Friday, October 9, 2020

"A Year After the Flood" in Oct. YCN

For our anniversary over Labor Day we returned to one of our favorite spots, the River Inn in Brownville, NE. We had wanted to come in 2019 but the summer flooding prevented it. This time, after so many months at home due to Covid, we especially enjoyed the chance to get away from the city and spend time on the river.

The Inn has a rustic feel yet provides amenities that non-campers like us require: a good bed, nice bathroom, and a hearty breakfast. We took the dinner cruise on the Spirit of Brownville, which gave us a glimpse of the changes brought by the flooding. We talked with other passengers and crew, and heard about the struggles the people of Brownville have faced. 

The next morning as the sun rose over the east bank, I sat on the deck watching the birds. I thought about the dredge upstream that was almost washed away, and the effort it took to save. This poem is a result of those quiet moments alone.

"A Year After the Flood"
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

Fresh foliage creeps over eroded banks
 wild sunflowers bloom as if nothing happened
 but the trees bear scars
 tangled drifted debris whispers the tale.

 The Captain Meriwether Lewis Dredge Museum
 floats secure in its dry-docked moat
 imagine the struggle by tugs, chains, men
 working 16-hour days to contain it in high water.

 It rose, bucking to break free of moorings
 they held on with all their might
 restrained it from a rampage
 prevented catastrophe downstream.

 It rests silent and sullen in its defeat, bested this time
 a little worse for wear, but not broken
 peers from its perch above the now-lazy river
 calls me back to watch the sunrise with it again.

 As swallows dart and eagles soar
 mist rises from the ever-flowing surface
 sun’s rays shoo wisps away
 ushers in a clear day

 washes the dredge in light
 its twin smokestacks stand tall
 white decks await tourists
 kept away by Covid and a damaged road.

 The town waits, too
 it survives as Midwest people tend to do
 shops closed for now
 but restaurant still serves, so does the bar.

 There’s hope as a new store opens
 a sign of growth in a small town
 that understands the damage a river can do
 while it sustains life, too. 

This poem is dedicated to the people of Brownville, 
with gratitude for your hospitality and admiration for your fortitude.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

"Stereotype" poem published in Oct. YCN

 Shattering the Stereotype 

Janet Sobczyk, 2020 

The black Harley stands shiny 
next to a grey, dusty Camry
 their drivers and wives vastly different
 on roads that converged
 in this parking lot
 at this Inn
 to open the mind of one of them.

The tanned couple
 in black boots and slim jeans, Harley logo shirts
 tells tales that amaze
 of rallies in towns across many states
 of 30+ years riding close, her front to his back
 avoiding the interstate
 seeing sights that few knew.

The other couple
 in sneakers and extra-large jeans
 not well-traveled, raised five kids
 has little to contribute to this conversation
 of scenes and sights
 and adventure
but curious, keeps asking questions.

 The men have nothing in common
 but the women connect
 share a love of books, including the bible
 both enjoy quiet time with nature
 the biker wife resembles the other’s sister
 who thinks this could have been Sis’s life,
 she would have loved the open road.

 Their differences fade as dusk settles into dark
 they tell of tomorrow’s plans, retreat to their rooms
 meet for breakfast, then
 one couple vrooms away
 to see covered bridges in Madison County
 the other drives to KC
 to see their grandbaby.

Janet with grand-baby Ruth

Sunday, August 30, 2020

2 Poems Published in Sept. 2020 YCN

6 a.m. Feeding
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

Pale pink sky
low clouds 
rustle of wings 
sharp eyes spy seeds 
sharp beak defends 
squabbles rebuff 
push off 
flutter back 
crowd ‘round 
only shells left.

Back to School After Covid
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

It took courage
 to step in those doors on August 10th
 the doors we last walked through on March 16th
 stunned, struggling to understand
 all our plans evaporated
 in the wake of a mystery illness
 striking randomly
 like an enemy submarine taking out our country’s fleet
 stealthily, swiftly, inciting mass fear.

 One survivor said on the phone 
“My family got Covid, 
I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave enough to teach again.” 
Another teacher texted, 
“I quit after getting Covid, 
I’m praying for you as you return to school.” 
Grateful for her prayers 
I think, with hope, “they survived!” 
against the odds, both were most vulnerable. 

And so did the woman 
I feared wouldn’t make it 
the first documented case in Nebraska 
played basketball at Special Olympics 
against my daughter’s team 
so friendly, talking smack, smiling 
we ate lunch with her 
only God knew she’d soon be 
in critical care for weeks. 

She was vulnerable 
so is my daughter 
and my spouse, and me, scared 
wanting to stay home in a safe bubble 
venturing out for weekly supplies 
content to work remotely, 
study online, video chat 
walk the dog, do yard work 
as sunshine beckons. 

Now summer recedes, duty calls 
ignore the statistics and news 
gather strength for a new journey 
re-enter a school familiar 
but profoundly changed 
interact with people in person again 
anxiety’s high 
but there’s comfort, too 
a team working for a good cause. 

August 17th, it’s showtime! 
the stage is set, protocols in place 
to welcome brave students 
with bright eyes and masked smiles 
wanting to hug, holding back 
they line up at arms’ length 
thrilled to see friends again 
but nervous knowing the danger 
one pukes and goes home. 

The day is filled with teaching 
routines, new rules, not much math 
sanitizing, washing hands 
taking temps three times a day 
sanitizing, washing hands 
the students tire, barely speak 
teachers talk all day behind masks 
feel claustrophobic, dehydrated 
everyone goes home exhausted. 

The week flies by 
students stagger in, not used to early rising 
one quarantined Zooms 
his face on iPad carried from class to class 
strange, but our new normal 
Wednesday feels like it should be the weekend 
we keep calm, carry on 
by Friday we all heave a sigh of relief 
we made it through the first week!

Click here to see the September issue of Your Country Neighbor.

Monday, August 3, 2020

"A Dying Barn" published in YCN Aug. 2020

A Dying Barn
by Janet Sobczyk, 2020

Abandoned barn amid neatly tilled rows
 red paint worn down to gray wood
 decrepit boards broken, sagging
 vines creep up sides, to pitch of roof
 appear to hold the structure together
 wrap it in a soft green blanket
 shingles blown off in patches
 let setting rays shine through
 an orange sunburst
 like the last breath of life
 leaving an old man’s skeletal frame
 soul’s glow resilient, ascends
 follows the directional arms of steel weathervane
 its silhouette forming a cross
 pointing the way heavenward.

I wrote this poem when I saw a photo of a dilapidated barn covered in ivy with sunlight gleaming through its holes. I don't have permission to use that photo so Stephen Hassler, editor of Your Country Neighbor, was kind enough to find a great one of his own to pair with my poem. Many thanks!

Monday, July 27, 2020

2 Poems Published in "Screamin' Mamas"

Screamin' Mamas highlighted my poetry in their Fall 2020 issue. I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for their beautiful work.

Back Cover 
This poem is reprinted with permission from YCN, Aug. 2018

First Page

Front Cover
This photo ties in with the poem on page 1.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

"Unearthed" published in July 2020 YCN

By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

Spring weeds popped up
 ‘round the stone bench
 she sat, plucked, yanked
 dug out the roots
 tap, tap, what’s that?
 trowel hit rock
 wait, more than that
 brushed away dirt
 it’s mosaic!
 a stepping stone
 blue birds in flight
 pale pink flowers
 she sat in awe
 examined it
 perfect for her
 love of nature
 felt like a gift
 buried treasure
 from Mother Earth
 or previous
 owners long gone.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

"Grandma's Library" published in June YCN

Grandma's Library
By Janet Sobczyk, 2020

“If you build it they will come” 
says a movie quote that’s wise 
but for my new home 
not a Field of Dreams did I devise 
but a space for grandchildren 
someday, to play and read. 

Built before the first was born 
white shelves with books old and new
 tubs for toys, a rocking horse
 a rack with dress-up clothes, too 
while visions of happy children
 danced through Grandma’s head.