National Poetry Month – Julie Ann Cook

I love Julie’s description of herself on the back of her collection, Love Like Weeds – “Between assisting in living room railroad construction and addressing concerns of who would win in a fight between Megatron and Iron Man, Julie is an author, artist and webmaster.”

Julie is mom to four adorable boys here on earth, and three little angels in heaven. It’s all this sometimes chaotic life and her Catholic anchor that feeds her poetry. She finds both humor and solace in her womanhood and her life as mom. In her poetry she doesn’t shy away from the challenges of these roles and, without being sappy, celebrates their joys.

I’ve known Julie for several years. I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating a poetry workshop with her, we’ve shared table space and mics for readings and book signings, and most recently a 4 hour car ride with conversation and laughter. We’re in a critique group together and I’m constantly in awe of the poems she brings, and her ability to make the time in her busy life to write them.

From Love Like Weeds, published by Main Street Rag, posted with the poet’s permission.

The Stench of Boys

Only boys – stick-wielding, dirt-digging,

bug-eating boys – have this stink,

of sweat, grass and dirt, pennies and pee,

of band-aids muddied and torn from scraped knees,

of ketchup and corn, chicken nuggets and cheese,

and milk that went sour once wiped onto sleeves

with boogers and coughs that smell of their own –

a true eau de toilette, a froggy cologne.

Little girls’ fragrance is nothing like this is.

But I’ll endure all the stench for my boys’ (post-bath) kisses.

 

The Hour

I have found the hour

I had misplaced, found it

tucked neatly between

the grocery list and a stray

realization that you say the ‘th’

in your brother’s name as ‘ss.’

 

It takes thirteen minutes to make

mac and cheese, eleven

to eat it. Eighteen more

to clean it up one-handed –baby

on hip – between taking drink orders

of apple juice and grape kool-aid.

 

The hour had slipped

and dripped like the raspberry popsicle

down your chin, in dribbles dropped,

your eyes squinting in laughter.

 

The bare blue chest of a little boy

is a beautiful thing,

especially in fits of giggles.

 

Then there are the battles to mediate

and threats committed to, in hopes

of not having to follow through

because I love you.

 

Ten minutes for time-out:

you pout and I breathe

while sorting stinky shorts and tees.

 

What are we down to? Twelve

years before you’re declared

an adult by law. Five

hours until dinner. Two

minutes, and then

you’re out the door again.

 

Trees don’t climb themselves.

 

Love Like Weeds

May your love be always green: first

to break earth in spring, steadfastly

lush in dry seasons. Hearty

 

for each other, may it know

no bounds, take flight like thistledown

on the breath of your words and sighs,

 

seeds landing where they may, heedless

of paths or lawns, germinating

where they fall, never waiting

 

for trowel or invitation. May your love’s

radicle root anchor you, reach,

and spread, sending rhizomes,

 

runners, shoots, then sprouts and tendrils:

a ground cover budding and blooming wildly,

sunshine-hued blossoms and fragrant,

 

growing, in tight places, fruiting

strength in persistence, cracking stone, tearing

down walls. And may your love resist

 

pulling, revive and thrive despite.

May you love like weeds

with a love like weeds.

 

Julie’s answers to my questions ~

I wrote my first poem, titled “Spring!” at the end of first grade, at the ripe age of 7.

How’s a girl to choose just one poet from human history to sit down and chat with? I mulled this question overnight. This morning, the answer came unexpectedly, as poetry often does: St. John Paul the Great. While Pope John Paul II might not be in most people’s top ten lists of ‘famous poets’ or ‘people who shaped poetry,’ after rereading part of his Letter to Women, I was reminded that he truly was a poet who changed the world with his words. While he wrote poems in the traditional sense, it’s the poetry of his letters and encyclicals, and his recognition of the true value of Art and Beauty which would lead me to pull up a chair and enjoy some wine and conversation with the holy pontiff.

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