EIF - Experiments in Fiction · Healing · Memoir · My Mother · Poetry · Publication · Short Prose · Writing

Exciting News!

I am pleased to announce that this week I signed a book contract with EIF (Experiments in Fiction) for my poetry collection, Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir! Thank you for signing me, Ingrid Wilson!

Ingrid is currently preparing the anthology Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women, edited by Gabriela Marie Milton, a best-selling poet on Amazon. I also have two poems in this collection, which also happen to be in my forth-coming book, which will be out later this year.

My forthcoming poetry book is about my mother and me. Our lives were entangled in many ways. As the oldest daughter, I was her main helper throughout my life, and there were interesting parallels in our lives. She helped me through recovery from measles encephalitis, which caused a brain injury and burned up many memories. Likewise, I helped her navigate aging and Alzheimer’s, which as we all know is a brain injury which steals memories.

However, we had differences. Mom was fertile, able to have 7 children. Because she had 4 babies over the course of 4 years (a set of twins in there), and she almost died with the last baby, I had to help out a lot by mothering the babies. I would learn many years later that this period of time, when I was only ages 9 to 11, would be my only time as a ‘mother’.

Unfortunately, when I was in utero, Mom was prescribed Diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent spotting. This drug ruined my reproductive organs and hormone system, and caused cancer scares and major surgeries, ultimately a total hysterectomy.

I am one of many DES Daughters (and there are DES Sons too). DES also has other effects on people, and the damage from this drug affects several generations. If I had by chance I had been able to carry a baby full term by having the T-shaped uterus tied off so as not to miscarry, my child would have still suffered the effects of the DES. The book explores my having to come to terms with my broken womb and a miscarriage because of the deformed uterus. This condition has caused me a freat deal of grief.

The Mother Wound. This is a deep topic for me. Some poems reveal the healing I had to do to help my mother in her later years. I was willing to forgive her for taking DES, but she forgot about the role that she inadvertently played in my infertility and health problems and threw it in my face that I was childless.

This leads to another level of the Mother Wound. Were Mom and I competing? And how? Our lives were so entwined with grief and loss. I also address inter-generational trauma which affected our mother-daughter relationship.

Mother felt abandoned by her mother, so she was motherless. This lack of bonding made my mother over bearing at times and also asked a lot of me to make up for what she lost from her mother as I learned to be codependent. Mom’s relationship with her mother was complicated by the deaths of her sisters. I feel Grandmother was unable to bond with Mom because of the fear of losing her too.

Another facet to this Mother Wound diamond is what really motivated this book. When I told my uncle Mom was coming to live near me, he surprised me with the question, Do you love her? This question uprooted me and caused me to examine whether or not I loved her at all, so this book explores that question as I trace my relationship with my mother over the years to her death from Alzheimer’s.

Writing this poetic memoir was truly healing. Some poems are tough to share. This book explores the possibility that a daughter might not love her mother because of life conflicts yet must be present to her as she faces the challenge of Alzheimer’s.

If you would like a taste of my work, Spillwords published two poems I am including in this book: ”Cooking a Life with a Wire Spine”, which was nominated as Publication of the Month last August (2021) and “Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks”.

Stay tuned for updates! And I hope you can purchase the book and join me on this journey of processing grief and loss.

My featured image is my own neurographica art. You can learn more about this art therapy at neurographicacademy.com. My intent with this image was to seek guidance. I realized that the blue circles are blueberries, and the heart represents my mother, who loved to pick blueberries. Therefore, I feel she is still present to me as I continue to heal my grief.

Free Verse Revolution · Healing · Memoir · My Mother · Poetry · Publication

Issue V: Cassandra available now! — Free Verse Revolution:

It is finally here! Thank you again for your patience with this issue. It has been a busy week and a final hectic hour of making sure it is ready for you. Free digital download Issue V: Cassandra – digital version Print copy for purchase Issue V: Cassandra – print version Enjoy reading!

Issue V: Cassandra available now! — Free Verse Revolution:

Thank you, Kristiana Reed, for including my poem in this fine issue among so many insightful and lyrical poems.

My poem, ”My Mother’s Vanity” is on a tender and culturally relevant topic related to how the fire of personal truth is snuffed out by grief, guilt, and patriarchal shaming. I hold only love and compassion for my mother, who made a mistake ner first and only year of college in the mid 40s. Her choice of whether to bear the baby was taken from her by social conventions and her parents’ fear of embarrassment.

I wrote about Mom’s trauma to help her spirit heal. The fear, guilt, and shame she felt were passed down to her children, especially her oldest daughter. Me. She was very protective, knowing how easy it is for unguarded daughters to lose their way. I hold only love, compassion, and forgiveness in my heart for Mom.

When trauma is buried by secrets and not addressed, the rage and fear is released in unhealthy ways. Over reactions. Hyper vigilance. Rigidity. I had to work hard to gain my parents’ trust and my independence. Without knowing the truth behind their micromanaging.

“The truth will set your free.” While Mom held onto her secrets, I believe that disclosing abuse and trauma heals not just the individual but the ancestral line. The DNA. Studies have shown that trauma affects the DNA in the following three generations. I truly wonder if the trauma of Mom’s abortion left residual energy in her reproductive system, passing down her emotional turmoil to her kids. Mark Wolynn addresses the effects of trauma on subsequent generations in his book, It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle.

Hold to your truth. Your true nature and authentic self. That act alone is healing.

I would include the poem here, but the formatting would be lost.

Please read this sensitive issue on Cassandra and purchase a copy.

Healing · Memoir · My Mother · Poem · Recognition/ Honor · Spillwords

“Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks” Wins Publication of the Month at Spillwords

I am humbled and pleased to tell you that my poem “Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks” won Publication of the Month of January/February at Spillwords! Thank you for your votes! The poem will appear in the right sidebar widget this month, March 2022, as you can see if you click the link below.

Your support shows that we do not walk alone in this world. When we reach out to others, they reach back. I’m so grateful. 

Thank you, Dagmara and your editing team, for this opportunity!

The poem is from my as yet unpublished poetic memoir of me and my mother, who had Alzheimer’s. I was her main caregiver.

My memoir explores the many ways in which our lives were entangled. We both experiences brain injuries that burned away memories- hers from Alzheimer’s and mine from encephalitis. And as she cared for me when I almost died from measles encephalitis at age 6 going on 7, I cared for her as Alzheimer’s slowly dissolved her brain.

Also, as the eldest daughter, I was second mommy in command, helping her with the four youngest, who were born between 1958 and 1961! A toddler in diapers, a set of twins, and the last baby. She almost died giving birth to her last, so I enlisted to help with baby care as it took her a year to recover. However, I didn’t know at that time that I was infertile because Mom took diethylstilbestrol (DES) when I was in vitro. My memoir explores the many facets of the ”mother wound” (hers, mine, and ours).

At issue in the memoir is the question my uncle asked me when I told him Mom was moving to be near me. ”Do you love her?”

His question threw me into a crisis. Did I have reasons NOT to love her? How could I care for her otherwise? What had I done to make him doubt my love for her? Was I not a good daughter?

The memoir also explores other triggers. I knew it would be impossible for Mom to live with me for various reasons. My husband and I worked full time, and she couldn’t be alone. I found her a nice independent living facility, where she thrived. Still, had I abandoned her? No, but I think she expected that I would care for her like she did her mother-in-law, who lived with us after experiencing a stroke.

Then, when Mom needed even more care, my brother and I moved her to assisted living, and she was unhappy about that. Regardless of where she lived, I had to be vigilant as problems always came up with her care. I was grateful that she was close and I could watch over her, but I always doubted myself.

This poem is about letting go of the past. Releasing the traumas that bound us together. It’s also about forgiving her and myself for our imperfections.

So this year, I hope to find a publisher for my collection, which I currently call “Three-Penny Memories”. And the reason for this title is another story and too long for this post.

Again, thank you all for your readership and support!


Healing · Honors · Memoir · My Mother · Poem · Publication · Recognition/ Honor · Spillwords

“Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks” – Nominated Publication of the Month at Spillwords

I am honored and grateful to the readers, and Dagmara and her editing staff for yet another honor.

May I have your vote? It would mean the world to me.

You can vote here: https://spillwords.com/vote/

Voting will cease on 3/1 and soon after they will reveal the winner.

Please note, you need to register and/or login to vote.

Here is my poem up for consideration as Publication of the Months of January and February. The format here is incorrect.

Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks

Konmari sees me at Starbucks,

my purse spilling over at the counter.

“May I help?”

She gathers me up

like I’m antique lace

washed too many times.

Before she begins, she whispers,

“Hello, the House,

I am safe. May I enter?”

She pokes through my purse,

pulling out the deck of cards

Mom once carried in her own purse.

A heavy bag of Mom’s pennies

to redeem for cash.

Her checkbook.

The messy old calendar

that listed her appointments

alongside my own.

The quilt she made me,

now falling apart. A cookbook

compiled in her own hand.

Konmari extracts other artifacts,

laying them gently on lined up tables.

People gather. My eyes bleed.

The extra-large pair of panties

Mom made me wear to Sunday school.

The wash, still not done.

A half-used bottle of Diethylstilbestrol,

she was prescribed to prevent spotting

when I was in vitro.

The tricycle she rode

around town at age three

because her mother never watched her.

My cancer scares, scattered

on the bottom of the purse

like cookie crumbs.

The scabs inflicted

by her compression stockings

I failed to wash one last time.

The clump of tissue

I miscarried, swaddled

in an inner pocket.

Her hysterectomy scar.

My hysterectomy scar.

Entwined on a spool.

My t-shaped uterus,

clenching a half-used packet

of Puffs Plus.

A dogeared photo of Mom.

A mirror reflecting

who I want to be.

Konmari has me

hold each item

one last time, saying,

“Thank you, tiny soul,

for sharing your life. I am

grateful.”

She teaches me

how to fold joy

three times.

How to throw out

what I can

no longer carry.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support!

Image: Pixabay

Memoir · My Mother · Poem · Publication · Spillwords

Marie Kondo Cleans My Purse at Starbucks

New poem up at Spillwords! Thank you Dagmara and the editing staff! This memoir poem is from my poetry collection in progress.

I’m looking for a publisher, by the way. 🙏🙏🙏

This poem, as do many in my collection, explores grief, the Mother Wound, our mother-daughter relationship, letting go, and healing. She suffered from Alzheimer’s, so I held her memories for her, especially her medical history for doctors, prescriptions, shopping lists, and the like. My purse was filled with both our lives intertwining. I was not only her daughter, but also her caregiver and guide.

My collection spans our experiences since my childhood. Mainly the ones that reveal the source of conflict and grief. When I was in vitro, Mom was prescribed diethylstilbestrol (DES), which made me infertile and caused my to have many cancer scares. This drug damaged many lives, as a matter of fact, for both men and women, and if they did manage to have children, their children’s reproductive organs were also malformed, and so their children also has to deal with cancerous tumors.

Mom was able to have seven kids, but I could have none. For some reason, she forgot why – perhaps her memory problems started years before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – and sometimes shamed me for not having kids as she was able to have so many. This was the wound.

Indeed, as the oldest daughter, I helped care for all the ”little ones”, her toddler, a set of twins, and her last baby, all born between 1958 and 1961. Can you imagine? I didn’t realize at the young age of 9 that this would be my only chance to mother babies.

My poetry collection also explores other parallels in our lives. We both experienced brain damage and memory issues, hers from Alzheimer’s and mine from encephalitis, which nearly killed me at the age of 6 going on 7. At that time, she was my caregiver.

Without a doubt, working this collection of poems has been healing as I excavate my past and pick through the artifacts to understand my relationship with my mother and to forgive her, as well as myself, for the wounding. When I realized she would need me to care for her in her final years, I felt an upheaval of unresolved grief, and I knew that I had a great deal of inner work and self care to do so that I could be present to her.

That I had this opportunity to care for Mom and hold her until her last breath was truly a gift.

Anti-Heroin Chic · Memoir · My Mother · Poem · Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul · Publication

“Mother’s Light” – Up in Anti-Heroin Chic

My gratitude to the editors of Anti-Heroin Chic for publishing a poem of mine in this month’s issue.

http://heroinchic.weebly.com/blog/poetry-by-barbara-harris-leonhard

Memoir · My Mother · Poem · Publication · Spillwords

Cooking a Life with a Wire Spine – New Publication

Today, as a FEATURED post, Spillwords Press published a memoir poem I wrote about me and my mother. I’m so excited. Thank you, Spillwords!

https://spillwords.com/cooking-a-life-with-a-wire-spine/

This poem is one of 63 poems in my first poetry collection, a poetic memoir of my mother and me. More to come on that!

Audio · Mother Earth · My Mother · Phoebe, MD: Medicine + Poetry · Podcasts · Poem · Poetry

Before Eden Fell

       

This poem is included in an article I wrote for Phoebe, MD: Medicine + Poetry (https://phoebemd.com/2020/03/12/fire-ice-the-faces-of-grief/).

The article is based on my poetry podcast Grief: Fire and Ice, which features this poem (https://meelosmom.podbean.com/e/grief-fire-and-ice/).

Before Eden Fell

We were all immortal,

our beauty, captured forever

in flora and fauna

so brilliant that light itself

had to blink twice

our true being stood naked

without shame

our reflection more lustrous

than knowing

brilliantine fabric

until the apple fell

into Mother’s soft hands

our Mother, the first to grieve

her garden lost

how she still clings to the maiden

the stunning beauty she once was

now deflowered, exposed to erosion

our Eden, our innocence and purity,

victim to change, to corruption, to decline,

our undoing

no one …. no thing is our eternity

our heaven forever

on this plane

nothing lasts

so we grieve

feeling abandoned by joy

and cast out of a divine place

though we cling to the fading innocence

of our Eden,

we bless grief

Written in Response to Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”

Nothing Gold Can Stay

BY ROBERT FROST

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

**Poetry Foundation

My poem ends with, “We bless grief”. Why? I explain in my podcast. 😇

©2020 Barbara Harris Leonhard

extraordinarysunshineweaver.wordpress.com

meelosmom@podbean.com (Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul)

Image: Pixabay

Audio · My Mother · Phoebe, MD: Medicine + Poetry · Poem · Poetry · Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul · Writing

Erosion

This poem is included in an article I wrote for Phoebe, MD: Medicine + Poetry (https://phoebemd.com/2020/03/16/alzheimers-grieving-the-loss-of-my-mother/).

The article is based on my poetry podcast Grief: Fire and Ice (https://meelosmom.podbean.com/e/grief-fire-and-ice/).

Erosion

A garden once planted in spring,

bearing life in shade and sun,

is now tangled with weeds and blight.

A hearty yield once sustained by dew and noon rains,

now forgets in autumn light.

Baskets of Gold, having bloomed and stretched for sun,

now shrivel, scorched by drought.

Honeysuckle, a trespasser in flora

that once nurtured monarchs and bees.

Wisdom of soils and seedlings,

now crumbles to dust.

Once a bounty of bliss, now wild bramble

on depleted soil.

Her secret garden.

399D6FDE-945B-480F-8C5E-27F0EA426F3B

©2020 Barbara Harris Leonhard (Revision of The Garden of Thoughts)

extraordinarysunshineweaver.wordpress.com

meelosmom@podbean.com (Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul)

Images: my end of summer garden

Revised from A Garden of Thoughts

Audio · Healing · My Mother · Phoebe, MD: Medicine + Poetry · Podcasts · Poem · Poetry · Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul

Grace

This poem is included in an article I wrote for Phoebe, MD: Medicine + Poetry (https://phoebemd.com/2020/03/21/grief-healing-through-poetry/).

The article is based on my poetry podcast Grief: Fire and Ice (https://meelosmom.podbean.com/e/grief-fire-and-ice/).

Grace

the leaves have fallen and stomped to dust

I am laid bare, exposed to wind

my limbs, brittle, still pleading

for a meal of sun

some days too short for food

nests lay bare as squirrels forage

the wind cools me to my roots

I am glass

holding on to my reflections

lest they be lost to twilight

Grace clothes me in a gown

meant for a bride embracing her heart

this pure finery sparkles as diamonds

on my icy bough

I rest with the Angel of Mercy

 

©2019 Barbara Harris Leonhard

extraordinarysunshineweaver.wordpress.com

meelosmom@podbean.com (Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul)

Image: my yard