Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Writer’s Block”

         Facing a blank page usually doesn’t deter me. I simply begin one of my various writing techniques that forces words upon the page. Right now, though, I have nothing . . . no, no—I have the beginning of an idea that flits out of my overtired brain before I can even latch onto the memory or focus my inner eye upon the images. My fingers, flying across the keyboard at hundreds of words per minute when I’m in the “zone,” falter tonight. I fumble with misspelled words, stumble within a sentence, tumble into chaos instead of clarity.
         I keep thinking WTF.
         My obsessive-compulsive nature cannot let me ignore my blog for a day. At least not yet. When I first started Swing in a Tree, I planned on blogging once a week, maybe a little more as the mood dictated. Somehow, that shapeless plan morphed into a personal quest. After the first week of daily entries, I thought, “This isn’t so hard.” Later on, I used my blog as an excuse to go through my old journals and consolidate all my poetry into one place. After years and years of writing verse, I’ve finally typed up almost everything into a nice little manuscript. I’ve relied on these earlier pieces on the days when Life (with a capital L) bites into my writing time.
         Blogging, though, took on a life of its own after I passed thirty entries. Then began the challenge. Could I write something every day for another month? Could I manage to pull something out when I went out of town? Was it possible to even get ahead on entries? Stockpile them into a cache somewhere? How long could I write on a daily basis?
        And so I find myself sitting this evening, listening to my mother’s breathing over the baby monitor. I have Koi sprawled so close to my feet that if I move, he’ll growl in grumpiness. Bridget commandeers the bed (specifically my pillows). MASH  bleeds into Everybody Loves Raymond, and I draw a blank. For the first time in seven months, I have absolutely nothing, nada, naught, nil, zero, zilch . . .
         I make myself face the blank page. Quality? No way. But that’s okay. My obsessiveness winks at imperfection because the goal isn’t having the best ever poem or the most clever prose. It is to practice my skill, my talent, my passion every day.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, September 30, 2011


hot, cold; big, small   
early, late; short, tall   
hard, soft; dull, bright   
tired, restless; heavy, light   
calm, angry; smooth, rough   
generous, selfish; easy, tough   
quiet, loud; polite, rude   
young, old; dumb, shrewd   
demanding perfection all day and night   
requiring everything to be just right   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Sorrow fills me   
            chokes my breath and spills from my eyes   
I disappointed you     
            let you down   
I didn’t see your struggle   
            hear your plea   
            pay attention   
I let my obsessions bleed into your heart   
I took my desires and poured them into your life   
Now you overflow   
            with my pettiness   

Shame fills me   
            weighs my movements and halts my thoughts   
I hurt you   
            caused you distress   
I didn’t listen to your words    
            watch your face   
            walk in your shoes   

I am sorry    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

“Cliff’s Edge”

Defiant waves pummel and kick   
striking against soaring towers   
Mists and cold spray leave the edge slick   
siphoning my waning powers     
I stand alone on the cliff’s edge   
collapsing within my despair   
I crawl cautiously to the ledge     
where brutal winds whip at my cares    
My fingers bleed with razor cuts   
sliced by the terrors that grip me    
I desperately grasp at the ruts   
carved by the sea’s eternity   
I lay prone on the jagged ground            
in submissive subjugation        
My chest constricts as I look down            
at Death’s beckoning temptation        

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


not both   
balancing choices   
one option sacrifices too much   
the other demands even more   
no crystal ball   
Ouija board   
Tarot cards   
to preview the future   
no flip of the coin to determine destiny   
standing still   
staying put   
plowing through one-more-day   
colors the world with dread   
jumping off   
pushing forward   
taking risks on dreams   
colors the world with dread   
listen to the head   
follow the heart   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, September 26, 2011

“Broadway Musicals”

From Sabrina (1995)

Linus Larrabee: And I want tickets to whatever Broadway show nobody can get tickets to.
[Mack looks inquisitively at him]
Linus Larrabee: I know, I seldom go to the theatre.
Mack: Seldom?
Linus Larrabee: So, I'm not a theatre buff.
Mack: Buff? The most difficult tickets to get will be for a Broadway musical.
Linus Larrabee: [distractedly] Okay.
Mack: That means that the performers will periodically dance about and burst into song.

    I sit before a blank computer screen, listening to “OOOOOOOOO—klahoma” trill from the television in the family room. My mind’s eye displays cowboys jumping from the front porch, grabbing a beautiful partner, and swirling around until the final “okay!” My head bobs to the beat, my toes tap out the rhythm, and my torso sways in my swivel desk chair as song fills the air.


          I love musicals. All of them. Every year, I promise myself that we’ll get season tickets for the shows that come to San Antonio, and every year something happens to prevent the purchase. While I’ve only seen a couple of live shows, I know I’d never be disappointed by any performance.
         Sometimes I like to imagine real life as a musical. What dance choreography would I break into as I sashay through my chores? I see the perfect fan kick arcing over the washer, a step-ball-change leap through the kitchen with a final pirouette en dedans as I dust a ceiling fan.  
         My imagination runs wild with a terrific musical number dancing and singing up and down the aisles of HEB. As I move through each lane, more and more shoppers join in as we rumba by the dog food and boogie by the bagels. I belt out a tribute to avocados and croon a love song to Ben & Jerry’s. The entire number ends with a Rockette style chorus line as I twirl out the door and over to my car where a line of tapping bagboys load my groceries to trumpeting fanfare.
         While Linus Larrabee may not approve of people who “periodically dance about and burst into song,” I think I would love to live such a life!

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman


Sunday, September 25, 2011

“National Geographic: The Gift That Keeps on Coming”

         Every year for Christmas we receive a subscription of National Geographic for Christmas. I think this last year marked the thirty-second consecutive year that the magazine’s been renewed. Now, I love the magazine; but after so many years, I’m running out of attic space to store the back issues. I called around once to see if any schools or local libraries would take our issues, and gave up trying to find a home for them. Recently, I’ve toyed with the idea of tossing all of them into the huge recycle bins over by the local elementary school, but that seems so wasteful.
         When I taught, I’d take several years’ worth of subscriptions in for my students to read. Many of the kids enjoyed the maps, the wonderful glossy photography, and the articles on exotic places and animals. Occasionally, students would ask if they could keep magazines, and I thankfully encouraged them to take whatever they wanted.  Eventually, the thumbed through magazines became sources for art projects. Now that I’ve retired, I’m at a loss on what to do with them. Next week, our city has a huge trash pick-up and citywide garage sale. I toy with the idea of taking the boxes out to the front yard and placing huge FREE signs on them.
         I guess my longing to clear out closest and attic space signals a shift in my life. My tendency to catalogue and box away books and magazines for “future references” shifts to a need to clean, sort, and simplify. I donated hundreds of books to Goodwill during my last year of teaching. I had “open classroom” giveaway afternoons where other teachers came to my room, raided my closets and bins, labeled book shelves and tubs, and rummaged through thirty years of teaching treasures. Perhaps the purging bug began then, and now it’s continuing into my personal life. I did begin following the guideline that if I buy something, I need to donate or throw away a similar item. A new pair of shoes means I now forfeit a pair. If I succumb to the lure of a set of dishes, an older set must find a new home.
         If I have my way, some kind person will drive up during the curbside clean-up and appreciate the wonderful gift left in our front yard. A bargain hunter may snatch the magazines up to resale at a garage sale or a flea market to try to make a little profit.  I like to imagine another family picking up the boxes and discovering the world through National Geographic's perspective.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman