This is a poem I’ve had out for submission on and off over several years. It was recently rejected (again) so I thought I’d publish it here in honor of Thanksgiving (and because it started to feel like winter this week).
I definitely want one warm winter—this winter—away. Unfortunately, with Covid continuing to rage across the country, and especially in my state, that’s not in the cards. But it’s fun to daydream. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the geese: how they look out for one another. How they are stronger together. How they move as if one being, connected by an invisible current of air. How we humans could do better if we behaved like these birds. Maybe it the phrase shouldn’t be “silly goose,” but instead silly us for underestimating them.
I wanted to capture the conspiratorial, gossipy nature I attribute to geese, but I also wanted the poem to feel more intimate, like I’m talking just to you. I don’t love when poets tell me what the poem is about (it should stand on its own) but I don’t mind hearing how they decided on structure or form. This one came from progressing prompts: two- to three-word sentences, then chaining sentences (where the last word in one sentence is also the first word in the next), and finally one long sentence, which is what became this poem. I changed a few words and tried to make it look like a formation of geese and voila, here we are.
Happy (early) Thanksgiving!
Prayer for the Anxious
Remember that people don’t post “I stayed inside again today.” Or, “It was another day of not flying anywhere.” Or, “Only interacted with my roommate.” Or, “Drank my own tap water and ate food I cooked myself, then did some laundry before numbing myself to sleep watching something on a streaming service.”
You don’t have to like other people’s vacation photos: pause, take a deep breath and realize they’re not trying to be careless or thoughtless. They don’t know how anxious it makes you to see people gathering unmasked: at a bar, at the Fair, at a ballgame. Acknowledge it’s hard living with other people’s risk tolerances on display. Send a prayer for when you’ll be able to do that, too, and scroll on. Do not hold that anxiety in your body; release it like a peony bud unfurls: one petal (vertebrae) at a time.
A prayer of grace for you parents, you work/stay/teach/parent-from-homers. All grace to the parents of littles and mediums, too young to get vaccinated, too old to stay in small spaces all day. All grace to you parents of big kids and no-longer-a-kids, stepping out into the wide, wide world after so much time in a small orbit. All grace to those littles and mediums and big kids and no-longer-a-kids, too. All grace to those who have sent their hearts out in the world with a mask and a backpack and the hope they’ll be okay. They will be okay. All grace to the children we have failed and failed and failed, small bodies that hold so much emotion. All grace to the teachers and support staff, the bus drivers and the cafeteria workers and custodians and those who supervise recess.
Peace to the healthcare workers, the doctors, nurses, aides, respiratory therapists, the cleaners, the receptionists, those who are IN IT. Peace to those who hold the hands of the dying, who press oxygen masks to lips, who shout over face shields and sweat under their masks. Know there are other people still wearing masks and social distancing, who got vaccinated as soon as they could (but didn’t jump the line), who still haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March of 2020. We don’t photograph our takeout; you won’t see us smiling from our couches. But know we are here and we’re with you.
Much love and deep breathing to the anxious: the ones who’ve done everything they could, washed their hands until they are red, sprouted maskne under myriad face coverings, worn bite guards for their teeth-grinding, missed family gatherings and parties, ballgames and concerts, substituted day trips for real trips, and have only dreamed of sunshine and beaches. Love to those who feel like the only one holding up the tent poles, like your hand is all that is holding back the dam, like if you let go all the Jenga pieces will fall.
All you need to do is get through today. Let tomorrow come as it will. Whisper to the night sky, to the clouds: I am here. I am okay. I am doing enough.
Allow Me to Re-Introduce You to My Writing
I wrote this piece over a year ago, right before the world shut down. It was inspired by one of the last outings I went on—certainly one of the last times I ate in a restaurant. I sent it to one place (rejected) and another place never responded, either because they’re no longer open or because they got too many submissions to respond to all of them. Or maybe the past year was just too much.
This is a weird piece: not really nonfiction, not really fiction, not really a story so much as an imagined tour. Light and fun. But I’ve found that not a lot of literary journals want light and fun. Or if they do, it’s a different kind of light and fun. There are very few places that specialize in humor and even less that specialize in quirky.
I withdrew the piece for consideration a couple of weeks ago. I’ve missed putting work out in the world in a way that is more immediate. I’ll still be submitting, but I’m also going to start publishing pieces here more. I don’t typically get paid at the places I submit pieces (unless you count contributor copies), and often I have to pay to submit, so why not (especially after a piece is rejected a few times) publish it here?
It feels fitting to publish this today. The two-year-old in the story just turned four. Time flies, even in a pandemic, it seems.
One of the reasons I write is to share with others, to connect. SO, if you like this piece: forward it! Share it with your friends (using a link to this post, of course; copying and pasting the piece without attribution is a no-no, please and thank you). Leave a comment to let me know what you liked. If you don’t like it, send it to people you don’t like. 😉
One more thing: I am not sponsored by or affiliated with Culver’s, other than we’re both from Wisconsin and full of cheese.
Allow Me to Introduce You to My Favorite Place, Culver’s Restaurant #214
As dictated to me by my two-year-old nephew through his jubilant marching, emphatic pointing, and random squealing.
Welcome guests and esteemed friends to this fine establishment of dining (not to be confused with a fine dining establishment, many of which hath banished me until I reach twelve years of age or until such time as I am able to remain “properly attired in all articles of clothing and overgarments, including, but not limited to, footwear”). For those of you unfamiliar with the joy that is a Culver’s restaurant, allow me to gather you for a tour of my favorite franchise, store #214 in Saint Anthony Village, Minnesota—which is not, in fact, a village, but a city (but I digress).
As you may have already experienced, whenever you cross the threshold of this noble place you are greeted most warmly by one of the many blue-frocked employees, all of whom are ready to serve your every whim and craving. The bright, cheery counter stands as a beacon in the harsh futility of existence, the aromas wafting from the frenzied kitchen assail your senses in a pleasing way. What choice lies in front of you—I am jealous of your palate’s tabula rasa status as we stand. Might I suggest the chicken tenders? I have been known to finish one whole piece, and I especially enjoy dunking them in honey mustard sauce, ketchup, or whatever viscous substance has been left smeared on the table from the previous occupants. The combinations of nourishment and refreshments from which you can choose is limited only by your imagination, and possibly age, as I have been confined to the menu designated for persons on the early end of their life’s journey and have been informed that I [quote] “can order a whole ButterBurger when [I] can eat a whole ButterBurger,” and although I scoff at such restrictions, as I am heavy in attitude but light in coin, I must defer to my patronage i.e. my adult chaperones, henceforth known as my parents. When I visit this establishment with my grandparents, however, the rules differ greatly.
High on yon shelf, espy the inanimate representatives of this fine franchise: Curdis (a stuffed cheese curd) and Fudge the dog have aligned themselves with Scoopie, a single scoop custard cone and the original Culver’s mascot. I, personally, find Curdis a bit unsettling with his eye-less glasses and torso-less body, but I only recoiled in terror that one time and am willing to defer to less discerning sensibilities. This is to say, I would happily accept him with open arms were you to purchase him for my amusement. Below the shelf and beyond the impenetrable wall of registers, all of which I wish to touch, is the most magical of sights one can only dream about: a waterfall of cascading custard, of the variety “fresh frozen,” which might seem like an oxymoron (a word I recently learned when studying for my preschool entrance exam) but it simply means that they produce a new small batch regularly. They proffer two flavors daily, chocolate and vanilla, as well as a third, special “flavor of the day.” Although I am a chocolate purist at the counter, I have been known to dabble in whatever flavor my tablemates are enjoying and would deign to eat rum raisin in a pinch.
But do not get lost in the custard! There are so many exceptional parts of this charming eatery that we must continue our excursion. Rounding the corner from the registers you encounter the wonder that is the fountain soda machine. There are not one but two—TWO!—ice dispensers, neither of which is locked like the one on my Aunt Sarah’s refrigerator. And there are many different pop options—poptions?, and although I am again restricted to milk, water, or the occasional sips of my mother’s lemonade, I am told there are nine varietals of classics such as “root beer” and “Diet Pepsi.” Next to the containers of iced tea, or “Grampa Juice,” you’ll find a coterie of condiments. Two—TWO!—ketchup dispensers! Forks and spoons and napkins, oh my! Straws and lemon wedges, at no additional cost to you. But do not sully them with your unwashed hands or you shall face the wrath of Jesse, the floor manager. Or so I’ve been told. As I cannot reach said condiments without assistance, I am fairly certain the legend of Jesse was conjured in an effort to squash my spoon-grabbing attempts.
We haven’t even gotten to the best part of the whole restaurant, however: the people. It is populated with grandparents. Grandparents in booths. Grandparents at two-top tables. Grandparents shuffling back-and-forth for refills on their Arnie Palmers. If you wave at them, sometimes they will offer you a french fry or respond with “how precious.” De-lightful. Additionally, as this is a restaurant touted to be “family-friendly” (or, “Sure, bring your kids”), there is a high probability you will encounter someone of similar age and stature, at which time I often draw my bright blue spoon and shout, “For Curdis! And custard!”
Dog Days of Summer
So, as you may have noticed, I have fallen off posting with any regularity. I could give you a few reasons for this (new and exciting relationship, weekly sketch show writing/rehearsing/performing demands until mid-July, general summer busyness, a couple of minor illnesses) but the truth is, I haven’t been doing much writing of any kind, other than sketch writing, for a while.
Writing these posts used to be a (mostly) weekly exercise, something I had become very practiced and disciplined at doing. I also did an okay job of writing other pieces on a regular basis. I was working on the book at a decent (if not entirely dogged) clip. But a few months ago I suddenly found myself uninspired to write. In the past, I may have pushed myself, created forced writing time each week, slogged through a bunch of terrible writing. But this time I couldn’t do it.
It’s difficult calling yourself a writer, considering yourself a writer, and not feeling inspired to write. In the past, writing was almost a compulsion: I’d sit up in bed needing to scribble down what I was thinking, use my breaks at work to outline a piece, spend hours after work crafting essays and book chapters and blog posts. But aside from a piece or two, I haven’t written much of anything lately.
I try not to beat myself up about it, don’t let myself think of the hours I’ve “wasted” when I could have been writing. I won’t let it bother me that I started this post three weeks ago but didn’t finish it until now. Instead, I’m feeling more rested and renewed after my break. “The Dog Days of Summer” refer to the period of time mid-summer, roughly July 3 to August 11, when the Dog Star (Sirius) rises at the same time as the sun. According to Dictionary.com, it’s a “sultry” time of the summer, “a period marked by lethargy, inactivity, or indolence.” They certainly were just that for me.
Here’s what I’ve been up to:
I went for a walk this morning. It’s a beautiful day; currently the temperature is 81 degrees, but there’s a bit of a breeze and the humidity is pretty low so it feels amazing, even in the sunshine. And the sunshine is plentiful.
I passed a garage sale, some kids outside playing, a woman walking a dog. Several houses had American flags out. The smell of a charcoal grill wafted over the neighborhood. Today is one of the nicer Memorial Days (weather-wise) in recent memory.
I thought about all of the things I’m grateful for: the apartment I set out from, my job (from which I have the day off), this new relationship, which is pretty much the greatest.* The fact that I have the ability to follow my passion, that I can write anything I want, anytime that I want. Family, friends. Freedom.
I thought about previous Memorial Days: attending the parade with my dad, marching with the band in high school. I probably didn’t pay much attention to the meaning behind it before, I was just happy to have a day off to start the summer.
I’ve known a few people in my life who have served in the military in some capacity (both grandfathers, a cousin, my boyfriend’s dad), but I’m lucky in that all of them have made it home safely.
Others are not so lucky.
But I still benefit from those sacrifices, which somehow make them more significant. It’s one thing to give up your life on behalf of a loved one; it’s much different to do it for a bunch of strangers.
Everyone who died in service did just that.
For Gram, On Her 100th Birthday
My grandmother (my mom’s mom) was born 100 years ago today. We’re planning to honor her this weekend, which will be the 4th in my series of 15 25’s to 35 (yes, I still owe a post about the third one), but I wanted to give you a sense of what the world my grandmother was born into was like, and a few nods to the things that have come along since. Gram died 10 years ago this April, and I miss her dearly. This post is for her. -Sarah
Anna May Brown (later Dickerson) was born on March 25, 1916. At that time, the country was still a year away from declaring war on Germany, although much of the rest of the world was pretty entrenched in battle in WWI. Women still had the length of a presidential term to wait before they could vote in one. BMW was formed earlier that March. The company that would become Boeing was incorporated. Pancho Villa led Mexico in a fight against the United States.
Dadaism was a new art movement when my Gram was born. It was the year of the Easter Rising in Ireland. It was also the year that President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill incorporating the Boy Scouts. The Saturday Evening Post published its first issue with cover art from Norman Rockwell. The first published reference to “jazz” appeared in Variety. The National Park Service was created in 1916, and Margaret Sanger opened the first U.S. birth control center (a forerunner for Planned Parenthood), but one could still be arrested for lecturing on birth control, as was the case for Emma Goldman earlier that same year and Sanger herself a few months later. The toggle light switch was invented. Poland was established.
Sweet 16 Plus 18
Wow, that sounds old.
It’s better when you hear I’m 34, but still. Guys, I’m 34. Today. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier.
I can’t remember the last birthday I looked forward to this much. Not only is it the third 25th (of 15), but my parents and siblings are coming for dinner, and I have a boyfriend with whom to celebrate. I feel like a teenager. (Hence the title of this post.)
But, unlike a sweet sixteen-year-old, I have the wisdom of adulthood (that’s that other 18 years). I’ve lived through the tumultuous teens and terrifying twenties, and I’m well into the thrilling thirties.
A Smitten Dose of Sarah
Buckle up kids, because this is a long story but it’s a good one. It’s about relationships and the fact that, for the first time in almost 34 years, I have a Valentine on Valentine’s Day.
Thoughts I Had While Swimming For the First Time in Years
My sister and brother-in-law gave me an air plant for Christmas, and it is delightful. They gave me three, actually, but two of them aren’t faring so well. The one I’ve named Nemo, though, reminds me of the giant squid at the end of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He looks like a deep sea diver trying to escape. It’s actually quite beautiful and active.
Despite the name, air plants are very aquatic in that you have to soak them twice a week for a couple of hours each time. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching all that floating, or maybe I’ve just been missing the pool for a long time, but I decided to get back into swimming this year. And, luckily, the Y not too far from my apartment just reopened after being remodeled. I bought a membership and went for the first time on the opening night of the pool. Here was my experience: