Saturday, April 23, 2011

“To Keats”

With pen touching paper,
I watch the gray shadow float.
What mystery is this—
This writing?
Thoughts of Keats’s imagery
flow through my crowded Mind.
How could he write with such
tingling beauty?
Each metaphor stings with perfection.
Every allusion, Spring water clear—
Fresh, sweet air,
almost the bitter sweetness
of a deep Red Wine.
Can our vineyards produce such a tasteful red?
Could I, or any other wondering
Bard of this century—
Ever create such subtle horizons—
such mystic hues?
No, Romantic as I may be,
there will be no more virile
poesy such as Keats’s
No Grecisms forever alive.

Copyright 1976 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

I found this piece tucked into my freshman composition journal from my first semester at Texas A&M. I'm presently skimming this spiral, rediscovering the unpolished, enthusiastic writing I composed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

“The Artists”

We began like an artist,
observing the scene,
watching each other from afar.
Carefully, we began to
sketch a rough outline
of things held in common.
Cautiously, we touched brush to canvas—
     a first dash of red, a gentle blue.
    Here a sparkle of green leaves in the sun,
     a glint of mahogany.
    Then a slight sliver of silver on black—
     the light of a summer’s moon.
    There the dusky grey of
     twilight; the orange splash of
      the rising sun.
From the first we were
careful to explore
each new hue.
Trying to create,
with strokes of the brush,
a life together.


Copyright 1978 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

I wrote this poem soon after David and I met. We knew, almost from the first, that we'd spend our life together. Often people ask me what's the trick to a long, successful marriage, but I don't have an answer. Love, commitment, friendship, determination, acceptance, compromise, respect--key components to any relationship. I do believe, though, that too many people throw out the canvas after a mistroke of the brush.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

“Grandmother—Marie Byars Chapman”

            For some people, if you’re not blood, you’re not family. Even when you marry into a family, acceptance rests on personal whims or some private family game where the rules change with the winds of favoritism. Within this family structure, a newcomer feels unwelcome and lost. Having one person reach out and extend friendship provides an anchor to the outsider. Marie Byars Chapman provided that moor for me.
            When everyone spoke of Grandmother, their voices carried a mixture of awe and resentment. Grandmother’s house meant rules. It meant remaining quiet inside, putting on your best manners, and wearing shoes. Even as they grew up, her grandchildren bore the view that Grandmother equaled decorum and manners, a strict adherence to etiquette that chaffed the younger generation.
            My experience with Grandmother, though, came from a different perspective. She opened her home to me graciously and offered her affection to me abundantly. She introduced me to her friends as her granddaughter, not her grandson’s wife. She phoned to talk to me about my job, invited me out to shop and have lunch. For her, family was a state of mind—and a state of heart.
            I loved the time spent at Grandmother’s house. We’d sit in her family room, surrounded by books and plants, and talk about everything. We’d read the same books at the same time, and then talk about them for hours. David, a devout non-reader of fiction, became enamored with authors like Mary Stewart, James Michener, and Mary Renault.
            Forbidden topics like sex, religion and politics emerged in our endless conversations. Although we often had differing opinions, Grandmother always encouraged and never stifled me. She appreciated intelligent and witty conversation, and I loved the stories she wove for us during those lazy Saturday afternoons or long evenings when we’d dine together on left-over meatloaf converted into a stew.
            Eating with Grandmother proved an adventure. She loved dishes and had many different place settings. Often, she left it up to me to select the plates and glassware. Her love of fine china meant our shopping trips always included a run by Plate and Platter. Over the years, she added to my teapot collection with several lovely pieces that I still display.
            Grandmother added other things to my life, too. Her passion for music (she taught piano her entire life and had two baby grand pianos in her living room) taught me to persist in my own passion for writing. Grandmother worked most of her marriage, providing an income through her music lessons when her husband started his plastics business. She admired strong and independent women and encouraged my dedication to my career. She valued an honest, no nonsense approach to life, and yet she challenged us to reach for our dreams. No one praised David more for his art and photography. Never once did she disapprove of or diminish the life David and I built during those early years of our marriage.
            Grandmother shared with me stories of her childhood. She talked of her father’s movie theatre where she played piano while her sister, Charl, sang. She spoke of the newspaper, too, that her father published. Her stories included tales about David’s grandfather, who dabbled into a bit of everything. One of her favorite anecdotes played out like a Tracy-Hepburn comedy where, getting ready to go to the hospital to see a new grandchild, their argument over proper attire resulted in her donning her diamonds and mink while he resorted to his most faded shirt and stained pants!
            I miss Grandmother. When I listen to a composition written and performed by my son, I wish she could hear each note. When I discover a new author, I long for her commentary. When I watch the evening news, I imagine her quipped response. I miss her tenacious spirit and sharp intellect along with the generous way she pulled me into her life.  

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

“Yellow Roses”


                       
     Yellow roses. My mother, sister and I all carried yellow roses in our wedding bouquets. As a young child, yellow roses appeared on my mother’s birthday, occasionally on Valentine’s Day, and always on anniversaries. Yellow roses bloomed on the dining room table when Mom felt blue. Yellow roses adorned the table with illness or loss. They said, “I care. I love you. You’re special. I’m thinking of you today.”
     Their tradition grew into my generation, with both my husband and my son recognizing the power of a yellow rose. Whenever life’s overpowered me with stress, a dozen yellow roses removes the harsh edges. If I’ve felt overlooked and underappreciated, a single yellow rose soothes my disposition with its velvet petals and fragrant scent.




Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

“The Cabin”



      Head straight down the Scenic Loop and take a right midway between Leakey and Camp Wood. A gravel road snakes between live oaks, cedars, and mountain laurels. After driving at a crawl over ruts and dry creek beds for about a mile, a cabin hides behind a row of plump cedars.
            The place, constructed from a metal office building, looks unassuming. A huge screened-in porch juts from the front, its lattice now gray with age. Directly in front of the building squats our fire pit where we grill steaks or build s’mores.
            Our hill country place rests on twenty-six acres of solitude. When sitting out front, the whispers of the wind fingering through leaves blend with bird song. No traffic passes by, and even a dragonfly’s wing beating the breeze creates a soft purr.
            Hills tuck the cabin into a protected pocket, and two dry creeks zigzag through the acreage, providing a safe route for spring floods. Trails, worn on the hills and down the gullies by deer and wild boar, offer private paths for the hiker.
            Every visit, we make our way gradually around the perimeter of the property, checking the condition of the fence line. We stop at the pinion pines, pause at the highest summit behind the cabin and remember our first camp snugged among the live oak and mountain laurel. Gratitude floods through me for the legacy of this land. Older memories than my own hide in fossils and formations, revealing the layered evolution of our world.
            For twenty years, my feet have walked the rocky paths. First visits, we pitched tents, living close to the land. Later, the cabin allowed us to ease in luxuries like electricity. Inside, always left ready for the next visit, reside quilted comforts and soft beds. With no television, radio, or cell phone reception, life’s pressures subside within hours of arrival. The seclusion of the cabin nurtures imagination and inspires reflection. It is my Walden Pond.




Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, April 18, 2011

“Winter’s Rain”



It’s raining outside.
            That cold, winter’s rain that seeps into
            every fiber of your body. You long to
            stand out in the wetness and
                        melt
into the gutter.
            Swirling,
                        ebbing,
                                    flowing
                                                down into the sewer.
            You carry paper boats, and leaves, and
            tiny, jeweled pebbles with you
                        And you’re cold,
                        You’re numb
You have no toes, no arms,
                                                no soul.
                        When you should laugh,
you cry bitter, hot tears of—
                                                oneness.
You have actually melted into the
            Universe—you’ve gone from
Substance to Time.
            From Time to
                                    Space.
You feel nothing; yet everything.
                                                You are,
and again,
                                                You are not.
And when the rain stops, what then?
You begin to lose the numbness—
                                                            the oneness.
You
            dry
up into a brittle essence of fire. You
                                                            burn
                                                with the pressure of other bodies—needs.
And—
            you
                        wait
                                    for the next
                                                winter’s rain.

Copyright 1976 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

I posted this poem on my FaceBook Notes, but thought I'd also include it in my blog.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

“Deb—”

Deb
I want to be like you—
 believing in good
 from a suffering world
I want to be like you—
 crafting kindness
 with prayers and smiles
I want to be like you—
 listening to old hurts
 with an understanding heart
I want to be like you—
 fostering true generosity
 with that single perfect gift
I want to be like you—
 lessening sorrows
 with just the right words
I want to be like you—
 celebrating life’s milestones
 with thought and care
I want to be like you—
 dancing with rapture
 under the full moon
                     
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Matt, Debbie's husband, trained at Randolf Air Force Base twenty-five years ago. He called one evening to say that his wife had flown down to join him for a few weeks, but she was lonely in the little apartment. Could I invite her out for lunch and shopping? Little did we know that phone call would lead to many shopping trips or thirteen page letters between San Antonio and Atlanta (sometimes arriving in two envelopes because of the pictures sent,too). We've shifted to frequent emails which I save in a folder DEB.