CONGRUITY

CONGRUITY

My neck always hurts in October. All

my life. This year, also my right knee and

my left thumb. Do I mumble now or is

his hearing worse and worse? Things to expect

at my age. Some things I don’t mind so much

and the world being what it is, I don’t

expect to feel happiness too often.

This year, not a single black-and-yellow

garden spider, and I saw only two

mosquitoes all summer long. I look for

congruities all the time and wonder

if this is another. I remember 

with some amusement reading all those things

about becoming a crone. Written by

women who weren’t, whose knees didn’t hurt. Who

had spiders in their gardens and lovers

who listened, enthralled, to their every word.

REPORT: OCTOBER 20, 2020

REPORT:  OCTOBER 20, 2020

Dark clouds over Buck Mountain. 

It will rain.

More sugar-maple leaves on the ground than on the trees. 

The oaks and popples are turning.

Soybean fields amber, hay fields cut and green. 

Luke’s old milking shed is falling apart. 

It’s just a storage shed now,

with the old SURGE and AG JOURNAL signs rusting on the wall 

and the little lightning rods standing bravely on the roof. 

Last year, a young man took the bend in the road too fast

and the laws of physics being what they are,

he glanced off a telephone pole and ran into the shed. 

And died. One of the dead

elms has fallen. Now it’s raining, 

and taking pity on the dog, I turn. 

Sumac is mostly red along the east side of the road.

If it were colder, I’d swear it was snowing in the mountains. 

Jim’s VETERANS AGAINST TRUMP flag is up on his porch.

At the far end of her pasture, his old horse Molly crops the grass. 

RECASTING

By nature I am vigilant.

These days, I watch everyone with extra care:

the clerks in the coöp, the pharmacy, the feedstore

where we buy food for the dog and cats and birds,

 

my friends. Oh, I trust my friends, but—

the friends of my friends? 

Where have they been?

How can they do me harm?

 

This morning, walking the dog

on the sidewalk in town, pulling

my mask up whenever I saw someone coming

 a block away, I found myself tired

 

of myself. We’re all just trying to get by,

doing what we can, what we think is right.

And what malevolence do I carry,

what contagion is concealed behind my mask?

ON MY WAY





ON MY WAY


It was all so familiar—the icy road, the falling snow.
The tricycle was bigger than it used to be, less
embarrassing for an adult to ride. It took awhile
to get across the city street, awhile to see
a safe crossing under the glaze of snow.
The other side was fine, and I was on my way.


Home at last, but boxes all over the table.
I opened them one by one, each filled
with plastic things: flutophones,
cheap bath toys, disposable cups and spoons. 
Or tin automatons: monkeys playing drums, 
jumping mice, walking quacking ducks.


Box after box until the house was full.
When I awakened, I laughed at it all.
Not a nightmare, a description.
How full I am, these days, of things
I do not want or need. And how far
must I ride my little trike, in this storm.


DONA QUIXOTE

DONA QUIXOTE

Listen to Sancho, Mistress.

These are only windmills.

This is an inn, that is a basin,

what you have is a computer

glitch, a mis-behaving phone,

a broken coffee grinder,

an inconvenience. 

Look at the world as it is,

not as it never was.

Knights were brutal and mean.

Subsistance farming was hungry and hard.

The Enlightenment was a flash in the pan.

Father never knew best. 

No country has ever been great.

If you want a romantic occupation

dangerous enough even for you,

stay home and write poems.

Maybe someone will read them

and write more.

As our creator says, turning poet

is a catching and an uncurable disease.

words: Open Studio Poem #3

Open Studio Poem #3:  USE THE WHOLE PAGE

The point is growth toward beginning.

Start againnothing flat or square

this time learn to move in three

dimensionscubic, spherical. Can you

write like a dancer? Paint

like an actor? Draw like

a potter? Remember knitting

how to turn a heel, shape

a sleeve from a strand.

DO THAT WITH WORDS.

USE THE WHOLE PAGE.

FILL IT WITH SHAPE AND

COLOR AND SOUND AND FLAVOR

BITTER GREENS AND HOT PEPPERS

AND LEMON ZEST.  WRITE 

BIG AND ROUND.

USE THE WHOLE PAGE

words: Open Studio Poem #4

OPEN STUDIO POEM #4

final   granite  light  synchronize

Rilke said, “No feeling is final.”

Not even granite is permanent—

it crumbles and weathers into parts.

And isn’t it a fine thing

that nothing stays the same?

Time is after all unsynchronized space,

shifting into shapes that cannot last.

Therefore, do not fret.

Keep your touch light,

or maybe don’t touch at all. 

Simply breathe.

words: Three Bold Attempts

WORDS:  THREE BOLD ATTEMPTS


cricket   illustrate  tone   pearl    snap    quilt

THE GAME

Last summer, I studied cricket.
Not the insects in August, 
their crispy vibrations
adding tone to the fading garden,
but the sport. I like the langauge. 


Let me illustrate:
Overs (six balls per), Stumps
and Maidens and Leg Before Wicket.
Innings, not as in baseball,
is both singular and plural.
That’s tea. That’s drinks. 
Declaring before All Out.
Sixes and fours and centuries. 
Ducks and Golden Ducks. 
Silly mid-on. Test (the best)
and ODI. Howzzat? 


I followed the World Cup 
in the Guardian online.
They did OBO coverage. 
England won, to their surprise.


I want to see a game someday, 
a whole five-day test. 
I want to hear the snap of leather on willow. 
I’ll bring a quilted vest and a thermos.
I’ll wear a ridiculous hat, and pearls.
I’ll wait for an umpire to Offer the Light,






Met Stars Live in Concert: Lise Davidsen


The summer palace in Oslo.
The Queen in residence,
a conversation on the terrace. 
No birds, no crickets singing.
The dining room in the palace:
candles in the windows, 
late sun through the windows,
green leaves outside the windows. 
Paintings on the walls—illustrations of green.
No furniture but the black piano.
The pianist wore striped socks. 
The soprano wore a green gown, 
no diamonds, no pearls.
A silent audience on screens.
No applause.
The studio in New York. Monitors and clocks.
Christine Goerke’s sad and gracious tone: 
A difficult time for singers and thank you.
The program a carefully stitched quilt:
Wagner and Norway’s Grieg, and Strauss,
the snap of Kalman’s “Heia, Heia!” 
The peace of Ronald’s “O Lovely night.”




Zuihitsu for the end of a terrible summer


1.
Crickets drone away in the dark. I used to love them. This year, I find their rasping cricks most annoying.


2.
Last night I watched a moon like a yellow pearl  poke through a torn quilt of cloud and leaf.


3.
My voice has taken on a querulous tone. I can’t help it. I am possessed by a tired and hot and hungry and frustrated three-year-old child. 


4.
The purple snap beans I grew do not snap. They are blotchy and stringy and not particularly flavorful. The purple blossoms, however, are lovely, and hummingbirds feed from them, so growing them was not a total waste of water and space.


5.
The tone of this zuihitsu illustrates the way I have felt about this summer. A few times only, I have glimpsed something lovely, far away, and still.

			

words: Not a Mast Year

pit   sew   break   fan   milky   frail


NOT A MAST YEAR--theme and variations


This is not a mast year.
I toss peach pits to the one frail squirrel
who comes to our yard. 


Am I the only one
who is not making masks?
I’ve never liked to sew—


a break with family tradition.
Degenerate daughter
of a great house.


At least the Milky Way
is a constant, fanning out
from the great starry swan.




pantoum

This is not a mast year.
I toss peach pits to the one frail squirrel
who comes to our yard.
Am I the only one


tossing peach pits, the only one 
who is not making masks?
Am I the only one
who doesn’t like to sew,


who is not making masks?
A break with the family tradition—
I’ve never liked to sew.
Degenerate daughter—


(a break in the family tradition)
of a great house.
I am the inconstant daughter.
At least the Milky Way,


great path through the heavens,
is a constant, fanning out
like spilled milk
from the great starry swan.


We need a constant: that hungry squirrel
who comes to our yard
under the sign of Cygnus.
This is not a mast year.


sestina

The one squirrel in the yard is frail.
She’ll eat anything—peach and plum pits.
It’s not a mast year, it’s a broken
one. I’ll feed the squirrel, but I will not sew.
At night, Cygnus brightens in the Milky
Way, his stars spread out in a simple fan.


I once had a sandalwood fan—
sweet scented frame, frail
silk the color of milky
tea. It didn’t last—a child pitted
against something so fine, sewn
together with invisible thread, easy to break.  


The squirrel keeps breaking
the suet feeder, opening it like a fan.
I don’t begrudge her. She is so
hungry for acorns, frail-
winged maple seeds, cherry pits,
even the tiny seeds of the milk-


weed. She breaks the stems, milky
sap sticking bitter to her paws. I break
stale bread for her, save pits
from fruit, scatter them in a fan
across the lawn. The grass too is frail,
each blade a fine strand of thread sewn


over the cracked soil. A summer so
dry the heavens complain. The Milky
Way trembles with heat. A frail
moon shines through the broken
trees. Not a breath of wind fans
the simmering ground, pitted


with dust. This is the pits.
It sucks, like having to sew
aprons in junior high. Fans
of rebellion, unite! Milk
your courage untl it breaks!
I’m so tired of feeling frail.


or the alternate last verse, which I kinda like!
with dust. This is the pits.
It sucks, like having to sew
aprons in junior high. Fans
of rebellion, unite! Milk
the bastards till they break!
Let’s stop being so fucking frail.

words: WHAT WE CARRY

tough   sleeve   bag    wave    half    fire

l.

WHAT WE CARRY

 

Each of us carries a bag, a tough bag, 

filled with the weight of our times and years.

 

Each of us is half-dead these days. We wave

to one another across the firewall.

 

We wave, and blink our eyes. For each is still 

alive, one sleeve rolled up, scrubbing along

 

however we can, lugging our bags, 

bearing our bit of the impossible load.

words: SIX TREASURED THINGS: A ZUIHITSU

rigid   draw    meadow   peer     lemon       cap

(another one with those words)

 

 

SIX TREASURED THINGS:  A ZUIHITSU

1. A rigid plastic lawn chair, one of four that my parents kept on the deck of their condominium. I keep it on the front step from spring till snow.  I sit there at sunrise and sunset, watching the yellow light flicker like sparks between the leaves.

2.  The white linen cap I bought in Traverse City in a shop that sold hats and, unexpectedly, wine-making supplies. A young friend told me that when I wear it, I remind him of Yoko Ono. I wear it often.

3. Our backyard. It was forest, then meadow, then lawn, and it is now growing up again into forest. We’ve reserved a patch of grass around the house, and bits for vegetables and flowers, but what was barren lawn is filling up with grasses and goldenrod, bramble and sumac, gray dogwood and pine and oak. Five years ago, I planted one solemn young chestnut tree as an act of defiance.

4.The drawing of a cat we had for a few months. Her name was Nanette, and she was tri-colored, and very small. The old woman who gave her to us could not keep her. “There’s something wrong with her,” she told us, and there was. In the drawing, Nanette is curled, sleeping, in a chair that once was in the living room and is now in the kitchen. The drawing was made by an artist friend who stayed with us for a summer—along with her husband and three children—in the room that once was our guest room, and is now the study where I write.

5. The lemons I always have by me. Here is a new maxim I try to live by: When in doubt, add lemon. To vegetables, to pastas, to soda water, to soup. The scent of lemon revives me and a lick of lemon opens my senses to all the good in the world that remains. 

6. Ursula Le Guin wrote “There was nothing she could do, but there was always the next thing to be done.” I treasure a company of peers—poets, artists, women who keep doing the next thing, and the next thing, and the next.

words: SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

 

cap   rigid   lemon   peer   draw   meadow

 

SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

Like a drawing  by Van Gogh,

I stand rigid in the meadow. I wear my white cap. 

I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.

I wear my white cap

though the brim is too rigid

for me to bend against the lemon-

brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer

into the middle distance like a drawing

by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.

 

It is August, and the earth is dry. The meadow   

crackles with brown grasses capped  

with seeds. The summer draws 

to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid 

sense of what is real? My peers 

cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.

 

When I was young, I wore lemon

cologne. I lay in this meadow 

beside a man—my peerless

lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.

But our bones have gone rigid

with the years. We have drawn

 

living water so long. Now we draw

water grown bitter, like lemon

rind, and brackish, from a rigid

bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow

searching for one plant to cap 

with one pale egg. I peer

 

at her with shaded eyes, my only peer

now in this tight-drawn

season, this heated season, capped

with grasses the color of dried lemon  

peel. Under my feet, the meadow 

soil is hard, cracked, rigid

 

with the hard rigidity

of this rainless summer, a peerless

summer of an anxiety that a meadow

cannot know. The trees live on, drawing

their life from deeper water. The lemon

sun beats and beats on my white cap. 

words: SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

joy    exhaust    chorus    toll    appear     trunk

 

SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

 

The steamer trunk might have been my grandfather’s, 

but I don’t remember seeing it in

his dark little room that smelled like old clocks.

 

If I sit for a long time in this chair

the right words will appear. Like magic.

Despite the evidence, I still believe

 

that. Believing in anything now takes

a toll. There doesn’t seem to be a god,

for instance, who gives a shit about us.

 

It’s August. The dawn chorus is over

for the year. Sometimes, one dusty robin

lands on the lawn and hops around. The worms

 

have burrowed down under. Everyone is

exhausted by the heat, the drought, the plague,

waiting and waiting for some kind of relief.

 

My grandfather had a small life, and yet

he made himself a bit of joy. Magic tricks.

Walks. Old friends. Keeping all those clocks ticking.

words: Open Studio Poem #2

with thanks to Kathy, David, Kathy, and Wanda

 

lazy

looking glass

friend

pluck

OPEN STUDIO POEM 2

Too lazy today to pay attention

to the face in the looking glass—

mirror, mirror on the wall

Does it matter what we look like?

I’m learning lately to be

my own friend. The kind

of friend I need. A friend

with pluck. Spunk. The kind

of nerve it takes to ignore

the face and see

what’s on the other side.

words: Is it too late to invent America?

sand

braid

task

invent

rife

mauve

 

 

Is it too late to invent America?

1.

While the sky outside turned mauve, 

Kushner’s Belize said, “I hate America. . . .

You come to room 1013 over at the hospital. . 

I’ll show you America. 

Terminal, crazy and mean.” 

In a city rife with AIDS, 

every day he did his tasks.

Compassion isn’t what you think.

 

2.

Nobody knows what Jesus wrote

in the sand, but the men dropped their stones

and crept away, one by one. 

No one is without sin

and it’s a commonplace to hate in others

our own grimmest angels.

I hate people who aren’t compassionate.

 

3.

America has never been great

and we’ve never had a decent metaphor.

From the beginning, the pot didn’t hold us all—

why should we stew and amalgamate? 

How about a braid—not of hair, but of water—

slow river moving over a delta, 

living streams carrying their histories,

interlacing,  winding toward one sea.

words: Open Studio Poem #1

For the past few weeks, I have been the only poet in an online open studio. Instead of knitting last time, I decided to ask each of the other artists for a word, and I wrote this poem while they did their arts.

 

fuchsia

malleable

daffodil

liberty

 

The unpruned fuchsia in its faded pot

is a mess of sticks, spotty leaves, a few stunted buds.

It is not a malleable plant; 

it’s fussy about water and light.

Not like the daffodils. Every spring—

flood or freeze or April snow—

they push up through thickets of grasses

and edge the lawn with yellow and white.

I expect there is some liberty

in taking what is given, staying deep,

blooming from the settled bulb.

THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND

THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND

Not Loki or Enki,

not Coyote who stole fire

or Wakjunkaga who made

himself some women’s parts 

and gave birth to three sons. 

 

This one carries his tiny penis

in a jumbo jet. His wives

and daughters are plastic dolls,

his sons the undead.

He eats honor, shits coal.

His houses are built of bones.

 

Make no mistake:

somewhere under our nice

we want to be like him—

possess without limit,

rule without shame.

 

He shows us, uncovers us.

Unless we change our lives,

he will never go away.

words: OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

raven

flimsy

brush

live

set 

crane

worry

 

 

OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

I recognize my friends by the worry behind their masks.

In town, the biggest crane we’ve ever seen

looms like something in a surreal movie set. 

 

Early this morning, I walked past a meadow

overgrown with weeds, the hopeless sticks of elm.

Raven flew close, brushed me with the shadow of her wing.

 

What does it mean to live these complicated days?

Have all days been this way, and ourselves

too caught up in flimsy occupation to notice?

words VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

bear

grace

raven

point(ed)

VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

1.

The raven has been flying to and fro 

over the earth. She has returned.

I think it will rain again. 

 

Do you know the meaning of grace?

The word you say before you eat;

the way a dancer walks in her pointed shoes.

 

The bear has been seen again.

We say “the bear” as if there were only one

running through the woods between our houses.

 

2.

It’s enough to make me believe

in Satan’s test of Job.

How much more can they bear?

 

The talking raven will not be silent.

Over and over she says 

“What’s the point? What’s the point?’

 

Like Hecate preceding and following Persephone,

grace precedes and follows us.

The question remains, “When?”

 

3.

Once I found a raven grazed by a car.

I set her in the grass, covered her with leaves.

The next day, in the same place, 

 

a raven circled me three times. 

The acknowledgement was almost more 

than I could bear. And I’ve wondered

 

since if the point was not gratitude but

taunt. “You cached me in the grass,

foul human, but see! I live.” 

 

4.

A raven pair tumbles over the yard

and the dog will not stop barking.

A bear climbs the fence and the dog is silent.

 

Raven is a trickster.

Bear is a god.

Is there a difference.

 

Walk the shore to the farthest point,

the place where sand turns to stone.

There is no limit to grace.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE

 

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE

It always happens when there is too much 

light, too much pollen, too much 

of everything. 

The birds sing me awake. 

The leaves are closing in. 

I get tired. 

I can’t digest. 

 

All my life.

While my sisters played on the porch

I hid in the meadow.

While my friends splashed in the pool, 

I climbed the outcrop to be alone.

While my colleagues ate eggs and muffins, 

I sat on a green bench by the river 

to pull myself together. 

 

And now, this terrible year, 

when there are no parties to avoid or dread, 

I’m weighted down by the heat, by the sun. 

Like a bear, I could be in a cleft in the rocks, 

asleep until snow, 

until mornings are quiet and dark again. 

Until there is nothing to eat but roots and bread.

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

~with thanks to Ray for showing me the form

1.

Our son sent a photo of our grandson at his pre-school graduation ceremony.  He’s sitting in the backseat of the car wearing a cardboard hat with “2020” painted on in glitter. He looks so happy and proud. I’ve heard there are juniors at the High School here who want to do a drive-in graduation next year, because it is so much more “personal.”

2

I have seen—has the world seen?—the photo of a black grandfather carrying a wounded white racist to safety. ‘I’m protecting our kids,” he said. Take up your cross and follow me.

3.

I don’t have Big Girl Underpants—mine are all the same—so this morning I put on my Big Girl Lipstick and brushed my hair behind my ears and took the dog for a walk again.

4.

In the late 1880s, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. This is how it ends: 

. . . . . .while there went/ Those years and years by of world without event/ That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door. 

5.

The prayer beads I carry in the pocket of my jeans are mostly wooden relics of my old Camp Fire Girl days. Four onyx beads. Two pewter suns salvaged from broken earrings. A tiny diary key. And an onyx cross, maybe half an inch long.

6.

Ever since that first Gulf War I’ve had doubts about intercessory prayer. What about all those people who don’t get prayed for except in a generic way (Dear God, bless all the people in the world.)?  I pray in a generic way these days. May all beings be free from suffering. At least that reminds me that I’m not alone, which may be the whole point. 

7.

As I walked this morning, I noticed a tiger swallow-tail fluttering along the roadside, parallel to my path. She seemed to be looking for flowers, which are fairly scarce along that shady stretch. She ignored a patch of spindly buttercups, landed finally on a plant I didn’t recognize, and began feeding on what I would hardly call flowers, just nubs of pale greenish white, hanging in clusters at the ends of the leaves.

Because I have to write something

ANOTHER ZUIHITSU because I have to write something

1.

It’s as if someone is deliberately making things so bad that nobody can stand it. Almost enough to make me believe in the Beast, the AntiChrist, or something like that.

2.

We hoard dark roasted coffee beans in little brown bags in the freezer. I think I have enough now.

3.

I’ve been trying not to look at the news every hour, but I can’t help it. It’s the only way I can participate, living here, in this little green bowl. 

4.

Chipmunks live under the front steps. They scurry out to get food, scurry back in for fear of hawks and weasels and our dog. But they’re never safe from weasels.

5.

A very satisfying conputer game: drag random clusters of jewels into rows and columns on a board laid out in squares. When I place a cluster, I hear a lovely “click.” When I complete a row or column, I hear a very satisfying “ping.” I can’t stop playing this game even though it makes my neck sore.

6.

I had to get coffee beans out of the freezer last night. They were so hard that I couldn’t grind them till this morning. I know that some people don’t like to freeze beans, and some people say one should grind the beans right before brewing, but I don’t care.

7.

I have painted a piece of cardboard with a color called “Tea Room”—one of those small samples of paint available for a dollar at the paint store. When the paint was dry, I drew square tiles with a black marker and installed it in the cardboard box castle we made to illustrate fairy tales for the grandchildren.

8.

The Great Crested Flycatcher sits on a high perch to hunt for insects. If she misses an insect on her first pass, she pursues it in the air. Unless her nestlings object, she offers the whole insect, wings and all. If they do object, she pummels the insect until the offending wings break off.

9.

Many twigs, new-leafed, blew off the trees last night in the wind. When I walked the dog down the driveway early this morniung, I picked them up—at least, most of them—and tossed them back among the trees so they wouldn’t have to dry and turn to dust on the driveway stones.

BIBLE STUDY

BIBLE STUDY

The people were tired 

of being held down,

tired of the collusion 

between the occupying power

and the religious power 

too prudent—or too timid—

to stand with them and declare

enough is enough.

 

They’d heard him bless 

the poor, the hungry,

the mourners, the persecuted.

They’d heard him curse 

the rich, the sated,

the scoffers, the praised.

So when he rode into town 

on a borrowed donkey,

the common people–

the ordinary people–called out

Blessing and Peace and Glory! and

Save us, please. Save us!

 

The powers were alarmed

and tried to silence the people.

And what did he reply?

Turn then, if you would,

to Luke 19: 40-41

and read what he said.

And read what happened next.

 

 

words: ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

soil

flight

farther

tingle

 

ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

1

After the scanty rainfall yesterday (or was it the day before?), I planted beans. Six rows of black beans. I crawled along on my hands and knees to set them in the furrows and cover them with soil. As I patted the soil in place, I left my handprints to show that I’d been there.

2.

On our morning walk, the dog and I noticed a red-tailed hawk watching us from a power line. As we approached, she took flight and landed in a dead elm tree beside the newly cut hayfield on the other side of the road.

3.

Most days, I walk a bit farther than four miles. Today I was cold and wanted to get home to start the laundry. When the washing is all in the machine, perhaps I’ll vacuum the rug. That seems about all I can manage these days:  walks and housework.

4.

Tomorrow—no—the next day—tomorrow is Tuesday—my husband and I will sit in my study and wait for the computer tingle that signals our son’s weekly call. It will be good to see the children. The three-year old tries to touch us through the screen. She has skin like a bisque doll, and enormous blue eyes. There are so many things she will never have to know.

STORYTIME

 

STORYTIME

 

If you don’t have fairy tales, how do you live?

The Miller’s Youngest Son answers the riddles.

The Serving Girl rises from the Cinders 

to marry the Prince. If you give a cup 

of cold water to the woman at the well 

you will receive a jeweled reward. If you don’t,

you will spit serpents for the rest of your life.

If the odds are against you, you will win— 

the youngest, the fool, the poorest, outcast, 

the least likely to succeed. Isn’t it

what you want to believe, you, who like me

are all those things and more?  If you finish

the witch’s tasks and don’t ask for  answers,

she will give you all the light you need.

words: SAME STORY

orange

happiness

shallow

line

SAME STORY

I’ve known the story since second grade,

that terrible year. The teacher checking

our fingernails and handkerchiefs,

teaching nothing but tedium. Gray

and marcelled, as chained as I 

to that small-town school.

The stench of hot-lunch goulash.

White bread spread thick with margarine.

The shallow patch of backlot gravel

where we tried to play. 

 

Reading was my happiness.

Sometimes I was allowed 

to sit on the windowsill with a book.

And where would I have found

such a thing in that barren place?

I can still see the drawing clearly—

the line of the girl’s dress,

the dragon’s orange flame.

And the prince—not St. George, I think—

but it was the same tale—

the monster demanding sacrifice, 

the unexpected release. 

 

words: zuihitsu–lists

fragment

fill

hollow

bristle

zuihitsu:  lists

 1.  Five beautiful things:  Yarn for a blanket. A gallon of maple syrup.  Ruthie’s blue eyes. The white-throated sparrow’s song. A fragment of a poem written on an old bookmark.

2.  Four unusual things: A hairbrush with broken bristles. A tulip bent by the snow. A rabbit hiding under the sandbox. The tube of tomato paste moved to the vegetable bin.

3.  Three things to do:  Plant three ramps in the woods. Fill the watering can. Write a note to David.

4.  Four unpleasant things:  A hollow feeling. The smell of gasoline. A sore thumb. Horsetails in the garden.

words: Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

1.  I have never paced when I am in distress. I stand, rooted, staring, generally out the kitchen window at whatever birds I can notice eating the suet that we hang in little wire baskets from the canopy supports on the deck. This morning, I saw a pair of white-throated sparrows and a pair of catbirds and a pair of cardinals and a single male downy woodpecker.

2.  The route of my morning walk is flat for awhile, then slopes gently downhill to a worn-out barn on the brink of a gully.  Jim keeps old-fashioned electric Christmas candles in the barn windows. The road then slants uphill until on the left there is an unpaved side road going farther up past an old hillfarm cemetery before connecting back to a main road. My road flattens out again to a swamp where grackles and red-winged black birds and swamp sparrows are nesting now.

3.  Our granddaughter extended her hand toward the web camera to show us a book. She recited Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing Song” for me. My mother, for whom she is named, taught it to me when I was three, and our son taught it to our grandchildren.

4. I wish I could come up with an idea for a big project:  a play, or a series of poems. I simply don’t have enough energy to extend myself much beyond the usual “poem a day,” and even those are getting sillier.

5.  Nettles are creeping down the driveway from the little patch I planted ten years ago so I could harvest them for tea. I don’t harvest them. I’m trying to pull them up by the roots so they won’t take over the whole place. “Remember . . /the nettles that methodically overgrow /the abandoned homes of exiles.” (Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh)

6.  I told our grandson I heard a towhee this morning. Our son asked him if he remembered what they say. “Drink your tee hee hee hee,” he answered, smiling his slanty little smile.

7.  My husband is extending his trip out into the world today—not just the usual route to the grocery store and home again, but a side trip to the pharmacy to get medicine for the cat’s hair loss and more milk thistle and vitamin D for us. He brought two pairs of gloves. 

8.  Linda emailed a poem to me, “the one she’s been waiting for,” she said. Nadine Anne Hura wrote it, “for Papatuanuku, Mother Earth.” She calls on the Mother to “Breathe easy and settle,” and tells her “We’ll stop, we’ll cease/We’ll slow down and stay home”  It would be a change of pace—hell, it would be a change of everything these days to have a president who shares poetry with us, or who even reads poetry. Or anything, for that matter.

9. Just after sunset, I took Julie down the driveway as usual. It was clear and pleasant, so I did not hurry, but strolled along at her doggy pace.  Watching her check the smells—deer? rabbits? that bear our neighbor saw?—along the way puts a fresh slant on things.

 

 

A zuihitsu is a Japanese form, consisting of loosely connected fragments written mostly in response to the writer’s surroundings. The word means “follow the brushstroke.”  For more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book

words: TO ARIADNE, WITH APOLOGIES

 

fractal

born (or borne)  or bourn, for that matter.

manipulate

stoic

TO ARIADNE, WITH APOLOGIES

Winding small and smaller

into this fractaled labyrinth—

this, and this, and oh yes

this again—I know this path,

this curve, this color.

No center, only pattern,

the bourn approached

but never reached.

If Platonic, I’d re-form

the beast, Cynic, manipulate. 

Stoic, I’d pay it no mind.

If there were a beast, 

something here not myself,

this endless ball of string.

 

 

words: Nesting

NESTING

 

wall

kindle

fragile

flight

 

This morning, something— a gesture?

a word? a scrap of dream?—kindled

a yen for flight beyond   

these walls of age and time 

and choices made. But I remain, 

grounded in every sense, rooted

in a garden of my own construction.

 

A robin is building her nest

outside the window of the room

where I write, shaping the sticks

and grass with her muddy breast.

In the budding lilac, her mate sings.

If fates and jays agree, nestlings shall fledge,

fragile as imagined wings.

April again: Line one, 2016

Rearranged, and the grammar changed to protect the guilty.

 

LINE ONE, 2016

I have forgotten how to sleep. 

I don’t do things I resist. 

I do not like beets or old goat cheese.

I know what is going on below the surface.

I think I’ll save the dollhouse that my parents made.

 

It was late winter.

We drove all afternoon and into the night

as if the only reality was the car—

He told me he’d killed the coiled dragon

here in this country called US.

So many trees across the path.

 

These levers, bellows—

Tonic. Sub-dominant. Every Good Boy. 

We preferred tunes in the Crixian mode.

 

Don’t think about walking down the stairs.

It’s bad enough falling, or being chased.

All the women in our family have affairs. 

 

If you’re wise,

forget the damned button—

it’s so small.

 

You know the watering can?

It reminded me of that morning. 

It’s best to pretend it never happened.

 

Thanks a bunch, Kari.  Just what I need —to focus. 

What, precisely, is the point?

Not so much the spot of blindness

I might have been. 

 

In the beginning, I thought I’d learn

the way they forget to.

Oh, my vice, my difficulty! 

 

Goldfinches edge the lawn.

Now, I am drawn to gray, November,

the gannets, 

cold chłodnik* green with dill. 

 

Sleep, little one, sleep.

When I was a child, I could fly.

   

*you say “whod-neek” 

words: untitled

cheer

fizzle

green 

seat

 

Rain, nearly snow, yet

the robin speaks of spring,

of blue eggs, of cheer.

 

Who am I, to let hope

and joy fizzle away?

The lilac is sprouting green,

 

the muskrat, seated

by her reedy lair,

is washing her face,

 

and in the gray dogwood,

the yellow-throat

has found a starting place.

COWBOY

This is an old one I just dug up.

COWBOY

 

Remember the Costa Rican cowboy?

He has returned, and was he always

a dream? He lay on the grass

and read poetry to children. He ate

caesar salad and believed in a god

who understood everything he felt.

Once upon a time, we talked

all night. He drank beer and I drank

sherry and smoked. He never smoked.

Did he kiss me by the water? Did I

marry him?And what if I didn’t?

I hear that he has learned

to play the mandolin.

ANOTHER WALK DOWN THE SAME ROAD

ANOTHER WALK DOWN THE SAME ROAD

 

I don’t understand “routine.”

Nothing bores.

Something crossed the road, here.

 

I don’t know what, yet. I don’t know when—

yesterday at sunset, or in the dark, or at dawn—

that’s what I’m trying to discover.

 

If you had the sense, I’d tell you.

If you would stop pulling and walk nicely,

you would not miss countless meadow voles,

 

chipmunks crouching in the roadside brushpiles,

the red squirrel peering from a hole in the dead pine,

the owl lumbering through the trees.

 

Stop. Sit. Wait.

Even now, in the woods 

at the edge of the long hay field, something stirs.

 

NAME THAT ROOT

NAME THAT ROOT

Knobby, greening,  hard white twists sprout in spring.

Planted, they draw stripy bugs who leave orange eggs

and thick red larvae that squash to a gooey mess.

 

Their poisonous leaves  draw spores of blights.

They soften, slime and perish.

So basic their absence can mean famine. 

 

Growing them is a chore, a back-breaker,

but in late summer, grabbling them 

with your grandchild means a feast.

SILENT

SILENT

. . . it is better to speak,

remembering

we were never meant to survive.

     ~Audre Lorde

 

And yet. . O yet, there are times,

this time, closed and tight together

or closed up tight alone

when it is better not to speak

to another, to ourselves,

of the distresses of mortality,

deprivation of company,

the small irritations undispelled.

 

Truth is speaking now—

her own voice 

pushing through cracks 

in the crumbling

towers and walls,

rising like magma

from the beaten ground,

spreading like water

and flame,

claiming her spaces

like returning birds.

 

For awhile now,

it is better

not to speak.

For awhile

to open

to her voice.

To be silent, 

if we would survive.

words: Work for the Day

favorite

billow

after 

container

 

 

WORK FOR THE DAY

Your assignment: design a container

for the sea. It must embrace each whale 

and fleck of plankton. Of course, you will think

of your favorite tropical fish, the rich

coral canyons, the deep kelp forests,

the sea otters and singing dolphins, but

you must must include the rest:

great white sharks and red tides,

the deadly stinging jellyfish. 

Your container must hold every calm

and billow, every island and basin

and estuary and brackish backwater.

Leave nothing out. The tsunami must be

there, and the pale blue impossible calms

after the storms have passed.

BIRTHDAY

BIRTHDAY

We’ll sing her the birthday song

we’ve done it three times now

for that girl named after my mother,

with my mother’s profile.

Her blue eyes that stayed that way.

Feisty from the beginning—

sure of herself, surefooted, sure

of her wants. Monsters beware!

Disguised as one of them, she conquers. 

From the tops of trees  and towers she reigns.

BADLANDS

Old prompts: “Imaginary landscape” and “grass”

BADLANDS

 

Gray hills like something

a child or an artist

dribbled on the gray plain.

 

Sunrise  dazzles.

Late summer sun crushes the air, the thin grass.

Sunset is unspeakable.

 

The moon is impossible.

I could watch the sky

for years.

 

 

 

PROVERBIAL

I’m reduced to looking up old prompts and combining them. This is the result of two: “make up the world,” and “new proverb.”

PROVERBIAL

 

In this world, nine stitches

hold Time together.

You’ll  need waxed thread,

a curved bookbinder’s needle.

When you have finished

sewing up Time’s spine,

all the eggs in your basket

will hatch at once. One swallow

will settle on your hand

to twitter up the summer

and two will call from a bush,

then lead you on.

Follow them to a meadow

where a red morning sky

is opening the roses. 

All the horses you have wished for

will thunder from the mountains. 

Choose one and look in its mouth,

but don’t believe a word.

words: Now

wring

blossom

restore

coat

 

NOW

 

Oh, stop wringing your hands.

There’s not a thing you can do

to restore what you foolishly thought

was normal. There is no such thing

and never was. You can’t bring back

a past that didn’t happen. 

All of it, all of it, every year of it,

every moment of it, is a construction 

of your wishes and beliefs, of your fears. 

 

Put on your coat. 

Go out into the world.

Listen to the song sparrows 

claiming their spaces. 

Look at the scilla blossoms

under the gingko tree— 

you say they are blue,

but who knows what they say 

about themselves?

words: POSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD

Wrote this one early on and forgot to post it.

 

flagrant

underneath

travel

lavender

 

POSTCARDS FROM THE ROAD

How travel assaults the senses!

Black pudding and grilled tomato

with a poached egg stealthily pocketed

for who in full jetlag could eat

such things so early, or at all?

And who would offend 

the dear old hosts of the Irish B & B?

 

Pushed underneath the lumpy bunk

in the smoky German hostel,

what might once have been

a chicken wing.

And who could forget

that rainful cycling trip through France,

the flagrant scent of lavender?

REHEARSAL

REHEARSAL

 

It was all rehearsal: ways to dampen

anxiety. Yoga, Qigong, prayer.

meditation. Long walks. Gardening. Art.

Old household skills: bread and soup and cookies

and soap. Getting along with others. I

recall how the Brits kept going during

the blitz, my aunts and uncles in Poland

after the war. You’ve had the dream, I think.

You’re in a play, about to go onstage,

but you don’t remember your lines or worse 

never learned them, or worst of all you’ve never

even seen this play, and the director says, 

“It’s theater, for Chrissake. Fake it. Make

something up! The curtain’s rising. You’re on.”

April Collage: Last line, 2015

The last lines from April poems in 2015, tweaked a bit:

 

LAST LINE, 2015

It never even entered my mind. 

Winter gone, and we are still alive,

hearing jackdaws in Ostrowy. 

You can’t miss them—

syrinx and larynx and lung.

 

My friends. And you, too. Definitely you.

One square inch, the world,

always knowing where you are.

Those goldfinches, newly gold, outside my window.

The music pours out.

 

Anyone who loves you will understand.

I’ve been killing for years.

The brown heat lingers

and the white cat won’t leave me alone.

I hold a pair of smooth gray stones.

 

Greek writers praised Donatis of Evorea who died in the 4th century,

a Thursday, at dawn, as oarless as his Nan. 

Always, we remembered his weeping.

He wore an extra-large, cold-weather hat.

He was a sacrifice; every tree paid in pain.

 

Our children are full of our songs,

bottles of water, cans of beans.

They lead me on

while my keys clack down and my strings resound.  

The blessed lick their fingers clean, and sigh.

 

Back when I thought 

I could do anything

the light congealed,

too steep to climb.

Rain.

words: NANA WASN’T A LADY

NANA WASN’T A LADY

I have lied about my Nana. 

She was not elegant. 

She was short and round and sweaty. 

In her old-time woolen bathing suit, 

twirling a red umbrella

as she danced down the beach,

embarrassing Mother. 

 

To guests, she served slabs of apfelkuchen 

with heavy mugs of strong coffee.

In spring, she made elderflower fritters.

When Mother was anemic,

Nana made her beef tea

and duck’s blood soup.

 

She snooped through the lives

of her younger sisters, 

telephoned them every day,

scolded them, loved them.

 

When she wanted to roast a goose

she went to the market

to buy a live one. She carried it

home in a basket. On the streetcar.

Mother wanted to be invisible.

 

Mother wanted to be a lady.

“She’s a real lady” was Mother’s highest praise.

It took me years to shed

the linen tablecloth and napkins,

the bone china teacups Mother

thought I should collect even though

I prefer coffee in a heavy mug.

April Collage: Line three, 2013

Not feeling very creative, so I went to old April poems and took the third line from a bunch of them and this happened:

 

LINE THREE, 2013

Coated with wax and buried, 

I have the power to heal others.

 

I’ve only just learned to be

driven to and fro by words and noise.

 

Don’t come lugging that bag. 

My mind is a jumper of passion and power—

 

not bad for a woman my age.

My hair, my fingertips

 

are ready with yellow flowers,

clouds in their colors:  yellow, purple, blue, gray.

 

I found another wad of wax under my armrest.

I contain you.