In honor of Memorial Day, the Get Out & Write! Community Free Write devoted two prompts to commemorate the holiday: “in the trenches” and “poppies.”

The poppies prompt was inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915 by Lt. Col. John McCrae, but instructions were to write anything related to poppies.

Below are several of the results of our POPPIES prompt:

“The field next to our house was planted with wheat, and poppies, gorgeous, velvet and red, grew in among the stalks, as well as morning glories, the black throats of the poppies and the white throats of the blue morning trumpets like ventriloquists’ dummies mouthing the liquid songs of invisible skylarks overhead. Before the combine harvester came through, and again after the harvest was cut down, we children would rescue nests of harvest mice to save them from being burnt up in the stubble fires, carrying the squirming little drops of pink in their round purse-pockets to the hedgerows where we thought they might be safe. There were endless jobs to be done at home, but our parents didn’t realize how many impossible jobs we were also trying to do in the wider world, where the wheat fields filled with pockets of mice stretched to the horizon.”Maggie Rowe

“I found the poppy on a grave. It was because the poppy was there, like a bright splash of blood, that I noticed the grave at all. Obscured by grass, the marker, a gray, shapeless lump, had all but dissolved. Other markers near this one, of a similar stone, appeared to be from the same time period. All were weathered, streaked and discolored, but the names of the dead were still visible. Why then was this one stone in an extreme state of decay? And, I wondered, if this grave was the same age as its fellows, who was the nameless soul buried here who still attracted visitors bearing flowers 150 years after his or her death?” – JM Reinbold

   “It’s a derivative of poppies.” His eyes are glazed, the pupils so dilated they seem to be devouring his irises. “It’s natural.”
   “Dog shit is natural, but I wouldn’t want to grind that into a powder and snort it,” Kelly says.
   They sit together, knees brushing. Dave nurses a beer, while she sips a flat Captain and diet.   The bar is crowded; it’s the only one within ten miles of the dry college campus. It’s dim and smoky, and the people are hushed, dismal and attenuated like the cigarette smoke floating in the air. Dull eyes. Everyone’s got such dull eyes.
   “It’s not that easy. You’re so judgmental.” Dave looks down and starts peeling the label off his Stella.
   “I am. You’re right. I miss you, though. I miss my brother. Where did you go?”
   “Oh, Kelly. I think I must have left when Mom did.” He grimaces at her boxy suit and conservative shoes. “Don’t try and pretend that you didn’t leave, too.” – Kristy Truax-Nichols

“Every year my two brothers and I met at Mom’s to plant the annual garden. Never before Mother’s Day and mostly on Memorial Day weekend, we would gather before the break of dawn on the front porch that looked a bit more forlorn each Spring. My brothers, never early risers, would wait for me, coffees in hand,and sleep still clinging to their eyes. I would pull the flats of flowers from the backseat of my Toyota while the two of them watched from the top of the steps.   A tray of Dusty Miller for the border, a few pots of Snap Dragons, Mom’s favorite, and a box of red Poppies to honor Dad.
   Mom never came out until she called us for breakfast about an hour or so after we arrived. My oldest brother, Paul,had begun raking while Billy gave advice as to how he could do it better if the raking were his job.” Kimberly Kurth-Gray

“I heard a marvelous story about “Tall Poppies” that turned a paradigm on its head.  I’ve forgotten what country or culture it is, maybe Australia, but they teach their children not to be “tall poppies” – for it is the tall poppies that get noticed and cut down, presumably for floral arrangements or, maybe, to make all the flowers the same height, a strong message for fitting in.  So the children grow up in fear of being cut down one way or another, and they rarely dare to let their special gifts raise them above the average level.

A far-seeing woman in the States heard this teaching and was very troubled by it.  She knew it is our special gifts that raise us to our highest potential.  Kendall SummerHawk wanted to encourage this in other women.  So she started a program for women called “Tall Poppies”.  She sent out the word, seeking women who dared to believe that with support they might fulfill themselves and become all they could be.

I don’t know the details of this program but from other programs of Kendall’s I’ve been in, I would hazard several guesses.  Most likely they explored their dreams and unfulfilled goals.  Probably the women wrote and talked about what they’d been discouraged from doing or being, things like

“Don’t be so sensitive.

 “Of course, there’s nothing beyond solid, scientific fact.”

 “Curb your exuberance.”     

 “Writers and artists can’t make a living at their craft.”

 “Major in something practical.”

 “Women can’t …….(fill in the blank).”

 “People in our family don’t do that.”

And from what I have heard I imagine that the women listened to their hearts and their spirits.  They became tall poppies, supporting each other and going for their dreams, exploring their talents and taking big risks.  They rose to heights never before attempted – and no one was cut down.”  –           Betty Powell


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