Waves on the Rocks

Poets and Lyrics

Julie Ann Ball

Julie Ann Ball is a catalyst for smiles from all who surround her. She grew up in Appleton Wisconson and studied teaching at UofW, Lacrosse. She retired from teaching middle school english and social studies in 2016 after 37 years in the field, 33 of them at the Marshall School in Duluth, MN where she was a founding and influential member of the middle school team. She is revered, respected, and admired by students, colleagues, and administrators alike. In retirement, she lives close to one of her two sons, daughter in-law, and grandson on the Big Island of Hawaii, and continues in her recreational pursuits of writing poetry, watching and listening to birds, enjoying life, and smiling.

January

the Lake is silent, stark and still

dark ice in the night

a mirror for the dawn

stars fall, suns rise above the horizon

standing still and steady

absolutely cold in January

breathing out, a ghost escapes in steam

and in, an icey gasp betides the day

no room for mourning

morning cracks the night

another day is born

before the last is silenced in the Lake

Sub-Zero Snow
sub zero snow 

does not fall pretty from the sky

on stellar flakes, drifting

and landing on woolen sweaters

and tongues held out for sweet cold

touching, melting on rosy cheeks

and hot lips

sub zero snow glistens

like diamonds against the night

landing in rainbows for sunrise

under east shadows from the Lake

sub zero snow is crunchy underfoot

it takes a breath and a breath

to taste the cold it brings

sub zero snow is bright under sun

blinding the beginning of the day

inviting one more truth

April Floods

rivers in spring measure time in granite

with anchors. deep set rocks bedded

in glacial midnights, millions of dreams pass

all the raging roiling rapids foam

at the mouth when it meets the Lake

in a pocketful of agates that float and sink

each one a story from a spiraling flood

memories all mixed up with this dawn

rising, swollen beyond a rosey glow

Echoes

echoes across the hillside

lilies-of-the-valley and lilacs on an early spring

behind thundering midnight, and sudden flashing

into the calm eye of twilight apple blossoms

the splitting of the sky, naked in the night

behind that single so quiet moment, so still

to stop my heart and my breath, that single moment

ripped out of me in rumbling and lightning

echoes across the hillside, promises

heavy with dew scent, sunrise across the Lake

Irrevocable Trust

unalterable

granite cliffs rise from the Lake

a pond of lilies blooms in summer sun

tiny agates show along the path

a thunderstorm rainbow

puffweeds in parachute

American Goldfinch, nesting

and two cardinal families in the neighborhood

who sing a morning alarm just at dawn

the sun drips up from the Lake in prelude

echoing across the hillside

unalterable

Aurora Borealis

let us lift our heads in prayer

high cathedral ceilings arch overhead

deep in the midnight sky, silky Lights

a silent church organ pipes behind horizon

bass and high C treble acapella choir sing

without voice, without word, from the balcony

lifting a prayer past the top of the sky

past the beginning of the universe

past the end of all time

and a mist comes from the Lake

like a linen sheet, a cover for sleep

Superior

In Autumn

love belongs to people whose hearts have been broken

and october sky is absolute blue after noon, shadows long

and leaves are golden coins in puddles at sunset

and moon rises from the Lake, dripping yesterday

the footprints on a path left behind

and october sky sings in the night, claimed from summer

and across the milky way is absolute blue midnight

and silence fills the cathedral overhead

a quiet path

in autumn

The Lake

The Lake is warm today

steam rises in thanks to dawn

early sun, newly awakened

is winter Light, a promise

for tomorrow and tomorrow to come

Laura Stratford

Laura Stratford is a Chicago-based musical theatre writer. She co-founded and served as Founding Executive Director of Underscore Theatre Company, Chicago’s home for new musicals, and acted as the Executive Producer of the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival for five years. With Underscore, she produced over 74 readings, workshops, and productions of new musicals in eight years. 

Laura is the co-lyricist and co-librettist of Liberal Arts: The Musical (Underscore Theatre Company), Grounds: The Musical (Midwest Fringe Tour; Theatre Undeclared); Spa Fire! The Children of the One Percent (the EX-Pats), and pr0ne: a hardcore, amateur musical (Underscore Theatre Company), and librettist for The 57th National Mathlete Sum-It (CPA Theatricals; licensed by Theatrical Rights Worldwide) with collaborators Alex Higgin-Houser and David Kornfeld.

 

Currently Laura has composed nine original songs for season two of the podcast Arden and is the librettist and lyricist for The Bone Harp, a new musical with music by Heidi Joosten.

 

She is a member of the Dramatist’s Guild and ASCAP.

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These Days

these are the days
we cried in fear of
in november
anno domini 2016
and our fathers
told us not to
overreact.

Breathe

I am twenty-two when the first panic attack hits

Twenty-two and waiting tables

Paid in proportion to stress--

The crazier the day

The more likely I’ll make rent.

Twenty-two and starting to feel faint:

The thick root of my tongue

Swelling in my throat,

The tree of fear

Branching through my chest.

A squeeze around the heart,

My ribs a cage grown too small,

The hall--

A tunnel retreating

A trick shot

Hitchcock’s Vertigo not vertical.

Breathe.

Close my eyes.

Imagine white light radiating from the walls, 

trickling through the brick, down 

To the basement where I start my shift, haloing the air:

This place is safe. This place supports me.

Head up the stairs and out the door.

It didn’t work.

I’m sick, something’s wrong, something is

Wrong. 

Quit the job, New Year’s day

Fetus-curled, tented under blankets

In the friend’s home I am sleeping in

Since mine became an enemy

My bed an alien land

The emergency lights across the alley

A never-ending shout for attention,

A dare to try to sleep.

Cradling the phone

Begging my father to come, come now--

As if the strength of my need could surpass

The speed of sound, the cost of planes,

The cancelling of plans.

Come--

I cry,

In between the gasping sobs

Wrenched from lungs that everyone keeps reminding to

Breathe. 

It’s just that I feel like I’m dying

[I tell my general practitioner

Who clicks her tongue and tells me to wait.]

It’s just that my adrenaline

Has been running like a herd of buffalo

Through the bluffs of my body

For three days straight

And I’m afraid that I’ll be the one

Who falls off the cliff.

Don’t overreact, she says.

I’ll see you Monday.

Try thinking about something else,

My mother advises.

Something positive.

I take a breath,

That breath they tell me will solve it all

Slow, and measured,

Cool air through the nose.

“It isn’t what I’m thinking,”

I explain. “I know I can change that.

It’s the flood of liquid fear

Circling like coolant through an engine.

It’s the constant fight-or-flight

And the tongue swelling up 

And the heart gripped in a vise

And the room moving when I don’t,

Which, I’ll just mention

Make it hard to focus 

On puppies or whatever.”

I check myself into the emergency room.

I know

my life is not in danger, except

I also know it is:

I will not survive feeling this much longer.

For the first time, I see the option 

Of a self-serve ending, not as an end

In itself, but rather, a choice to end pain.

Can’t you sedate me, I ask,

I understand the body, I’ve read up on

The relevant biochemistry, 

So knock me out, I suggest, 

Let’s unplug the machine and plug it back in.

See if that fixes the problem.

It turns out when you call in the cavalry,

Sometimes the cavalry calls back.

I find I’ve been conscripted.

The price of an urgent care stay is

An intensive outpatient program.

Tell them I’m in the wrong place,

It’s not for me, I’m not this bad,

And they smile their sad smile

Far too practiced--I realize

Everyone says this.

Saying it means I’ll stay longer.

In the asylum

In among the inmates

Sanity starts to look

Decidedly insane.

And worse, I’m one of them.

No journalistic mission here.

Now I’m crazy, which must mean

I don’t know what’s true.

Day by day

Pill by pill

Counselor by psychiatrist by therapist

I rebuild my life.

I become so stable,

I don’t quite believe

How bad it was.

I work in an office.

I quit drinking.

I buy a condo.

I fall in love.

I’m happy, I’m together--

My new mail-order prescription

Messes up.

So I go to the pharmacy

But they can’t fill a mail order

It will take a week to fix this

And I think, “I’m so much better

How bad could it get--”

In three days, my answer.

As the fireworks burst overhead

As I can’t breathe 

In my boyfriend’s lovely house

I can’t eat his mother’s

Steak and corn,

I tightly smile and focus

On their stories of neighbors long gone

So I don’t feel

The tongue taking on weight

The clamp to the chest

The water to the eyes

My body screaming, “hide!”

And I burst into tears

As they drive me home, unable

To explain what’s going on.

How humbling to know

After a decade of success,

Stability, new dreams,

I am, at any time

Twenty-five milligrams away

From being right there,

Curled up on my friend’s bed

Pleading with my father

To come now

And for god’s sake

Please don’t tell me

To breathe.