas Music That Isn’t Awful (Day 4)

So much of the Christmas music I encounter is from the 1940s and 1950s.  It seems a certain nostalgia for this time period follows the winter holidays about half the time.  I’ve been trying to puzzle out why, what it’s about.  If you have any ideas, please post them in the comments here.

In the meantime, here’s a song from 1941 that I happen to love.  It’s not specifically about any holiday in particular, but about the weather, and since I live in a place where it’s easy to love the weather in the winter time…

Here’s Peggy Lee and Art Lund and the Benny Goodman Orchestra with “Winter Weather.”  Enjoy the song and the charming slideshow of Peggy Lee!

 

 

Fashion Friday 3/22/13

Today’s installment of Fashion Friday has been written by guest blogger Margo, my hat-wearing partner-in-crime and the Stay-at-Home Economist.  Her blog has tackled the enormity of the recent new health care legislation and explained it in very down-to-earth terms.  But aside from being incredibly smart and creative and motivated, she also has a penchant for girly-cute things.  Check out how she weathered the transition from Houston to Seattle.  (And here’s a clue:  I just made a pun.  Hee.)  Here’s the link.

Remember, if you want to be a guest contributor to Fashion Fridays, please look over the previous FF posts and then email me with your idea to forest.of.diamonds@gmail.com.

Cheers!