Listen . . .

Listen to ordinary things. . . .
                                                  —Naomi Shihab Nye

NPR’s StoryCorps project has designated the day after Thanksgiving as a National Day of Listening–a day set aside for listening . . . really listening . . . to and recording a loved one’s stories, with special emphasis put on hearing that person’s story without judgment and with an eye toward better understanding those who might not share our particular points of view.  That, it seems to me, pretty well runs the gamut of family: mothers/daughters; sons/fathers; husbands/wives; sisters/brothers.  All the people we at once hold dear but often have a hard time tolerating, or at least understanding.  People we tune out from time to time, forgetting to listen to what makes them uniquely ordinary.

Both of my parents are deceased.  I won’t be recording any more of their stories, but I’m glad that I took time when I could to hear some of them.  I even got my mother to write down one or two of hers.  Here, then, in honor of today–and because I’m trying these days to listen to the ordinary–are a few (condensed) stories my mother passed down to me that I’m passing down to you:

my mother’s mother
sweeps dirt into a lawn
where grass won’t grow

on holidays
they eat turnips (smashed not whole)
if no one comes calling . . .

she won the penny
she holds in the photograph:
“Beautiful Baby”

–In memory of Aragene Lane Dornaus

Thank you for listening along with me.




About Margaret Dornaus

I’m a writer and a teacher, as well as a haiku-doodler. I live in a beautiful woodland setting, surrounded by native oak forests, that inspires me to record haiku snapshots of luna moths and our resident roadrunner, and even an occasional black bear as it hightails it across the top of my road, my mongrel dog barking at its heels as I watch with wonder. My work as a travel writer has appeared in publications from The Dallas Morning News to the Robb Report. You can find examples of my travel writing–as well as excerpts from a travel memoir I’m working on–at my other WordPress site, Travelin’ On. What more than that do you need to know? Only that I started this blog with an eye toward collaboration. Got a haiku? Send it my way. . . . I’m all about new visions & voices. Best, Margaret
This entry was posted in Family, Haiku, Haiku-doodle, National Day of Listening, National Public Radio, StoryCorps and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Listen . . .

  1. stories we’ve heard from our parents. i like that. an interesting source.

    her collie pulls her
    to the side of the street
    my mother

    mother with a rake
    beneath the swing set
    a rattlesnake

    …stories from my mom. one when she was little. one when i was little.

  2. Kate says:

    Nice work, Maggie. I can see Gene smiling down at you with that enchanting smile.

  3. MLA says:

    into the new car
    his gun and his typewriter
    fleeing from the fire

    another great idea for a post, Margaret … I wish I could think of more stories my parents have told me. They weren’t huge storytellers. (My mother is still alive, but I don’t have much hope of her being converted into a great storyteller at this stage.)

    • Thanks, Melissa. I have to say my parents had no trouble in the storytelling department. I could fill a book with their stories (family haiku–there’s an idea . . . ), but your dad’s story is loaded with drama! Speaking of family haiku, I’ve been reading Nicholas Virgilio’s work lately; his string of haiku about his brother who died in Viet Nam is so powerful . . .

  4. alee9 says:

    Family haiku! I’m glad I came for this listening party.

    I’ve been spinning stories about my family and I feel I haven’t made a dent in what looks like a seashore–the more I dig in the sand, the higher the waves come in to wash my steps and I have to start digging again. I guess because the vastness of my memories overwhelms me still, hardly have moments crystallized into haiku—except in one sweep the tributes I wrote here. Yet here’s one just now:

    after the wedding
    daughter and mom compare rings
    so alike, their fingers

    And yes, this one, too, about my mother. She died 15 years ago and the longing has been folded over by other whispers but the spasm often just comes like a month ago in early autumn. Walking in downtown Vancouver, how strange that I heard chirps and glimpsed at sparrows on the spare trees. I wasn’t even conscious then until this haiku took shape, recalling how in my teens a whole night away by bus to Manila in a restricted dormitory, my mother used to lull me to sleep with her letters …

    roosting in the drizzle—
    my mother’s letters

    Thanks for this space and wonderful prompt.

    • Beautiful, both of them. Thank you, Alegria, for sharing them with me. Everything you write is a poem.
      “my mother used to lull me to sleep with her letters . . .” That is so mysterious and yet so commonplace. And the mother/daughter comparison in the first haiku. Thank you.

    • wow @ alee9 – those are both awesome ku. i really like the surprise of what is so alike in the ring ku – that’s a great ender line. and the comparison ku of sparrows roosting with those letters of home… yeah. beautiful ku.

  5. echostains says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have a lot of my mother’s stories and anecdotes written down. I keep them in a file called ‘word of mouth’. A lot of them are clues to family history – what she remembers from when she was a child.
    These are wonderful Haiku – vignettes of the past – little snapshots that live on!

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