Monday, August 1, 2022
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
A Fork in the Road
Posted in Confessions of a Grandpa, Personal History, Watch columns by Peter Shelton on July 5, 2022
[Now, with the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe, this column of Peter's, from 2013, has fresh resonance, to go along with the anger and disappointment in America’s rearward direction.]
As the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade came and went last week, I thought, inevitably, about the abortion I caused, struggled with, decided on and went through with, in 1967, six years before the Supreme Court made the procedure legal.
Not I alone, of course. My girlfriend had something to do with it. A lot to do with it, yes. And my mother. And my father. And a doctor I never met, who ended the pregnancy on a cold Sunday afternoon in December.
We could scarcely have been more naïve. It was my first physical relationship, the summer before starting college. That’s no excuse, but it was a fact as we explored and experimented and ended up, late that fall, with a couple of missed periods.
This girl, I’ll call her M., couldn’t tell her mother, so together we sat down with mine. There were some tears, but after the initial shock I remember the conversation settling, as most did in our house, into a reasoned examination of the options.
I had thought my dad would be the most ardent about getting an abortion. It had only been a matter of months since he’d given me some fatherly advice, expressing his hopes for my college years. He said those four years had been for him the freest, the most open-ended of his life, and he wished the same unencumbered time for me.
But Dad seemed intrigued when I brought up the possibility of our keeping the baby and my joining the Navy. He had been in the Navy during the war. We lived on the coast; we shared a love of boats and the ocean. (He was also a real straight arrow when it came to knowingly breaking the law.)
On the other side of the world Vietnam was raging. I had a student deferment, but nobody knew what might happen long term with the draft, and maybe, I thought, this was a fork in the road, the first in my young life, fate nudging me off the path most expected. I was more than willing to get married. I thought that was the outcome M. and I were headed for, whether or not we became parents at 18.
M. was not demonstrative on the Navy option. (We’d barely had time to talk ourselves.) She had also been more or less silent on the option of taking the pregnancy to term and giving the baby up for adoption. She was in college, too, at a branch of the University of California closer to home. Given the weight of emotion and the psychic exhaustion in the room after a time, I think she just wanted to do what was best for all of us. And by the next morning that best thing clearly was to terminate the pregnancy.
My mother was the one who, once the decision was made, steeled herself to action. She had friends, friends whose daughters had “gotten into trouble” and had to be rescued. M. and I knew nothing of this world; we would have been at a complete loss had we been on our own. Mom took over, arranged everything. She wasn’t happy about it, but she believed it was the correct solution. She was fond of M., but she knew it was mostly about the sex. She had warned me, gently, at the outset of the relationship. Too gently, I guess.
It was hard for me to think straight as I paced the alley behind the surreptitious clinic. It was too soon for perspective. But if I had been able to see the bigger picture, I would have realized how many lives were in fact saved that day: mine, M.’s (we parted, amicably, about two years after the abortion), probably M.’s mother’s, too – a single woman perched unsteadily on a financial and emotional edge.
Our decision also saved, or made possible, the life Ellen and I found together, starting in our mid 20s. And the lives of our dearly anticipated children and grandchildren.
I couldn’t see the future then, of course. I walked up and down, numb and anguished both at the same time, while M. and my mother were inside.
I remember there was a lot of broken glass in the alley. As I walked, I stared hard at the shards, like stars in a black asphalt sky, reflecting the sun on an unusually brilliant early-winter day.
Sunday, July 3, 2022
* “Ki” is a grammatical neologism Indigenous science writer Robin Wall Kimmerer advocates for using in place of “it”, “its”, “it’s” or “itself” to help correct English’s objectification of phenomena. The neologist term is harvested from the last syllable of a longer word in Potawatomi for an “earth being.” As a pre-school teacher I learned that we humans learn best by going through the known to the unknown. Instead of substituting “ki” for “it”, I’ve chosen to add the Indigenous neologism to our neutral English pronoun as a suffix, changing the way we speak of things in English from inanimate to animate. Indeed, that syllable, “ki”, is a Potawatomi suffix meaning “from the living earth.” Thus, itki means that even gender-neutral objects are in some way alive.
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Marko & Sally (Ryan & Meaghan?) were emcees, and did a lot of playful sketches and intros, especially a song skit called Stud & Babe. A bellydancer, my neighbor Tia performed a wild masked dance and used twirling ribbons very impressively. The We 3 a cappela choir of Amy, Leah and Joana did sumptuous harmonies.
A lovely fellow whose name I didn't catch had a rollicking Lift Ticket song that had everybody singing along. Tim and Ek of Ragged Soles performed original music, as well as Ethan (solo) and For My Family (guitars, violin and singer). Audience members competed for a demonstration of "Stupid Human Tricks" and Penelope Gleason won the prize for her facial movements.
was Logan & Nicko
doing a burlesque skit
Logan was a
ate it up
Joanna Spindler did a wonderful piece that she premiered at the Telluride Mushroom Festival last year. I performed my Forever Wild piece about the town's saving of the Valley Floor
in the evolutions of the DNA solutions
Not the human convolutions of political pollutions
No bloke should have to choke
to breathe the bloody smoke
& endure all the dope our dis-urban folk
are force-fed & white-bred to buy buy buy buy
Rednecks know how the cattle go
& the sheep & the pigs at the rodeo
where the 4H ranch kids show & sell
their darling pets to the slaughterhouse vets
for grand prize ribbons & barbequed ribs
You better bet
keeps a rifle loaded in his pickup
& if you’re a predator
he ain’t no host
As for Mama
she’s kicking up her heels at the Hitchin’ Post
so she can catch a little living
before the oven turns to toast
If we fast-food forward
where we seem to be headed
even the best will be bedded
in a sunset Sony big screen faux-dream
Mad Max Halloween
where they’ve stolen all the treats
in streets stripped of stars
chockfull of cars
on their way to the bars
The trick for the tramp
will be holding the lamp
so’s to be half slick enough
to slip past the thick stuff
they pour in our path
Fame. Fortune. The amenity math
whose sum shines so bright
there’s no time for fright
‘Cuz if you fall on your face
you’re out of the race
Look, you can't kick the habit
if you can’t take the heat
So let's eat, McRedeye sez
the sweet meat of anger
that feeds into action
to halt the reaction of corporate factions
Fleecing the flocks & shaking their fists
Unleashing their chickenhawks
for pre-emptive hits
Time to call “Bullshit”
& Seattle their trade talks
Like Telluride did to that Blues & bruised
fat cat plan
to supersize & infill
the glacial till of the Valley Floor
No way said the townsfolk
who scraped, borrowed, begged
& bought the sucker
An owner’s weighted bait
we refused to swallow
or follow hook, line and sinker
to the gondola mandala big pond stinker
No, we realized right from the start
what shaded our eyes
& kept people apart
And you could too
You could dare to dream
To band together senior and teen
for the good of the land
Take an Earth First! stand
Toss a wrench in the machine
Let’s cut to the heart
with a smart green blade
& come to the aid of those who oppose
greed’s bottom line charade
Let’s embrace what’s wild
Pray for open space’s saving grace
Surround your town like we did our town
Where seven generations from now
we will enjoy free-roaming elk
Not a docile herd of cow
No jerkoff forest slum
No white boy trophy rum
Just the mountains’ mother
Saturday, June 18, 2022
Jack Miller's Shrine at his place on Hastings Mesa.
Friends held a marvelous memorial for an amazing man -- climber, adventurer, explorer, maker and friend to many. Many of us got to tell stories about this gentle giant who was not only a bonafide hero for saving the life of a friend stuck on the cliffs at Yosemite with a broken bone, unable to move.
For me he was the best Green I knew, backing me up when I needed political support. A man of deep beliefs, integrity and action.
But a wild fellow who led me on an adventure at the legendary kickass cowboy bar in Ridgway called the Little Chef, where we "prosted" with a German fellow late into the day and then made it back to his digs on the Mesa, three of us on a snowmobile, so drunk we fell over every 20 feet, laughing with each tumble.
Lots of stories. Lots of memories. A friend for all seasons.
Wednesday, June 8, 2022
Madison Gill was our Bardic Trails featured reader for June.
She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Colorado State University-Pueblo. As a student there, she was involved with and first published in the university’s student-run literary magazine, Tempered Steel.
Following her graduation, Madison worked for a short time as a freelance reporter and then Assistant Editor of an independent news publication in Pueblo. In that role, she founded and independently managed the publication’s first ever poetry submission column where members of the community could submit their work for publication -- often for the first time.
Her first acceptance outside of an academic platform came in 2019 from a Denver-based journal called From Whispers to Roars. Since then, she has gone on to build her publication history both in print and online with such local, national and even international publications as: The Write Launch, Tiny Spoon, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Sledgehammer Lit, and Pocket Lint among others. She continues to submit her work for publication and share her poetry in person at local readings and open mics. Most recently, her work is forthcoming in a mental health anthology entitled Tea With My Monster published by Beyond the Veil Press.
In 2021, Madison was named the winner of the Cantor Prize awarded through the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds Poetry Program -- judged by Donald Levering of New Mexico -- with her poem, Urraca (magpie in Spanish):
In the yard, two magpies
fight over the still-warm carcass
of a less fortunate and nameless
bird. Their shrieking uncoils
like barbwire from my mother’s flinching ear. Meanwhile my lover’s
eye glazes over, no longer here
but far from here on one of many custody-arranged road trips
back and forth from Wichita
in the backseat of his grandfather’s car with his brother
scouring the skies and splintered fence
posts for a flash of yin and yang tail feathers. “Urraca!” they’d cry, and grandfather would award them both a quarter
for their retained Spanish – grandma laugh- sighing on the passenger side.
Now my lover and his brother
are older – his brow furrowed
in a wrinkle deep enough
to stick a coin in. And the quarters in his grandfather’s pockets,
if there were any, have long since dropped
onto the cold hospital floor
as a nurse folded them the morning after lightning struck in his chest and took him to the next world. Meanwhile the magpies
go about their brutal business –
softened in the memory of a child. Their long tail feathers like a bridge between worlds – my lover standing at one end, arms outstretched, crying: “Urraca! Urraca! Urraca!”
Light in the shape of his grandfather reaching back from the other, pulling a quarter like a silver tooth
from the mouth of the sun.
Madison likes to reference William Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech when describing the nature of her work as: “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself.” She is a self-proclaimed love poet. Most of her work is deeply rooted in her personal life and includes themes of relationships, family, mental health, spirituality, social justice, and the natural world. A few poets whose work Madison feels has greatly influenced her own include Joy Harjo, Mary Oliver, Frank O’Hara, Ken Arkind, Carrie Rudzinski, Andrea Gibson, and Buddy Wakefield among others. You can find Madison on instagram at @sweetmint_poet where she mostly celebration-posts her publication acceptances and occasionally shares excerpts of her recent work.
Here is A VIDEO RECORDING of her Bardic Trails zoom reading.
Broadside created by Daiva Chesonis
Poster by Joanna Spindler
Thursday, June 2, 2022
Wendy shared a number of thought-provoking excerpts from her recent book of essays,The Poetic Imaginarium: A Worthy Difficulty. Unfortunately, that book wasn't available thanks to supply chain issues. But her newest book of poems, Wise to the West (Able Muse Press, 2022), was available and she read several poems from there.
Here in the West
Here in the West, whatever
one never complains
about the rain.
What's good for the plains
is bad for the harvest.
What freezes in spring
is sugar-beet borrowed.
The river depletes.
The groves expire.
in summer is wildfire.
Afterwards, she opened the floor to questions. That prompted Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer to craft this poem, which she sent out to her followers today:
Fill in the Blank
Tonight, the poet with the tendrilled hair
asks us to fill in the blank.
The most important relationship
you cultivate in your life is with _________.
One person says, Love. Says another, Yourself.
And long after the question is gone
from the air, long after the conversation’s
moved on, I think about ways
to fill it in. With time. Mortality.
Uncertainty. Peace. And ultimately,
with nothing. How beautiful
to let what is blank stay blank,
a space holder for pure potential.
What if our relationship with nothing
is the most important relationship we have?
I notice how she never fills in the blank herself,
leaving the space for everything.
Nothing is the most generous of doorways.
Now everything is possible.