Three Little Kids on a Log, by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the fifth post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification. You can find her earlier posts here.


signed up for an all-day write-a-thon. I had wanted to attend one of these for a long time, but something else always came up. I had never attended one, but had heard some good things about it.

I read from the description we would be writing “to prompts.” I expected a series of exercises where we would be given a prompt, write to it, and do some sharing; then on to the next prompt, throughout the day. Safe. Routine. Predictable.

Instead, it was very different. We sat down, were given a page of around 30 prompts and were told to just write.

I found this challenging, especially for my concentration. I am usually a quick thinker AND quick writer. But after around an hour, I found it challenging to stay focused. I wanted to get up and turn on my phone. I wanted to go outside. I wanted to read/ relax/ filter/ withdraw. It was intense. I felt uneasy. Just being there with my writing.

For the first few hours, I played around. The writing I did was fun, but it didn’t really resonate with me. Then, nearing the end, something finally “clicked”. It was as if all the previous writing was the warm up, preparing me for this as it wanted to come out. It just poured out.

The prompt was: “Three little boys are sitting on a log in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky”.

The poem reflects a lot from my spiritual path/and background. I was brought up Unitarian. My ancestral heritage is Judaism. I attend Quaker meetings, and belong to a feminist women’s Goddess tradition called Mystai of the Moon. All of these religious paths have one thing in common: the belief that there is no intermediary between the seeker/worshiper and Source. No authority who can tell one what to think. Personally, I don’t believe that any of us can really know ALL or even a lot of what/who/God/Goddess/Spirit/Creator really, so each human being (and who knows? Even every squirrel?) has, not Truth, but a small part of the truth.

And the story that emerged in my day of writing reminds me a lot of the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

Three Little Kids on a Log

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He hears a booming, majestic voice saying:
“I am the source of truth! I am absolutely right! You are powerless. You must submit to me and obey me in everything!”

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
She hears a gentle soft voice saying:
“I am the Goddess! I am the nurturer, the Mother. I bring you love and compassion!”

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He hears a calm, measured voice saying:
“The only truth is within.”

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
She hears only silence.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He hears many many voices all talking at the same time. He doesn’t understand what they are saying.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
She sees and feels, the bugs crawling on the log. She scratches her arm.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He looks down at the log and decides to move it. It is too heavy to move.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He doesn’t see much up there. He looks down at the log. It seems like a pretty ordinary log. Nothing much. He wishes he could chop up the log and make a more comfortable bench with it. He thinks he could make some money selling benches that are made from logs. He finds an ax and starts to chop down some trees.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
She hears a hateful voice screaming:
“The other voices are all demons! The little girls who listen to them are heretics! They must all be destroyed! They must all be killed!”

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. All three of them look up at the sky.
They see different things so they start to argue about what they saw. They start throwing stones at each other. One little kid falls down and doesn’t get up again.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He sees only clouds. Dark storm clouds. He runs and hides from the clouds. Digs himself a hole in the ground.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
She feels that she should cleanse herself. Purify herself. She jumps in the stream and bathes. She doesn’t feel any cleaner.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
He stands up, sits down, closes his eyes. And sits. And breathes.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. One of them looks up at the sky.
She hears a voice saying “Go and find food. “ She sees some berries and she offers some to the other little kids. They all enjoy eating together.

Three little kids sit down in a forest by a stream. None of them look at the sky.
They look into each other’s eyes. They all hold hands and they start to dance.

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Eviction Notice, by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the fourth post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification. You can find her earlier posts here.


Until 2013, I had never written or read a performance piece. I had read poetry frequently at the peace vigils of Brandywine Peace Community, a local Philadelphia area antiwar group. In fact, Bob Smith — the leader of the group — looked on me as sort of his “go to” poet. Once, at a Hiroshima event, he asked me to read “your Sadako poem”. (For Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who died of leukemia from the after effects of the Bomb). It happened that at the time he asked I didn’t HAVE a Sadako poem. But by the time of the rally, I DID.

But I had never done a performance piece. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy brushed my area lightly but did not greatly affect it. Still, it was a wake up call for me to start thinking about the environment more. I started to use cloth grocery bags, and hang my clothes up to dry instead of using the dryer and a few other small changes. I also started to imagine how Mother Earth would feel if she were to talk to her children (that’s us). What would a mother say? When I wrote this poem, it was as if I were invoking Mother Earth: as if she were dictating the poem to me!  A very intense experience.

When I was asked to read a poem at a peace event after that, I decided to perform “Eviction Notice,” and included props such as the Pepsi bottle and other trash.

I enjoyed doing this. It was more like acting, and more fun than just reading a poem.

Since then, my poetry has been more intuitive: more from the heart as I try to listen to what my spirit wants to say.

At the time I wrote this, I had Mother Earth telling the kids that unless they cleaned up their act, they were out of there. But I changed it in this revised version to say their time was up. I guess I feel a little more uneasy now about climate change. But I still hope we can wake up and listen to her words before it is too late!

 

Eviction Notice
by Laurie Pollack (as Mother Earth)

 

Kids,
Are you listening?
I don’t think you are!
Because you never clean your rooms:
I was walking in my forest yesterday and do you know
What I found? This Pepsi can!
And here’s what I found in my ocean the other day:
A filthy, yucky plastic bag!
Not only that.
You left the heat on full blast the other day
And when I got home the icebergs were all melted.
You crowd the whole house
with your STUFF. Your Junk.
And my other kids have nowhere to go.
My sea turtles! My birds! My bears! My wolves!
The water is all dirty. It stinks.
And you don’t clean it up.
You live here rent free.
Eating my food.
Drinking my water.
Breathing my air.
Not doing your chores.
Not getting a job.

I have had it with you kids!
You are old enough to know better.
Grow up!
I am MAD.
And don’t assume you can get away with it.
I’m not Mama. I’m not Mommy anymore.
I’m MOTHER EARTH.
And when I get mad I can throw
A tsunami, an earthquake, or a hurricane.
And I will.

I have warned you before.
But you didn’t listen.
So now it’s time and
You have to get out of my planet
And find another place to live
Because remember that I brought you into the world
And I can take you out of it!
No more apple pie, kids!

Signed,
MOTHER

“Wordless” by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the third post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification. You can find her earlier posts here.


Terrorist attacks in the US and abroad. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Shootings of Black men by police. Shooting of police officers.

Angry words by Donald Trump. Condemnations of immigrants.

The words and acts go.on and on.

As I get older I get more and more drawn to quiet and solitude and silence… I feel more and more, a desire to go BEYOND words. Beyond their limits.

And I wonder:

Why can’t we shut up and just quietly look into each other’s’ eyes, and see the Light there?

I felt drawn to write this poem about the events going on and also felt moved to invoke the elements of nature: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. The power of words. But also the limit of it. What happens, where do we go when we are wordless? Maybe inside ourselves but maybe to each other?

I was also inspired by the title of the TLA Conference: Power of Words.

We all matter. Infinitely. Each human life is sacred.

 

Wordless

by Laurie Pollack

 

Words
I always thought
Always believed
Words have power

Campfire warmth
Sun melting snow
Sparks blowing high
Glowing coals
Flickering  candle
Forest fire
Nuclear blast
Words are Fire

Stream running over rocks
Ocean wave breaking
April rain misting down
Arctic glacier
Blizzard
Flood
Tsunami
Words are Water

Garden Seeds planted
Trees shedding leaves
Deep dark cave
Sandy beach
Geode crystal
Desert cliff
Landslide
Quake
Volcano
Words are Earth

Baby’s first breath
Evening breeze
Clouds in the sky
Hurricane
Tornado
Words are Air

No. It can’t be true. Words lose their power.

Please say this didn’t happen
Please say he isn’t gone
Please say she isn’t dead
No you can’t bring him back with words
No you can’t bring her back with promises
With statements about how sorry you are.
All I have is silence anymore
And still I want to look
Into your eyes
And see the Light in them.
Can we walk on in silence and carry
Their memories on the
Air, Fire, Earth and Water?
Human life is Spirit

“The Poetry of English” by Laurie Pollack

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the second post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification.

The Poetry of English

By Laurie Pollack


I am a very verbal person. Have always been. Have been writing poems since age 7, when I started writing little rhymes with my poor handwriting.

Words are who I am. Meaning is, too. I am constantly trying to figure out what things mean, both analytically and intuitively.

I have a constant internal mental dialog going on, as well as a mental soundtrack.

Thus, I am constantly flooded with words.

I also have had since I was young a very strong need to understand and be understood. I would feel frustrated when this did not occur. Recently I started to let go of this. To realize that one person really cannot understand another. Because each of us is different.

As I let go of the obsessive need to communicate, I started to look at language. Not what it means, but what it sounds like. And to realize there is a sort of poetry in language sounds.

I first experienced this when I lived in Israel for a year in 1982 at age 23. Although for part of that time I was enrolled in a 6 month Hebrew work-study program, still most of the time what people said in Hebrew was unintelligible to me other than a few scattered words. I felt as if I were behind a wall, a wall of not understanding. At times this was extremely frustrating. I wanted to connect but could not. At least not in the usual way.

But because I could not understand what was being said I found I listened more carefully to the feeling behind the conversation and looked more carefully at expressions and gestures.

I also found that I could hear a sort of melody in the language itself. But it was hard to explain this to others so I didn’t try.

Lately I started listening in the same way to my own language: English. Put up the wall of misunderstanding of meaning, deliberately. And was amazed at what I found.

All my life I had heard that English was a harsh, guttural Germanic tongue that is not “pretty”. This may be true, but I found to my amazement that when I tried, I could imagine a sort of poetry in the way the words sounded.

If you are a native English speaker, try this. Everyone’s reaction will be different. You will hear English different from what I hear.

It is hard to do this when you understand the words. So make a deliberate attempt to NOT understand.

Listen to the sound of an English sentence. It can be an interesting experiment in mindfulness and attention. In going beyond the habitual.

How does it sound? Are there visual pictures or images? Colors? Does it have a certain feel to it?

What does your English look like? Sound like? Feel like? Taste like?

What is its poetry?

Try any sentence. How about this one?

“English is a harsh, guttural, ugly language”.

To me, the above sentence looks like a purple tree blowing around in a hurricane, with the leaves being torn roughly off. Smells like the earth of a newly dug up garden. Feels like sandpaper being rubbed against a block of wood. Sounds like rocks falling down a cliff.

If you really want a powerful experience: try looking, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling a sentence from Shakespeare, or the King James Bible, or Walt Whitman. Or better yet: your own poetry.

Contemplate a single English word.

Consider the word “HAT”.

To me it sounds like the wind blowing.

“Water”.

Feels like a tidal wave sucked out to sea then crashing back to smash whatever is on shore.

“Dance”

Looks like a tornado in the distance.

“Blue”

Tastes to me like a butterfly flapping its wings.

NO, English is not pretty.

To me, English is the power of a cold waterfall full of icy shards.

English is the energy of a crackling bonfire.

English is the strength of a room full of dancers celebrating a wedding.

It is the warmth of the sun on the pavement, on a hot July day

English is not beautiful. Is not pretty. Is not delicate. Is not spun glass.

English is not a chocolate mousse. It is a crockery of unfired earthen pottery filled with split pea soup fragrant and filling.

Look, listen, touch, taste and smell your English. And dance!

Laurie Pollack: To my Ten Year Old Self

Editor’s Note: As some of you may know, the TLA Network offers a Certification program. Chronicling TLA practice is a part of that process, which can be fulfilled by writing multiple pieces for the blog. This is the first post from Laurie Pollack, a poet and artist currently pursuing certification.

As part of my daily journaling practice, I write something (maybe a poem or a brief piece of “flash fiction”) in response to a prompt from a book of writing prompts. I choose each day’s prompt randomly. One day the prompt was, “Write a letter to your 10 year old self.”
I have always had a sensitivity to harsh words. As a child I could not handle this, and the adults around me were mystified and could not handle ME. As an adult I have learned to use this awareness to honor the power of words to heal and help and to weigh my words very carefully. It has turned me into a poet.
Dear Laurie ten years old

Dear Laurie ten years old,
I know you feel sad

Because you get in trouble a lot
And sit in the principal’s office.

Because the other kids call you names.
Because when they do it feels
like you were hit in the gut
Hard
and it hurts bad
and the only way to get rid of
the pain is to hit them back.

Dear Laurie ten years old
I know you are feeling alone

Because your parents do not “get”
the fact that words can hurt
and tell you to “just ignore it”

Because your mother tells you that once when
she got teased it didn’t bother her
but that she just hit them with
an umbrella and they stopped
but that you should not do that

Because the teachers tell you
you just need to control yourself
and if you ignore it they will stop and
it will be happy ever after and the kids will all be your friends

Dear Laurie ten years old
I know you are feeling angry

Because the pediatrician tells your parents
that words should not hurt like that
and that you are too sensitive
and maybe in a girl it is a sign of
Attention Deficit Disorder and he
gives you a prescription

Because tells you it is a “smart pill” to make your “motor go slower” and the kids’ words
will stop hurting

Because you thought you were smart already and you like to read authors like James Michener and Isaac Asimov and you have written poems since you were seven

Because you think your “motor” runs just fine

Because the medicine does not help
but just gives you nightmares
and makes you scared to fall asleep
and makes you want to pull out your hair all the time
and the words still hurt.

Dear Laurie ten years old

I  am writing to tell you that words DO hurt
and you have a right to feel hurt
And that one day you will be in a place and
time where you are safe
and there may be words that hurt
but you will be strong
enough to find ways to deal with the pain
other than hitting back

Because you will come to know
that words have power
not only to hurt
but to heal
to change
to manifest
to transform
to love
to heal the world
and you will use words to work for a gentler world

And when you do you will call
yourself three words
That will heal you:

Activist
Teacher
Poet

20150626_203509Laurie Pollack by day works with computers weaving code using the words of the programming language Visual Basic.Net, but this is not where her heart lives. Her heart lives in writing poetry and creating art with painting and SoulCollage (R) (an intuitive collage art practice). 
She gives occasional local workshops in SoulCollage (R) and hosts several free Facebook events yearly challenging people explore their creativity in writing and the arts. In the latest, “April Fools! Break the Rules!”, participants were challenged to list 10 rules they follow in doing their art or writing then create a piece breaking at least 3 of them. She is thinking of expanding this idea into a longer online class.
She has self-published one book, PeaceWalk, in 2006 and is working on another. “The Box”, a poem set in Sime-Gen, the universe created by science fiction author Jacqueline Lichtenberg, was included in 2015 in an anthology of fan writings, “Fear and Courage: Fourteen Writers Explore Sime-Gen”.
Laurie likes to read her poems at events like desert peace walks and anti-war vigils, enjoys gardening, and shares a rowhouse near Philadelphia with Mary: her legal spouse of 2 years and life partner since 1995, and two cats, Maggie and Lucy, who rule and demand regular “tributes” of Fancy Feast.