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Anyone’s Paradise

23 Aug

I recently travelled back home to my native California to spend some much needed time with friends and family and to soak up some sunshine. It was awesome.

As a writer (and a fan of Steinbeck who was always writing about the search for identity), I was looking – and always have been – for the ultimate question: who am I?

As I travel and experience more and more of the planet and spend more time away from my first home, the answer becomes more complex. As I turn back to the Bible and to Jesus who had no home at all, the answer becomes simple… But that doesn’t mean it is an easy one to accept.

Anyone’s Paradise

So the way it goes.

I have dusted my feet with the salted mud of Jordan’s shores
And the golden sands of California
And looked on the dying sun from Ha Long Bay
Between the limestone mirages.

My voice deceives me. I fit neither here nor there
For as fast as sound travels, the air is filled with ideas
About me. How untrue to me they are, there they are:
Floating around me in a cloud of foreign dust.

I don’t blend into anyone’s paradise.

My hair was scissored by a British hand
My white teeth aligned by an American
My skirt hand sewn in Vietnam
My neck adorned by Bedouin artisans
My shoulders wrapped in a Mexican blanket and
My belly full of chapattis dipped in the most fragrant lentils.

Where do I belong? My patchwork self
Embroidered and inlaid with the world’s kindness and smiles.
And so I go.

The Seven Ages of Jen

17 Apr

Happy Birthday to me!

That’s right readers, I have written a birthday poem to help myself reflect on life and come to terms with the incessant aging process. I’m now in my late twenties – there is no denying it – I am definitely out of my mid-twenties and on my way to thirtydom. I keep reminding myself to welcome it with open arms but dang, that is hard. So poetry is my way forward.

This poem is a twist on Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man” from the play As You Like It; however, I have given it an added twist. I haven’t copied the structure. Instead I wanted to challenge myself and write in the sestina scheme. Here is the breakdown of stanzas:

Shakespeare’s seven ages:

My seven ages:

1.    Infancy 1.   Infancy (part of a family)
2.   Childhood 2.   Teenage years (phases that NO ONE wants to relive)
3.   The lover 3.    Young adult (maturing, travelling, committing my life to God)
4.    The soldier 4.    Marriage (current ‘age’) (getting hitched, moving to England, becoming an adult)
5.    The justice 5.    Motherhood (I guess that is next… AHHH!)
6.    Old age 6.    Grandmotherhood (Looking forward to this in a few decades)
7.    Mental dementia and death 7.    Death (I guess it’s one of two guarantees in life)

 So what is a sestina? A sestina is a type of poetry made up of seven stanzas following a complex scheme. In each of the first six stanza the lines end in one of six words and the seventh stanza is short but still also uses all the words as a treat. My six words are:

A = balanced;    B = patient;    C = loved;    D = world;    E = be;    F = sweet.

Stanza 1 Stanza 2 Stanza 3 Stanza 4 Stanza 5 Stanza 6
1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B
2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D
3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F
4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C 5 E
5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A 6 F 3 C
6 F 3 C 5 E 4 D 2 B 1 A

Confused? Don’t worry, it’s the enjoyment of the poem that’s the important bit –  not the fancy schamncy scheme.

So how did I go about choosing these six special birthday words you ask? I asked my friends! Thanks friends!

Enjoy the poem and a happy day to you, especially if it’s your birthday too.

The Seven Ages of Jen

My world is a stage: curtain drawn. A balanced
Part comedy, part tragedy of a not-so-patient
Woman’s journey, learning to love and be loved
And finding her – my – own way in the world.
My mom told me once that I taught her how to be.
I? Only a baby in this gift of family, bittersweet.

Many things children do not see as bitter or sweet –
But they are all gifts. Between school and chores, small hands balanced
Living and growing and learning through trial. I dared to be
Grunged and gothed through the early acts, not patient
But fighting through change in the staged world
Hungrily grasping at what it was to ultimately be loved.

And I, a young woman came to know how to be loved,
Truly, by God. And the moment of sweet
Forgiveness – to know my place in the vast world
Downstage or up, or hiding in the wings. I found myself balanced
Learning to be still. Then, off on adventures to China to find fruit: the patient,
Loving-kindness, goodness, and faithfulness that I can be

And bring to others. And so one day upon my stage I, a wife to be,
My husband appeared at stage right and instantly we loved
Each other in a new way of deep, true, patient
Love, and I savoured those moments so dear and sweet.
And I changed the props to England’s castles and cups of tea and I balanced
New things: baking, blogging, teaching, loving in this wide world.

Now who I can invite to this stage in my new world?
To become a mother next, perhaps I will be
And learn a new dance, a new walk, to be balanced
With a swollen belly, children already loved
And wanted. They will be gentle and sweet
As peas. I will learn again, to be patient.

The audience will want to stand for an ovation – be patient.
I’m still watching them grow, to learn and marry and make a world
Of their own and I’ll treat them all to my dad’s sweet
Secret ingredient recipes. I’ll stand downstage to be
Master of the dramatic soliloquy reflecting on how loved
They are. A comedy, a tragedy, a history: well-balanced.

Then my patient heart will be met with the ultimate bride-groom to be,
Who conquered the world and loved it first.
Then all will be sweet and balanced.