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Words of Life

Poems and Essays

Ann Chiappetta

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2019 by Ann Chiappetta

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Photo of lone cypress by Kyle Loftus on Unsplash
Photo of snowy field by Polina Kirilenko on Unsplash
Wolf photo from Pexels
Photo of Japanese garden by Thor Alvis on Unsplash



Family vacations carefully recorded in journal entries, conversations and encounters with strangers on a beach or in a van, mythical stories of wolves and Greek legends, thefts perpetrated by shore birds on beaches, a dishonest neighbor, watchers, witnesses, a voyeur, and lurking dark dogs who appear initially as a sniff or a nose. By the end of the collection, the entire black dog has transformed into a threatening beast. These are among Ann Chiappetta’s themes in her third book, Words of Life: Poems and Essays. Threaded through all of the stories in this collection is a circular, spiraling motion and often, an agonizing inner sense of displacement, impending danger, and isolation.

The reader does not travel far into the text to begin to make discoveries about the intention of the author. In the introduction, she states:

The purpose of this volume…[is to] reflect the beauty in nature, the complexities of the human condition.

As we reach the conclusion of her newest collection, we see the author as a voyeuristic listener. In her own words:

I’ve often tried to figure out why I’m chosen to be the designated listener. Two possibilities are: 1. When someone notices I’m blind, they figure, what the heck, she’ll never see me again, and if she does, she won’t recognize me anyway. 2. I’m eavesdropping on conversations, being an opportunist in disguise to feed a voyeuristic curiosity.

Each piece assembled for this collection has the mark of the keen eye and sensitive ear of a person who listens, takes notes, contemplates, and responds to run-of-the-mill situations and ordinary, everyday and commonplace conversation, observation, or experience. She moves easily between moments of joy, pride, awe, irritation, anger, fear, and even her struggles with recurring depression and the ways she battles through them. Always, there is a sense of place; specific locations such as Long Island Shore, California, Old Sturbridge, Aruba, the Bay, a hospital— each place is a marker or symbol she has left behind on her journey. They are Words of Life.

—Lynda McKinney Lambert

Author of Walking by Inner Vision: Stories and Poems (2017)


Other Books by the Author

Upwelling: Poems (C 2016)

Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust (C 2017)


Previously Published Works
Included in This Book

“Separate”

Poesis, 2018 Fall/Winter issue

First place for poetry, Magnets and Ladders

ACB E–Forum, Volume LVI, No. 6, December 2017

“Keys”

Magnets and Ladders, Winter 2016 issue

“Survivor’s Guilt”

Magnets and Ladders, Winter 2015 issue

“Poo Haiku”

Paw Tracks, Guide Dog Users, Inc., Summer 2010 issue

“Wolf”

Poet’s Paradise, Queens, New York, 1993

“Run for Life”

Poet’s Paradise, Queens, New York, 1993



This collection is dedicated to Mary.


Table of Contents

Other Books by the Author

Previously Published Works Included in This Book

Acknowledgements

Introduction

The Writing Muscle

Section One: Blooms, Birds, Bugs

Shore Bird

Botany

Moon Trio

Bird

Long Beach Island: A Memoir

The Bay Revisited

One Happy Island

Section Two: Earth, Wind and Fire

Brigid

Desert

Redwood Temple

Coastlines

Fire

Section Three: Animal Wisdom

Survivor’s Guilt

Wolf

A Dog’s Breath

Haiku

Labra–Doctor

Cat & Dog

Run for Life

Congo

The Lake Labrador

Poo Haiku

Section Four: The Human Condition

In the Absence of Things

Keys

Dust

Air Dancing

Separate

Angel

Lullaby

Buddies

Sheaves of Hate

Organizational Weeds

Dysfunctional Love

MST: A to Z Abecedarian

Lost

The Dark Side of Friendships

Conversations

Presence

Salutations

The Hospital of Truth and Lies

Lucky and Bright Eyes

The Leading Edge

Elixir of Life

About the Author


Acknowledgements

I want to thank my husband, Jerry, for supporting me and helping with whatever needs doing, from performing secretarial duties, to being the cash taker at book sales, to making post office runs, and so much more.

To my daughter, April, who has kept me connected to fashion and color, even though I cannot picture the current styles or see color anymore.

I also want to mention the folks who agreed to be the beta readers for this book: Kate Chamberlain, Joan Myles, and Lynda McKinney Lambert. Thanks to the kind and focused comments from these talented ladies, the book is much improved.

This book would not be as beautifully formatted without the expert assistance of David and Leonore Dvorkin, my editors at DLD Books.

Finally, this book is for Mary, whose creative spirit lives on in us, her three daughters, and her memory throughout future generations.


Introduction

I have learned quite a few valuable lessons since embarking on the journey of independent publishing. My first collection of poetry did not include an introduction. I did not feel it required one, since the first poem, “Line by Line,” was the introduction in poem form.

Perhaps it was a creative decision which veered too far off the path. However, to compensate, this book includes both the poem chosen to introduce the collection and a more traditional introduction.

Fortunately, from the beginning, I have found a wonderful indie publisher, and this made the experience free of stress and angst. My editors made suggestions based on their expertise, and together we edited and produced Upwelling: Poems, the first poetry collection, just as I wished. Then I released Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust, a moderately successful memoir. The experience has opened up new doors, from meeting other visually impaired writers to learning how to present my books in a friendly and professional manner. I’ve even got my “elevator pitch” polished, and I gift copies of my books to schools, clubs, and auctions.

The original idea for this book was to have it be a second, thicker volume of poetry. At that time, I was also kicking around the idea of putting together a separate essay collection but knew I did not have enough pieces written to do so. It occurred to me to add them to the new manuscript, and this book is the result.

While it is my hope that all the pieces of this book, Words of Life: Poems and Essays, resonate with my readers, I have my favorites and have elected to place them here as well. Some have been printed in anthologies, others in print and electronic magazines. A few have been contest winners. All are special and reflect what lies within. There is a flash piece, the one fictional story among the nonfiction essays, called “Survivor’s Guilt.” There is also a fantasy piece, “Angel,” which I included even though it is also an obvious exception to the general theme and subjects. What can I say? I am drawn to the eternal struggle between good versus evil, and this poem is my ode to all things High Fantasy.

This volume is accented with a few photographs. As I lose the last vestiges of my vision, bringing a meaningful visual array to this collection seems imperative. I hope the photography choices do not disappoint.

Finally, dear reader, I want to share the prose that reflects the way I’ve lived my creative life. I hope you will find both the free and rhymed verse chosen for Words of Life a balance of fluidity and emotion, of curiosity and identification. The pieces on these pages reflect the beauty in nature, the complexities of the human condition. If just one poem or essay resonates with you, I would say I’ve accomplished the purpose of this volume. For a moment, as the eye reads and the brain interprets, the reader slips into the shoes of the writer. This is the true spirit of what it means to be creative, open, to offer the emotions in such a way as to give another person the opportunity to appreciate the writer’s experience with the words of life.

March 2019

The Writing Muscle

Pumps ideas from gray matter

The writing muscle

Is a narcissist

Caring not for other obligations

Pouting when ignored

The muscle

Requires attention, exercise, nurturing

Sometimes it even demands control like

Symbiotic partnerships

And then, like the actions

Demanded by a well–pumped biceps or quadriceps

It will tremble with effort and delight

Overtake the writer’s chore list

Odorous laundry piles ignored

Phone calls delayed

And an occasional burnt dinner fall victim

To the whims of

The Schwarzenegger Muse.

2016

S
ection One
Blooms, Birds, Bugs



Shore Bird

A sister taps my hand.

“There’s a gull trying to get the lunch out of a bag someone left on their blanket.”

“Really?” I pause the audiobook and take out an earphone.

“Yes, it’s on the blanket and is looking around. Now it’s taking another step. This is funny.” She laughs, and I can picture it in my head.

I wait then.

“Ooh, it’s looking at the bag … now it’s pulling out the lunch … oh my God, it’s dragging it away!”

By this time, our gang is watching and laughing at its antics.

“Shouldn’t we stop it?” says one niece.

“Why? It serves them right for leaving the bag open,” says the other niece.

We all laugh. Another sister lobs a grape in the opposite direction, and the gull hops after it. By this time the blanket’s owner has come back, and I hear a sister explain what happened. The owner thanks us and zips the lunch into her other bag, then leaves.

“Here we go again,” says one niece.

“I wonder if it knows how to unzip things,” says the other niece.

“Okay,” says my sister, “it’s eyeing the bag. Now it’s back on the blanket … it’s looking around … now it’s trying to open it.”

The gull gives up, unable to unzip the bag, and walks away. Then it lets out that laughing caw we all know so well, and I hear its wings beat the air, off to search for other abandoned lunch sacks.

2008

Botany

Softly pointed silken petals

unfold delicately.

Some spiral to the ground.

Such a sweet nectar.

Forsythia blooms

Trumpet buds announce flavors

of honey–sweet spring.

2007


Moon Trio

Colors of slumber grasp

silver–tipped folds of shadow

pearl in velvet cup

horizons reveal

the flaming root of each day

turtle moon endures

harvest moon contains

earth’s blood, fertility and pain;

eclipse of my soul

2009


Bird

bird songs of sunlight

welcome sounds delight the soul

awaken the mind

2010


Long Beach Island: A Memoir

LBI, the Land of Biting Insects, otherwise known as the Jersey shore, is our reunion destination. We arrive at a beach motel one midweek afternoon. The weather cooperates. After the hip–to–hip extrication, complete with popping sounds and groans, we climb out of the SUV and say, “Boy, it’s hot.” We quickly proceed to the cool room, nursing sore butts and stiff joints. But all five of us are intrepid travelers, proving it by agreeing to share a bathroom for four days.


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