Wendy Priesnitz - writer, editor, changemaker
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Poems by Wendy Priesnitz

Too Much Trouble - A Poem by Wendy Priesnitz

I have been writing poems since I was 15 or 16 years old. As a writer and an editor (and in all my communications), I aim for simplicity and conciseness. Poetry can be the essence of that...and it can provide good practice in compact, crisp, and precise writing. Looking back, I see that many of my poems were written during difficult times - when I was sad or even depressed, or trying to puzzle through a life problem.

I have had two volumes of poetry published, and contributed to a few anthologies; they are all out of print. Here are some of my favorites.


My First Published Poem - 1967

My first published poem was in a quarterly magazine of poetry by the Canadian Authors Assocation in May of 1967. I was 17 and the magazine was entitled Canadian Poetry.

First published poem

 

Poems by Wendy Priesnitz: Summer Love, Winter Fires

These poems were published in 1976 in a book entitled Summer Love Winter Fires, which is currently out of print.

Occupational

People are always sending
poems through the mail that
they think will interest
me or else they bring
their stuff to visit
and we waste a few
important hours by
complimenting each other’s
words because they have
to take advantage of
knowing a poet
two dimensions of flattery
we’d be better making love
I can remember a musician
saying how people are
always thinking they must
talk about the performance
instead of the weather
or beautiful girls

Untitled

remembering
last summer
the way David
needed so badly
to leave the new
people flowers
in his old garden
when he moved
we went for them
in my car
David driving
wildly
Jack and I
planted 3 dozen
mixed petunias
complaining
while David
made a poem
                        for David McFadden

 

Poems by Wendy Priesnitz: The House Where I Grew Up

These poems were published in 1999 in a book entitled The House Where I Grew Up, which is currently out of print.

The House Where I Grew Up

The house where I grew up has changed
It’s smaller
The rough stucco covered by smooth metal boards
My friend’s yard is smaller too
the house next door neater
and the elm tree gone

It’s now the kind of street where
when you park there
they look out between lace curtains
wondering if they should call the police
about the car idling in front of their house.

I’m a stranger on the street
where a pig-tailed five-year-old walked to school
with a handkerchief pinned to her red sweater
where a 16-year-old boyfriend arrived embarrassingly on his bicycle
where lace and perfume hid the sticky evidence of love

I want to call to the faces behind the curtains
that I belong here,
wasn’t trespassing as I walked
in their overgrown alley,
poked through the wood fence boards
looking for my mother’s sweet peas.

The gypsy woman’s house on the corner
looks harmless now
but I can taste the fear
that still makes me speed my pace as I walk by
past the house where the girl lived who we shunned
after her red-spotted dress betrayed our womanhood

A frantic dream,
a comic book
where I didn’t belong,
couldn’t stay long,
as my walk
turned into a run
my memory on fire
for the last block
realizing
I haven’t gone anywhere.

 

The Mother Web

Playing Solitaire
on a dusty morning in Romania,
winning because I played it so much
as an only child,
the silence echoing me
sounding like my mother.
Even here, I must fight off
the grasping fingers of heredity,
the legacy of trivialities
as dusty as the jars
of grayish green peas
in the Cernavoda shops.
It’s easier here to reject
her need for a good daughter
as if it were a job description
that came with being born…
easier to learn from your gift
of seeing over the rooftops.

 

A Little Poem For Heidi

It’s comforting to know
that half way across the world
your teakettle energy
still boils over like a pot that’s too full,
that you’re still laughing
with the desperate glee
of a gardener with too many zucchini.

 

The Color of Nourishment

I’ve set out
a bunch of dried hot peppers
and a bowl of apples
hoping the color of nourishment
will heal the emptiness I feel
in this foreign kitchen.
Mugs of tea to keep warm
and to help me remember
who I am and why I’ve come
so far away from home.
Sewing a shirt I don’t really need
and writing letters to my daughters
knowing they’ll be too busy to read them.
Knitting the days together
so they move along faster
towards Spring.

 

Rude Awakening

phone rang
snow stopped
so have the words
fantasy over
business calls
people re-appear
the world awakens at noon

you’ll stay buried under
the snowy sheets of my imagination
a memory too shy to appear.

 

No Time

I’m trying to crowd
as much as possible
Into the second half of my life.
Piling up sweet sounds,
strong words,
pungent smells,
layer upon layer of sensation.

I have no time.

You tell me there’s all the time
in the universe…
millennium left after I die

But I need to write
one last poem
to describe the short yellow hairs
on your belly
and the damp red leaves
that cover the dying vines
in my back garden.

 

Other Poems - by Wendy Priesnitz

These poems are just a few of my personal favorites from the hundreds I’ve written in recent years. Some of them are unpublished and others appear in my memoir It Hasn't Shut Me Up.

What I’ve Learned

You’ve taught me to see the world as an adventure not a threat,
to expand rather than to compromise,
to change, grow, and accept rather than to sacrifice.

I’ve learned to love words but trust actions,
to read the poem but search for something firmer
on which to build a dream.

Your generous spirit is becoming mine as well,
as I learn to focus on the present and not on expectations
or the sad loop of entitlement-based anger.

Sister Moon

A thin crescent is already high in the south November sky
and Lucie talks of the harvest moon she saw in Alberta in 1970
while I try to remember to tell Rolf how the reflected light
makes the still, late afternoon lake look gray.
It’s chilly at this desk by the kitchen window
and the light too dim to work, providing an excuse
for muddling up the words with half-grasped thoughts.
We two share the worries of our mothers and my daughters
and reflect on the cycles of age that have taught us
the courage that makes us less afraid of changing.

As the pink evening light fades from the glass wall next door
her wise woman laugh reflects the contentment I need.

Unless

Unless…
I can undo the past,
write my first novel,
find some joy in my mother’s eyes,
learn to carry my age with me,
coax new life into my dusty, dying ivy plant.

Unless…
I can erase the creases in the corners of my eyes,
find the words between silence and I love you,
remember how to be a friend,
choose another opiate than wine,
learn to understand my daughters.

Just in Case…
I dream again that my daughter had my mother’s face,
at someone else’s wedding
that took place in the house
where I was a child.

Midlife Reflections

I woke up this morning
to find that I have turned
my mother into a mirror.
These are reflections
that I don’t want to see –
the lines in my face,
my neglected needs
and the dragons
that have stood in my way…
the terror of now or never.
Fascinated by the fear,
I keep looking, hoping to see
my daughter’s image emerge,
wanting to find some secret
to pass down to her
(or up to my mother)
about daring to be powerful
and learning to be blind,
about being brave enough
to share the details of my life.
Maybe it’s always impossible
for daughters to see
their mothers’ reflections
until later, much later.

Spirals

One of the things I have learned today
is that a spiral doesn’t have to be downwards.
It’s just a cycle that moves through time,
a movement that always returns to itself,
although never to exactly the same place.
Sitting on a patio this oddly warm winter day,
I notice the way the wind lifts a piece of paper
and carries it across the street on its current,
like a whirlpool of water or the spiral curl of waves
in an ocean place where I’d rather be than here.
I remember the spiral of an umbilical cord
as it lay warm and wet on my young belly,
coiled there as she began to grow away from me,
surely upward and outward to a life of her own.
I think about the pale green fronds of fern
that will twist their way through the thawing soil
soon in the front garden of our old house.
Now I know how to protect my heart
from shriveling up with old age.

This Isn’t Poetry

When I was a child, I told myself
that I wouldn’t get what I wanted
so I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Don’t get too big for your britches, my mother said.
Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.
Eat so the children in China won’t starve.

I left the lima beans and ate my tears instead,
trying desperately to be seen and not heard,
controlling my feelings until I was afraid of them.

Now, I lean my broom against the wall
and sit for awhile on the cement step.
If I smoked this would be a good time.

I need an absent daughter to hold my hand
and to remind me who I am…
This isn’t poetry, it’s a midlife crisis.

Poems are (c) 1976-2019 by Wendy Priesnitz

copyright (c) 2019