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ODYSSEY by Linda Whitlow

This poem, like many in the folder I call, "Time of Innocence", was inspired by my idyllic childhood...

That was a time like no other, when things seemed so clear, so simple. I was going through a very rough time and once again, the beautiful memories of my wild childhood came to my rescue, helping me to realize that I could relive those feelings of clarity and simplicity, at will. What a treasure it is to be able to close my eyes and go to a safe place where all things become clear and timeless.

Photography by Elena Shumilova

by Linda Whitlow

                                    Eerie echoes carry
                                    through the cool morning mists,
                                             early morning mists;

                                    Nameless birds, familiar call
                                    sound their courtship or
                                         sing for sheer joy.
                                    Joy greets me then
                                       in the early morning mists,
                                       rolls up the wide, brown river
                                          towards me,
                                             washes over me
                                       swallowing whole the forest;
                                    only the birds’ encore escaping
                                          in an incessant tide.

                                    Fragile, yellow beams of promise
                                    nudge through the mists,
                                    playing on the calm
                                       surface of the water;

                                    Ghostly dark shapes
                                       gently illuminated by approaching dawn
                                       become boundless waves
                                       of a green canopy,
                                          virgin rain forest
                                        of my youth:

                                    when vision was clear
                                          and unspoiled;
                                    thoughts were simple
                                             and innocent;
                                    days were transparent
                                          and easy;                                               
                                    life was effortless
                                          and tangible;
                                    questions were rare,
                                          answers plentiful.

                                    In my barefoot emerald kingdom
                                    so far upriver
                                          in the cool morning mists that
                                          I might have forgotten
                                          the way back -
                                    But I followed the call
                                    of the Nameless birds
                                          who sang for sheer joy,
                                    to the edge of the world
                                          and back again.
                                    Now things aren’t so clear
                                         as in the cool morning mists;
                                    my nights are too long,
                                    my days too uncertain;
                                       questions are many and
                                          answers are few.

                                    Oh, to be a child again.
Photography by Elena Shumilova

Linda Whitlow: I live in Portland, Oregon and I’m a poet, personal historian, champion of the underdog and have more recently realized that I’ve always been a feminist without a label. I’m allergic to labels as it turns out. I’ve been writing poetry since I was a teen, which was a long, long time ago, and to grasp much of my poetry it’s essential to understand my upbringing. I was a missionary’s child from the age of five until sixteen. I grew up running wild, barefoot, swimming naked and carefree in the interior rain forest of Borneo and later on, riding covertly borrowed horses and cavorting on my own a lot, all around San José, Costa Rica and Mexico City…a true Global Nomad. Upon returning to the U.S. to finish my last year in a public high school in California, I felt lost. That’s putting it mildly; it has taken me all my life to acculturate. I wasn’t comfortable in my parent’s culture; I didn’t understand the teenage ‘lingo’ or the music, the dancing, hair styles, cultural norms. I was blonde, blue-eyed, white-skinned, so I looked like most of my peers in those days, but I was brown inside…and I think I still am. I grew up wishing I could be brown and beautiful like everyone else. So that’s me, for starters. My marriage was far from idyllic, but it gave me four truly exceptional children who today, carry on my overriding love and delight in diversity. My degree is in Spanish & Latin American literature and culture, and most of my working years were spent in maternal and child health at a community health center, serving the underserved and teaching health, birthing and breastfeeding classes in my ‘native’ Spanish. I’m a retired, nasty woman now, who curses, drinks, parties and dances far too much. I spend summers kayaking, hiking and swimming with grandkids, and winters in deep, mysterious conversations with other old crones and young sirens who are my preferred companions these days. I’ve written poetry for nearly 50 years, but it was all so personal, so private that I never felt I could share until now. Now, I’m older, wiser, and I don’t care what people think of me any longer. Thank heavens for that! In between poetry inspirations, I paint, and I am transcribing hundreds of 100 year-old letters between my grandparents before, during and after World War 1, left in my keeping - with the goal of publishing a personal history, love story, patriot memoir in the next year. I also teach Zumba fitness at my neighborhood LGBTQ center, to older and deconditioned adults and those with mobility restrictions, which keeps me in shape. I find myself spending more and more time reading the writings of wise women, searching women, enlightened and desperate women. I find myself enjoying my own company far too much, but realize the solitary nature of writing, painting and discovering my purpose in this world. So be it…I’m getting there. You may e-mail me, if you wish here:

~If you are interested in seeing your poetry appear in this blog, or submitting a poem by a woman that has inspired you, please click here for submission guidelines. I greatly look forward to hearing from you!~


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