Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Warrior's Stance

Laura Jeanne Morefield
nee Costales
Having received scans of certain pages from Laura's journals and having received typed versions (thank you, Kathryne Kieser) of what had been identified as poetry therein, I have set about comparing poems to be added to my late daughter's chapbook, The Warrior's Stance, to their original handwritten versions.

Laura's handwriting was always, at the least, shall we say, quirky. Due to chemotherapy's neuropathy it grew even more challenging to decipher as time went by. She wrote every day until the month before she died. Her final poem, "Me Again," was dated June 6, 2011. She died July 17. 

As editor of The Warrior's Stance -- Laura gave me the assignment -- I have done all humanly possible to make certain that the later poems extracted from her journals are as accurate as can be. Laura first wrote all her poems longhand and then put them through a meticulous process prior to sharing them with me and a couple of close friends. Because many of these late poems were never put through the usual process, I wrestled with the very idea of publishing them; however, some were added to what I had believed was the finished chapbook. 

Ready for the press, The Warrior's Stance will be published soon. When that process is completed, and I hold the first copy in my hand, I will let you know. 

Happy new year.

Charlene Baldridge

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The silver bell redux

The back steps
101 Garrison Street
Wilmette, Illinois, circa 1936

Long ago, perhaps in midlife, I wrote about mother’s silver dinner bell. Its Zen like tone summoned Florence, who served holiday dinner parties when I was a child. Mother rang the bell when it was time for the next course, and Florence came through the swinging door moist with kitchen heat, the air in her wake bearing hints of wonders yet to come.

I can’t remember the content of that long ago story; perhaps it conveyed nostalgia for the home, the family unit in Wilmette, the visiting aunts, uncles and cousins, and a longing for my mother. When I was growing up, there was warmth like no other in her arms.

I’m certain I purloined the bell the day my two sisters and I sat on mom and dad’s bed after dad died, deciding on the division of stuff, large and small. Henceforward and always, the bell remained in my possession no matter my nomad life.

I say “always,” but that is not exactly true. The bell returned to me the day after Christmas this year, as we packed up things I’d given to my late daughter, things her widower has no connection to, things that will never be passed on because he and Laura were unable to conceive.

We wrapped the Spode dinner service, my sterling silver, and the chocolate set that belonged to one of the great aunts who sat at table in Wilmette. For now, they will reside with my son and his wife in Bellingham, perhaps eventually finding their way to my eldest grandson, who has progeny. The bell remains with me.

“Is this the bell you gave to Laura when she got sick?” Dan asked.

“Yes,” I replied as he carefully swathed it in thick paper towels.

I waited till Laura’s end seemed imminent, when almost all possible treatment options had been exhausted, when it seemed she might become too exhausted to rise. I thought she might spend some time in bed in their big house, might have need of a bell to summon help or at least a glass of water. But I was wrong.

Mostly she headquartered on the sofa in the great room from whence she could watch films and her favorite television series, at least until electronic gadgetry became too complicated. She complained loudly that there was something wrong with all of it, and so she merely held court, and when it was time to retire she hugged everyone and walked up the long, bent staircase on Dan’s arm. It was thus even the night she lapsed into unconsciousness, by then in hospice care. No need for a bell. Ever.

The silver bell, with its luscious reverberations at the ready, sits beside me now, December 27, 2012. I may use it to summon the muse as I strive to write my next assignment, a book about Loo and Moo; or perhaps it will summon mother, Aunt Sophie, my sisters, Jeanne and Lynn, and Laura – all strong women in whose arms I experienced profound comfort.

Laura Morefield and Charlene Baldridge
Christmas 2008
Our stories are legion. Our love, vast.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good news

Two poets

December 15, 2012

Mother and daughter, one slapdash, the other precise,
mother accustomed to writing quick and dirty,
daughter preferring, even bound to, perfection.

Laura Jeanne Morefield and Charlene Baldridge
June 2008
I have spent the past 19 months laboring over my late daughter’s words, fulfilling my promise to collect and edit her post-diagnosis poems. There are many. They are good. There will be a book.

Other than the words I must produce – criticism and features mostly – my own creative work slowed to a trickle, partly due to anger and then, to grieving. Now that Laura’s collection is almost fait accompli, I’ve begun writing a book about our mother-daughter relationship. And I’ve also opened the desktop folder titled “My Work,” which contains my poems written since Laura's diagnosis and death.

It pleases me to announce that Laura’s poem titled “I Invented Body Surfing” has been selected by renowned poet Steve Kowit for publication in the next Serving House Journal, of which he is poetry editor. It further pleases me to announce that a recent poem of mine, “There Is a Stonehenge in My Heart,” will be published in the forthcoming issue of San Diego Poetry Journal.

These victories and recognition seem to indicate that our time was not wasted.

I have an ongoing relationship with Laura through words and dreams. I think of the children of Newtown with a heavy heart today, and I pity their parents, who were robbed of the richness of ongoing relationship and the privilege of knowing their little ones as adults. In light of their losses, I am ashamed to admit I still feel cheated, even though I had Laura for 50 years. I was fortunate to know my child as an adult woman. They never will have that privilege. May they find comfort.