A train, at a standstill across
the river, gasps for breath, hisses
its need to move along toward
destiny. Slow start, a wheeze.
It inches forward, heading East.
But I, I don’t want to go.
I live across the river from the train track that threads through the Sierra Nevada from California to points East. I love its plaintive sound (except when some middle-of-the-night engineer really lays on the whistle). It seems to call us to distant places.
This week, at dVerse Poetics, we’re writing about trains. Why don’t you hop on board?!
There once was a young lad from Reno
who had an addiction to Keno
then lost all his cash
because he was smashed
that night he’d had way too much vino
Keno: gambling game played with cards (tickets) bearing numbers in squares, usually from 1 to 80. A player marks or circles as many of these numbers as he wishes up to the permitted maximum, after which he hands in, or registers, his ticket and pays according to how many numbers he selected. At regular daily intervals a total of 20 numbered balls or pellets are randomly drawn from a container, and prizes are paid out by the house according to how many of each player’s selected numbers are drawn
Reno is in Nevada (USA) and gambling is legal here. Most of us who call Reno “home” avoid the casinos although sometimes they have good food and outstanding shows. Because our economy is so dependent on gambling and tourism is way down at the present time due to an overall lack of disposable income, Nevada is number # in the US in unemployment and foreclosures. Because of this, the area is looking to capitalize on its location in the Sierra Nevada mountains by promoting outdoor activities. We are about 40 minutes away from Lake Tahoe, in the north of the state. Reno is a far cry from Las Vegas.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the poetry I write is reflective of PLACE. Both Reno and Palm Desert have a character that is distinctive, charged with beauty and sometimes frightening.
This morning I grabbed a camera to take along on our walk with the dogs. We prowl our neighborhood, nestled beside the Truckee River then turn off onto the river walk that snakes along her banks. David looked at me like I’d lost it when I slung the Nokia around my neck. “Are you sure you want to do that? Why?” Implied was the truth that this is something that we see every day. I told him, I want to find a prompt to help me write a poem, since I’m hoping to come up with thirty new ones by the end of September.”
As it happened, I only took one shot. Actually my formerly-professional-photographer husband pilfered the camera from me and he took the photo I asked for, showing me how to adjust for the lighting.
But something else happened that I didn’t expect. Just having the camera catalyzed my sense of awareness and I SAW so much more than I would have had I not had the intention.
I noticed that August is not the most verdant month in Reno but the sunflowers are flaunting their colors. I spotted pumpkins turning orange in our neighbor’s rock garden. I saw that the Truckee is enjoying the consequences of a wet winter in the Sierra Nevada as the flow is more vigorous that it was this time last year.And from underneath a vine, a tiny purple flower caught my attention. In her center, a brilliant yellow star presided, proving the creator’s use of complementary color is spot-on.
David just left for his weekly trek to a local farmer’s market. On the way out of the house, he grabbed my camera. “You’re taking that?” I asked. “Yeah, he answered. I might see something there to photograph.” So, I don’t have my picture prompt handy…the poem will wait and won’t be a part of this post. But that’s okay. Maybe I’ll have something else to work with in a couple of hours. In the meantime, here’s a picture from a meadow across the street from the entrance to our complex. Am I spoiled or what?
Yesterday, I submitted fourteen poems that I wrote during the month of November for Robert Lee Brewer’s daily chapbook contest. As I think back about the process, I’m able to identify the source of the majority of the poems.
Each morning I reviewed Robert’s prompt and let it simmer. Then when Reno’s chill gave way to mid-day sun, the dogs, the husband and I ventured out for our daily walk. We’re blessed to live in the Sierra foothills. Our near-rural neighborhood is settled a block from the Truckee river as it makes its way from Tahoe to Pyramid Lake.
The month of November witnessed the transistion from brilliant splashes of Autumn to the stark barreness of Winter. As we walked by the river, nature offered her inspiration, often only as an opening line. Later in the day it seemed the poem wrote itself.
A clear theme of dying emerged–reflective, I suppose, of the change of seasons and my years of work with death and dying.
I’d love to know what influences your writing. Would you be willing to share?