Category Archives: Poetic Musings

Christmas Poem

‘Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Lay teenagers sleeping
A snoring husband and one grouch.

The election was over
(The whole country lost)
And my heart’s temperature
Could rival Jack Frost’s.

Recent politics and worry
Were still stuck in my head.
Sleep wouldn’t come
So I tossed in my bed.

So far I’d not heard
One jingle bell ring.
Where was the joy
This season should bring?

When suddenly a noise
Cut into my doom and gloom
A crash, some clatters
A few bangs and one boom!

Could it be? Was it really?
Could Santa be here?
Had he arrived just in time
To bring me Christmas cheer?

As usual, my cohabitants
Kept snoring away
I peeked out the window
For a glimpse of the sleigh.

No reindeer in sight,
I wrapped up in my gown,
Headed for the stairs
And then made my way down.

Anticipation mounting,
The living room drew near,
I softened my footsteps,
Stayed silent to hear.

Would old Saint Nick
Finally be caught in the act?
Would forgotten childhood magic
Come flooding back?

My excitement was palpable
I was giddy with glee.
I still couldn’t believe
Santa was here to see me!

I got my camera ready.
(I’d do whatever it took
To get of a photo of Santa
To post on Facebook.)

Unable to contain
My impatience much more,
My iPhone and I,
We burst through the door!

And what did my wonder-filled
Eyes get to see?…
The cats had knocked over
The damn Christmas tree.

No Santa, no sleigh bells,
No presents galore.
Just tinsel and ornaments
Scattered all on the floor.

As has been the mother’s duty
From the dawning of time,
I stooped down to clean
A mess that wasn’t mine.

This story could end here.
A sad tale, yet true.
But this is not
What a poet must do.

A poet finds lessons
In all that abounds,
A poet must turn
This sad story around.

While sweeping up tinsel
I found in its wake
Homemade childhood ornaments
With nary a break,

Presents still wrapped with
A mother’s loving care
For children, nearly grown,
Still sleeping upstairs.

I swept up the mess
In my warm, cozy home,
Sat down on the couch
In the silence, alone.

Realized this ole world
Would keep turning around
Even as politics and Christmas trees
Come crashing down.

The life that still mattered
Surrounded me in this place,
My family and I?
We’d still show loving grace.

We’d treat strangers with kindness
We’d put others at ease
We’d help others up
When brought to their knees.

The spirit of Christmas
(Acceptance and love)
Was still in our hearts,
Still what we were made of.

No President, no politics
Would be changing that.
Our family, each other,
That’s where it’s at.

Looking around at the tidy
Living room once more,
I rose from the cushions,
Put my feet on the floor.

Enough of this sadness
Enough of this gloom
I’d put myself back together
Just as I’d done this room.

Tomorrow was Christmas
A good time to begin
To move back towards the person
I was once again.

Nothing would put me
Back into that slump,
Not even the thought of
Old President Trump.

I went back to my husband
And turned out the lights.
Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night.

christmas-cat

***

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
– Charles Dickens

American Minority

I am ashamed.
I look around my people and behold
Multitudes atop their thrones of privilege;
Masses upon their domains of ease,
Of abundance,
Of ignorance.

I am disheartened.
I witness displays of false compassion
(That extend no further than locked front doors.)
I glimpse wealth and comforts reserved
For only those of like complexion,
Like proximity,
Like beliefs.

I am troubled.
I observe hardships beyond our borders,
Anguish which my privileged land knows not.
Guilt consumes me as the truth seeps in:
These are my people.
Am I one of them?

I am lost.
Lost in an ocean of animosity;
Drowning in a sea of indifference.
(One shaky, quiet voice amidst hordes of hostility.)
Am I just a whisper?
Can anyone hear me?

Traces

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
– Albert Pike

Traces

Leave behind a legacy, friends
Carve your names in stone;
Be remembered for what matters
For what is you and you alone.

For the artist, be remembered
For a canvas filled with swirls;
For the dancers, make your memories
Of pirouettes and twirls.

For the writer, leave the beautiful words
That you were born to say;
For the actor, leave those scenes to last
Far beyond the stage.

Musicians leave your music,
Singers leave your songs;
For when we leave behind these parts of us
We’re never really gone.

***

In memory of our friend and fellow actor, Michael Yelton.
Your legacy lives on.

oliver2

***

“Choosing to be in the theatre was a way to put my roots down somewhere with other people.
It was a way to choose a new family.”
– Juliette Binoche

More Than Words

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe

I was just recently given an awesome opportunity to be a part of an art exhibit.  Yep, you heard that right.  An art exhibit.  Me…the girl who can’t even draw stick figures…in an ART exhibit!  How do ya like them apples?!

Okay, so there was a bit of a catch. I wasn’t allowed to draw. Or paint. Or color. Or create stick figures. They just wanted my words.

Words. In an art exhibit!

When I first heard about this idea, I was a little confused. Um…you want my words in your art exhibit? Come again? But once I started getting into and realizing what this whole thing was about, I was blown away by the idea.

So, here’s how it worked.  Our local Ashe County Arts Council paired up local writers with local artists. (What their criteria was in this selection process is beyond me, but somehow they managed to pair me with exactly the right person. I know that without a doubt.  My artist partner Gerry and I clicked from the get-go.)  Once our pairs were determined, we were given a “project.”  I was to give Gerry something I had written, and she was to give me something she had painted.  She was to use the writing I had given her to inspire a new work of art.  And I, in turn, was to use her painting to inspire a new written work of art.

Pretty cool, huh?

And then, as part of an exhibit that opened up on September 10, each artist/writer pair’s work was hung in the art gallery together – side-by-side with the piece of art that inspired their creation.  The official reception for the artists and writers and anyone who wanted to view their works was on the night of Friday, September 12. Gerry and I found each other and, while standing near our display, found ourselves overcome with the emotional responses our work brought about.

Now, I can’t speak for Gerry, but as a writer – this was pretty new to me.  I’m not used to “watching” people read my work.  You know?  I write it – I send it out in the world – and then I just hope it touches someone somewhere who may have needed to hear it. I may get feedback sometimes, but it’s rare that I get to actually see their responses.  This night, though?  Oh, this night was so different.

morethanwords

Photo by Chris Arvidson

This picture here to the right is a photo that my dear friend and fellow writer Chris Arvidson took that night.  I would have remembered this moment forever even without the photographic evidence, but I can’t believe that she was so eloquently able to capture it at just the right time.  This woman, among others, was actually moved to tears after reading what I had written and seeing Gerry’s painting that accompanied it.  The photo captured her turning back to us to tell us how much it had meant to her.

Wow.

Isn’t that the coolest?

This is why I do what I do, people. This is why musicians make music. Why singers sing. Why painters paint. Why actors act.  We do these things for this moment right here.  To know that for just one moment in time, two human beings became one in their emotions. Someone out there looked at what we created and said, “Yes.”  That’s it.  Just yes. Yes, I have felt that.  Yes, I know that feeling.  Yes, I know you.  Thank you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’m telling you people, there’s nothing like it.

morethanwords2So, if you’re local, do yourself a favor.  Go by and check out this exhibit.  It will be on display through October 4th at the Ashe Arts Center, located at 303 School Avenue, West Jefferson, North Carolina. Gerry and I are just one of many pairs that have contributed to this, and each story, poem, painting, and piece of artwork tells a story that you need to hear.  Come by and have your emotions reawakened.  After all, that’s the beauty of art in all its forms, isn’t it?

(And by the way, you’ll definitely want to see what Gerry created from my poem Escape.  A photo just wouldn’t do it justice. You’re going to want to see this one in person.)

And now, in closing, I’ll leave you with the poem Gerry’s market painting inspired me to write.  It’s entitled “Market Visitor.”

Thanks for being here, my fellow humans!  Stop to notice something special today, won’t you?

Market Visitor

What’s that I see coming near?
She must be lost. Why’s she here?
She stops to stare—is it at me?
Oh how I wonder what she sees.

What’s that she’s taking—a photograph?
She wants my picture? What a laugh!
Surely there must be some mistake,
What image is here for her to take?

“Hello there, old girl,” she says with glee,
“Oh, what a sight you are to see.
The forgotten beauty of a long-lost saint—
Ah, what a joy you’ll be to paint.”

An artist? With an interest in me?
Underneath all this ruin, could she see?
The people I’ve seen come and go,
The life I’ve lived—how does she know?

Does she see beyond the tattered boards,
The broken windows, rotting doors?
As she gazes at outer walls worn thin,
Does she know of all the life within?

Can she hear the laughter of children at play,
Hear the hustle and bustle from back in the day?
Does she see the past once filled with life
The fun-filled days, the peaceful nights?

The pleasantries once exchanged within
The constant motion, ceaseless din—
Are now only memories in this silent shrine
Slowly fading away with the passage of time.

And yet with one visit, something feels refreshed
I pull myself together, try to look my very best
For the story behind these shadows might finally be seen
All because one artist took the time to stop and notice me.

– Melissa Halsey Caudill, 2014

Flower Garden Theory

heartgarden

Flower Garden Theory

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them –
Water
Soil
Fertilizer
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
Hurriedly, we share our garden with pride
“Look!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Here, take a flower for a while!
Just bring it back, ok?”

And what happens?

Some bring the flowers back
Beautiful and bright as ever
Well–tended
Sometimes in even better shape than before
We put them back in their rightful place –
The garden is as perfect as ever.

But sometimes.

Some bring the flowers back…not so beautiful
They haven’t taken care of them at all
They are wilted
Withered
Thirsty
We put them back in as best we can
But they no longer belong.
They are changed.

And sometimes still.

Some don’t bring the flowers back at all.
They didn’t realize they weren’t theirs to keep
They have cast them aside
Forgotten
(Or maybe they are thieves)
The garden now has an empty spot.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them –
Water
Soil
We make adjustments.
We remove the dead flowers from yesterday
(They didn’t make it through the night)
We adjust the borders to fill in the empty spots
Our garden is smaller
But still beautiful
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
We share our garden with pride
(Perhaps a little less pride than yesterday, however)
“Look!
Isn’t it beautiful?
Here, take a flower for a while!
Just bring it back, ok?”

The cycle repeats.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Each morning we arise and tend to them –
Water
Soil
We make further adjustments.
We remove more dead flowers
Adjust the borders for even more empty spots.
Our garden is smaller
But still beautiful
(Sort of)
…and out we step into the world.
People pass by.
We start to share our garden…
But the pride has decreased
(Is it worth showing anymore?
Can they be trusted?)

We change our minds.
We keep our gardens to ourselves

For if we keep sharing…
They may disappear.

Our hearts are flower gardens.
Fenced-in.
Private.
Secure.

#tbt Poetry – Aspiration

For all two of you who are reading these throwback Thursday poems, here’s the one for this week.  Circa 2002 or so.

***

Aspiration

You keep me going.
You make sure I take just one more step
Go that one extra mile
Take that final leap.
(You are responsible for all that!)
You fill my heart with music –
My mind with phrases –
My pen with energy.
What would I be without you?
Who would I be without you?

Ode to the dreams that have not yet faded…

***

medream