Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


A Tribute to Marilyn Jensen

Marilyn JensenHere used to sit Marilyn Jensen
next to her coffee
Shhh! Her pile of papers
pushed her coffee over
sometimes she slapped the table
and her cup jumped
oh shuck!
but your dialogues sounded better

Her trademark “who’s your market”
drove your storyplot to target
her mere scribble or two
rid your sentence of woes
Her deft pen looped an awkward phrase
Like a seamstress played with ribbon

Here sits Marilyn Jensen
Always in session
She watches the club members
forces us to remember
That writers, riders of lofty standards
don’t try to dash off the yards
to skip, to fake, bypass
perfection. Be on guard!

Here stay Marilyn’s splatters
On page fifty of my manuscript
Her note: My cat leaped where it matters
Love this sentence. Watch your tenses
why “Memoir”
In your title?

The last of Marilyn I sought
tiny in cotton shorts.
too hot for an autumn day
California writhed in its third year of drought
And writers like Marilyn struggled
to fill the thirst of those parched and wrestled.

But Marilyn, like me, was getting older
And the world of water shortage, gun-filled
The world of emoticons in bytes–illed
blogged, posted. This world of Facebook, Twitter
wasn’t the one Marilyn loved
Yet, she tried
Lone dove against a storm.

“I don’t know what I’ve done
I fear I killed this one.
At first it was a virus
then Windows 8…the Beetlejuice
I’ve created a mess
a jumble tangle of cords
ugly as my spleen
And now they’re useless.”

So I checked

 behind her credenza
an old pencil
A paper clip
dust bunnies and spiderwebs
a mix of delight and surprise
to Marilyn

Pencil, paper clip, hairpin
she kept
the rest to the dustbin

I pawed the ball of wires, connecting
DSL, monitor, mouse, keyboard, computer
everything else but her.
They pronged the outlets and blip,
that devil of a machine took power

Word by word, line by line
The last chapters of her historical novel so fine
re-summoned, a marvel of
Eight painful years of sweat combined

her words from blood of love.
Marilyn’s narration of the nation’s VPs
fated to be presidents
of the United States
Words by words in her first-rated

built to perfection

Marilyn, normal citizen
cadet nurse , wife, mother, teacher, historian,
and most importantly, writer
sworn to be faithful
to her God and word.

Our Marilyn
wrung her hands
a bit confused
the instant her monitor lit up

How in the world did this thing
so effortlessly quickened

she said.

“Thank God! My work isn’t lost,”
breathless Marilyn sighed, relieved
not knowing, a final plot twist required
her gentle writer’s soul
be woven into her masterpiece
to leave
her body cold.

May peace be with dear Marilyn,
faithful always

Editor’s note: Marilyn Jensen, an integral member of the Writer’s Club of Whittier for over forty years, died October 19, 2014, after a brief illness.

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Inside the Castle’s Third Floor

WCW fiction and nonfiction writers meet in the daytime on the first and third Friday of the month. The poets, they meet when they feel like it, although officially they should convene at night on the first Monday of the month. So you see, we have two groups with two schedules and vastly different group personalities. But we co-exist under the WCW umbrella, and we work inside a castle.

Yes, you heard that right. We are chatelaines and castellans, folks! We are people with titles. In fact, each of us has so many titles we cannot remember them all. Our titles are what set us apart from the general populace, are what sells—book titles, short story titles, poetry titles, and article and byline titles. We choose them very carefully, playfully, skillfully. Our titles work magic and wonder. Clumsily chosen, and they work the other way around. They repel, go unnoticed, shut off. Test my title yourself. Is this why you read my blog? You say to yourself: Hmm, inside a castle’s third floor. It intrigues you. It entices you to push through the drawbridge to the castle’s heavy portcullis. Since it is wide open you wander in, eyeing wildly and excitedly around, heart pounding. “The third floor, that has to be explored first, the third floor,” say you to yourself. What’s up there? You run up the tower, jumping two, three steps at a time up the cool, dark winding stairs, your blood raging inside you. The third floor, you say, I want to know what happens there.

So let me take you.

But first I have to lead you back in time. You must be patient. The third floor can wait.

We used to meet in a garden. Back then we were smaller in size–not waist size my dear, but group size. So the cozy Country Store room in Merrill Gardens served us just fine. We already had titles to our names, back then, but we didn’t think it was necessary to put on any airs. Suddenly, as I said in my last blog post, we grew fast. No, dear, we didn’t grow fat, we gained members fast, and the little garden and its tiny room became things of the past, lest we want to pile high on double-decked chairs. That won’t do, dear, although we’d put up with wobbly tables and unpadded chairs.

So one day, out of the blue, our leaders announced, “We’re going to move into a castle. And we’re going to make love, and mystery, and memory, poetry too…on its third floor.”

One Friday, an onlooker saw our lady president pacing the length of the castle floor–Emeritus at Chateau Whittier , it is called–looking anxious. A gentleman hurried in, searching discreetly about for something, or someone. The onlooker noticed the transformation on the lady’s face, the twinkle in her eyes, and in fact, guessing was unnecessary for she waved to him happily, then with her finger pointing to some place deep inside the castle, some place beyond sight, she mouthed to him, “The third floor,” silently indicating the way. He nodded, bypassing her quickly, as if they had agreed to the rendezvous beforehand. No further words were exchanged but both acted smoothly, in one accord, the man seeming to say, “I get it, the third floor. I’ll see you later,” although he needn’t say it out loud for the whole world to hear; the matter was one that was between them, not anybody else’s business.

What happened next?

So let me take your hand and lead you there, back to the third floor, where through a door you will see, in a two-ring circle, the inner one forming a whole loop, the second one still shaping, WCW members in session, among them, the man we talked about earlier and our lady president, as deeply involved in critiquing the work of their peers as anybody else, not a glance exchanged between them, no clandestine, amorous behavior.

Someone has read their story wrong, that’s all, intrigued, most probably, by a hot headline.