Sunday, November 23, 2008

Think Warm, Think Peace

As we head into the holiday season with Thanksgiving just around the corner, arctic cold has settled over western New York, thanks to the gale-force winds called Alberta Clippers that have barreled south out of the high north. Even folks in the deep south are feeling the chill, so reports my friend and poet Beau Cutts from Georgia. Brrr!
So I'm trying to think warm thoughts and have been looking at photographs from trips to balmy Florida in winters past. I took this photo of coral reefs and mangrove islets in the Florida Keys from the front seat of an open-cockpit biplane last winter. I ponder the turquoise water and imagine snorkling off the bow of the fishing boat. My fingers and toes are still cold, but I'm warmer inside.
Among the many, many things for which I am thankful for this season, not the least of which are my husband, family, friends, and President-elect Barack Obama (!!!!!!), I'm grateful to a fellow named James Penha, editor of The New Verse News (, who nominated my poem "The Shells" for a Pushcart Prize, one of the more prestigious literary accolades. It was a first for me and I'm honored. It also came as quite a surprise. This poem is one of my few anti-war poems, kind of a black sheep in the body of my work. So to have it singled out for a Pushcart nomination was a most pleasant shock. The poem is a reminder that our country is still at war...these five-plus years later from the "eve of the war in Iraq" of which the poem speaks.
Now at least there's hope that the war will come to an end. I dedicate the poem today to Barack Obama, peacemaker.
The Shells

On the eve of the war in Iraq
she was contemplating opercula,
small doorways of protection for snails
—ocean’s moon snails, slipper snails, also
augers & whelks of more intricate shells.

On the eve of the war in Iraq
she reminisced about hermit crabs
that tuck their tender hind ends
into any abandoned shell that suits,
taking shelter from predators.

On the eve of the war in Iraq
loggerheads in their formidable shells
were yet far off shore, so she touched
instead six silver turtles pinned to her vest,
gesture to totems of spiritual safety.

On the eve of the war in Iraq
she was reminded that she is:
human, she has no shell –
only the simulacrum of the warriors’
so-called shells that were put to use
on the morning of the war in Iraq.
Happy holidays. Remember: Celebrate Earth!