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Making Pies

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Making Pies.  This is one of my favourite songs.
It is an amazingly poignant poem.  Written and recorded by Patty Griffin, it is an unadorned tale told in bare, first-person words.  The protagonist doesn’t talk about her feelings, but in her description of her life we hear her pain and resignation. See how much you can learn about her in her words: (Click here to listen to the song.)
(I printed the lyrics here in case you want to read them after a listen.)

 

Making Pies

It’s not far, I can walk

Down the block to table talk.

I close my eyes

And make the pies all day.

Plastic cap on my hair.

I used to mind, now I don’t care.

I used to mind, now I don’t care

‘Cause I’m grey.

Did I show you this picture of my nephew

Taken at his big birthday surprise

At my sister’s house last Sunday?

This is Monday and I’m making pies.

I’m making pies, making pies.

Thursday nights I go and type

Down to the church for Father Mike.

It gets me out

And he ain’t hard to like at all.

Jesus stares at me in my chair

With his big blue eyes and his honey brown hair.

He’s looking at me

From way up there on the wall.

Did I show you this picture of my sweetheart

Taken of us before the war,

Of the Greek and his Italian girl

One Sunday at the shore.

We tied our ribbons to the fire escape.

They were taken by the birds

Who flew home to the country

As the bombs rained on the world.

Five a.m., here I am

Walking the block to table talk.

You could cry or die or just make pies all day.

I’m making pies, making pies.

 

Did you catch how she talks about her sweetheart? He is the Greek, she is the Italian girl. But he died in the war. She never married. She spends time with her sister and her sister’s son; she has no children of her own. Making pies is a mindless job for her. She could resign herself to a life of tears. Or she could just give up and die. But she makes pies. She has chosen to face life, and she has grown old making pies. Making pies, in this story, is such a brave thing to do. There is something so noble in this woman’s character. She is a hero, an every day, one-of-a-kind hero.

I love this song. Very few of us have epic “Taylor Swift” lyrics with which to illustrate our lives. (My daughter got Swift’s latest album for Christmas and so I have heard it quite a few times in the last few days.) But that doesn’t make our stories any less interesting or beautiful.

This year I want to spend time listening to the songs of the lives of those around me. I want to hear their simple, exquisite, unique stories.

And who knows, maybe I can translate some of them into written songs.

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My Closet

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The proud white cupboard stands on the side of the longest bedroom wall, tyrannising every other piece of furniture with its size alone. One look at the intimidating giant and my resolve to clean it out evaporates into humid regret. My conscience is only assuaged with the most binding of promises: “NEXT Saturday. I’ll have more time then and I can tackle the job with confidence and determination.”

Saturdays come and go, yet the towering monster stands unchallenged, gloating with supremacy. Then, in a sudden and violent fever one Tuesday evening, I muster up the courage to face the villain. Breathing deeply, face set with resolve, I slowly and deliberately march toward the enemy. I place first my right hand on one small round wooden doorknob and then my left hand on the other. I fill my lungs to capacity and as I exhale I pull the doors open toward me.

This fiend has feasted for far too long. He is full to overflowing as is evidenced by the pillar of hats which tumbles to the ground at my feet. At eye-level there runs a rail the width of the creature and from this clavicle hangs every kind of clothing known to man: shirts of various colour and sleeve length, thick and thin cardigans mostly in assorted muted tones, long full skirts and floral patterned dresses, waistcoats, trousers and scarves. Shelves above this strut hold the barbarian’s brain which is crammed full of old boxes, which are in turn crammed full of sentimental souvenirs. Fishmoths, like tiny endoparasites, slowly digest the bowels of each cardboard crate, leaving a white trail of death in their wake.

Weapon at the ready I purposefully hit PLAY on my portable jukebox and crank the volume up to HIGH. Then, singing “Heart of Rock and Roll” at the top of my lungs, I thrust my bare arms into the belly of the beast and pull out gut-loads of garments. I am thrown off-balance and tumble backwards onto the bed shouting, “Take that, o, thou foul varmint!”   I do hate spring cleaning.

 

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Writers’ Hub Challenge #4:   Where the Skeletons Live

The Prompt: Describe your closet. The Twist: Keep it short (but knock the reader’s socks off).

 

Rosaria

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Rosaria.  Rosaria.
Just fourteen in the promise of the New Land.
Just fourteen with so much ahead.
We are cheated,  We are robbed.
We are sorrow-bound and empty.
Where once we consumed hope and lived on the potent joy of promise,
now we only breathe.
In, out, in, out, in, out.
A chore without will, waiting to be taken.

Rosaria. Rosaria.
They didn’t make them pay.
They reached down deep into their pockets
and gave us a handful of small change
to compensate for taking our life blood.
We are dispensable
like so many scraps of fabric
only good for cleaning bird shit off of windows.

Rosaria.  Rosaria.
Now I carry cloth cuttings
from one factory to the next.
I see your eyes in the eyes of every immigrant.
I hear your laughter in the rumble of the traffic.
I taste your cries in the screams of the gulls.
And I trod on
waiting for the day
when justice will be more than a word on tongues of rich men.

 

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Writers’ Hub Challenge #3 – Picture This
The Prompt: Free write about this picture.

cloth cutter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture made me remember a piece of history.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire

Two fourteen year old girls died in this fire along with 144 others, mostly immigrants.
I imagined this man in the photo as the father of Rosaria.

Generations

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We are a rock
and we will not be moved.
Fists raised, faces turned to the sun,
we will cry out together
for emancipation.
Let freedom ring,
America.
Let freedom ring!

 

Liberty ain’t worth much
when you can’t find work
and the baby’s hungry.
These responsibilities
hold me faster than any chains.
Sometimes freedom
feels like a weight on my back.
They tell me I live in the land of the free,
the home of the brave.
I don’t see it,
America.

 

I need space.
I gotta find myself.
I don’t answer to any man.
I keep runnin’ cuz I’m lookin’.
I am looking for freedom
in the wild eyes of dancing girls,
in the open arms of America.
But no matter how fast I run this hollow follows me.
Freedom ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

Freedom —
it’s a lot of people talking.
Making noise
without a lot of meaning.
I sit silent as the words fly overhead.
I’m thinking
that freedom happens on the inside
before it’s ever realised on the outside.
Shut up, America.
Stop prattling long enough to listen.
Freedom has come to visit
dressed in the rags of poverty.

 

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This piece in response to Prompt #2 on The Writer’s Hub:
The Prompt – Run (or walk) to the nearest music playing device (radio, iPod, record player, 8-track) and turn it on. Select a lyric from the first, random song you hear. Use that lyric in a piece of writing of your choosing (fiction, non-fiction, poem, letter, etc.). The Twist – work the name of the artist into your writing as well.

My first random selection was Bourree 1 & 11 from the Bach Cello Suites played by Yo-yo Ma.  Okay — that wouldn’t work, not having any lyrics, although I fancied the challenge of putting “yo-yo ma” into a piece of writing!  🙂  Second random song was “Fire” by Noah Gundersen from his “Family” album.  There you have it.  As I listened I thought that “freedom” means different things to different people, and then imagined how the meaning of freedom changes through the generations.

 

A Letter

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Dear LL

I know you love to put pen to paper (or more recently, “fingers to keyboard”). And I know you long to wield words the way in which your husband releases a shutter and your friend applies paint to the canvas. There are many songs in your soul that are trapped inside, flying about like so many caged birds. There are stories lining your brain like the newspaper you used to use to line the rubbish bin. And I see the pain in your heart and the tears you shed for want of expression.

I also know you are afraid. You want nothing less than to create in words a perfect replica of that which lies inside. You want the world to see this beauty, to feel this pain, to share this desire. And every time you drag the words onto the page they fall short. And so you are afraid — afraid to open your heart to anything less than holy. You are afraid of rejection, but even more afraid of being invisible.

I want to tell you how glad I am that you have begun. No journey is possible without the first step. You have started, like a flower slowly opening to the sun, one petal at a time, and that is good. You have left anonymous and taken a pseudonym.

Now know that the destination is only reached through slow, methodical steps. Sometimes you will feel as though you are standing still, or worse, going backwards. At these times, lift your feet and trod on. Other times you will feel as if you are soaring, like gravity has released you from his lifelong chains. Whether in joy or sorrow, freedom or fear, march on.

Occasionally take the time to stop and reflect. Look back at where you have been and gaze forward to your goal. Perspective can quite easily be lost when focused on your feet. Quiet meditation will bring you back to reality and then inspire you to continue pursuing stars.

And last — acknowledge that you are not alone on this pilgrimage. Many are before you, many come behind and many surround you. Celebrate the fellowship. Read and encourage. Read and challenge. Read and honour. As you reach out your hand, so you will find hands extended, and your steps will be lighter. And you will journey in joy.

Grace and peace

LL

 

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Over at The Hub our first challenge is to write a letter to ourselves.  “Dear Me”
We are meant to reflect on who we are as a writer.

One day, a month ago, someone commented on a little piece I left on my blog, and they referred to me as a “writer.”  This was the first time in my life that anyone labeled me a “writer.”  Since then, through Writing 101, I have had so much encouragement, I almost believe I am a writer.

This letter is a letter to myself that is, in a funny way, giving me permission to call myself a writer.  I am not there yet.  But I have begun, and many of these baby steps were possible through the fellowship I found in this little corner of the internet.  Thank you, fellow writers!