Words: Goldfinches

thistle

voice

bright

shatter

GOLDFINCHES

 

Already the goldfinches 

are turning gold,

their bright voices 

shattering the gloom

of this long long spring.

Soon they will be darting

among the ripening thistles,

raising their young,

moulting back into brown.

Remember how quickly

time can pass.

Words: Play of Passing Shadows

warp

sidewalk

twisted

cave

 

PLAY OF PASSING SHADOWS

Seventy years and more in this cave

learning to weave. Firelight flickers

shapes on the walls, twisted shadows

of things unimaginable passing

on the sidewalk wound around

out under the sun, or so I’ve heard.

What is the sun but a bigger fire?

All I know is here: shuttle, warp.

The threads are given, the pattern mine.

EXILE

This is the result of a writing exercise I’m doing with a couple of friends. Each of us offers a word, and then each of us makes a piece of writing using those words.  

WORDS:

latitude    embroidery     coil

EXILE

How, you ask me, do I live?

I have come so far, so very far

 

from the earths that shaped my bones,

the people who gave me blood and breath.

 

I make my choices, hold my connections.

I wash my long gray hair in rainwater

 

I catch in a bowl in my garden.

I dry my hair in the sunshine,

 

brushing it in the warmth

and light, the way Matka taught,

 

the way my sisters do

in my home place, in my latitude

 

of memory. I plait a four-strand braid,

coil it around my head. One by one,

 

in ritual, I lift the bone hairpins 

from the linen pouch Babcia gave me

 

as she gave to each granddaughter. 

I think of her, remember her

 

working the red embroidery,

the five-petaled flowers,the long-tailed birds.

REPORT: Let this be the Magic

REPORT

Let this be the Magic.

~Bluebird Fairy, February 21

 

This day, this cold winter morning,

this orange sunrise above snow

through bare-branched trees,

this cardinal singing despite

the evidence, this neighbor

leaving for her job in the hospital,

this neighbor driving off 

to build someone a house.

 

Let this be it:

coming in with the dog from the cold,

my warm kitchen,

the coffee ready and fragrant,

my blue cup, the brass lamp

on my desk, the collage

my grandson made, the pottery

fish I made to prove I can still

learn, the card from Sharon

acknowledging our mutual

crankiness. Do you

 

know anything better?

Is there a fairy godmother

or or genie in a jar

or angel or god who could

add anything to this?

MOTHERS, DESCENDING

MOTHERS, DESCENDING

~for my friends who have been here

Everyone has at least

one. As we get old, 

they vanish like dreams 

in the morning. They fall

back into the place of arising,

that holy or unholy womb

of world that held us all.

As they go, they show us.

They echo their beginnings.

Like the three-year old 

who awakens murmuring 

the sharkopuss is going down, down,

they fall asleep explaining how

we resemble their daughters.

Because, of course, perhaps

that’s who we are.

PRESENTATION

 

PRESENTATION

 

They killed the little doves

and poured their blood on the altar.

She’d taken the ritual bath

after her bleeding stopped,

but she was still sore.

Her breasts leaked

when the baby cried. 

The strange old man

came out of the shadows 

and put the seal on what

she already knew, 

what every mother knows:

This was only the beginning.

SWAN LAKE

SWAN LAKE

 

I was washing the supper dishes,

and on the radio came “Swan Lake.” 

Since I don’t dance, I conducted. 

As I waved my dishcloth in time,

it dawned on me like slow winter sunrise

that Pyotr was himself a swan

trapped by his times in the form 

of a bearded man. 

                                 If he lived today

he could dance in feathers and white satin, 

caught and steadied by a beautiful prince.

No sorcerer would do him harm.

He would be full of grace and celebration.

And at the end, he would ascend 

above the Lake, and shine. 

HUNTER

HUNTER

 

 

Life has given me a yellow dog

who noses the ground.

Shall we go hunting? I ask her, 

and she laughs.

 

She eagers her way down the drive,

shows me where deer trailed 

into the woods, where rabbits

skittered into brambles. 

 

She raises her head

to catch something in the air—

a whiff of owl? A drift of horse 

from the neighbor’s barn?

Fox, fisher, coyote, stray cat? 

There is so much out there

to track and find.

 

Hunter ascends at dawn, 

her crescent no longer

the crown of youth but

the mark of crone. 

 

She glows in the cold sky

above the house where

my husband still sleeps.

Her light is enough to see by,

and what shall I see?

There is so much out here

to track and find.

WHERE ARE THE OWLS?

WHERE ARE THE OWLS?

 

Last winter, they surrounded me, circled

my head, sat on the bedposts, 

 

nested in the mailbox, ate all the onions 

in my garden. They sang through my sleep,

 

their sweet trillings and warblings

coloring my dreams.  I wore their cast-off 

 

feathers in my hair, lined my boots

with their fur. Where are they now?

 

Did the angel who keeps the flower bed

decide I’d had them long enough?

 

Oh, send me an owl! 

Just one would do—

 

one dark-eyed barred owl

to sit in the ash tree across the way,

 

just one owl in the ash tree.

Please make everything all right again.

 

WINTER DEER

WINTER DEER

Through the trees they came

at twilight or at dawn,

bowing their graceful heads

beneath the snowy branches.

They left their heart-prints

along the drive awhile, 

crossed then into the pines.

Three doe with this spring’s young.

Every year I’ve seen them,

nine of them. The immortal

deer at the border of what

we think is ours, what has

always been theirs.

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

 

My clay things are childish, lumpy,

heavy-glazed. Jizus in ting chin

or whatever that brown glaze is,

with unglazed heads 

that don’t quite fit. A vase

dripping with blue globs.

 

I’m making crêche figures—

faceless fingerprinty Mary

and Joseph, a baby

the size of a kidney bean

who fits inside a tiny pod.

Animals from children’s dreams.

 

My favorite so far is a blue fish

with a red mouth and runny

eyes. It waits with baited

yellow tongue on my desk to remind

me that everything is process,

that perfection is overrated,

never attained.

 

 

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

Awoke this morning 

with the National Anthem

playing in my head.

I despised it in my youth

for its warlike passion, and 

I have changed my mind.

O say, can you see? 

 

I thought about my father,

battle-fatigued farmboy

who drank to forget how 

his B24 was shot down,

how his buddy blew up

beside him. How he 

always stood for the flag.

Does the Banner yet wave?

 

I thought of my Oma,

fifteen years old and alone,

wearing a red flannel petticoat 

her mama made to keep her warm,

how she saw Lady Liberty

standing in the harbor

in the dawn’s early light,

how she watched the Lady 

grow larger and larger, 

lifting her torch in welcome

to the home of the brave.

WHOSE WOODS?

WHOSE WOODS?

after R. F.

He doesn’t tell if it was a newcomer

who didn’t understand about hunting,

or a local curmudgeon with a grudge

who posted the woods along the road.

But he made a promise to himself,

and one dark and snowy night

near the end of deer season,

he drank a few cups of tea,

saddled his horse,

and set out to make things right.

When he got to that lonely place,

he slid off the horse, and in the most

basic way he knew, he made 

the lovely woods his own again.

 

 

I know I’m not the first person to have this thought.

CORNER OF YOUR EYE

CORNER OF YOUR EYE

 

Does anyone believe in magic now,  

meaning—magic? The wonders of science,

sure. Coincidence, synchronicity,

but magic? Pixie dust? Fairies tickle

your ankles? Elves steal your children?    Ointment

so you can fly? I want belief. Because

when the unexpected. They want us to

believe we cause everything. It’s what we

eat. And we don’t walk ten thousand steps. But

sometimes it’s just chance. Or something else. You

turn and skip and drop your grandmother’s vase;

your dead dad’s iron keys fall out of your

pocket. You step outside as the shooting

star passes overhead while the owl is

singing. The white deer crosses your path. Out 

of the corner of your eye you see a

flicker, and you hear, for a moment, an

echo of some forgotten god’s uncanny laugh. 

CAMINO

CAMINO

 

Trust the way is what she says, and stretches

her wings out to the edges of the sky 

before she becomes part of the air, this 

sunrise gray and new north wind. How did she 

fit between these trees? I’ve never known what 

to do about oracles or visions. 

The way? Jesus said he was and Auden 

wrote about how it leads to unlikeness, 

the land that holds it, the land made of it. 

Nothing is as it seems, remember. 

On certain paths, that becomes clear. Or 

perhaps, completely unclear. As I said, 

     I’ve never known what to do. Trust the way, 

     whatever that might mean today.

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

Books. Markers and tape.

Blocks go together or not. 

From this height, piles of leaves

look too small for jumping

but they are fine.

The trail by the river is inviting

but too long for feet and too

embarrassing for the stroller. 

Were we ever so busy?

We don’t remember.

The house is filled 

with scampers, changes, babble. 

Firefighter hats and a monster cape. 

Harmonicas and a little tin drum. 

What’s in the closet

and who knows the words?

What we want and don’t:

peanut butter, another story,

a good night’s sleep. 

To be the first one found, or

the last one lost.  

 

 

Imaginary Paintings: Poet in Garret, November

POET IN GARRET, NOVEMBER

~attributed to Jan Vermeer, 1703

You see at once that she’s cold,

the way she hunches

over the table in the fireless

room. Light from one small

window slants across her page.

She is half-turned toward you,

her lips are parted, her eyes

focused on a word appearing

just above your right shoulder.

Imaginary Paintings: All Souls’, The Witch

ALL SOULS:  THE WITCH

~The Kilkenny Book of Hours, c. 1410

Outside, a half moon, waning.

Inside she sits by the fire, 

gray cat on her lap.

Her clothes are unremarkable

and her long gray hair is unbound

and mingles with the cat’s fur.

On the plain table, a wooden

bowl of apples. Garlic

and onions hang on pegs. 

A single dove shelters

on a rafter. A sudden wind

blows open the door.

 

 

This was originally for Pentecost, but I think it works for All Souls, too.

LABYRINTH

Red boards, white halls.

Posters and paint.

 

The inside of a piano. 

A washer full of light.

 

Two stairways

to one long corridor.

 

You do not have a clue.

You do not need one.

 

If you are lost, cry out,

no doubt someone

 

will hear you.

You will always be found.

 

What you do 

is up to you.

 

At the center—

no minotaur—

 

a glass door. Behind it,

earnest, commanding

 

fairies are waiting.

What did you expect?

 

Their Queen,

at first glance seems

 

innocent, unwinged.

Little do you know. 

 

Her throne a desk.

Her wand a pen.

 

Enter at your peril. 

Are you ready

 

to love the edges?

To practice not-doing?

 

Are you ready

to change your life?

 

 

 

DRAWING LESSON

I wrote this years ago for my friend Maggie, who at age 80 started modeling for art students, because, she said, “They need to know what old people look like.”  She liked the poem, and recorded herself reading it back to me. She died a couple of years ago, in her 90s. I miss her.

 

DRAWING LESSON

—in memory of Maggie Miller

 

Here you are, most with a world ahead,

some with half a world behind,

come to draw the human form.

And here I am naked before you

so comfortable, easy

in my eighty year old skin.

 

I love my folds,

metamorphosed mountains.

You think you can draw 

an old woman, dear babies?

Lean in, look hard.

It will cost you all your life.

 

I have been down deep, 

through muscle, sinew, bone.

Loved long a man long dead,

borne a son and let him go.

I am learning how to pray

and I laugh when you ask me to tell.

 

In my time I have come

to the heart’s solid core–

heat of life and more–

Now over you I pour 

my fire like water.

From where I lie I see

the place the stars will rise.

 

RESETTING

I’d already posted the first stanza. Here’s the whole thing.

 

RESETTING

1. 

Not the old patterns,

or variations printed on different cloth. 

Orange fleece instead of black wool.

The kind of comfortable shoes, but red.

Yellow candles.

The same time, but silence instead of prayers.

Most of the people, but not all.

What the crows talk about.

Where the bobcat crosses the road.

Music in a different key.

Cypriot O Antiphons.

Black currant juice, rye bread.

Things that smell like roses.

White tulips. Marigolds.

 

2.

I do it all the time.

Twice a year, all the clocks.

The weather station

whenever something goes awry.

The computer to accomodate

change, to fix a glitch.

The stove, the microwave

anytime the power goes off.

Why not now

during this long and changing time

of glitch, outage, awry?

 

3.

How should I pray?

No bloody psalm cries

and paeans to a thunder god.

No reconstructed ritual.

No begging for heaven;

I don’t have a soul to save.

 

I know a different god,

not father, but

farther, unbribeable,

god of asteroids, black holes,

god of hurricanes and floods.

Job’s god, who makes no sense,

no sense that matters now.

 

Jesus died for love 

and we’ve overburdened him.

Byzantine, Victorian, 

witch-hunter,  rough-rider,

Supreme Court Judge.

The wineskins split

and the wine is spilt away.

Salt has lost its savor,

and someone turned out the light.

 

The wind blows where it wills,

and not where we expect.

Over the shattered walls

of shuttered holy houses,

through boreal and coral forests.

It breathes in the hearts of foxes,

between the beaks of owls.

The sun is warm but the wind

is cold and carries too much rain.

 

Teach me to pray.

COMMUNION

COMMUNION

 

All morning we cleaned the shed beside the church—

one of those places all over America

where the hungry poor come to stand in line

for day-old bread and canned beans,

for commodity tubes of hamburger,

bags of shredded orange cheese,

MRE-style pouches of beef stew.

We hauled out the cardboard and the plastic 

from the cases of cans of corn 

and mac-and-cheese and fruit cocktail.

We scrubbed down the rusty metal shelves;

we vacuumed up the dust, tidied the refrigerators.

We made room in the freezers 

for the dated meats and donuts and pies 

another crew pickes up from the market.

 

We didn’t talk much. 

We know each other well enough 

to work in silence— 

four women, the Tuesday volunteers,

each of us old enough to have a few scars.

At noon, Phyllis handed out some 

blueberry muffins she’d baked. 

We took a break, ate 

standing outside in the parking lot

in the late September sunshine.

Then we got back to work.

FELL SWOOP

 

 

FELL SWOOP

 

Tired at last of myself, 

the way I’ve been for seventy years—

tight and worried, wanting my perfect way—

in a swoop—and was it fell?—I laughed. 

Laughed at the coiled clay vase that wanted 

to be a fish, laughed at the poems 

that wouldn’t be printed in little magazines 

and at my past earnestness 

about the importance of that, laughed 

at my belief that those pants would

make me leggy like the model in the catalogue, 

that this diet or pill or “spiritual practice” 

would fix my — everything. 

And last night I split a bottle of Switchback

with Jean and we laughed at our husbands’ old jokes 

during what would once have been 

a nervous attempt at “dinner party” 

and we made spontaneous 

ice cream sandwiches for dessert 

from crispy brownies and ice cream 

straight from the carton, and I’m still laughing.

FIRST LIGHT

~in astronomy, the first use of a telescope

1.

A wall is not a bad thing

when one is ten years old and afraid.

Imagination is a good wall:

the goddesses of ancient Greece,

the stories in the stars, the fairies

living under the grasses and in the trees.

And girls in books,

their strength like stone:

Jo and Meg, Velvet Brown, Anne.

 

God makes a good wall, the sturdy one

I met at St. Luke’s, who spoke Elizabethan

in Father Pickard’s imitation British,

who smiled down on pious children.

Hymns made a sure foundation, 

the blue choir robe a kind of armor. 

And when one came of age,

the flat dissolve of the wafer, 

the strange warmth of wine.

 

2. 

Hadrian built this wall 

to keep wild blue people out. 

On our side, sanitation, hot baths,

birthday parties and socks.

On their side, the gods only know.

Dirt-floored huts, animal skins,

raw meat eaten with the hands?

Superstition. Barbaric sacrifices.

Look over the wall, if you dare.

What is hiding behind those stones?

 

3. 

Shall I list the things I fear,

what the walls keep out?

If I give them names,

will that give me power?

Can I clothe them,

give them form,

and seeing their weaknesses,

laugh them into oblivion?

Are they nothing 

but shadows after all?

Bears under the bed?

Barbarians painted blue?

 

4.

Sixty years ago

I could not stand

in front of Mother and say

Daddy is drunk and I hate it.

I’m going out into the field

to pull myself together

and then I’ll come back

and get on with my life.

I want you and Daddy

to solve this. 

Without my help.

 

5.

When my little grandson is afraid,

I can tell him:

This is what’s happening.

This will happen.

The mower is noisy

but we’re safe if we stand here.

The big truck will drive away.

The bird will not bite you.

Mommy will come back.

The shot will hurt and then

the hurt will stop. 

 

I can tell myself:

This story is mine.

The barbarians

are my grandmothers.

Nothing lasts forever.

I can open any door.

SITTING ON THE FRONT STEPS, 6:15 A.M.

SITTING ON THE FRONT STEPS, 6:15 A.M.

 

I’d forgotten how to begin

the day, the late summer

 

day, in the moistness,

the early coolness

 

when the bees are busy

in the jewelweed, when

 

the waning moon 

floats between dispersing 

 

clouds. What does the little

world of men have

 

to offer then? To offer them,

I mean. To offer me?

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

 

Since midsummer, fairies with green wings 

twinkle around my eyes all night long. 

They beg me to be invisible, 

offer me fernseed and a cap woven 

of milkweed and thistle fluff. 

The dog is restless when they are in the house, 

and my husband can’t sleep, 

and I can’t explain. The cats 

don’t seem to mind.

 

Whatever shall we do with realism, 

reason, logic, the sciences that deny 

the way things are? A cloud of demons, 

their sharp laughter, the steadfast angels 

raising their lavender shields. 

Every tree has a soul;  early in the morning

you can hear them singing to the sun. 

Their music wakes the birds. 

Angels are stars, balls of flaming gas. 

Everything is real, but more or less 

than anyone can imagine. 

God is everything. 

Nothing is mutually exclusive.

TRANSFIGURATION

TRANSFIGURATION

 

We knew the answers then, 

how it could be. Remember

that the old folks mostly hung back,

looked on kindly and amused. 

They knew as I know now

that everything would pass 

like those flickers on a cave wall. 

The community would shrink

and scatter. Ambition, death,

families—would do what they do. 

We’d wake up, sad, 

because the good dream was over.

We’d come down the mountain

twisting our ankles, sliding on scree,

bumping our heads on low branches. 

We’d be bitten by ticks and bears.

And after awhile, like those old 

mountaineers who went before,

we’d arrive at home,

sweep out our houses, 

get back to work.

Heat

 

HEAT

Heat eats time. Heat sits, placid 

monster, pale and bloated,

a vapid balloon across the land,

filling its maw with hours, 

ambitions, appetites,  joys.

It knocks birds from the sky,

cats from their windowsills.

Gardens sprout thermophilic

weeds and nobody cares.

No one can swim in the lake scum.

All the fans have broken.

 

Fighting is futile.

any knight who dares apprach

falls stuporous and weighted down.

 

Remember the cold?

Once upon a time 

it stretched its fine boned hands

over us, and what did we do then 

but whine?

Never again, we cry. 

O never again will we complain 

of its kind and gentle blue-frost smile.

EVEN NOW

EVEN NOW

 

Magic can still find a place, you know.

There is a corner behind the sofa

where no dog hair can collect;

you have one spoon

that always makes everything

taste like honey. The third

moth who bumps herself

on the screen door at midnight

has a calm and gentle face.

If you carry a white stone

in your left front pocket

you will remember

to breathe. Or maybe

you’ll just remember.

PRAYER

PRAYER

Jesus, we need you in all your forms—

rising in beauty from seafoam,

black-tongued and stamping in battle.

We need you one-eyed, wandering in disguise.

 

Please rise again in beauty from the sea, 

steal the sacred flame and flee.

Give us your vision; open our eyes.

Split the mountains and come down. 

 

You brought us fire. We made you sorry.

Come now with Medusa’s head on your shield,

protect us from your thunder.

Mourn with us through our sorry land.

 

We need you with shuttle and spear,

cloven-hoofed, drunken and mad.

Walk beside us as we cry; hold our hand.

Crouch with us, hungry, underground,

 

and dance full of wine and song, and mad.

Jesus, meet us at the cross-road with your lamp.

Return with all the daffodils of spring.

Split the earth, drive your wild horses up.

 

Come to the crossroad and fill our cup,

add our skulls to your garland.

Ascend through the rock and carry us away.

Descend to us in all your forms.

COUNTRY WEDDING

COUNTRY WEDDING

~Berthe Morisot, 2019

Oil on canvas

 

Stacked blocks of whiteness 

narrow to a steeple. 

 

A white tent stretches

over blue shade. Shapes

 

of color clothe the guests. 

All around is green.

 

In the midground, 

five children scamper

 

with two yellow dogs.

Close to the frame, 

 

two women— one

in red boots— and three

 

men are playing bocce.

Their shadows are long.

 

Deep in the trees 

a robin starts a song.

ST. MOLUAG

This is more or less a work in progress, but today is St. Moluag’s feast, and I couldn’t resist.

 

 

ST MOLUAG

13th century, artist unknown

Tempera on board

He stands in his thick brown robe

before the church that bears his name.

The sky behind is gray with rain,

earth around all unflowered. 

In triumph, he holds up his severed thumb.

 

Move fourteen hundred years along—

Isle of Lewis, the sky still full of gale. 

A dozen people trail into the stony church. 

We have stood the gales a thousand years,

light in the darkness, singing in the wind.

They comfort the stranger, 

laugh at the storm:

We will stand on until the end.

For more about the church:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teampall_Mholuaidh

 

For more about St. Moluag:  http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/adversaries/bios/scot_pict/moluag.html

 

 

June 21st

JUNE 21st

 

They say it’s to be the longest day, but

how shall we know with the sun again

behind clouds thick as oceans. Down 

here like denizens of the deep we’re 

losing our eyes and growing weird 

appendages. Luminous lures spring

from our foreheads. Wind waves dark

fronds of weeds over our heads.

It might as well be the longest night.

We take what nourishment we can.

ONCE MORE

ONCE MORE

” . . . I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides. . . “

       ~Stanley Kunitz, “The Layers”

 

 

 

Is this it? Enlighten-

ment? The sudden knowledge

that despite all, despite

sadness, digestion, pain,

there is Self from which I

struggle not to stray, that

looks out from the same eyes

that I had when I was

ten and knew I was a

lone person who could cope

with whatever life I

got? So often subsumed

but here I am again,

in my bug-jacket, in

the driveway, with the dog.

Once more, it is morning.

MORNING NOISE

MORNING NOISE

~Jackson Pollock, 2019

Oil on cardboard

 

 

 

You can hear them, can’t you? Bursts of red and 

white and gray—those pickups early on the 

road, and the big silver milk truck, there, clear 

streak across. The woodchip truck that always 

uses jake brakes going down the hill—long 

black jag. And underneath and around—back-

ground and more than background—a kind of fore-

ground really—are the birds. Can you hear them? 

Sure you can. Rose-breasted grosbeak, redstart, 

red-eyed vireo, white-throated sparrow, 

goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, 

and clearest, that woodthrush just out of sight.

IMAGINARY PAINTING

IMAGINARY PAINTING

 

There is no painting here.

No artist prepared

a palette, a canvas.

No ecstasy or agony

of creation.

Nothing was lugged

to a gallery. 

No one returned,

disappointed, to a garret.

It was never displayed

in hallway, drawing room,

library, museum.

It is not real, except

as silence, out 

of the reach of sense,

a whim, a dream.

THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHIING “PINA”

 

THOUGHTS WHILE WATCHING PINA

I want to write the way she danced.

 

I want someone to move the chairs

as I move blind 

through a complicated room.

 

Words 

 

cannot suffice:  

space, limbs loose, cardboard ears,

grinning in a line.

 

I want a gown 

the color of my hair, very high heels.

I want to fall and fall and someone to catch me every single time.

 

I want water 

 

on everything:

rocks, light.  I want

my skirts thick

with the weight of water.

 

I’ve been avoiding poems.  

Look:  how small my writing has become.

 

I’m held

 

on the end

of a line.  

No matter how

I scribble, I’m held, I’m held.

I will not wear a short red dress again.

Never again that passion and that pain. 

 

Oh, let me

 

close my eyes and fall.  

Feel:

the dirt shoveled on my back.

I will bury myself:  eyes, mouth:

 

I promise

 

I won’t stand up or turn away.  

All around the rim

the seasons pass and on my back 

 

I will carry

 

a tall green tree.  

I will learn

to gesture as the seasons change.

 

No matter what I do, I can’t format this the right way. Alas. There are lots of indentations in the original. Use your imagination.

 

 

WARBLERS

~Maud Lewis, c. 1970

Latex on plywood

 

 

Nobody taught her a thing.

Look: the anatomy all wrong,

perspective strange, almost

iconic. But look closely:

that northern parula 

in the lilac bush—iridescent 

blue-gray wings, shaded orange

throat, bright eye, open beak—

you can almost hear him singing.

And the yellow warblers, symmetrical

in the white-dotted trees

framing the red barn.

It’s Spring, they’re saying,

and we’ve arrived.

 

END OF SPRING, 1930

END OF SPRING, 1930

~Mary Cassatt

 

The white-gowned girl is running away

from you. She has curly blonde hair.

Her feet are bare. Her pink sash

is untied and trails behind.

In her left hand she carries a yellow

basket, filled with a blur of green.

To her right, a lilac in full bloom,

each blossom rendered with careful

detail. You can hear her mother

calling on the hilltop behind you, 

but there’s something about the way

the child is moving. You know

she will not turn back.

PLAIN BIRD

PLAIN BIRD

 

I woke like something hatching

from a plain egg—gray, speckled

with brown. Hatched like a plain

bird, a common bird. Some kind

of sparrow, spotted like last year’s

leaves and litter. I started the coffee,

leashed the dog, stepped out

into the rain where a robin—

an ordinary bird—was singing.

LOCATION OF THE MUSE

LOCATION OF THE MUSE

 

She comes and goes? Or he?

Better: They come and go, the Muse.

Some mornings They wakes me

with Their laughter, leads me

down the road singing.

Some mornings They’re in, oh. . .

California, maybe. . . fighting

over water. Or in Poland, painting

rainbows around the head

of Their sister and brother. I don’t think

They ever goes to the white house

or congress, though it’s likely

they thrives on the Mall

among the placards and

in the quiet halls of the Museums, 

which, after all, is Their houses.

THE FEAST OF ST. WALPURGA

THE FEAST OF ST. WALPURGA

 

I have just returned

but before I sleep

I must record.

 

The moon was dark,

the sky was clouded.

Earthscent was rising

 

up from the valley

into the cold air

along the ridge.

 

We came in our silence,

lit the fire in silence. 

When they arrived,

 

we sang the words

to set them free.

While we waited then

 

for the flames to die,

while we waited

in our silence

 

with the long darkness

around us, a pair

of owls called 

 

from the forest

down in the trees.

A good omen

 

for the season to come.

The flight home

was uneventful.

BACH HEARS FOR THE FIRST TIME A JAZZ IMPROVISATION ON “SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE”

BACH HEARS FOR THE FIRST TIME 

A JAZZ IMPROVISATION ON “SHEEP MAY SAFELY GRAZE”

 

How—how do you do that?

The beat that stays and breaks,

the theme there but not there,

inverting, stretching, sideways.

Is it sideways? And that bass line,

as if walking on organ pedals,

—that pace. Now you’re turning

it again, aren’t you? Around

the progression but there’s a—no,

wait! Oh, the intervals holding

the tension! Oh, please, please!

Show me how it’s done!

 

THE END OF POETRY MONTH

~a manifesto, or possibly just a rant

 

People who write poems do it ALL THE TIME.

Even when they aren’t writing.

When they’re walking, eating,

sitting in the coffee shop staring out the window.

When they’re watching movies,

running errands,

drinking with friends.

ALL THE TIME.

And once a year,

in the cruelest month,

you haul them out,

put them on display,

act like you care.

THEY ARE NOT LIKE A DISEASE

requiring an awareness month.

You do not pay them a thing

and they do not ask you to.

Maybe they should. 

Maybe they should

go on strike.

In April.

No bookstore readings,

no interviews. 

No new poems.

The extremists among them might

knock poetry books from library shelves,

might stand on street corners.

Their placards might read

 

NOT POETRY MONTH

HAVE YOU NOTICED?

LOCATIONS

LOCATIONS

“. . around the edges of oddness”

        ~A Bluebird Fairy by Emily Anderson

 

You won’t find it 

in halls of ivy, or

in the chambers of kings.

It isn’t between the covers 

of carefully curated 

volumes available only

to members with reservations.

Never in anything 

organized 

by color or size.

Never in anything glossed

or listed or rewarded. 

    But look!

It’s teetering on a tooth

from a reconstructed

conodont. Spinning

on the rim of a sixpence

balanced on a pole

balanced on the rubber

nose of a clown

riding a unicycle on 

a tightrope stretched

between a stormcloud

and the beak of a raven.

It’s lurking in the garden dirt

under the left thumbnail

of the weaver’s second

daughter. If you want it,

you might start there.

TWO POEMS ABOUT CROWS

These are not about imaginary paintings, but very real and wonderful photographs by Victoria Blewer

 

THE CROW

After Victoria Blewer’s “On the Lookout”

 

There is a world

that is not 

yours. In the dark

tree, the crow 

holds layers.

She does not 

speak

to you.

Every thing

is the universe’s 

center.

Once you see—

remember.

 

 

Night Birds

After Victoria Blewer

 

The owl keeps asking

if I’m awake. All winter

I have not been

awake, or asleep.

 

A winter of—not

discontent, nothing

with that bloody edge—

but of something flat

 

and gray, of something

like despair.  The crows

don’t ask. They

do not care.

 

In the trees, bare

or not, under the sky,

starred or not,

they sit while my world

 

sleeps. Or not.

And when I wake

in my darkness

and remember,

 

this is a kind 

of comfort,

a kind of

relief.

Words: By Way of Contrast

coffeepot

filigree

chase

novel

 

BY WAY OF CONTRAST

Grandmother’s silver coffeepot—

fine filigree around the handle,

chasing and repoussé patterning the lid.

The matching creamer, 

sugarbowl with tongs.

Her white linen napkins,

bone china cups.

 

My Mr. Coffee maker.

My red ceramic sugar bowl

patterned with spirals and stars. 

My white creamer—novel souvenier

from Columbus, Ohio.

My red-checked tablecloth.

My heavy blue pottery mug.