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.

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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.

Poems and Collage

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved.

© Forgotten Memories, Quinn McDonald. 2016, All rights reserved. Monsoon paper, walnut ink, alcohol inks on Yupo.

Art doesn’t have to be just one thing. I like to combine writing and collage. But I don’t like tearing words out of a magazine and using that. It’s great for vision boards, but I like collage to be more coordinated.

In this collage, I used writing as a background. I also stylized the writing so it is not readable. I didn’t want the viewer to be distracted or to feel that reading was part of experiencing the art.

The collage was part of creating an assignment for my grad school program in poetic medicine. We were to create the collage first, then the poem. I tried to do that, but it’s not how I work. At least not successfully. So I wrote the poem below, then created the collage.

Forgotten Memories
The brick building had been extended
(twice already),
a poured foundation ready for this,
the third expansion.

Three different weathered shades of brick,
a muddled patchwork marking time.

“Memory Center”—clearly, a lie.
The memories have long faded
from this center’s rooms,
bleached into shadows
like the rising wings of birds
migrating
against the moon
during a break in the clouds.

–Quinn McDonald is studying poetic medicine. She is also a trainer in business writing.

Pressing Matters

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

© Quinn McDonald, 2016

We sit pressed close
breathing each other’s air
Knees and thighs touching
arms exploring, nudging, shyly avoiding eye contact.

In another world, we’d be lovers
canoodling up some turbulence.
Here we are strangers
Wordlessly skirmishing over arm rests at 35,000 feet.

Quinn McDonald is a practitioner of poetic medicine.

Taxi Story 516

From airport to hotel
it’s 45 minutes of dark freeway.
I’m hoping for one memorable taxi story.

One time the driver was drunk
and screaming.
I screamed louder and he
set me out in the middle of the road
and left me there.

But not tonight.
Tonight the driver wrapped me in his easy smile
and used his musical voice to stash my bag
confidently into his cab’s back seat.

Five minutes later, my taxi story started
with him telling me about his life
driving strangers
through rain and fog and life uncertain.

His dream, he sighed, was med school, “But it’s so expensive,”
so he works a double shift on weekends,
stoking his mojo to clear the path ahead.

He asked me what I did for work.
“I”m a writer,” I said,
speaking my big truth into the dark,
hoping it was still true.

He had a book in him, he said,
and I thought, “More than one, for sure.”
He asked if I wrote poetry,
and I held my breath before I said,
“I do.”
It sounded like a vow.

“I do not understand poetry so much,” he said,
and when I asked, “What poets do you read?” he said,
“Rabelais and Rimbaud,” I thought, “Well, no wonder.”
“Try Billy Collins,” I suggested,
and wrote it down for him.

“Tonight is like an adventure with you,” he said,
handing me my bag and receipt.
“What’s your name?” I asked
and was not surprised when he replied,
with solemn, formal, introduction,
“Call me Ishmael.”

— © Quinn McDonald, All rights reserved. 2016