Monday, August 20, 2018


Sherry: Today, my friends, we are featuring amazing poems by two of Poets United's very first members, since way back in 2010: Carrie Van Horn, who blogs at A Net Full of Butterfliesand Susie Clevenger, of Confessions of a Laundry Goddess.  We think they will both move and inspire you. Let's dive right in.

"Many of our fears are tissue-paper thin, and a single courageous 
step would carry us through."
~Brendan Francis

I never could walk in the rain with the ease of a star or runway model
I am not that girl
the one that takes the dangerous path
barefoot in the middle of nowhere
unconcerned with what may come
I am the lady that arrives early
to the Dr.'s office
on the verge of sickness
with an umbrella
not because it is raining
but because it could
when I leave the building
my bag is full of every document
known to man I could need
and my mind is even fuller
with the thought of
driving back in the rain
control is a small beady eyed old man
and no one knows his name
or where he was last
I have been trying to track him down
ever since grade school
I tried Marco Polo
but he was never listening
the only thing I have had control over
is my bladder
until about 2016
now it seems I could just throw caution to the wind
since not much remains in my hands anyway
jewel thiefs have ransacked my marble collection
it seems i never had them contained from the beginning
life is full of paper cuts and land slides
and somewhere between band aids and mud boots
I lost sight of the difference between the two
uncertainty is a scary thing 
especially when you are young
if you learn to fear and dread early
all perspective can get distorted
like the view through the wrong prescription glasses
all objects get blurry
everything becomes scary and uncertain
I am learning to change what I see
but this has proved to be a slow process
like road repair done by old nuns
still I try to make control my own ordained ministry
even though I am no minister
with time I have found
it is not what one acquires
that makes it clear
but more what one
learns in the process
of letting it go.

Sherry: I so wish I had written this poem. And I could have, for I am also the woman early at the doctor's office, in search of control in a world where very little can be controlled. I love the line about road repair done by old nuns, for my learning came slowly, too. LOVE the ending about learning to let it all go. You can't imagine how much that concept resonates for me today. Today's poems will, I hope, lift our spirits, and we need that these days.

Carrie: You have made my day!  I am delighted for you to feature this poem, and I am so glad you like it.  I wrote the poem specifically for a prompt and it kind of metamorphosed on its own as I wrote it. 

A wonderful lady that comes to a writing group I host at the library has been talking about identity, and one of the terms she used is "I am not that girl".....It resonated with me, and of course popped up in the poem as I wrote it. I started thinking about not just what I am in life, and what my struggles are, but also what I am not.  

Having the need for control in my life from such an early age has been a major struggle I have had to deal with, and the photo really led me in that direction.  Thank you so much for considering this poem.  I value your opinion greatly Sherry. You are such an amazing talent, and you hold a great wisdom of life and what matters under your wing and within your mighty pen. 

I love Susie’s poetry!!

And, yes, a lift of spirits is in order.  We all need it in these troubled times.

Sherry: While this feature was waiting to be posted, Carrie wrote another poem that knocked me out. I asked her if I might include it. This poem speaks of a recent tragic loss in Carrie's family. 


Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be. ~Grandma Moses

~Sometimes my eyes are cactus near a flowing stream~

Life is like a dusty chandelier and the dimmer the setting

 the less you can see what can be done. 

~Sometimes my lips are bankrupt in a solemn fortress~

Life is like a triple scoop ice cream cone

and if you do not eat it earnestly while you can
it will melt all over and leave a big mess

~Sometimes my heart feels like just a spoon of pepto in a world of disease~

Life is like a crystal vase upon a table

it is meant to be filled with beautiful flowers not be empty on a shelf.

~Sometimes my feet are red wood trees in a fast moving blaze~

Life is like a tall rocky mountain

it is majestic and an inspiration to stand before yet also an utter struggle to climb.

~Sometimes my hands are frail like bent limbs on a dying tree~

Life is like an unbridled horse

that runs free out of our control
yet still we try to tame it.


I have spent many years not seeing what I should, not relishing what I could, not being all I could be,  and trying to control what was out of my hands. It seems some lessons do not come easy.  Gaining wisdom has been like taming an unbridled horse.  It is hard, and it is going to take some time.  I suppose life is meant to be a process of learning and growth.  If it were meant to be easy, it would be.  I just feel a bit weary sometimes.  I am a slow learner and I have the bunions to prove it.    I am in need of a true vacation, maybe a trip to the beach to just walk the shore, count my blessings, and pick up some sea shells along the way. ]  

Carrie: As you know, I recently went through a devastating loss, and I had been thinking about life and all the struggles and loss we experience throughout our lives. The poem kind of grew from there. Thank you again, Sherry, for thinking of me.

Sherry: Thank you so much, Carrie. My condolences to you and your family on your very tragic loss. I resonate with your weariness so much. I hope you can take that beach walk soon.

When Susie wrote the following two poems, I knew I wanted to feature them. Let's take a look.

In the valley of illness every stone bruises
as it presses into another unchanged hour
of breath bleeding closer to the tomb.

Have you ever watched your child suffer? I am.
Desperation collects its hand maids to birth despair,
tries to force me into the clotted womb of hopeless.

These are the times I must fly with broken wings,
fight melancholy’s gravity by on less tear,
and seek light in the coal night of uncertain.

My eyes must show tomorrow there will be sun
so the midnight of my child will know morning will come,
mortar my helpless into trust the sky won’t fall.

It is true. One never knows how strong the spirit can be
until there is no other option, no other view but hope,
no other words but... Don’t Give Up.

Dawn's bracelet, epitomizing the battle
she has fought for her health

Sherry: Susie, I know your family has just emerged from your daughter Dawn's health crisis. I applaud your mother lion heart, holding your child fast to the earth with the force of your will. A mother's strength, a family's love, and a daughter's courage has seen you through, no giving up. I am so thankful that Dawn has recovered.

Susie: "One Less Tear" came from the agony of watching my daughter, Dawn, fight through another health crisis. She has been on the battlefield for twenty-five years, but for us this has been one of the scariest.

She has had numerous surgeries, and lost her left kidney to cancer, but our family had never watched her suffer such extremes, losing over 25 pounds in six weeks, heart failure, kidney failure, agonizing pain, and so weak she couldn't stand. There were times all we could pray was for her not to give up.

Writing is healing therapy for me. There were many days I couldn't speak with my voice what I could speak through poetry. I needed to express the grief of watching my child suffer while being helpless to stop it. I needed to give myself permission to say I was terrified.

Sherry: There is nothing more terrifying for a mother than seeing her child suffering. You are such a strong family, Susie.  Soon after "One Less Tear", I read "Shaman Sunflower" with such appreciation.  Your spirit is much like that sunflower's to me. When bodies are challenged, spirits rise.

Sunflowers ribbon their way
into my daydreams in subtle nods
to the yellow marble owning the sky.

Oh, to have such strength, bloom
when the eye is a desert void
of a single tear, and stand tall
in the withering.

Joy comes where happy can’t survive.
Dear blossom, you remind me even
the driest heart can drink light if it chooses.

Sherry: WOW, Susie! "The driest heart can drink light if it chooses." Yes, it can. My heart soared, when I read these words. Thank you. I love the whole idea of sunflower as shaman.

Susie: This poem came soon after I wrote "One Less Tear". I was spiritually and physically weak from watching my daughter suffer in her latest health battle, and one of my biggest comforts is nature, so I rflected on sunflowers I saw blooming in a garden I passed when returning home with Dawn after her latest hospital stay. 

Sherry: I can imagine the joy and relief of that ride home with your precious daughter.

Susie: I've always loved sunflowers. The simple act of speaking their name opens me to hope and light. With all the heat we'd been experiencing, where I live in Texas, many flowers were wilting from the sun and lack of rain, but those sunflowers I saw in that garden were standing tall. It was a message to me to open myself to light, to allow it to dispel the darkness that had been homesteading with its carpet bag of fear in my spirit.

Sherry: In tough times, the courageous choose to turn their faces to the light. I so admire your warrior spirit, Susie, and Dawn's. We wish her continued health. May she continue to shine like the suflower in your wonderful poem.

Thank you so much, Carrie and Susie, for sharing your poems and thoughts. We admire your courage in walking through your recent challenges, and for being such a source of strength to your families. 

Thank you also for your long loyalty to Poets United. We appreciate you!

Wasn't this moving and inspiring, my friends?  Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Wonderful poems, strong women. Thank you Sherry for posting. It was good t learn more about Carrie.

  2. Yes, very strong women. Mama Bears. Thank you, Carrie and Susie, for sharing your journey with us, since the earliest days of Poets United. We appreciate you so much!

  3. wonderful sharing of intimate poems, and of the strength of the voices, the determination to still choose light, love, hope, even in the face of such personal challenges ~ thank you to Carrie, Susie and of course, you Sherry, for offering us some uplifting thoughts to start another week ...

  4. Oooo, women ... this feature yanked all of my chains. Again and again I learn that I/we can touch the depths of pain and emerge restored. It's as if you wrote for me. I am certainly, like Sherry, the one who lives with caution, though it never feels like enough . . . and, Carrie, those "sometimes" lines weigh on me, though the ice cream cone is in my hand and my rubbery legs still move on up the mountain. Susie, Susie, I have never born children, never watched my own grow or wrestle with cancer, so I can only empathize and ride your experience, though I cannot help expanding from there to the plight of children in the vast homelessness of exile. You know what I mean. That sunflowers grow tall and sturdy and beautiful always seems miraculous to me--as if God needs some praise, needs some smiles. "Drink Light'! I wish Light to surround us all.

  5. I just love Susie's poetry and the 2 featured here are simply wonderful! The message that speaks out in them both is relevant to everyone and all struggles humans may face. I especially like the last stanza in "One Last Tear". So utterly true and full of hope. I agree with Susie writing is healing therapy indeed. Susie has been such an inspiration in the writing blogasphere and it is always a delight to visit her blog. I feel honored to be featured along side of her. Thank you Sherry for featuring us, and for all you, Mary, Sumana, Susan, and Rosemary do for us at Poets United!

    1. It is our privilege, Carrie. Thank heaven for the outlet, the inspiration and the common language of poetry, which helps us - not just get through the challenges of life - but find something of inspiration, hope and courage in it, as you and Susie demonstrate so well.

  6. When Carrie first introduced me to blogging and helped me set up mine, which I’m still learning by the way. I thought I’d put my thoughts out there and see what happens. What I didn’t know was how I’d end up reading and interacting with such beautiful and uplifting people. How much I’d learn and how moved I’d be. I loved reading these today.

  7. Vicki, when someone urged me to start my blog, little did I realize what it would mean to me - the connections and friendships I'd make, the many poems I may not have written otherwise, the sheer delight of reading other voices and admiring other journeys. Welcome to the Great Adventure.

  8. Two of my favorite people, whose courage and hard-won wisdom shines in their words.

  9. What wonderful interviews and words from these strong woman poets. Their poetry was such a pleasure to read. Thank you so much Sherry for putting together such a moving article as this one on Carrie and Susie's work.

  10. Beautiful, beautiful poems … all of them so relatable and evocative. So much of life is about the people at the center of our 'sphere'. We want the best that this world has to offer our loved ones. I suppose that is where a big part of the control thing really kicks in. It doesn't work, of course. The best we can offer, is our love and the unwavering, unconditional assurance that we have got their back, as best we can. That isn't a lot of control, but it does confer a bit of peace, I think, on those who are lucky enough to give love - and to receive it. Great job on this, Poets.

  11. Wonderful poems from Susie and Carrie, both such outstanding talents. Have always been Hank's favorites.


  12. "Life is like a triple scoop ice cream cone
    and if you do not eat it earnestly while you can
    it will melt all over and leave a big mess"

    I loved this and being a diabetic it's even more poignant, because even though life can be said to be sweet, there's still the knowledge that so much of it really isn't good for you and might be trying to kill you.

    Great work.

  13. I feel honored to be paired with Carrie in this post. Carrie’s poetry has such depth and beauty. I can feel her poetry when I read it. “Life is like an unbridled horse..yet we still try to tame it.” So true. Thank you Sherry for asking me to be part of this.

    1. I was so pleased to pair you and Carrie, Susie, two of our first members. Your poems show the strength of womanhood, and motherhood. Your spirits shine, and you inspire us. Shine on!

  14. How lovely that you have featured Carrie and Susie together in Poems of the Week, Sherry! I enjoyed both interviews and remember being deeply touched by Carrie's poem, 'Paper Cuts and Landslides' not so long ago. I am also 'the lady that arrives early / to the Dr.'s office / on the verge of sickness'. I love the way the words crowd in a stream of consciousness that reminds me of my own overcrowded, busy head. I also love the story of how Carrie got the phrase "I am not that girl". It was a treat to read a freshly-baked poem too, but it brought a tear to my eye, especially the lines: 'Sometimes my lips are bankrupt in a solemn fortress'and 'Sometimes my hands are frail like bent limbs on a dying tree'.
    The tear turned into a waterfall when I read Susie's poem, 'One Less Tear'. The opening lines are stunning and my favourite lines are:
    'These are the times I must fly with broken wings,
    fight melancholy’s gravity by on less tear,
    and seek light in the coal night of uncertain'.
    It is the hardest thing to watch your child suffer. My best wishes to Susie and Dawn.
    I also love the sunflower poem - I still have some left over from my birthday bouquet.

  15. Sensitive poems of personal suffering by two beautiful poets.

  16. Wow, Carrie, that was an amazing poem. It speaks of your journey, and I think the journey of many. It sounds like you have learned a lot in the living, and are still learning. I like the idea that it is not what one acquires but what one learns. One really could study this poem and find things to discuss in it for hours. Bravo for your growth AND your poetry.

    Susie, I do remember from the times we read one another's poetry more often that you had a daughter who dealt with severe illness. I am sad that it has still continued since that time. Through it all, you have (as in your poem) shown tomorrow that there is a sun...and kept your strong spirit. I know that writing helps.

    Sherry, my friend, once again you have chosen two wonderful poets to feature, as well as their deeply meaningful poems! Thank you.

  17. My pleasure, Mary. We have such talent in this community, and such inspiring people, that it makes my job easy - and so satisfying.

  18. Carrie, that first poem knocked me out. The marbles being stolen by a jewel thief is amazing. So glad you are featured here.

    Susie, I always enjoy your poems, and these are no exception. Keep your spirit strong, and may your daughter have continued good health. Glad you mentioned my favorite flower, and the feeling it conjures up by just saying the name.

    Sherry, two excellent poets here. Thank you.

  19. I'm so happy you stopped by, Sara. I do love that sunflower poem!

  20. I am out of my hometown again and in a place where internet access is a bit difficult. However I am glad now I am able to see these beautiful words by two dear poets, Sherry and you all. Nothing but such words give me sustenance. Thank you all.

  21. Yes, these poems and the stories behind them are both moving and inspirational! Many thanks to you all for this sharing.


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