Peninsula Poetry: Lee LeVoy

Peninsula Poetry is a monthly column curated by the Door County Poets Collective, a 12-member working group that was formed to publish Soundings: Door County in Poetry in 2015 and continues to meet.

Originally from Chicago, Lee LeVoy moved to Door County in 1999 with her husband, Hugh. Their dream of living on their 17 acres in Ellison Bay became a reality when jobs opened for both of them, and her career in parish ministry continued in the Green Bay diocese. LeVoy appreciates the beauty of woods and meadow and is grateful to live close to the lake and bay.

Since moving to Ellison Bay, LeVoy has studied poetry with Ellen Kort and Robin Chapman and is a member of the Belles Lettres poetry group. Her poems have been published in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets’ calendar, Listen: A Seeker’s Resource and Halfway to the North Pole.

LeVoy’s first book of poems, Still Voice, was published in 2017, and her  forthcoming poetry book, Sacred Moments: One Couple’s Walk with Parkinson’s, will be published later this year.

What’s your writing routine?
I feel centered in the early morning, when I have the best energy for writing, before the busyness of the day. I have kept a journal consistently for over 40 years, and this has become not only a spiritual practice but the source for many of my poems. 

What do most poorly written poems have in common?
Poems that use trite language or too many words. 

What do most well-written poems have in common?
Images and language that stir wonder, gratefulness, compassion, hope. Poems that challenge us to change. 

Is it important to understand the meaning of the poem, or for the reader to “solve” it?
Accessible language is important. Some poems stretch us, carry the reader to a new dimension. 

What book are you reading right now?
Sacred Wilderness by Susan Power, a Native American woman writer. It’s the story of two clan mothers, one contemporary and one traditional.

The Empty Canoe
     on the painting “Green Light” by Olaf Schneider              
We found the water lilies
floating in still water
tucked in a secluded lagoon
while rowing our canoe on Europe Lake

You guided us
steering with strong arms
as we slipped into silent wonder
light filtering through pine and birch

The canoe rests now in quiet water
empty    too heavy to lift or carry
in the light
Boxing at the Y

On this November afternoon
Bill   an instructor for the Parkinson’s class
welcomes you
helps pull jacket sleeves from your arms
teases about SOX embroidered in white
on your green wool cap
guides you with your walker
into the exercise room

A broad smile brightens your face
when Adam   the teacher   brings out
the black boxing mitts
As you slip your hand into the glove
something clicks
carries you back
to the old neighborhood
with your older brother Jake

Adam faces you
wearing a punch pad
Bill stands behind
holds your gait belt for balance
Give it to me the best you can
Hit the target one   two
You pummel the punch pad
the sound of leather on leather
like a pop
pierces the quiet

Keep going Hugh
straight ahead   good!
You swing right
then hard left
with surprising energy and balance
in a moment of grace
I am so distant from the hope of myself
 after Mary Oliver
“When I Am among the Trees” 

Sometimes I lose it
running to bring you to therapy
running to get groceries
unload the car   the walker
help you in the house
heat the chili
serve you seated
in the blue chair
watching the news

I fall into the pit
of resentment
feel anger rising
words I regret
All I do is wait on you

In the early morning
I sit in quiet
before the busyness
Words leap out
from a psalm*
teach me how to respond
Let me keep my ways from offending
with my tongue
Let me keep a muzzle on my mouth

What is the hope of myself
as your caregiver?

*Ps 39:2
Living with Questions

Heavy snow clings to spruce
after the February storm
We sit in a circle for Parkinson’s support
move into quiet space

As the therapist plays a CD
we close our eyes
rest our hands on our lap
our feet on the floor

The soothing voice 
of Deepak Chopra guides
our meditation
offers healing affirmations

We reflect on Q   
living with the questions
when there are no answers

The therapist invites us to share
what comes up as we listen
I turn to you
What questions do you have?

How long before it gets worse?
What can I count on?