Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lassie in the Sky

Good Dog Lassie . . .

Bidden or not, she
comes to me.  I don't even
know my own peril.

When painting, I often take photos of my work in progress.  Viewing the piece as a photo allows me to see it in a way that first person observation does not permit.  Tonight, when cropping this picture to review, I was immediately drawn to the upper left corner, to the color patterns in the sky.  

There, in plain view, is my childhood dog, Lassie.  It's eerie because she appears in a painting of the the exact house I lived in as a child.  It's a farm house in southeastern South Dakota, Lake County. Lassie loved that farm and the duties required of a farm dog.  She loved herding cattle, following the tractor, fending off feral cats, chasing cars that dared to drive down our road, and all the other things farm dogs have to do.

Her life changed drastically when we moved from the farm to the city - well, to a brand tract house addition newly annexed to Sioux Falls - not quite a city.  It took her awhile to understand that her rural life was gone, that instead she'd be inside a house all day, waiting for her people to come home from school and work.  Some days she'd get to follow me or my sister or brother on our neighborhood explorations, some days she'd have to run hot laps in the back yard to expend her energy.

Lassie loved visits back to my grandparent's farm as much as us kids.  She'd leap out of the car, pay a respectful bark to my grandparents, then take off to check the outbuildings and any livestock that might be around.  At the end of our visit, she'd walk slowly, dutifully to our car, just like the rest of us. Leaving the farm never became any easier for any of us.

I'm not usually a seer or seeker of omens, good or bad. This unexpected appearance of my faithful and unconditional friend, however, comes at a time when I need it most.  I am choosing to see this as a fortunate sign. Good dog, Lassie, good girl.

"Lassie in the Sky" - © Lori Allen 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Feminist Poets

Recently I have been preparing for an upcoming Sunday Service at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames.  I said I would speak on leaving my work as their religious educator and finding my calling in the work I do now, advocacy for victims of sexual assault and abuse.  I was sure that some edgy poem would exemplify and explain all that.  Not so, unless there is some poem I have not yet found.  I am in awe of the clarity and articulation of Feminist Poets.  I know I probably share some of their experiences, but it feels vain to make such a comparison.  A safer route, it seems to me, is to go with the words of the mystics.  Here is a poem I wrote about my experience in searching the poetry of women with powerful, stern voices.

Feminist Poets

I search my personal library’s
tomes, then the internet,
for the works of Feminist Poets
that speak my truth.

I want to find words that explain
to you who do not understand –
just how powerful I am and
how real my struggle has been.

I spend hours surfing, reading,
folding the corners, bookmarking sites.
I’ll come back to these if I can’t find
anything  better.  I’ve been at this all night.

Every minute or so, my head nods, jerks back awake - 
until finally I allow a brief dream-filled sleep.
I dream of a beach late at night where I
observe a secret gathering I will never be invited to join.

Walker, Atwood, Piercy, Plath, and Angelou.
There they are, sitting around a fire with their drinks,
laughing hysterically at the small, nervous
woman just outside their formation.

“Hang on,” sniffles a frustrated Oliver.  She
licks her thumb to get better traction on her pages
and pages of notes.  She is searching for
the words she’s written to impress this powerful circle.

“I write about Nature and Spirit,
Soul and Struggle, Creation, Geese –
metaphors for everything you all write about.”
The laughter stops with her comparisons. 

Guffaws become cynical smirks. Angelou’s eyes
fix on Oliver, “You let them off the hook. . . .” 
Oliver cannot argue with that.
She drops her notes and walks away.

I wake with a start, aware that I do not deserve
to compare my life to the struggles of Feminist Poets.
I get up to open a window in my room, sit back down to
open my laptop.  I google Rumi, Hafiz, Oliver.

                                                ~ Lori Allen ©2017