Wednesday, April 30, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 30 / THE END!

The BIG hoorah!  Today is the last day of the National Poetry Month Challenge.  Whether you've followed all along, or are stopping by for the first time for a glimpse into my month of writing a poem-a-day for Writer's Digest and Words Dance Publishing, hope you'll grab a cup of tea (or Sangria, if it's evening when you read this), and walk back with me on a trip down memory lane from my days at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Today's prompt was to write a closing time / Miller Time / calling it a day poem.  Here is my offering.  Happy Day 30 and Happy National Poetry Month!  See you again next year ...

Thursdays at Café Rosie Lee
(for old friends)

The sound of books closing, pens retracting
and backpacks zippering
signals the close of another academic day –
the beginning of Thursdays at Café Rosie Lee.

Taking three steps down into a cavern of warm, garlic heat
and the taste of creamed mushroom soup,
brings me effortlessly to my once-a-week world
of food, friendship and Sangria.

We play cards and talk about Shakespeare
with equal amounts of passion,
seated around our usual table in the corner.
Without fail, the staff at Rosie Lee’s
knows we are coming.
They prepare extra plates
of rosemary chicken and wild rice.

Laughter springs in bursts from Samantha.
With smiling eyes,
she knows the strength and bend of my heart.
Pauline has languid, bawdy stories to weave –
I could sit and listen to her rich, round voice all night.
Sheila brings life and light everywhere she goes –
making me believe that we could jump right through this roof,
if we wanted to.

We share a love of books –
the weight, texture and scent of them.
We console each other over exam-time stress
and demanding professors.
Living inside the words,
the laughter,
and one too many pitchers of fruity wine,
exists the struggle to know ourselves fully.

Holding hands,
and our breath,
we take a great leap into the unknown
with a mighty yawp!

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 29

Today's prompt was to write either a realism poem or a magical poem.  You can probably guess before reading, which would be my choice.

photography by Cristina M. R. Norcross / stream near Rydal Water, U.K.

A Wink and a Blink

Walking over the bridge from solid ground
to hallowed earth –
the stream speaks of stories.
The hidden cave at Rydal Water
welcomes our mortal feet.

With each step
an ageless time unfolds.
Colors seem brighter –
more defined.
Each branch becomes
an ink stain across parchment.
An artist with the most delicate brush
makes these lines jump into my vision.

Eyes squinting at brightness,
I can only catch but a glimpse
of the worlds beneath my footing –
mushrooms blooming
with fairies sunning themselves,
and water sprites diving like dolphins –
waving their small hands in the wind.

I hesitate before unlatching the gate
that leads back to the gravel road –
look behind me –
taking a snapshot
with a single blink.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 28

Two more days to go!  I think I can ... I think I can.  Today's prompt was to write a "settled" poem, allowing for multiple interpretations of the the word ~ settle.  This is what danced in my jet-lagged brain today.  I hope it inspires something dream-like and true.

photography by Cristina M. R. Norcross, 2014 / Rydal Mount path, UK

We Hold the Golden Bowl

Alignment of bones,
muscles, thoughts –
meridians of energy connect
like blue lines for rivers on a map.
Life force flows –
it settles
but never dies.

White threads beam
from fingertips.
I am you
and you are me –
a synchronicity
of time and geography.
We drink the same drink.
We lift fork to mouth
with equal movements –
hand and elbow
bring luxury to lips.

Experience spins on an axis,
making merry-go-round stops.
Ride the horse.
Hold the reins.
Catch the brass ring –
then give it away
to the next rider –
the next dreamer.

I knock on your door –
hands holding a golden bowl
of rich, ripe fruit.
Here –
take one.
New fruit will appear
at the bottom.
Pick the choicest one.
Do not settle.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 27

Today's prompt was to write a monster poem.  This is normally not my genre of choice, so I opted to approach the poem with a bit of humor and human observation.  We'll see if it works.  There are no werewolves in my poem, but you may just recognize a few common traits.

The Ballad of Mr. Dissatisfied

It’s hopeless –
hopeless, I say.

The grass is not green enough.
My car is not flashy enough.
These eggs are not cheesy enough.
My house is not grand enough.
My shoes are not shiny enough.
The sun is not bright enough.

It’s hopeless –
just hopeless.

Time is too short.
My belly is not flat.
My nose is too long.
The list goes on and on.

If only.
If only.

I live in your ear,
whispering sweet nothings of
“you’re not good enough,”
and “you might as well quit.”

I am the monster
of dissatisfaction
living within.

But there is hope, you see.
The walls are melting,
along with my resolve.
A burden shared
is a burden broken in half.
Share my woes,
and you will see me slowly disappear.

A monster is only a monster,
if you feed it.
And just like that –
with this poem –
I am gone.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 26

The prompt for today was to write a water-themed poem.

photography by Cristina Norcross (Lake Geneva, WI)

Bathed in You

Your gaze cascades
over my skin like water.
I live inside the tide –
the give and sway –
the push and pull –
your full moon gravity.

As weightless as water bugs,
we float –
suspended in time –
eyes turned upward
to an aquamarine sky.

Hand in hand –
fish glide beneath us –
drawn to this island of you and me.

I come up for air,
letting the rush of sound
awaken ears –
skin bathed in sudden oxygen.

I look to you.
“Cover me again in water,”
I say.
“Envelop me
in the deepest, darkest blue.”

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 25

Today's poetry prompt was to write some form of a "this is the last straw" poem.  I don't know if I have fully achieved the essence of this poem in my life, but I am trying!

The Power of No

I am so used to saying,
I can do that.
I'd be happy to.

A few years ago,
I was faced with the typical scenario
of having ten things
already on my plate,
and someone asked me
to pile on number eleven.

Before I realized what was happening,
the word, no, just fell out of my mouth.
Such a foreign,
yet absolutely delicious word,
for these lips.

I've been getting better
at this one syllable reply.
No, that doesn't fit my schedule.
No, I'm sorry, but I already have too many
commitments this month.

Go on.
Say it with me.
You can do it.
Just say, no.

If saying, yes,
causes your eyes to flutter,
your heart to race,
and your fingers to feel fidgety -
the body is desperately trying
to say it for you.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 24

Today's prompt was to write a poem based on a fill in the blank title.

"Tell it to the ________"

We hiked for 4 hours on our first day in The Lake District. Today, we rambled around the countryside for 2 hours and explored a hidden cave. This poem is an ode to my tired feet.

Tell It to My Feet

Tell it to the soft spot
just under the arch -
that tender cave wall
that never touches the ground. 

Tell it to the scuffed, padded bottom
that takes the full force of gravity
with each step.

Tell it to the contours that 
hum and vibrate,
after a long day of walking -
each foot having its own heart beat -
a swelling pulse 
from pounding pavement 
and treading on beaten grass paths. 

Tell it to my feet. 
They say,
"I'll take you there
and back again."

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 23

Today's prompt was to write a location poem.  My location this week is the mountains.

Here we go ...

A Rock is Meant for Sitting

I follow your footsteps
up small, side-of-the-mountain stones
meant for climbing.

Wet tracks glisten
from three sets of boots -
mine will make the fourth.

Halfway up the mountain
we sit -
ducks in a row -
pointing to Lake Windermere
in the distance.

I ask if we can stop climbing
long enough to take it all in -
not yet wanting to wander down,
but not wanting to go
any higher.

My eyes rest on water
and the jagged rocks all around.
A single, black slug
makes it’s slow, wet path
across a piece of slate.
It is as if he is not moving
at all -
his body's breath
is movement enough. 

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 22

Today's prompt was to write either an optimistic poem or a pessimistic poem (or a mixture of both). I'm surprised that I haven't resorted to reciting the phone book, now that I've been writing and posting a poem a day for 22 days!

You're in luck.  I'm still coherent and persistent enough to keep writing.  If nothing else - I always have hope.

If Hope Were a Beetle

We are all born with hope.
It sits in the palm of the hand -
a spinning black beetle -
tiny legs turning like wheels. 

Our hope scurries -
it flees enclosure -
it hides from cloying fingers. 

Hope spins in circles,
seeking shelter,
memorizing every line of the palm -
your map of self talk. 

I am not worthy. 
I don't think I can finish this. 
I've never done this before,
but I hope I will. 

I hope. 
I hope.
I hope. 

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 21

Today's prompt was to write a "back-to-basics" poem. This vacation has been about shedding our electronics for long, rambling walks in the Lake District. I traveled a path this afternoon which Wordsworth would have walked. The first line of this poem was genuinely whispered to me. I hope you enjoy this one.

Bare Necessities

It is here that I lay myself bare. 

No purse needed - 
there are no shops here. 
No fancy coat -
just a light jumper will do.
No lipstick -
you need not impress the sheep. 

We ramble on the Lake District trails -
our thoughts rest on stones -
daydreaming our way
through moss covered branches
and bird songs carried by lake air. 

It is in this light
that everything becomes crisp and clear,
as if my eyes have vision for the first time. 

It is here that I lay myself bare. 

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 20

Today's prompt was to write a poem about family.  Despite jet lag and being on vacation, I am dutifully trying to keep up with my National Poetry Month challenge.  Here is my offering for today, gentle readers.

What This Mother Knows

It is because I know
my youngest will get hungry 
exactly two hours 
after having breakfast. 

It is because I know to put
a box of tissues between them
on the back seat,
to avoid the question,
"Mom, do you have any ... ?"

It is because I know
he likes a bottle of red wine
waiting on the counter
with garlic hummus on a Friday night -
pretzel sticks, not pretzel twists. 

It is because I know 
that he puts Tabasco sauce
on everything.
I keep it stocked in the fridge. 

It is because I know 
my youngest son's favorite t-shirt
is neon yellow with a blue stripe,
that I wash this one first.

It is because I know to wait in the hallway
after prayers,
so my oldest can say, "good night!"
three times before finally closing the door.

This is family. 

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 19

Today's writing prompt was to choose a color, use it as the title, and create a poem based on that color.  For this poem, I return to Cristina, circa 1991 (living in Ottawa, Canada).


Red shoes,
ruby mind -
you were here.

My Oxblood Doc Martens
were always on my feet in college.
I'm surprised I didn't sleep in them.

Those bouncing soles took me
I would walk through Byward Market,
collecting delicacies of landjäger wurst 
and German chocolate. 

A flash of red could be seen,
as I escaped down the stairs
of the used bookstore.
I remember picking up a copy 
of Mary McCarthy's, The Group,
and losing myself in fiction.

I was red-infused -
wearing a pair of teardrop, Carnelian earrings
and a deep burgundy scarf.

With Oxblood feet,
my root chakra energy
walked with me -
rooted me to the ground,
centered my many facets,
leaving a trail of invisible footprints. 

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 18

Today's prompt was to write a weather poem.

It's Raining Color Today

Yellow buttercups wink at me,
gathering strength from the sun.

Your sea blue words carry with them
clarity and calm.
Bathed in your need for direction,
I follow the itinerary
and hold your hand -
my clouds of rose quartz comfort
trailing behind
in secret.

Our children run and splash about
with the red fire of purpose and play.

The other travelers obey the black lines
and close cabin compartments
with rhythmic clicks.

I admire their efficiency,
as I linger over a book
before take off -
remaining deliciously, knowingly
in the fog of a British morning.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 17 / SHAZAM!

The writing prompt for today was to write a pop culture poem.  Abracadabra ... I'm back in the 80's with just a touch on my iPhone.


Shazam tells me I would like
Mumford and Sons,
So I ask Siri to bring up iTunes.
Greasy spoon?
Yes, the nearest greasy spoon
is on Main Street.
Is there anything else I can help you with?

When too lazy to put on my own music,
or find out which album has virtually
Sirius XM New Wave
brings back,
Every Day is Like Sunday,
or the refrain,
It’s the End of the World as We Know it.

I’m left with the bubble
of thinking that I’m still in the late 80’s –
a virtual music world –
when we still had vinyl,
and you could rewind a cassette tape
with the turn of a pencil.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 16

Today's challenge was to write an elegy - a poem about someone who has passed.  Here is my offering.  One hour before midnight ... I made it just in time!  Vera would be proud.

Golden Threads

Show me how to do those leg lifts, Cristina.
I need to learn.

You know –
Tissue only likes the white cushion
to sit on.
Nothing but the best
for my Tissue.

Vera loved her cats.
We have that in common.
She also loved her kids.
Her girls, by marriage,
and the many foster children
she raised from her soft hips.

A voice like honey –
hands made for cooking chili –
Vera held the world close.
She sewed until her hands
were broken from arthritis.
She mended minds.
She mended hearts.
Vera was the mother to all.

On the day I found out she died,
there was a rainbow in the sky.
I rushed home,
thinking my own mother had taken ill.
We sat at the table,
after the phone call came through.

Mother to many –
Vera was gone.
We remembered her –
the golden needle –
the silver thread.
Somewhere close
she is mending fabric –
making clothes out of bread.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 15

Today's prompt was to write either a love poem, an anti-love poem or some combination of the two.  In honor of one of our oldest friends from college getting married this summer, I wrote a poem about one of our first trips to Paris, when Scott met us for the day to tour around.  It is a snapshot in time of our early marriage, our love of Paris, our love for each other, and the joy of knowing that we were meeting up with an old friend.  It all kind of melds together into a somewhat humorous, narrative poem involving a baguette.  Hmm ... let's see what happens.

Au Lapin Agile, ca 1880-90

We Were in the Tub
Now You Know
(For Scott G., in celebration of his engagement.  Psst, take her to Paris.)

Paris is all about romance –
romance and art –
romance, art and food –
romance, art, food
and long, luxurious mornings of love.
We had all of these things
on our first trip to Paris.

Me, on a bed, with a baguette.
You would think that bread was my lover.
Does it live?
Asked Ali, when she saw the photograph.

After walking past Le Lapin Agile,
realizing it was closed,
but longing to sit in the same corner
where Picasso or Modigliani once sat,
we gave up staring at the hours of operation sign
and walked up a very long flight of sand-colored steps.

Arriving at the smallest hotel room in Paris,
I fell onto the bed,
baguette in hand.
We’ll eat some of this later –
with wine.
I’ll just close my eyes here for a while.

Click –
husband took the now infamous,
unattractive photo of me,
asleep on the bed –
comatose and hugging my French bread.
I will never let go of good bread –
that would be a waste.

I dream walk into the tub,
look at the bidet in the room
with raised eyebrow,
and sleep a bit more
in the lukewarm water.
My love joins me.
We rest together
arm in arm –
leg resting on leg.

I awaken to the sound of the phone ringing.
Splashes fall,
I do not move.

It’s Scott.
He’s here.
Quick, get dressed.
We’ll meet him at Le Jardin du Luxembourg.

I bet Scott never knew
what we were up to
when he picked up that phone.
Now he does.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 14

Today's prompt was to finish the sentence:

"If I Were _______"

and use that as your title.  Here is my offering for today.

If I Were That Blade of Grass

Honey touched dew would
glide down my shoulder,
offering succor for the season’s
dry, parched earth.

If I were that blade of grass,
young squirrels would
launch themselves onto branches,
using my strong, frond-like length
as a trampoline.

If I were that blade of grass,
I would be in danger of suffering nibbles
from deer and small rabbits,
but I would let them.
My capacity for growth
is endless.

If I were that blade of grass,
I would sing in the wind,
like the sound a wine glass makes
when touched on the rim –
liquid circles of high notes
and low tones.

If I were that blade of grass,
I would welcome both the new green
and the fading brown –
accept my short comings
and keep growing.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 13

Today's prompt was to write an animal poem.  I'm giving a poetry reading today, so my time is limited.  Here's what came through for me, when I let the animal totem of the cat speak.

(photo from the National Geographic story, "The Search for Cleopatra")

Cleopatra’s Cat

Cleopatra’s cat feels guilty.
He could have loved more,
given more,
scratched at the door more –
sounding the alarm to intruders.

In the end
no sleek, feline skills
would have been enough.
Her escape was a final one.

All black lines
and silent stealth,
Cleopatra’s loyal pet
stayed close,
as poison touched
ruby lips.
He glided next to her,
holding vigil,
when porcelain skin grew cold.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 12

Today's prompt was to write a city poem.  I have lived in many cities.  My favorite big city to live in is London, UK.  Here is a narrative poem about our last trip to London with our two boys.  It was quite momentous for several reasons.  Our youngest has a special memory about Camden Town.

I Lost My Tooth
on a Double Decker Bus

He will always have this story.
On our way to Camden Town,
small, crowded shops line the river.
Snaking footsteps
wind in and out of doors.
The steam from food vendors,
rises in fragrant clouds,
invoking hunger.

From behind me I hear
a joyous shout.
“I lost another tooth!”
says our youngest.
Without the school nurse’s
plastic treasure chest on hand,
I carefully save the tooth
in a plastic bag.

The bus stops
for a new adventure.
A new smile takes it all in.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 11

For Day 11 of the challenge, the prompt was to make a statement the title of your poem and then write something inspired by those words. 

I'm starting to want some images, on a regular basis, to liven things up.  So here is one of my photographs from our trip to The Domes in Milwaukee.  It was so majestic inside these beautiful rooms of exotic flowers and trees.  Hope you enjoy the scenery ... and today's poem.

You Are Closer Than You Think

The space outside of you –
that color spectrum cloud
of potential and spirit song –
contains the toolbox you need –
your want,
your trust,
your skill
your passion,
your philanthropy,
your purpose.

The scent of patchouli
hangs in the air.
You follow the yellow brick road
to the you of tomorrow –
the bungee jumper
you were meant to be.

Your threaded fingers
weave their magic.
Hands clasped in prayer –
a hoped for future.

You are closer than you think.
Reach out –
touch it.
Feel the juice
of the fresh peach,
the leather soft glide of the leaf,
the subtle give of earth
beneath your feet,
when you take that first step.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 10

Today's prompt was to write a "future" poem.  This is my offering - a vision of how our world could be.  We are one.

Future Breathing

Once upon a time,
we thought our bodies
had outlines.
We thought that one heart
was distinct from the next.
We thought that touch was
the only connection.

There is nothing between us now.
The distant past of disconnection
no longer contains the human spirit.
actions –
float just above the earth walkers.
Now we are truly one.

Blue-white chords –
strands that link generations –
there is an echo of shared consciousness
in every wave hello
and every kiss goodbye.

The cardinal knows your song.
The turtle feels your soul’s vibration
with his slow, steady feet.
The hawk knows you are
becoming more

One step bleeds into
a string of days.
One year passes the baton
to many future years.

It is all happening right now.
Heaven is all around us
where we stand –
where we breathe.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 9

Today's challenge was to write a shelter poem.  This is a poem about my first year of marriage, living in an abode of questionable construction.  All of it is true.

Our bungalow was just down the road from Marsden Rock (now two rocks)

South Shields Bungalow

Our bungalow-by-the-sea
was falling apart,
but it was all we had.
All of our wedding money
went to the move to England.

The bricks were slowly crumbling.
The backyard lawn consisted of long straw,
and we had no mower.
Everything was dark green –
the carpets,
the couch,
the curtains –
even the wallpaper.
I felt like I was living
in a bowl of pea soup.

When I wasn’t at my temp job
doing shift work,
I was writing.
There was no desk,
so we stacked some empty
milk crates and placed a piece of plywood on top.
It withstood my laptop,
my many hours of solitary typing,
and my heavy thinking.

One night, I flushed the plastic toilet freshener
by mistake.
Until the plumber came,
three days later,
we had to go to the pub
to use the bathroom.
The trick was to buy a pint,
so you looked like a customer,
but not drink so much of it,
that you would need to return to the pub
two hours later.

London was calling,
but for one year,
this bungalow-by-the-sea
gave two newlyweds shelter
from the storm.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 8

Today's poetry prompt was to write either a violence poem, a peace poem or both.  I'll be honest and say that I found this a bit troubling.  I write plenty of peace poems.  I tend to steer clear of violence.  This poem is my response to being asked to write the poem.  I suppose, I could have just written a straight forward peace poem.  Instead, I wrestled with my thoughts a bit.

Your Body Hears What You Are Thinking

There is no light in your cup.
You kick the stone down the road,
following its arc –
it’s jumping dance from pavement
to puddle.

Be careful.
Your body hears
what you are thinking,
and it hurts.

Be kind to your feet –
they walked you out of that house
where the boogie man groped you.

Be kind to your hands –
they comfort fevered brows
and make bowls of spicy chili.
Everyone loves your chili.

Be kind to your eyes –
they need not see the open wound
to know it needs to heal.

Be kind to your readers –
they are looking for something
to lift them up –
to lift them out of the violence of this world –
an invisible cloak
of good.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014

National Poetry Month Challenge - Day 7

Today's challenge was to write a self-portrait poem.  On any given day, I have many selves ~ I am multi-faceted.  This is just a glimpse on the day I wrote this poem.  See if you can figure out which poet my title is inspired by.

Today I Am Emily
Who Are You?

Living many lives
in many countries
can lead to a certain
Transcendental Homelessness.

My accent is neutral,
but I can put on a pretty good
South London inflection –
and don’t get me started on
my former, Long Island accent.

Where I am from
is the here and now.
Cast no spells –
I will not transform into
frog or princess.

You don’t know who I am.

Chameleon poet –
I wander in and out of words,
weaving stones with nylon thread.
I slip through fingers
like a fish out of water,
which I always seem to be –
neither here nor there,
I try to be everywhere.

Always observing –
always the people watcher
at the café table
sipping wine –
wondering what
life I could create
for the young woman in green tights
or the man in the sweater with holes,
weaving from side to side
down the street.

This is who I am.
I am nobody –
I am known.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2014