Notes on Survival (Poem)

Milkweed pod, Montana.

Milkweed pod, Montana. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

When my parents arrived in this country, they had been allowed to bring three crates of items. Those crates contained their entire life–for two adults and two children. Bedding, clothing, pots and pans, dishes, important papers, books, photos, toys. Three crates. Although I was born later, the impossibility of the decisions of what to pack stuck with me.

As a child, I played a game– what I would pack if I had to leave quickly and go to a new place? This poem is rooted in that memory.



Seed Pod: Notes for Survival
I left dawn behind, but took the last star in the sky
I left the sun behind, but took the ragged fringe of shade
I left the fragrant, blooming tree,
but stole the hanging seed and packed it.

The smooth seedpod holds the wisdom
of casting shade and woven nests,
Going back ten thousand years
Folded in its traveler’s shell.

Still willing, when it hits the ground
(at last)
To send out an exploratory root,
To test the ground for possible survival.
It has one chance to birth a branch
Fed by a dream of stars held in its crown
A filigree of shade laid on the ground
And then, to birth another seed to pack.
© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved. No use without express written permission.

The Night Balcony

Inside my house,
Inside my mind
the lights are on.
The books shift, wanting to be read.

Night lightning in Phoenix. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

Night lightning in Phoenix. © Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

My to-do list stretches, reaching for another ream of paper.
My phone buzzes, chirps, and rattles with impatience.
My cat sinks his claws into my thigh, hungry for attention.

Dear God, it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.
All this quiet, so I can work.

I push the heavy slider wide,
and step onto the night balcony.
The light rail leaves a station, clanging on its way.
Cars honk, people laughing, cursing, singing, 14 floors below.
Lights shimmer, blink and fuss, directing traffic,
calling for attention.

On the night balcony
all that noise is someone else’s
And I can fade into the stillness,
and be gone.

—Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic healing.

Alcohol Ink and Poetry

My artwork is becoming more and more about poetry. I’ve always loved words in art, probably the best reason I love making collage.

For a project in my poetic medicine certification, I am exploring the idea of silence, and how we use it to communicate, to heal, to express our deepest pain.  I created a dozen alcohol-ink abstract landscapes, and printed phrases of my classmates poetry onto the landscapes. The snippets combine to form a poem of their own, about the power of silence.Samples are below, but not in order.

Four project cards on my work desk. My landscapes do seem to stay in Arizona's desert.

Next week, when we gather, I’m going to ask each person to read their poetry snippet, in an order I chose to create a new poem, with a dozen contributors.  I’m hoping they’ll not only cooperate, but be pleased with the visual combining with the spoken word.

This landscape is an image from my trip to Second Mesa, on the Hopi reservation, where the night sky is filled with stars.

This landscape is an image from my trip to Second Mesa, on the Hopi reservation, where the night sky is filled with stars.

I’m enjoying the break in serious study for this project. I hope it goes over well.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer, a writing trainer, and studying to become a poetic medicine practitioner.

Days Getting Shorter

As August turns to September, we’ll still have another month of heat, but the long days are over. We have just less than 13 hours of sun now. Oh, we’ll still get over-105º days, but not as many, and not every day. The pool will cool slowly, and I’ll be able to take morning walks again.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

© Quinn McDonald, 2016. All rights reserved.

For those of us who live in the desert, winter is the time we treasure. Summer is too hot, too harsh. And it’s losing its grip. Time to celebrate.

Quinn McDonald is a poetic medicine practitioner.

Stow-Away Poetry (Aug.4, 2016)

Stow-away poetry is a way to share what you write and remain anonymous. But that’s just a tiny part of it. It’s simple: you write a poem, put it in an envelope, and leave it in a public place for someone to find. Anything else is up to you. You can join the stow-away poetry group on Facebook, you can make your own poems to leave.

I have no idea what the copyright law is about copying someone’s poetry and leaving it in public, even with attribution. There, I’ve said that. I must admit, I take the risk. My inner artist also likes me to dress up the poem to make it easy to see. There are a lot of different ways to do it: a decorative envelope, pretty paper, calligraphy. Here’s one I did filling in letters with colors. The complete poem appears on the back. It’s by William Stafford.

Colorful Stow-Away poem, using several lines from a Wiliam Safford poem. © Quinn McDonald, 2016.

Stow-away poetry became something I began when I went back to school to become a poetry therapist. Our class began by writing poetry to do some personal healing.  Healing is a powerful benefit of writing poetry. (If you want to know more about poetry as therapy, contact me through my other website contact page.)

Even better is writing your own poetry. Never written a poem? Anyone can. They don’t have to rhyme, they don’t have to have a certain rhythm or beat. Poetry can be short, meaningful and to the point. Here is an example from my classmate Barbara London.

Listening to the Morning News
Animals kill each other

Humans kill each other
and talk about it.

Short poems take effort. You have to take out all the extra words and be careful about choosing the right ones to use. Few words make each word do a lot of work and require picking and choosing. But the result is powerful.

I’m thinking of holding a poetry-writing online workshop. I want more poetry in the world; it’s so satisfying to write and participate. If you are interested (no, it’s not a promise to take the class), leave a comment. Let me know if you would take an online poetry class. If you want, tell me how you like to use online classes–once a week, everything at once, with an in-person part–whatever makes you feel involved and creative.

Quinn McDonald is studying to become a poetry therapist. She is a writer who teaches writing.

Bubble Postcards

A few days ago, I saw pottery being decorated with bubbles. I’d done bubble paper when I was younger, and decided the holiday weekend was a good time to play with bubbles.

First, I found my black India ink and the gold ink for a bit of shimmer.

ink1Then I put a small squirt of dishsoap into the recycled foaming container, added water and ink. Just a bit of water to move it up the siphon. The foam was dense, and the bubbles held their shape until there was just ink, but no bubbles on the paper.


The result was a blob of tight foam. I wiped them off with a brush. Interesting effect. Not what I had in mind, but it will be fun to experiment with this part.

ink3Then I transferred the soap-water-ink mixture to a paper cup and put a straw into it. I blew and created big, loose bubbles. Just what I wanted.

But when I took the straw out of the cup, I knocked it over, spilling India ink-soap-water mix into my crotch and onto the floor. Time out to peel off pants, put them in the washer, clean the floor and generally mop up all the ink that wasn’t where it belonged.

ink4This experiment works best if you blow the bubbles till they rise up out of the cup, then carefully place the paper on top of it. For that reason, watercolor postcards work well. You can use cut pieces of watercolor paper, too.

ink5You can also use a palette knife to scoop the bubbles onto the paper. It’s a personal choice.  What am I going to do with them? Probably use them for my Stow-Away-Poetry postcards. Or color them in. I’ll let you know. If you have a suggestion, let me know in the comments!

Quinn McDonald is hoping India ink comes out of linen pants.