New Yuyu Poem
To Bloom in Ashtabula
Kathleen D Gallagher
Revisiting my hometown, Ashtabula, and
seeing it in a new light with Himalayan poet Yuyutsu Sharma.
(Thus, as I hosted Yuyutsu Sharma on his recent tour from Cleveland, Ohio’s Mac’s Backs, to Orrville, Ohio to The University of Akron/Wayne College, (where I teach English and was excited to introduce a real life traveling poet from high Himalayas to my college students), to the International Poet’s Hall in Erie, Pa., I did not know that an impromptu trip to my hometown would prompt a rush of my own poetry dormant in my veins. That I, too, would be inspired and that it would rush the spring of creativity in my life.
Yuytusu felt instantly attached to my small hometown--Ashtabula, its harsh weather and beauteous lake, Erie, and winter snowy expanse flung him back to his own land of snow and harsh winters. He was later invited with warm welcome arms to join an online group called Growing Up in Ashtabula. This triggered my headlong leap into my childhood that I had forgotten in the mad rush of life in various Midwestern cities, then marriage followed by my active life as an independent woman author and artist . I began my quest to research my own past for my new book of poems centered on Ashtabula.
Here, I begin with peonies. )
To Bloom in Ashtabula
Grandpa called it bud-blast.
“Them Ashtabula peonies only got two eyes---
supposed to have three. Cold weather’ll kill ‘em.”
I had no idea our backyard flowers
stemmed from some epic where Zeus, saving Paean
from the wrath of Asclepius would become one:
A bright-eyed God of Healing.
In those slumbering eyes
dozed the salvation of a million warriors---
All I saw were the pesky king-size black ants
we plucked and placed in old mason jars,
struggling to save the dying buds from attack.
Oh Naïve child! How could I know these blossoms
embodied healing Gods?
If I had known that the peonies sweet nectar stem
captivated the ants who devoured
lushness without harm, in harmony of opposites---
I would have stopped grumbling.
I would have gathered pale pink and lavender bouquets,
setting vases on tables---dining and side and bedside,
sanctioning the ants to kiss the rainbow petals,
drinking from the wellspring of my origin.
I would have become a Paean
stirring together concoctions from the roots;
curing all youthful distress.
But I lived under shade trees,
in undernourished foliage removed
before next season’s roots had a chance to set.
Oh, peony!---Herb of the sun!
Why did I not flourish in your sky-eyed terrain?
How could I have not known my home’s soil
embodied such mythical magic,
holding secret incantations in teas and roots and petals:
formulas for the pain and blight all things.
I go to your garden now,
praying that it’s not too late,
desiring the language of flowers.
I run with bouquets to all pitch-black and loamy places
inside the scent of your endless lifespan
luring me in fearlessly
to your leaves, to your flower, to your seed,
to the roots of my own late blossom.
March, 2014, Ashtabula
Kathleen D. Gallagher is a distinguished senior lecturer of English at the University of Akron/Wayne College, an award winning writer (2007 Writer’s Digest Honorable Mention for a feature article entitled “Cutting Storm,” and a 2011 Honorable Mention for her essay “Flying Objects” in the 2011 Writer’s Digest competition). She is also a poet with works in journals such as South Coast Poetry Journal; Issue #15 (Honorable Mention for “Focal Point” judged by writer/poet James Dickey). Gallagher has edited several books including: Footpaths to Ancient Campsites in Copley Township, Ohio: 2006 by Robert D. Haag, and Dialogue with A Christian Proselytizer by Todd Allan Gates, September 2010. She is a former NEOMFA creative writing student at Kent State University. Gallagher was a finalist in the First Grand Tournament event through Writing Knights Press which resulted in her first poetry chapbook, I See Things are Falling. She was nominated for a Pushcart prize in December 2012 through Writing Knights Press.