A Poem to Name a Book After

That’s what I think of the poem “Certain as Afternoon,” the title poem of my new book.

The poem is about the beginning of the end–about death, but not about the moment of dying. The poem is about the moment death is born and no one knows it. Like quiet rain in the night, and you wake up and look out the window and say, “Hey look! It rained in the night. I wonder when? I didn’t hear anything.”

In the poem, there is a “we.” The “we” is me and Pio, of coruse, but it is also any other “we” in the world. In the night while we are sleeping in our room, something else enters the room quietly like rain in the night. No one knows the moment it comes. But when we awaken in the morning it is there in the room with us, certain as afternoon.

Because the one thing you can be sure of in the morning, on any morning, is that the next thing to arrive is afternoon.  And when the end has begun, it’s arrival follows as naturally as afternoon follows morning.

 

Certain as Afternoon

death came quietly
like rain in the night
no one knew the
moment it began

there was no thunder
no lightening
when the sick cells
began to divide then
send out seeds

when we woke in the
morning
it stood in the
room with us
certain as afternoon

 

Certa Come il Pomeriggio 

la morte cominciò a formarsi
silenziosamente
come pioggia nella notte
nessuno sapeva il momento
del suo inizio

non c‘erano tuoni
nè lampi
quando le cellule malate
cominciarono a separarsi
ed a disseminarsi 

quando ci siamo svegliati
al mattino
era lì in piedi
nella stanza con noi
certa come il pomeriggio

Available Now: CERTAIN AS AFTERNOON / CERTA COME IL POMERIGGIO

My new poetry collection, Certain as Afternoon, is now availble on Amazon.com, Amazon.it, Amazon.es, Amazon.whatever.

Mia nuova raccolta di poesie, Certa Come il Pomeriggio. è ora disponibile per ordinare su Amazon.com, Amazon.it, Amazon.es, Amazon.tutto.

I love this book. I love the terrible story it tells because it’s my story, our story. When stories are all you have, you’d be amazed how much you can love them. A lot. They don’t have to be pretty. Certain as Afternoon covers about a year and a half, calendar time. Which equal about 7 eternities in real life. I didn’t write the poems as the things happened; I wrote them later. A thing has to get done happening before you know what it was. All you can do while it’s happening is hold on for the ride.

Adoro questo libro. Adoro la storia terribile che racconta perché è la mia storia, la nostra storia. Quando le storie sono tutto ciò che hai, è incredibile quanto puoi amarle. Tantissimo. Non importa che non siano belli. Certa Come il Pomeriggio racconta la storia di circa un anno e mezzo, tempo di calendario. Equivalente a 7 eternità nella vita reale. Le poesie non le ho scritte quando accadevono le cose; le ho scritte più tardi. Una cosa deve finire di succedere prima che tu sappia cosa fosse. Tutto quello che puoi fare mentre sta succedendo è rimanere aggrappata.

If you helped me translate this book, please don’t order it—I will get one to you.

Se tu mi hai aiutato a tradurrre questo libro, per favore non ordinarlo—ti lo regalerò io. Se tu sei nella famiglia di Pio, non comprarlo. Ti lo vorrei regalare.

This is how we begin:

Si comincia così: 

New Poetry Book Next Monday / Nuovo Libro di Poesie Lundì Prossimo

Certain as Afternoon / Certo Come il Pomeriggio is ready for you. Next Monday, one week from today, I will post a live link to it on Amazon.com, and you will be able to order it. The price is $10. It will also be available on Amazon.it (if I understand correctly) for anyone in Italy who wants to purchase it. I have not made it an ebook at this time because, honestly, I don’t like ebooks. This book, especially, wants an actual physical body.

Certain as Afternoon / Certo Come il Pomeriggio è pronto per voi.  Lunedì prossimo, a una settimana da oggi, vi darò un link per farvelo trovare su Amazon.com.  Il costo è $10. Sarà anche disponibile su Amazon.it (se ho capito bene) per chiunque vorrà acquistarlo in Italia.  In questo momento non l’ho creato come ebook perché, onestamente, gli ebook non mi piacciono. Questo libro, in particolare, vuole avere un corpo fisico.

Cover design in progress


Eternity, At Least / La Eternità, Almeno

Certain as Afternoon / Certa Come Il Pomeriggio

I have a new book for you.  Look for it in September.  It’s my bravest book so far—about bravery and love.  The title is Certain as Afternoon / Certa Come Il Pomeriggio.

This is a duel-language book of poems in English and Italian that tell the story of death and love.  It’s not weepy and whiny, there are no flowers in it, and no rainbows.  There are doctors in it, ice cream, clocks that tick, and lots of sky.  There is rain, and there are ashes.  No one ever flinches.

Why would I write such a book?

To save my life.  To keep from going mad.  To bear witness.  To paint portraits and landscapes of things that cannot be photographed.   Because I don’t have a therapist.  Because someday you will lose someone you love–that it will come is as certain as afternoon—and this book of poems will hold your hand, then.  It will lie with you on your bed and it will sit with you at the table under the ticking clock. It will not try to make you feel better at the time when you’re supposed to feel bad.  You cannot possibly frighten or offend it by what you say, or by never speaking.  What can provide that type of company but a book of poems?

Of course, the original language of almost all the poems is English.  I do not consider myself competent to translate poetry into Italian, but it became present to my mind in the last half year that this book wants to be in Italian as well as English.  So many people who loved Pio will not be able to read it if I don’t do the work.  So, I conscripted the help of loving and patient friends who dug through the depths of this with me and went all the places nobody wants to go.  They have called the task an honor, but truly the honor is mine.  My language skills have grown, but not as much as my friendships.

I’ve prepared Certain as Afternoon using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service.  The publishing platform is free for me; the book will have a small cost.  My finger is poised above the “publish” button at which point there’s no going back.  This time, I’m not interested in years of trying to sell myself to publishers before I can give this book to the people I’ve intended it for, and make it available to anyone who may discover, want, or need it.

I’m fiercely proud of this project.  I can’t wait to share it with you.  Buckle up.


Possible cover if I like how it looks when I get the proof copy

Those Dreams About Having Forgotten Your Clothes

It’s no accident that Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie came out two days before the date when, last year, Pio went into the hospital and never came home. I picked the release date—it wasn’t assigned to me. I had a premonition that this would be a good time to have something to be happy about, something else to talk about. Not hiding from it—I don’t hide—just adding other ingredients into the mix. It gives you something to say when you see me other than a weighty, “How are you?” and we both know what you mean.

How am I? Somehow or other I’m still alive. Most days, mostly alright. Who knew? Anyway, what are my choices? That pragmatic little rascal you just read a book about hasn’t changed all that much. I can go around being alright and not-alright at the same time.

You ask me how it feels to have Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie out there? Partly like a huge sigh of relief. That’s a lot to carry around for 20 years, KNOWING day and night, you MUST say it all and feeling, simultaneously, that you CANNOT. Well, I just did. The rest of it feels like one of those dreams about having forgotten your clothes.  Except I’m not sleeping.  Lucky me, I’m used to running around in public in my underwear (as in, a bikini) so I’m kind of over it. It is what it is. In the end, 98% of us look better dressed, not just me. My parents are going to read it. They haven’t yet, but they are going to. That’s a whole other subject.

Let me tell you about the 1st three people I heard back from about the book, and how they surprised me. All of them are friends from college days; none of them are “in” the book or were my very closest friends. The first thing that surprised me is that two of the people are men. I greatly feared that this would be more of a “chick flick” than what the story deserves to be. Because on the subject of growing up Mennonite, carrying an immense baggage of expectations, running smack into the world, and having to figure out what the sam hill to do about everything is NOT a girl story, specifically. So I was pleasantly surprised that two of the first people to contact me, who found meaning in the pages, were men. The other thing that surprised me is that nobody wrote me to tell me how funny it was—they wrote me to tell me how meaningful. I could, again, not be more delighted. Because many stories are funny (I hope), I feared that it would come off as a bunch of silliness with some complaining mixed in, and that I would somehow not convey the gut-twisting agony underlying what may seem like silly questions if you weren’t there. If they weren’t the ones your life depends upon. I am happily humbled to begin to believe that the book may do, at least in some ways, what I hoped it would: tell not only “my” story, but a personalized version of “our” story. The details are different for all of us. The underlying dilemmas, it is my best guess, are the same.

There is so much more in my head to write about. I will never have to make anything up, ever, because there are so many stories to tell. I didn’t start keeping a journal at 9 years old for the purpose of being able to look up almost any day (for sure any week) of my life, but that is the result. I have the bones of 3 more books in my computer right now. Will I live long enough to write them all? At 20 years a piece, that would make me 107 when the last one is finished, so something is going to have to change here if I’m going to make it through them all. I’m doing my best. What I really need is for a millionaire to fall in love with me so that I don’t have to scratch around for pennies in the dust during most of my waking hours instead of concentrating on The Real Work. I don’t want to rule that out, but in morning I will be up and scratching.

Write me, after you’ve read Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie. Reflect it back to me. Tell me what it says to you. Tell me what made you laugh. Tell me what stabbed you. Ask me a question—I might answer it. Tell me if you think I’ve been unfair. Tell me, even if you didn’t end up as far away as Costa Rica, if you know what I’m talking about.

The first 15 people to receive “Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie.”

 

 

 

Jessica Penner’s Review of Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie

Jessica Penner, author of “Shaken in the Water” (Workplay Publishing, 2013) wrote a thorough and honest review “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie.”  I’m sharing a slice of it with you today.  For the full review, click the link at the bottom and check out Jessica’s website.

Diana R. Zimmerman’s Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie

I chose to read Diana R. Zimmerman’s memoir, Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie, in a very un-Mennonite fashion. That is, I printed out the entire book, even though she had sent me an electronic version, when a scrupulous Mennonite (for the unknowing non-Mennonite readers out there) would’ve just read it on their laptop. In my defense, I printed it on both sides and shrank the text. Mess of manuscript and pen in hand, I settled down to read the memoir with my Pandora station set to play mostly grunge hits from the 1990s. The music choice was entirely coincidental—but it fit with the memoir and the feeling of the snapshots Zimmerman shares about the summer of 1991.

That summer, Zimmerman, her friend, Beth, and two other young women, Nina and Sheila, decide to stay in their small college town to take summer classes and work. The initial scene of the discovery that none of them know how to cook or keep house is vivid and captivating. Their first meal is peanut butter and jelly after a hotpot is ruined through an attempt to cook rice in it. “Maybe I could have saved the hotpot if I had seen Beth’s preparations,” Zimmerman writes. “I didn’t know how to cook, but I did score in the 99th percentile on an aptitude test for mechanical reasoning. ‘Mechanical reasoning’ 12 doesn’t mean you can fix things—it means you can tell ahead of time something like that is never going to work.” One feature of the apartment they share is the fact that the landlady allows them to paint whatever they want on the walls. What they paint becomes a backdrop to those months of independence. “It didn’t have to be pretty,” Zimmerman writes, after describing some of the attempts at artistry. She adds, “Before long, it wasn’t.” These scenes set the tone for the rest of the memoir. She cannot necessarily correct the problems that arise, but she realizes that they are there, looming, like the damaged hotpot and painted walls.

Zimmerman adroitly shares snapshot after snapshot, giving us glimpses into her life that summer…

Click here to read the full review of Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie 

Released Today: “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie”

Today is the day that my second book, “Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie” becomes available. If you pre-ordered last week, it will be on its way to you soon. If you didn’t order it then, order it now.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER THE BOOK

I’m happy, proud, and excited.  This has been, to this point in my life, my “life’s work.”  Not calling it a masterpiece (!), but it has certainly been the thing my life has required of me.  I tried repeatedly to abandon it, but it would not let me.

I’m scared and I wonder if I’ve lost my mind. The book is, as Daniel Shank Cruz says in the promotional blurb he kindly wrote, “fiercely personal.” Fiercely. As in, I can’t believe I just said all that to the world. But I did. I can’t believe my family in Pennsylvania is going to read this. But they are. I can’t believe I’m this old and still think like that. But I do.

I’m sad. Because my husband Pio is supposed to be here for with me for this but he isn’t. If it hadn’t been for him and the self-confidence he gave me and the truth-telling he pushed me into, I never ever would have been able to do this. Write it, maybe. On a page, I can say anything. Publish it, never. Not in a million years. I’m sure he’s watching from somewhere if dead people can do that and I’m sure he’s proud if they have terrestrial emotions, but it’s not the same. It feels imaginary, whether it is or not.

But, CHEERS! To us. To Andre Swartley and Workplay Publishing. To everybody in the book: Beth, Nina, Sheila, Tom, Dan, Curtis, Colin (sorry), Mean Tabitha (you seem a lot nicer now), The Boy in Los Rios, and even Matthew who is in heaven with Pio. We did it–all of us. We made it through.  If you haven’t read the letter I wrote to you, please read it now.

For us, this book will be a little photo album of a time we may love to remember or wish to forget.  I hope, for those on the journey, it will be a guidebook–a map through the jungle.  This is the book I needed the summer I was the girl in it, but I had nothing, only a journal to write it all down.  I hope, if there’a girl who needs it now, she finds it.

Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie