a touch of yellow

“Yellow is capable of charming God.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

“Yellow Teapot” by John Hubbard Rich
YELLOW BUTTERFLIES BRING HAPPINESS
by Sharon Lask Munson

When she relocated to her new home
I gave my darling niece a teapot,
bestowed lifelong advice --
every home needs a touch of yellow.

Days later, a friend wrote
she was wearing the butter-yellow sweater
I gave her on a blustery day.

There have been other yellows --
first daffodils of spring,
summer sunflowers,
my citron slicker,
daisies -- he loves me, he loves me not,
the gold ring on my finger.

I slice fresh lemon for tea,
spread local honey on toast,
sing "My Only Sunshine."
I admire the canary a friend
keeps in her kitchen,
the melody of his song.

I remember Dagwood and Blondie
in the Sunday funnies,
snap up Atlantic Avenue
and Marvin Gardens playing Monopoly,
watch out for children
as yellow school buses pull up to the curb.

I bake lemon meringue pies,
buy butter to spread on sweet corn,
make goldenrod toast
for Sunday night suppers,
center the table with beeswax candles,
keep curtains open as the moon rises.

*

Just a touch of yellow, even a tiny bit, brings joy, sunshine, radiance, optimism, vitality, freshness, hope.

It’s almost impossible to be sad once yellow flutters in.

One Christmas when I was 10 or 11, I received a yellow cardigan — it had pretty scalloped trim around the collar, sleeves, and hem — and yarn covered buttons! How I loved it, even though it was usually too warm to wear it. The important thing is that it came from a favorite aunt who had excellent taste in all things. Her gift made such an impression on me that I’m still thinking about it over 50 years later.

Like Munson, I, too, rejoice at those first spring daffodils (the only flowers we have that are deer proof), and I love all things butter, baking delectable treats with it, melting it over popcorn, spreading it on warm biscuits or toast. It simply makes everything taste better. Hello, beautiful butter, my lifelong friend. You can make me ecstatic with a single pat.

This poem also made me think of my parents. My dad’s favorite pie was lemon meringue, and though there were no sunflowers in our yard, we had cheery oncidium orchids and an abundance of yellow plumeria thanks to my mom’s green thumb. Yellow plumeria lei for May Day and Aloha Week — such good memories!

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nine cool things on a tuesday

Joan with her self portrait

l. In celebration of Women’s History Month, here are a few portraits by the one and only Joan Baez, who turned 80 in January. I didn’t realize she was such an accomplished painter till I began following her on FB last year — initially for the music videos she posted as the pandemic raged on. It was wonderful seeing her singing in her kitchen!

Malala Yousafzai

Then she began sharing pieces from her first solo exhibition, “Mischief Makers,” featuring “risk-taking visionaries who have brought about social change through nonviolent action.”

Her debut album in 1960 was basically my introduction to folk music and activism. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always marvel at multi-talented creatives who thrive on a cross fertilization of genres.

Stacey Abrams
Alice Walker
Coretta Scott King

In addition to Joan, musicians I admire who also paint include Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Grace Slick, Ronnie Wood, Ringo Starr, Cat Stevens, Miles Davis, and John Mellencamp.

Kamala Harris

See more Mischief Makers as well as portraits of Friends and Icons at Joan Baez Art. I like all the little backstories for each painting. You can also purchase prints or catalogs there.

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a pair of pandemic poems

Last November when I shared Pablo Neruda’s “Keeping Quiet,” I didn’t realize that a couple of weeks later, a new anthology would be released titled after lines from the same poem.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), is pure manna for the heart and soul, just when we need it most.

Last spring, while we were all frantically washing our hands, stressing over toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, and adjusting to lockdown restrictions, Ms. Quinn “reached out to poets across the country to see if, and what, they were writing under quarantine.” She was so moved by the response that she began collecting and curating the poems arriving in her inbox.

“Front Line Hero” by Olga Gouralnik (2020)

These poets voiced our collective shock, grief, fears, and hopes — an array of layered emotions many of us did not yet have a language for. From their unique, diverse perspectives, they were able to paint an intimate portrait of a world woefully attuned to this exotic moment in history.

Strange, to experience what could never have been imagined, to step into an altered reality.

Sudden, to have life, livelihood, routines, priorities upended in the blink of an eye.

The 107 poets featured in this anthology vary by age, gender, and sexuality, and employ different styles and poetic forms to unmask human fragility, vulnerability and resilience in trying times. Some of the poems were quite cathartic, moving me to tears.

Here are two that really spoke to me. The first describes precisely how I made it through the past year, and the second reinforces my gratitude for the power of poetry to heal, sustain, and connect.

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steele yourself!

Ah, breakfast with Van Gogh. What could be better?

A crunchy bowl of Ben Steele’s Earrios will get you off to a great start. What’s that? You want more? Can’t say I blame you.

Once you’ve seen one Ben Steele painting, you crave another and another . . .

Ben in his studio with some of his product inspirations.

Originally from Washington state, Ben relocated to Utah when he was in his teens. He earned a BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Utah, then moved to Helper, Utah, where he studied under the instruction of David Dorman and Paul Davis at the Helper Art Workshops. He recently converted a vacant bottling and beverage distribution warehouse into an enormous studio that will accommodate large scale work.

Ben’s paintings are a unique mash-up of art history and pop culture, a wide-ranging oeuvre that includes landscape, still life, portraiture, and other things in-between. He calls himself a “pop realist,” an artist with an ever evolving style who’s successfully imbued classic techniques with a contemporary sensibility.

With equal measures of playfulness and nostalgia, Steele taps into America’s collective imagination by incorporating iconic brands such as Crayola, Coca-Cola, and Campbell’s Soup. Referencing the American West, Hollywood legends, and major figures in American history (to include several Presidents), his art resonates across generations with its social, political, and cultural overtones.

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pat schneider: “and what is more generous than a window?”

Today I am grateful for brief yet meaningful encounters.

Three years ago, I ordered a signed copy of Pat Schneider’s Another River: New and Collected Poems (2005) via her website. When it arrived, I was surprised to find a note from Pat with a gift copy of her chapbook, The Patience of Ordinary Things (2003).

I fell in love with the title poem, and was honored when Pat gave me permission to share it here. Though we only exchanged a few emails, I was touched by her kindness and generosity, totally in awe of the 83-year-old poet, author, playwright, teacher, and Founder/Director of Amherst Writers & Artists (AWA).

At the time, Pat’s poetry was new to me, and I knew little about her early years in Missouri, where, as the child of a single mother, she lived in tenements and an orphanage until she received a scholarship to attend college. “Those early experiences deeply influenced her writing and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other misfortunes.”

Recently, while looking for more poems to share for Poetry Friday, I thought again about Pat and visited her website, where I was saddened to learn of her passing in August 2020. I read many tributes, listened to her reading her poems, and watched several interviews, awestruck not only by her professional accomplishments, but her abiding faith in human potential and creative genius, as she encouraged all to find and amplify their authentic voices.

I love hearing hers.

“Moon Balloon” by Sokol Selmani
THE MOON. TEN TIMES
by Pat Schneider

1. Round cool face of forever
    float free
    for me

2. Saucer without a teacup
    without the tyranny of 
    of tea

3. Owl eye without a pupil
    blind
    to contradiction

4. My white balloon
    has lost its string
    and me

5. Round, open mouth
    of the goddess
    of light

6. The night sky's
    exclamation:
    Oh!

7. Puppeteer
    of tides
    rock the shore of the world

8. Bright frisbee
    the dog star lost
    in the night

9. Perfect pearl crown
    of cornfields
    and night watchmen's hair

10. Bellybutton
      of God

~ from The Patience of Ordinary Things (Amherst Writers & Artists Press, 2003)
Art by Lee White
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