Patty Palasaka planted purple Portulaca
All around the picket fence, surrounding her backyard.
She planted pink petunias, edelweiss, and big begonias,
Just beside the sidewalk where the wooden gate was barred.
Everyday she bent to weed them, to water and to feed them;
Every waking hour was spent with helping them to grow.
When her neighbours stopped to visit, she didn’t have a minute;
There wasn’t time for company; things had to be “just-so”.
When the yard was filled with flowers, in the boxes, on the bowers,
When everything was perfect she opened up the gate.
Amidst her pink petunias, edelweiss, and big begonias
By her portulaca border, she sat right down to wait.
But her neighbours rushed right by then;
She couldn’t catch their eye then.
It was past the time for company;
It really was too late.
I wrote this poem several years ago as I was working on a book of verse for kids, as part of a series of poems with kids themes; each focusing on a character with a different rhythmical name. As soon as I read the first fourteen lines I had created I realized that there was no point in going on any further as it was never going to develop into a poem for kids, no matter how many more lines I added to it. It was as if the lines that came trickling off my pen had awakened an inner voice that said “Yvonne, you’re behaving just like Patty and you need to readjust your priorities! Yvonne your motives for striving toward some sort of perfectionism in the projects you have going on just now are cutting you off from other people! You have barred the gate to your yard, just like Patty, don’t you see that!”
Some people journal, and as they journal they let a lot of their inner thoughts flow out onto the paper, and I suspect that it is only in reading it back to themselves later that they actually acknowledge the real feelings behind what they are saying. They may have written the words, but the meaning behind them is usually hidden a little deeper than they could fathom at the time. This happens frequently when I write rapid- fire verse which is something I love to do. I find that I can write almost twice as fast in verse as prose and am often fairly happy with the outcome when it hits the paper. I’m not so delusional as to say that they are works of genius, just that as a creative endeavour they are rewarding to me on a personal level, and they often make other people quite happy too. Let’s face it; probably some of the first delightful moments in your life were accompanied by verse:
This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.
Sure this old verse is no great masterpiece, but it is beloved by me. I love it first and foremost because it was always accompanied by tickling from my mother or my father when I was little. Secondly I love babies, and I love the response I get from them whenever I do its little piggy-wiggling game with them. Last of all I love it because I am not Jewish. I suppose if I was, then the glee Abba and Ima and I enjoyed while playing with all those little pigs would certainly have been a memory that was a little difficult to explain.
According to the experts, creativity, artistic and musical skills and photographic memories are part of the right side of the brain, whereas language uses the left. I am reminded of the scene in the movie The King’s Speech where King George VI, under the guidance of his speech therapist, seems to be able to sing without difficulty, whereas he stutters when speaking. Apparently by singing the words he is able to let them flow freely, using the right side of his brain, without using the left side where the language processing interference is causing the stuttering.
I wonder then if the creativity needed for rhythmical, almost musical verse writing, in my right hemisphere’s poet’s studio allows for much less inhibition and thus the ease of writing I find there. Whereas the prose being methodically constructed in my left hemisphere’s rigid language factory is much more exhausting. Likely this is true, judging by the exhausting effect that working in the Ford Plant assembling cars all day had on Rolly versus the effect that singing songs to babies, or making fancy birthday cakes had on me on even my busiest days working in careers that required spending time at those things.
By now you may be wondering where I’m headed with all this. To be totally frank, so am I. I started out by telling you that sometimes what we write when we’re feeling totally uninhibited will tell us a lot about ourselves, and if we realize that we are doing things for all wrong reasons then it’s time to re-evaluate. Then change things as best you can. If you’re doing things just to show off, then don’t expect to have any friends clamoring to come by for a visit, no matter how beautiful the “gardens” you have created turn out. As a person who loves my own gardens I’m speaking both literally and figuratively here.
If you think you can’t ask guests for dinner because you’re not a good enough cook and you need to become a better one first, forget it! Ask them anyway! Serve them chilli and buns, and ice cream for dessert. They’ll love you for the invitation not the meal. If you hesitate to offer someone a ride because your car is a mess, just do it anyway. They won’t care! If you think you shouldn’t ask somebody in for a coffee because the dishes aren’t done, or you haven’t put on your make-up, they’ll love you all the more when they realize that you care more for them than your reputation.
The worst that they could say about you,if it was all that bad is that you couldn’t have been in your right mind, and I’m asking you now— Is that such a bad thing?