The Responsibility of Balloons

If one, for example,

is blessed with the gift,

of the most perfect balloon —

red or yellow or green —

floating just so, just there

against the blue blue sky,

one must make all accommodations

to hold fast…………steady fast

else that perfect thing

might slip from a grasp

with oh! and no!

and a sad, solemn watch

as it drifts everso far

out of reach.

Photo by Bruno Ramos. Poem ©2018 Jen Payne. If you like this poem, then check out my book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind! BUY THE BOOK TODAY!

real plums, imaginary cake

This morning
I made a cake
from dust and ashes
to see how it would taste.

Would it be harsh
or honeyed?

Would it coat
my lips with memory?

Licked and swallowed,
would it
fill up my belly
to curb the ravenous?

Or would it catch
inside my throat
mask words and breath
in sweet, sweet silence?

In which Alice serves up plum cake, illustration by John Tenniel, with a nod to Mary McCarthy for her fab quote about the task of writing “I am putting real plums into an imaginary cake.” Poem ©2018, Jen Payne.

BOOK REVIEW by Writer David W. Berner

“The French poet and novelist, Victor Hugo, wrote, ‘The reduction of the universe to the compass of a single being, and the extension of a single being until it reaches God—that is love.’ Jennifer A. Payne expands on those words with an unflinching account of our unshakeable relationship to the modern world around us, God, nature, and ourselves.” — David W. Berner

>> Click here to read the full review.

Click here to buy the book now!

Mass, Shooting, God, Guns

At the shopping mall
where she bought the onesie
for her sweet little niece,
five people were shot.
She wonders who would do such a thing
– and why?
Just the day before, she walked
by that same cosmetics counter
to the Children’s Department,
spotted the rack of pink,
saw the embroidery,
“Lock up your sons, my daddy has guns.”
Had it boxed and gift wrapped.
Something is wrong with the world, she thinks,
then kneels down to pray.

If you love this poem, then you’ll love EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND.

Click here to buy the book now!

POEM ©2017, Jen Payne

INTERVIEW: Bookworm Interviews Author Jen Payne

Anjanette Potter from Bookworm interview Jen Payne about her book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind

How long have you been writing/ what made you decide to write?

I don’t know if I had a choice, really. Writing is how I’ve always communicated with the world. My earliest memory is writing letters to my Dad when he was away on business trips when I was young.In grade school, I used to write short stories, but I also had a dozen pen pals I kept in touch with regularly. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and studied journalism at UMass. My first job was writing press releases and advertising copy, before I started my own business doing the same. I published a zine in the early 90s, and graduated to blog writing about 10 years ago.

I’ve been writing all my life!

What made you take this direction for your writing/this work?

I think those early days of communicating real-life stories and experiences to my Dad and pen pals have kept me pretty firmly rooted in non-fiction writing. You can see that on my blog Random Acts of Writing ( Over the years, it has hosted everything from my food writing, travel journals and book reviews, to photo essays, social commentary and poetry.In the past couple of years, I’ve been writing more poetry, mainly because that is how my muse has been talking to me. But also, I was invited to join a local poetry group, the Guilford Poets Guild, and they have inspired and encouraged me a lot!

Both of my books, LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness (2014) and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind are direct results of my work on the blog. LOOK UP! includes essays, poetry, a collection of quotations by philosophers, naturalists, and famous writers, plus 100 of my original color photos. It’s a journal, really, that narrates my own journey from working 24/7 to reconnecting with our natural world, finding balance and mindfulness in the simple act of going outside. Evidence of Flossing is a follow-up to that concept. It features 73 of my poems and 80 original and vintage photos that continue a conversation about our divine connection to nature, and how important it is to find our way back to that.

What is it about mindfulness that interests/fascinates you?

By day, I run my own graphic design and marketing business. By night (really in the pre-dawn hours of the day), I do my creative work. My brain and I work at a very frenetic pace – as you can imagine – but somewhere in all of that, there has to be some downtime. Some quiet. Some peace.

I tried traditional methods of meditation – sitting on pillows, candles, oms, guided groups, recorded sessions. But nothing really “stuck.” I remember one group meditation…there were 10 of us in a small, candlelit room. We did some breathing exercises, and then the facilitator guided us on a meditation…down a path, into the treetops, up into the sky. I spent the whole meditation frantically running to catch up, because I couldn’t breathe right, couldn’t visualize right…couldn’t get out of my own way!

About that same time, I had started taking regular walks in the woods. There is a nature preserve near my house, and I can do a nice, easy 2-mile walk in a space that feels very far away from everything. I remember this one day very clearly. I’d been walking for about 20 minutes with lots of busy thoughts in my head. But then it was suddenly quiet. All I heard were my footsteps on the pine needle path. I wasn’t aware of my thoughts or my body, just the sound of footsteps, like a heartbeat, and breathing.

It was brief and wonderful.

I think of it now as my “ah-ha, so this is meditation” moment.problems, inspirations for my writing, connections to some mystery I wouldn’t have had time for if I wasn’t allowing myself to disconnect from busy and reconnect with nature. It’s that simple…and that complicated, I suppose. Perhaps that’s what so fascinating about it, and why I write about it. The difficult part of mindfulness is getting there—stepping away from our busy-ness, allowing ourselves that time to reconnect. But once we do, it’s really quite simple. It’s really quite amazing.

Use this space to give yourself a shameless plug?

I was at a workshop last week, and the hostess came over to me and pointed to a copy of my book on her coffee table. “I keep your book here,” she said. “In a place of honor. That way I can pick it up and read something from it whenever I want. Which is often. I just love it.”

She’s not alone. People seem to really connect with these books, with the writing and the photos. I think it’s because they talk about our collective concerns about our society in a way that is heartfelt and thoughtful. They’re smart books that you can skim for meaning, or dive into for a deeper understanding as they apply to your own philosophy and spirituality, your own experience. But they are both easy reads – you can read an essay, read one poem, open to a page and meditate on a photo or quote. They allow the reader to take that moment of mindfulness, to stop and consider…maybe…a better way to move about in this world? I hope.

Click here to buy the book now!

28 – 175 Miles Removed

They chose not to stay
and so, by the luck of the draw
or the sheer will of two 22-year olds,
I am 175 miles removed
from what I might have been,
which, despite the short distance,
is miles away from What I Am.

We – my alternate possibility and I –
live on opposite sides of
this monumental divide of
culture and politics and
bedrock beliefs,
our Who We Are
similar I supposed to the
genetic variation in species
that live at different altitudes.

By comparison I wonder,
does Loxodonta africana
African Bush Elephant
ever glance across the savanna to
Loxodonta cyclotis
African Forest Elephant
and consider it
black to its white,
red to its blue,
big end to its small.

Or is it a purely human trait
to organize and classify
ourselves beyond recognition,
so that 175 miles
seems light years away?

IMAGE: From the Monastery of St. Nicholas, one of the clifftop monasteries in Meteora, Greece. It depicts the scene from Genesis 2:19-20, when Adam names the animals which God had created. Click here for details. With a nod to Jonathan Swift’s Lilliputian divide. Poem ©2018, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month #28. If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind! BUY IT TODAY!