This month’s issue of “Poet of the Month” is a special tribute to Maria Remedios “Dette” Kaplan-Brown, a UPLI member (and sister of UPLI President Virgilio “Gil” Yuzon), who recently passed away on January 31, 2017. Dette was a multi-talented artist. She was an accomplished painter who held well-received exhibits in recent years, as well as being a poet and a writer.
Dette leaves behind her loving and devoted husband Reuben D. Brown. She is survived by her daughters Thea and Stasha who is married to Jonathan Bye, and their child Elliott Joshua Bye. Dette’s other sibling is Maria Lourdes “Manette” Y. Cortes, a younger sister.
Below are several of her poems from her excellent collection of poetry which she had intended to publish this year. The first poem titled “Don’t Stop Dreaming” was written sometime last year when she had realized that she had very limited time left in her life on this earth due to her illness.
Dette will be greatly missed by those whose lives she has touched with her sensitivity and empathy.
Six months, the doctor warned
Six months to cram everything into a life.
Not long enough to age a bottle of wine
Or plan for another harvest.
How does one turn six months of life into a gift?
Don’t stop dreaming insisted the wise man.
We all know that time runs out on everyone
But dreams don’t expire when we do.
They live on in other dreamers
Who will write better stories, paint better pictures.
Let not limitations define you.
Confirm what you already know
A rich life outweighs a long one.
Choosing life, not merely existence
Therein lies the challenge.
Let not physical discomfort or pain
Make you oblivious to earthly joys
That come with being here. Now.
Rejoice even while bound by the dimension of time.
Give thanks for when it finally lets you free.
In the morning, the mind
Purged of dreams from restful sleep
Sits tame and content; the heart
Eager with possibilities
Constructs a poem or two.
Sounds of coffee shops opening
Soothe, like music, the collective psyche
And providing comfort
To a caffeine-craving world.
Morning air intoxicates
Courses though veins like alcohol
Stokes the hero within
Daring it to be dauntless
Mornings bring new beginnings,
Resumed friendships, promised changes.
Countless mornings have welcomed me
Generous with their light
How many more await me?
Scowling clouds line the sky
Air is fragrant with soil smell
Wind teases the rustling trees
As they sway in a flirtatious dance
I descend into slow
Sink into relaxed mode
All urgency is lost
And tranquil takes over.
As my soul reels
from the endless jabs
of day to day life
there is a secret part of me
that is lit, full of peace
untouched by the swirling chaos without.
It glows, searing hope
into my inner landscape
constant even when i falter.
it prods, cajoles me
to use the painful shards
of experience to write poetry
or assemble them into one more painting.
One precious hour
Before bus leaves for the airport.
One hour to reflect
To indulge the remembering self.
A fixture on the Japanese landscape
An oddity to tourists like myself,
The ubiquitous vending machine
Displaying pop bottles in rainbow colors
Stands nonchalant on road sides and corners
Patiently waiting for the usual 100 yen.
Bicycles darting on and off sidewalks,
Bicycles navigating swollen crowded streets
Proudly carrying precious cargo
Of business people in business suits,
Sleepy babies strapped to their mothers’ backs.
Subway signs in Japanese
Meaning to help but befuddling instead
Costing fifteen minutes of travel time to decode.
Once the puzzle is solved and the route determined
Relief comes in the form of trains that run on time.
All the time.
Staring at the bay
Lost in meditative thought
Grateful for this peace.
I resume painting nonsense
When will it return.
Piles of finished art
Waiting to be hung somewhere
Perpetual hope burns.
Let me not lose heart
Ten thousand hours of practice
Will make me better.
I work hurriedly
Arms moving, fingers flying
She is coming soon.
At last breaking the dry spell
At work by the bay.
Coffee and a newspaper
Your anger found me
But I had already gone
That was very close.
What was your excuse?
Running out of ideas?
Or did your heart break?
My lover left me
Your hands reached out for my face
That was the best gift.
Night falls with a thud
Weighed down by a million stars
She is never late.