Saturday, July 2, 2011

“Brain Freeze”

            Back when I still worked as a teacher, I often needed incentives to make it through the grueling weeks. Those of you in education know what I mean. Monday would find the kids sluggish from staying up and out all weekend, and any knowledge gained the previous week melted into oblivion the moment the kids left school grounds on Friday. I pulled patience out of my tote every Monday morning and managed to survive the first day back. Of course, Monday’s meant marathon faculty meetings. These gatherings served little purpose. Often the principal wanted to pat himself on the back. Other times, he wanted to deride and denigrate the faculty. Needless to say, by Monday evenings, I dragged home in low spirits.
            Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays filled with events ranging from mundane to X-Files. Seventh grade boys, notoriously squirrely, moved from chasing each other around the hallways on Tuesdays to assault and battery by Fridays. The girls fluctuated so much in hormone output that they spun out of control from one hour to the next. Within all of this, add district office walk-throughs to “prove” teachers teach, angry parents screaming because I wouldn’t let their child come to tutoring to do work he refused to do in class, Napoleonic peers demanding praise and attention, and a mandatory _________ (insert: Open House, TAKS Night, Dance duty, PTO, sporting event) that turned the regular ten hour day into a fourteen hour nightmare. Obviously, it became necessary for me to reward myself for each Friday I pulled out of the driveway and headed my car toward work instead of the beach or hill country.
            One Friday morning as I dragged myself to work, my growling stomach led me to the nearest Sonic. I cannot eat much before nine in the morning, so I decided to order something to drink. Vowing to myself to try something that was healthier than a Dr. Pepper, I discovered Cranberry Slushes on the menu. Triumphantly, I ordered a Route 44. I took a cautious first sip and found the cranberry perfectly tart. Once on the road, I swallowed a huge gulp of the icy treat and practically veered off the road in excruciating pain—Brain Freeze. Needles stabbed into my sinuses. My head felt like shrapnel boomeranged within my skull. Inhaling and exhaling rapidly through my nose to pull in warmer air, I managed to regain control of the car. And then I took another huge sip, repeating the painful episode again.
            It makes little sense to me, but I looked forward to treating myself to this torture at the end of horrendous weeks. I believe now that this sadomasochistic ritual paralleled the pleasure/pain elements of working at my middle school. As long as I could still feel and survive a brain freeze, I knew I’d make it through another week.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, July 1, 2011

“Careless Words”

Careless words cast without thought
bristle under my skin
leave me empty
Careless words sucker punch me
demean my life
belittle my dreams
Careless words stated as fact
insult my views
binding me in heartache
Careless words spoken to wound
choke and repress
make me mourn 

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, June 30, 2011

“Theme Song”

            Recently, I’ve noted several friends refer to their “theme song.” They have one special melody or lyric that harmonizes with significant events in their lives. I’ve tried to think of my one special piece, but instead I hum out tunes from different periods of my life. In high school, it was Elton John’s “Daniel” playing on my 8-track. In college, I remember singing “Some Day Soon” by Firefall when I studied. After I got married, my music mixed with David’s—Eagles, Beatles, Heart, Billy Joel, Kansas, Yes, Rush. I didn’t listen to any one particular group, let alone have a “theme song” that represented my life at that time.
            The 80s blurred by with us searching out new sounds to counter the airwaves’ disco drone. Always a classical music lover, I remember listening at night to a local station that rasped, gasped, and hissed with poor reception; but I didn’t care. I discovered Jazz during these years, and I revisited all the big bands my parents introduced to me as a child. Never having much money during the early years of our marriage, we carefully picked each album we purchased. By the time our son turned two, he expressed a liking to many of the soundtracks for his favorite movies. We had the music from Beetlejuice, Mary Poppins, and half a dozen Disney animated films providing the beep and the bop to our road trips. Out of all of the songs, I never thought of one, though, as my theme.
            Decades merge with a multitude of musicians flavoring my life. Millions of words from lyrics spice up my thoughts at any given point in time, and I’ll sing a refrain or two out of the blue. I have no new favorite song at the moment that makes me think, “This is me!”  I keep waiting for a piece to tug at my heart or make me wanna dance. In the meantime, I wonder about everyone else out there. What is your special song? What makes it special for you?     

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“Ulterior Motives”

Doubt fills my heart when I hear your words—
excuses offered upon the alter
I no longer believe
Cynicism flows within my bloodstream
my hair prickles on the back of my neck—
warning, warning, warning, warning
Take care

You promise paradise and salvation—
redemption and forgiveness
for my trespasses
as you sin again and again
Proffering your version of God—
distorted through your visions

You raise your voice in righteousness—
indignant with my humanism
you pray for my soul
You—so callous and uncaring
of all suffering
but your own

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


           She glides from treasure to treasure—
                        deep emerald capsules,
                                    liquored anise,
                                                flowering poppy,
                                                            Heaven’s Sublime Milk.
Her clawed hand trembles with
            black need—
                        her eyes, radiant
                                    with despair;
Her full, ruby lips parted and cracked.
            She screams
                        a silent, heart
                                    tearing vow;
Plunges the dream quill into the
            pulsating vessel
                        and sighs—as
                                    golden morning
                                                sunshine throbs
Through her aesthetic soul.
            Then, she
                        turns, floating
                                    with Apollo
                                                across the sky,
And closes the door to reality.

Copyright 1976 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, June 27, 2011

“One-hundred Degrees in the Shade”

                  Dust chased us down the road
engulfed the car
swirling like powdered sugar blown from a birthday cake
coating our sandaled feet as we stepped into the furnace
The dogs retreated to bunk bed and chair
anticipating evening’s approach—
a breeze, teasing and seductive
Buffalo grass, brittle reminders of Spring’s bounty
squat in death
Cedars, tipped in brown and rust,
finger summer’s dragon breath in search of moisture
The naked sky, adorned only by a relentless sun
yearned for bird song
Silence, even, languished in the oppressive heat
Live Oaks, gnarled limbs supplicating to the cloudless sky
plead for rain
Wash away the sins of the world
 Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, June 26, 2011

“Open House”


           My parents didn’t earn much money when I was young. Not long before Dad died, he found his final military paycheck stub sandwiched between old tax forms. Imagine his amazement when he viewed a monthly income of just over $500. Somehow, my parents never missed a mortgage payment, car payment, or utility bill. They managed to keep three children well fed and well dressed. Of course, my parents invented the stay at home vacation. We never travelled too far from home in order to avoid hotel or motel bills. All of us looked forward to Dad’s vacation time because we got to eat out three meals a day. We visited the missions, toured the zoo, explored Natural Bridge Caverns, and discovered nearby towns like Wimberley or Fredericksburg. My parents showed their creativity in other ways. One of my favorites? Open House Sundays! New home builders often showed homes and offered cookies and Kool-Aid. Sometimes, free hotdogs with all the trimmings lured us into new neighborhoods. I loved touring the model homes. In a way, I felt like I entered giant doll houses. We’d make up stories about the families that “lived” in these homes as we visited imaginary couples and their children. Through all of the “in town” vacations and Sunday Open Houses, I never realized these enabled my parents to give us nearly free outings. Instead, I saw these activities as fun and amusing. To this day, I still love taking day trips to small Texas towns. I don’t do Open Houses on Sunday afternoons, but I enjoy watching home improvement and decorating marathon shows. They are my pot roasts and mashed potatoes!
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman