Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Shovelful of Trust

Nancy Haskett

—Nancy Haskett, Modesto      

Around 1960
my friend Diane
would play "Wagon Train" with me,
the front porch
transformed, for us, into a conestoga,
as we lifted our imaginary skirts to walk down
cement steps,
gathering twigs for firewood,
picking small, red pyracantha berries
to serve in plastic toy dishes —
berry stew
berry mush
a side dish of purple, jacaranda blossoms.

Sometimes we galloped to the corner
on unseen horses,
looping invisible reins over the mailbox,
walking off to meet
a pretend husband
or pioneer scout lover,
our arms encircling the street lamp post,
lips kissing stone,
teeth brushing lightly
against the reality
of rough granite

(first pub. in Blackwidow's Web, 2007)

—Nancy Haskett

In the role of dutiful daughter,
it was her job to pack up the house—
pots and pans were easy,
no difficult choices to be made,
just open the cupboard and pull them out,
don't think about family dinners,
remembered by the holiday greeting cards
stuffed in dresser drawers,
envelopes and manila folders—
which ones to keep?
albums filled with black and white photos,
nobody here now to identify the strange faces
or to read lovers' letters in an army trunk,
matters of the heart,
decisions to make.

And so
she stops—

puts on her mother's socks
and slippers,
sits down in her mother's rocker
in the middle of the vacant room
for unspoken whispers of advice—
what to keep?
which ones to throw away?

(first pub. published Poet’s Corner winning booklet, 2001)

—Nancy Haskett

At eighteen months
my grandson has already learned
to be brave.
Grandpa says wait here
I'll be right back
and disappears into the garage—

momentarily abandoned,
taking big gulps,
lower lip quivering,
but no tears,
he stands in the backyard
holding only a shovelful
of trust.

(first pub. in Poets of the San Joaquin Anthology, 2004)

—Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Nancy Haskett

Just two weeks before spring,
the two pumpkins huddle together on our back patio—
old friends,
sitting comfortably—

it was their good fortune
to escape the carving knife
which turned others into jack o' lanterns
and insured a quick demise.

this pair proudly adorned the front porch,
heralding, celebrating
fall's arrival—
even managing to hold their places
through most of winter.
But, with the New Year,
they were finally banished to the back
where they sit
almost forgotten and unnoticed,
yet content in knowing
they have outlasted
most of their kind.

(first pub. in Song of the San Joaquin, Spring, 2005)

—Nancy Haskett

A menacing presence of earthmovers—
unwelcome neighborhood invaders
encamped at the end of our street,
their headlights penetrating the wintry morning fog
in glaring contrast to colorful Christmas lights
softly glowing on nearby houses.

Oddly silent, vulture-like,
waiting patiently
for our last pastoral hopes to die
there in the silent orchard and vineyard—
ready to dig up, carve out, uproot,
scatter and scavenge.

Come spring,
the sound of hammers will muffle birds' cries,
rooftops replacing almond trees,
cement curbs redefining our weekend bike route
through showers of falling blossoms
and the symphony of bees.

Only the canal will remain,
flowing incongruously
behind new cinderblock fences
and backyard barbecues—
a quiet and constant reminder
of what is lost.

(first pub. in Poet’s Corner booklet of winning poems, 1999)


—Nancy Haskett

It was her name that first caught my eye
in the daily obituaries:
Dianna Spencer—
like the princess of Wales—
a native of Sacramento, age fifty-two,
survived by her mother.
No husband.
No children.
The notice read, in part,
She was a carnival worker for twelve years.
She enjoyed collecting Elvis memorabilia,
as though this were the main focus of her life,
and maybe it was,
but really
is this how she would want to be remembered,
is there nothing more that could have been written,
some mention of richness in her life,
not just allusions to tacky paintings on black velvet
or statuary knick-knacks.
Surely, she must have known love—
I'd like to think there was someone for her.
Maybe the man, Harley-tattooed,
who worked the balloon dart booth next to hers
and wanted to take her away from their small-town life,
perhaps someone like him saw the goodness in her heart
thought of her as the one he wanted to come home to
the one who could be
his Graceland.

—Nancy Haskett

The wheel of the stroller hit a rock,
causing me to look down just for a second,
and that’s when I saw it:
a jigsaw puzzle part—
blue, clean, and bright,
like a tiny piece of the sky—
lying strangely in an untidy flowerbed
caught, camouflaged among weeds;
I wondered how it got there
and when its loss would first be noticed—
the family in this house sitting around a card table,
all the other pieces carefully laid out and arranged by color,
picked up and fit correctly, one by one,
each in its proper place
until none was left,
yet still this one empty space
would remain
forever incomplete.

And I was reminded, once again,
of how the smallest things
can cause our lives, sometimes,
to fall softly out of control—
with solutions in places we’d never think to look—
leaving holes that can never be filled
and images which will never be
as we had imagined.

(first pub. in Poet’s Corner winning booklet, 2007)


Our thanks to Nancy Haskett for sending us her poetry for the first time! About herself, Nancy writes:
The first twenty-five years of my life were spent in Southern California—mainly in Long Beach—
where I was born and attended school, including Cal State University where I received my teaching credential. In 1974, I moved with my husband to Modesto, CA in order to begin teaching at Roosevelt Junior High, and we have remained in Modesto ever since. During my 34 years in education, I mainly taught 8th grade language arts, and I retired in May of 2011.
    I have been writing poetry since I was in school, but I started writing more regularly in 1988 when I first heard about a local contest called “Poet’s Corner,” sponsored by Modesto’s Parks and Recreation Dept; since then, I have had a winning poem in that contest every single year since 1988. For the past two years, I have been the Stanislaus County coordinator for Poetry Out Loud, a national recitation contest for high school students, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts. I am currently a member of several different writing groups, including the Ina Coolbrith Society, California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc., and National League of Penwomen. 
    My poetry has been published in numerous places, including the recently released anthology
More Than Soil, More Than Sky: The Modesto Poets; the Poets’ Corner; Black Widows Web of Poetry; New Year’s Poetry Challenge; The Song of the San Joaquin; and Stanislaus Connections (as the featured poet). My poetry has won many awards, including the Jeanette Gould Maino Contest, California Federation of Chaparral Poets, Inc. and the Lincoln Poetry Contest. Recently, three of my poems were published online as part of the National League of Penwomen website, “Poem of the Week.”
    Besides writing poetry, I enjoy reading, yoga, walking and hiking, traveling, exercising at the gym, and being with my family. My husband and I have two grown children and three children, all of them living within Stanislaus County.


Today's LittleNip:

—Nancy Haskett

Within one year
she lost her mother
her husband
and her Siamese cat.

it was the cat
she missed the most.

Of the three,
he was the only one
who really ever

(first pub. in
Poet’s Corner winning booklet, 2003)



Nancy and her husband