APRIL 10, 2019: REPORT

April 19, 2019: REPORT

 

Here in Vermont, for instance, it’s Spring. 

A robin sings in the scraggly pines

next to the drive. The sun rises through deep

pink cloud, so rain coming. Daffodil spikes,

free at last from the long weight

of snow, have pushed up through the mass of flat

leaves out by the mailbox.The dog says 

a rabbit, or something, under the yews.

The house smells like fresh coffee. The ink flows

easy, like the inconsequential

run-off brook through the woods beside the house.

The house still stands.

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MORNING AFTER

(tempera, glitter, found objects on cardboard)

~after Linda Shere

Those splashes of color—

pink, green, yellow—

represent, I believe,

pajamas. Or

sleeping bags.

There’s a plate of—

cookies—on

the table.

Chocolate chip.

Or—possibly—

blueberry muffins?

No. Cookies. 

Art supplies everywhere–

paint, brushes, glue, clay.

Art everywhere.

There’s glitter on everything.

Well, almost everything.

Not on the muffins.

Cookies, I mean.

Feathers.

Coffee filters.

Small plastic animals.

3 hair ties 

or whatever

they’re called. 

Those elastic things.

I’ve never had a daughter,

so I really don’t know.

THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

 

Only one.

Painted in yellow ochre,

her black eyes shine with calcite.

Her teats are distended with milk, 

her curved tail suggests motion.

You wouldn’t notice her.

Indeed, she was not noticed 

for years since she is small,

overshadowed by the horses,

the lions and bulls;

since she was not officially domestic

for another twenty thousand years.

Beneath her, in the dust,

a fragment of mammoth bone.

Painted above her head, 

a single handprint,

again in the yellow.

A small hand, carefully placed,

poised as if to caress.

PORTRAIT

PORTRAIT

(Neo-Realist School, mid 21st century)

ascribed to J. M. P.

 

She could be someone’s grandmother

with her pink cheeks, white hair

in a bun, the immaculate lace

 

collar fastened with a cameo.

She sits in an old-fashioned

lawn chair—a blue that clashes

 

with the blue sky and the blue

flowers of her dress. Her lips

are slightly parted in a slight

 

smile, but her eyes, as she stares

at the viewer, are challenging.

Both hands rest lightly on an

 

animal curled asleep on her lap.

It is the size of a small dog, but

do not be fooled. Notice

 

the fine brush-work.

The artist has perfectly rendered

each guard hair, each glossy quill.

THE DELPHIC ORACLE

THE DELPHIC ORACLE

~Mary Pratt, (Pre Raphaelite Sisterhood, 1848)

 

Smoke rises before the girl 

seated on her three-legged stool. 

Behind her, the cave mouth

shades into a purple dark.

 

The supplicant stands

like a pillar, her robes

still as sculpture.

Keep looking.

 

Smoke mingles

with thin cloud in the pale

sky, shaping horses.

Keep looking.

 

The supplicant’s arms are rising

toward the heavens.  Listen.

Between the sky and the cave,

the oracle has begun to speak.

EVERGLADES #5

EVERGLADES #5:  May 

 (sawgrass and oil on road-kill alligator hide)

~Ray Hudson, 2017

The birds have gone.

No golden-slippered egret,

no blue-eyed cormorant,

no wading stork shielding

dark water with her wings.

Silence is absolute.

 

Mangroves 

are weary, dusty.

In the fetid pools,

mosquitoes awaken.

Already the air

is thick with heat.

 

Alligator spoor—

dinosaur track,

tail-drag—

marks the muddy flats

like the handwriting

of the blind.

APRIL SUNRISE: VIEW FROM THE POET’S WINDOW

APRIL SUNRISE: VIEW FROM THE POET’S WINDOW

~after Emily Carr

Purple pillars and crossings,

fine traceries of lavender 

against blue-black. Just visible

through a window framed 

on the right by a spent

Christmas cactus, a patch of white,

promising gold. 

 

Where the owl blended 

into the ash at sunset,

there is no owl, 

just a feather-shaded

space where she sat 

regarding the grubby garden 

just out of sight.

RESETTING

RESETTING

1.

Not the old patterns,

but 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.

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,

Ride of the Valkyrie.

Black currant juice, rye bread.

Things that smell like roses.

White tulips. Marigolds.

PSYCHE

PSYCHE

All right, the wind. Breath

of gods, spirits of—

the dead. essences invisible, 

 

lives of rocks and soils. 

What woods and barks and

mosses and grasses give

 

as they respire,

and asphalt and the milk

trucks and logging trucks

 

passing down the road 

at sunrise, and the sun,

above all.

 

After the night wind,

the morning breathing

of the sun.

I HAVE FOUND MY CARAVAN

I HAVE FOUND MY CARAVAN

. . . someone untied your camel last night

For I hear its gentle voice

Calling for God in the desert.

~Hafiz, trans. Daniel  Ladinsky

The camel loosed herself.

She ran off alone,

early in the morning

before I rose to load her

with the burdens of my day.

She was running free

between the dunes

as the Milky Way

faded into the silver of dawn.

When I whistled, she came,

docile, but with the wild gleam

of starlight deep

in her long-lashed eyes.

WRITING ABOUT JESUS

WRITING ABOUT JESUS

~feast of the Annunciation

 

The rules don’t measure.

The untouchable saves you

and you must do the same.

Thieves and beggars at the banquet, 

obedient sheep abandoned to wolves, 

so much wasted seed.

 

Today the sun is warm on my back.

I’m waiting at the café, for my friend.

 

Star in the East

adorns the horizon,

guides around the globe to everywhere

the redeemer is laid.

That which was before the beginning,

contains the whole,

there is nothing drifting sideways 

at some unspeakable

angle, far from the fields

of gravity and love.

 

Hail Mary, 

Fear not.

Everything

matters.

 

A woman talking on her phone in the corridor 

makes a silhouette against the light.

 

The firstborn 

made flesh.

The only story 

is ours.

 

Creeds lean away, defining.

One substance—what else?

One essence, one congealment.

Do you understand?

m=E divided by the constant

through whom we live and move.

 

The sun is warm on my back and 

I must shade the page to see. 

For the time being, 

there is nothing between me and the light.

JOSEPH TALKS ABOUT HIS OLDEST SON

JOSEPH TALKS ABOUT HIS OLDEST SON

 

After what we went through with him—

all the business with angels, and Egypt—

I was hoping things would settle down.

 

It seemed they might. I thought

maybe he could save the world

by being a good man, right here

 

in Nazareth. As time went by,

I even began to think he’d be 

a cabinet maker. He had such 

 

promise. He was careful, deliberate.

He had an instinct for how things

fit together. And he was good with

 

customers. What they wanted, what

they could afford. But then, I had

other sons to carry on, for Mary’s sake.

 

And Jesus? Well. 

It seems he made something

of himself after all.

EAST OWL

EAST OWL

. . . . she must speak

to men in the language of men with a man’s tongue,

and then they will not hear her

because they understand her.

     ~Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘While the Old Men Make Ready to Kill” 

 

Aunt, I miss you.

Not many here

speak Woman.

 

Aunt, an owl keeps flying over me.

She wants me to learn to sit still,

hunt words. Wants me to focus,

lock on. I’ve seen her

dive for frogs, sit on a branch

with a green leg dangling

from her beak. I’ve found

marks of her wings in the snow.

I’ve found the blood of rabbit.

I’ve heard her singing in the dark.

 

Aunt, my hills are covered with snow.

The men still aren’t listening

but the women keep singing

for ourselves and our nieces.

Aunt, we are learning to hunt.

We are still learning to fly.

Ash Wednesday: Trusting in the Sun

Ash Wednesday: Trusting in the Sun

 

It will return. It is

returning. Six o’clock

and already the winter candle

light is not a sharp

circle on the table.

 

It was a tough

winter, a tough fall.

Four dead, your own

new scars, the surprise

of seventy years.

 

You’re needing morning

bird song—a robin,

a cardinal. You’re needing

good news. And today

the reversal—just as the sun

 

is warming through the wind,

as the maples are giving 

their juice, your old

religion makes it Lent.

Well, all right.

 

If the meat is gone,

you might as well fast.

Someday again, days

will be longer than nights.

You just have to wait.

THIS IS THE POEM I’LL NEVER WRITE

THIS IS THE POEM I’LL NEVER WRITE

–about how they kept me

under the bed

and sang songs to make me cry and then laughed 

at me until I learned to stop. 

 

About how

the only safe place was a castle where 

every evening we watched the sun go down

while we sang Gregorian Chant and ate 

burnt marshmallows. 

 

About the teacher who 

wouldn’t let me read beyond and the teacher 

who stole my arrowheads and the teacher 

who slapped me when I played the wrong notes and 

the teacher who made a pass at everyone 

but me. 

 

About the horrible gray skirt, 

the stubby brown oxfords, the home-made prom 

dress in a shade of peach that made me look 

dead. 

 

About how

I gave birth on a ferris 

wheel while my boyfriend ate cotton candy 

and drank Coke and promised to marry me 

anyway, and didn’t. 

 

About how later 

I married for love but the next day ran 

away with a Costa Rican cowboy 

who recited poetry and really, 

truly believed in God. 

 

About how I 

grew old in the rainforest, how I lived 

on plantains and beef, and bore five daughters 

who died and one son who lived. 

   

About how we 

finally gave up making love and

the cattle ran away and the forest 

burned around us and now the only things 

that make me cry are the deaths of dogs.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

It’s about being lost.

Really, really lost.

Squandering half the family fortune

and eating pig food and crawling home 

without even a name to call your own.

And it’s about saving and working hard

and being responsible

and no one notices or cares.

It’s about getting paid the same.

It’s about being meek and poor

and hungry and sad.

It’s about being left for dead

then rescued by someone

you’d cross the street

or maybe the ocean

to avoid.

It’s about a wedding reception

with all the wrong sorts of people

but you’re there, too.

What’s that about?

 

It certainly isn’t about the rules.

It isn’t about going to church

and potlucks and biblestudies

and committee meetings.

It isn’t about being good

so you’ll go to heaven when

you die. It’s not

about saving 

your little 

soul.

 

It’s about letting everything go—

every flying buttress and rose window,

every pipe organ and bible

and prayer book and linen cloth

and silver cup—

every attitude,

every certainty,

everything you think you know—

in order to buy

one pearl.

 

It’s about bread and salt.

It’s about a lighted lamp.

CONSIGNMENT

 

 

CONSIGNMENT

One day you finally

got tired of thinking

about dying. About 

your body and its little

woes. You understood

there’s a world 

out there beyond

your skin that doesn’t

care a fig or a thistle

what you’re thinking,

where you go,

whether you live

or not.

That was the day

you consigned yourself

to your dust,

and, like Job,

declared yourself

content.

CANDLEMAS, VERMONT

CANDLEMAS, VERMONT

Clear out the Christmas clutter

so no one will die this year.

Count the candles and say a prayer.

We don’t bless the herds

or let lambs out in the cold.

It is not spring here.

Half the woodpile should remain;

half the potatoes, half the grain.

Your breath-cloud echoes

a shadow of smoke crossing

and recrossing the snow.

WHY OUR GODS

 

WHY OUR GODS

I think it’s the weather: the snow, the wind,

the cold. To be small targets, all winter

we wear our shoulders under our ears. Plans

made on sunny days come to naught when snow

fills the roads and paths and knocks out power

lines and we must stay and shovel and feed

the stoves. Our houses get smaller. Husbands

and cats take up more spaces. Complaining

dogs follow us from room to room. This is

why our gods are relentless, slow to forgive,

determining, unpredictable, hard.

Their will is as slippery as the ice.

They don’t approve when we, in our clumsy

boots and heavy jackets, try to dance.

JANUARY THAW

JANUARY THAW

   

The best snow in years,

everything shining,

simple and perfect.

It didn’t last long.

 

And now, rain. Snow to slush

to ice. I tried to tell

my old friend that winter

here is beautiful,

 

tried to get her to go out in the cold

and sun and the diamond air.

She always said that clouds

made her dizzy.

 

She died

on a sunny morning before 

the rain began.

Not a cloud in the sky.

 

 

~Remembering S.M., 10/1927-1/2019

DOUBLE SIGHT

DOUBLE SIGHT

An aberration in my eyeglasses

gives me a tiny bright star next to Venus,

down and to her right, as if

her hand is curled in a fist,

slightly raised.

 

I like to think of Venus

with a fist—a soft

Tai Chi fist with all the strength

of exquisite balance behind it.

Love-and-Beauty smiling a lazy smile,

knowing that hate-and-ugliness

is nothing but a nattering nuisance,

a foolish foe with no notion at all

of her power.

RESPONSE: A WOMEN’S PANTOUM

RESPONSE: A WOMEN’S PANTOUM

This was put together from a collection of emails exchanged by a group of older women after the synagogue shooting.

 

 

Let us be rivulets forming in the rain—

not a road that horrors walk upon.

We melt, we sink, our face slides off our bones.

We have no words, only tears and silent prayer.

 

We cannot become the road the horrors walk upon.

Remember: the magnitude of solidarity is a resurrection of massacred faith.

There are no words, only tears and silent prayer

for that temple, the store, the church, another school.

 

Solidarity is a kind of resurrection of faith

in rain on the windows and little girls playing

around a temple, a grocery store, a church, a school.

Let us not collapse to the ground. Look—

 

rain on the windows and little girls playing,

yellow chrysanthemums in the grey light.

We  must not collapse to the ground;

we must move vibrant through this year of dying.

 

Yellow chrysanthemums shine in the gray light,

a flock of crows flies against the gray sky,

vibrant, through the dying of the year

the way a leaf is picked up by the wind.

 

A flock of crows against the gray sky

melts and sinks. We rise on our bones

the way leaves are picked up by the wind,

the way rivulets form in the rain.

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

Let there be no routine.

Let the white cat disturb

your meditation,

the black cat interfere

with your tai chi.

May the dog demand

to go out while you’re trying

to pray. 

May your husband knock

on your study door 

because he cannot find 

his glasses. 

Your old friend will call

while you are chopping onions

in a mindful way.

Answer the phone.

THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN

THE FEAST OF ST. JOHN

 

 

. . . which I will not keep

for the evangelist.

Not for the eagle looking 

down on the world

his Jesus saves with secrets.

My Jesus looks me in the eye.

He doesn’t tell me who he is,

over and over again.

He tells me who I am,

as he told, I like to think,

that sweet boy—

that fisherman who couldn’t

write in Greek—

who left his father’s boat

and followed him.

 

ADVENT, 20

ADVENT

20.

 

We make what we need:

homo fabricator is what we are.

We need a mystery now and then,

a source of nourishment, a healer,

a promise of better things.

Who is outside and who is inside

with us, and how shall we know.

Who will make it clear?

O come, Emanuel,

Desire of Nations.

Be what we need now,

someone not of our making.

We are, all of us,

outside.

ADVENT, 19

ADVENT

 

19.

   ~John 14-17

 

Well, John Gospeller, we’ve come

at last to the core. We know

that we can see. We know

that we’re unbound.

And was it worth the trouble?

 

Because, because—-

The comforter comes—

to whom? 

What is asked in your name 

is given—

to whom?

Mansions in the Father’s house?

Well, hurrah.

And how many

are shut out?

But then, this is about

the inside, isn’t it?

About the closing door.

Not about the poor old world.

Not about the wedding feast.

Salvation from the world, yes?

Stand back and watch it fall.

 

Good cheer?

I don’t think so.

Let us, as your Jesus said 

(and then didn’t,

for three more chapters),

arise and go forth.

Salty salt.

Unshuttered light.

 

 

Maybe I’ll visit the passion and resurrection after Christmas. Maybe. . . 

ADVENT, 16

ADVENT

 

16.

   ~John 11

 

Why did he weep?

 

There is a calculation here:

Wait till the corpse stinks.

It is never too late

for the elect to be raised

if they are properly wrapped,

if they’ve waited in solitude and dark

long enough to know their fear,

if they have been properly mourned.

 

But why did you let him weep?

 

And that curious prophecy

from the high priest’s mouth—

he was blind, I suppose,

but speaking from second sight

and not of himself

but of God’s chosen children.

This I understand.

 

But why, John Gosepeller,

did you make your Jesus weep?

ADVENT, 15

ADVENT

 

15.

    ~John 10

 

One flock, O yes. 

(I’m trying.)

You must bring them in.

Yes.

They will hear your call.

They will know your voice.

And how will they know?

 

Lambs learn their mothers’ voices

while still curled in the womb.

Once I saw a ewe

close to giving birth,

talking softly to her lamb.

(I’m trying.)

My father’s sheep came

only to him.

Once upon a time,

I found this a comfort. 

 

But now, John Gospeller, 

now I see:

this gate swings 

on predestination’s hinges.

One more door

closed to the many,

open only to the elect.

(I tried.)

ADVENT, 14

ADVENT

 

14.

     ~John 9

 

 

O, I see! I see!

You were cast out,

weren’t you?

Washed your eyes

in the Siloam Pool

proclaimed:

whereas I was blind,

now I see.

 

Your people,

even parents,

turned their backs

on you,

denied you,

you with your new-

opened eyes.

 

Of course you must

have contempt for 

for what you left,

what you lost.

on this strange 

and lonely way

 

Two thousand years 

away from you,

maybe I can see 

your sneer 

as the fear 

that once it was.

ADVENT, 13

ADVENT

13.

      ~John 8

 

It must have been fear—

that most compelling feeling—

that attached them

to your Jesus. Why else

would anyone follow

a fellow who goes on

and on about above

and below, about

himself and his distant

father? And worse—O

worse!—a fellow who sees

people (like the woman

caught in the act) 

as opportunities 

for tedious theologizing.

You scared them, 

John Gospeller.

They believed they’d be

condemned without

your esoteric creed.

It must have been fear.

Likely, it still is.

ADVENT, 12

ADVENT

 

 

12.

   ~John 7

Why, pray, would I follow your Jesus?

He honors the obfuscate;

his work is intellectual malignment.

Otherworldly, he keeps his secrets,

disparages what is human,

insists upon duality.

He will not look me in the eye.

Why, O John Gospeller,

would you have us believe

that this is Word made Flesh?

ADVENT, 11

ADVENT

 

11.

     John 6: 16-71

 

So the flesh profiteth nothing, doth it?

And the work of God is belief?

 

They are still in the storm, John Gospeller:

children wizened with hunger,

wrecked by bombs and fires,

blinded with tear-gas,

sickened by water and air.

And you say

God’s work is belief?

 

Oh yes, John, I am

 murmuring against your Jesus.

How dare you condemn the Pharisees?

At least their rules were clear.

ADVENT, 10

ADVENT

 

10.

   ~John 6:1-14

 

Why multiply loaves and fishes if

your Jesus disparages miracle?

 

If he was sent from heaven only

to teach the elect, why make him

 

show off to the crowd?  And

worse—why have him

 

set up these expectations?

Bread does not increase,

 

fishes decrease because

of the hope for miracle

 

that does not come no matter

how hard the believing.

 

And what are we

among so many?

ADVENT, 9

ADVENT

 

9.

       ~John 5

 

Move away from what you know.

Can you?

Bread and wine,

comfortable and magical words,

candles, flowers,

Victorian hymnody,

linens arranged just so.

Just so.

Walk away 

from stained glass,

stone towers, bells.

Stop being helpless.

Today is the holiest of days.

Stir the waters 

in the pool of mercy.

Be a burning light

 

 

 

ADVENT, 5

Advent 

5.

           ~John 3:1-21

You have heard the chant,

answered the call,

drunk the water made wine.

All that was yours has been stripped away.

And now you are in a dark room.

Your feet root in the earth,

water rises up to your neck,

and from somewhere, a wind.

You shiver there, alone. 

And when you think 

you might have died,

a light shines in the darkness—

you are surrounded by lamps,

there is a lamp in your hand,

and the circle presses around you

and you are part of the circle,

robed in white.

And no one outside the circle,

and no one outside the room,

is saved.

 

 

ADVENT, 2

ADVENT

2.

     ~John 1: 19-51

 

Where is what is true?

Visions of ladders and lambs and birds,

voices from the desert and the sky.

This is the Kingdom of Metaphor.

You who have no guile—

come and abide awhile.

 

 

 

I have decided to read the Gospel According to John during Advent. It was my favorite gospel until I was in my late 40s, when I decided that it was anti-Semitic (It is–there’s no way around that) esoteric and exclusive, and that it probably has little to do with the actual life of Jesus of Nazareth (very likely true). I’m trying to read it again for the first time in more than twenty years, this time not as theology–it is the most “theological” gospel–but as poetry, written by a 2nd century poet trying to make sense of what Jesus was all about. Let’s see how long I can keep going. . . .

ADVENT, 1

I’m trying for a Poem-a-Day during Advent. Here’s the first:

 

ADVENT

1.

Incomprehensible, 

word made flesh among us—

that which shattered 

to make the worlds

congealed—

light made flesh.

We can not receive

until we turn,

look over our shoulder

to glimpse the shadow

as it turns away.

WARNING

WARNING

Dear ones,

Beware of the tiny gods frightened men

Create

          ~Hafiz, “Tiny Gods”

Beware of tiny gods,

so easily displeased

when humans break

the rules. The ones 

who are obsessed

with doom, allow 

no room for breath 

or ease. The tiny gods

who make the fear 

of life and death, 

who mistrust peace,

who are themselves,

and made by, fools.

A NOTE TO DAME JULIAN

A NOTE TO DAME JULIAN

 

This morning I saw what you saw.

Not a hazelnut, but a photograph

taken from Saturn—

a speck of yellow against the dark—

and not all that is made,

only our world with its little gray moon.

So many have left off believing

that we’re kept, and loved.

Strange, isn’t it, 

when you know we can’t know 

the whole Body of God—

just the sacrament,

this outward and outward sign.

 

For John

FOR JOHN

Fifty years have passed since I learned

it is possible to hear snow fall,

it is possible to choose and stay.

And though times and places flicker

on the periphery and people come and go,

always you remain in focus at the center,

standing in the forest in your thin black boots

listening to the falling snow.