THE LAST SONG

Last night, the chorus I sing in had its last practice with our long-time conductor. I wrote this this morning, thinking of her and our time together:

 

THE LAST SONG

~for Susan Borg

Every song is the last.

How can I keep from singing

that group in the church loft,

remember? and we stopped

and looked around, amazed.

No audience but ourselves.

Francois and Chuck over the rainbow,

with tears in their eyes and our eyes.

Hallelujah on New Year’s Eve

and the audience sang, too.

Hearth and Fire that last night,

all together, my voice breaking

as I met your eyes. Every song

is the last—each song, each time,

these singers, where they are,

what they carry, what they hold,

what they let go.

IT’S A WINDY DAY

IT’S A WINDY DAY

 

Mother Hölle’s coiling 

       up thin threads of whirling

             rain. Tick, I hear her reel 

click. Deer on tiptoe carve a twisty 

         path to the curving

               creek where swallows gyre

at hatching flies encircling

         boys who cast and spool

                 at trout turning

through water’s whorl.  

          In the spinning

               sky, silk  dragons entwine,

                                             their tails entangle

                                                      in the wind.

 

 

June 5, 2009

PROMISE

PROMISE

 

We keep showing you:

 

The little frogs, the birds.

Islands and mountains,

drowned rivers, 

fertile fields.

Brown leaves out of season.

 

Trees move so slowly.

 

Don’t let dread freeze you;

ice is deadly as heat.

Keep moving. 

Stay together.

Stamp your feet.

 

And promise us 

 

you’ll save something:

one sparrow, 

one sapling.

One patch 

of hallowed ground.

 

From 2015.

WALPURGIS NACHT

WALPURGIS NACHT

Last hold of winter, grip of dark and cold,

our times of gathering close by the fire.

Tomorrow the maiden will strew flowers,

tomorrow the furrow, the scattered seed.

But tonight, once more belongs to the old

who know to sit quiet and count the stars.

Blessed sameness in the passing of years—

mountain snows flowing from river to sea,

trout lily leaves poking out from the mould,

rhythm of courting and birthing and tears.

Shall we gather tonight on the mountain?

Shall we sing together the last winter hymn?

Already the children dance by the fountain.

In the light of the sun, our fire grows dim. 

Page 52: Impounding the Overflow

I think it was during National Book Week that people on facebook used to post, say, the 3rd sentence on page 52 of whatever book was closest at hand. This is a found poem from 2012, cobbled together from a bunch of those sentences.

 

IMPOUNDING THE OVERFLOW

1.

Methanogens, red paper hearts, 

white paper lace, cartoon cupids, 

grey seals, are archaea. 

The central brainstem stands up

like a fist on an arm, renowned 

for many haul-out sites

over and around it, 

dominating it both physically and mentally..

Every computer fits easily on the page

by impounding the overflow 

from the spring into a reservoir.

Besides being a theological dilemma, 

it is also a judicial one–

think about it critically.

I think it was this line of reasoning 

that roused me or maybe 

it was my desperation that made 

me unconsciously pound the door 

with the back of my head.

That was, ‘I love you.’

2.

Obtain title to “desert land” 

by irrigating twenty acres.

As you begin, understand 

that the Indians’ new homes 

are ‘settled, fixed, and permanent.’

as a product of their metabolism. 

Lounge in the sun and enjoy 

the abundance of fish

Consider the Indians friends and neighbors. 

Produce the flammable, odorless 

gas methane. Explore flash 

content on other webs.

Go to sleep now like a good child.

3.

Cooper treads through the darkness, 

enters the tent, and is asleep instantly.

BAD COLD

BAD COLD

 

Sick, and trying to remember

the grandchildren, who started this.

Sick, and thinking of refugees sick

in tents in terrible weather. Sick

and tryng to be grateful for clean water,

warm blankets, my blue mug,

tea, fuel to heat the water. Grateful

for music on the radio all night,

the pressure of the dog’s sturdy body

beside me on the bed.

THE OLD LADY DISCOVERS FACEBOOK AND OFFERS A SORT OF APOLOGY

THE OLD LADY DISCOVERS FACEBOOK

AND OFFERS A SORT OF APOLOGY

All you want to do

is touch.  It used to be easy,

while winnowing grain or stalking beasts.

Your bodies remember 

the smell of sweat in the longhouse,

gossip by the well, 

embraces under the trees.

   

Once you spoke while hanging wash

or mending nets or minding babies

or scything hay or boiling sap

or making shoes or spinning thread

or pounding nails or stitching quilts.

Now

you are scattered like chaff,

dispersed as hunted game,

 

and so are we.    

 

Oh, children, do not complain at us!

We are as exiled as you.

Like you we want to find our friends

and digging is so hard.

Disembodied

as you, we post lines 

and flickers to our tornaway tribes.  

Now the ether carries in bits

our sketchy sentences, our loneliness,

tears that this strange communication

without skin or breath can maybe begin to mend.

 

I wrote this years ago, when I first joined facebook. Now that I’ve deleted my account, I find  it intriguing that this was the original intent.

THE STORYTELLER

THE STORYTELLER

Oh, the wildness of the teller in her cave of bone!

She finds dragons in stumps, faces in every carpet.

 

The smell of whisky, the texture of satin,

a whisper behind a half-closed door,—

 

how will she make it cohere?

Was it once upon a time, or ever after? 

 

Snakes and bears are real enough,

and mirrors trying to reflect what’s fair.

 

She searches her fallible senses

entwined with shadowed remembrances

 

and pieces a pattern, a dream, a tale— something

that might be true, or that someone might believe.

NO WEATHER

No weather lasts forever.

Even this craziness, this winter

that doesn’t want to end. 

 

The sun is still up there,

above the heavy clouds.

There are currants driving the winds.

 

The blackbirds have returned

and are searching for seeds

and the robins have found the sumac.

 

It is our grandson’s third birthday.

He talks all the time;

he’s trying to read.

 

Our granddaughter will be one

two days from now. She

is walking, and working on words.

 

Small plants, lettuces and pansies,

are growing in greenhouses

and the farmers are potting up tomatoes.

 

My nephew is feeding his chickens

and gathering the eggs.

There are new black calves in the pasture.

 

Sometimes I can believe

that the world doesn’t matter, 

that what matters is the earth,

 

and the people who do good work

every day, who walk their dogs

and love their friends.

 

Ten Rules for Poetry, #9

10  RULES FOR POETRY, #9

Don’t keep anything for yourself:

the scent of white iris or wild grape flowers,

the empty spaces between stars,

the russet tail of the crested flycatcher

and his raucous, tuneless voice. Don’t keep 

linnet’s wings, or the hummingbird 

who bathed this morning

under the spray of your garden hose,

or the scarlet tanager, always just

out of sight in the oak.  

 

And don’t keep uncertainty. And tell us

when you mourn. When you are afraid,

don’t hold it close. When the world

is too much with you, when darkness

comes every morning, when the center

cannot hold, when everything

you love is falling away, when dust

is rising and settling on every inch

of grass and skin, when the brief 

candle flickers, don’t keep it.

 

Tell us, tell us how we aren’t alone.

 

Honorable mention Comstock Review contest, Fall/Winter 2016

Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.

~Polish aphorism

But this is my circus: 

the bareback rider dancing in perfect balance 

between the prancing horses, 

the spangled artists on the flying trapeze. 

The fire-eaters are mine, 

the jugglers,

the troupe riding unicycles across the wire.

The whole sideshow is mine.

These are my elephants, stolen from the forests;

these are my unhappy lions.

The clowns, of course, are mine,

emerging from their tiny car,

swarming around the ring, 

beeping their noses,

stumbling over their feet. But

the monkeys? 

No. 

Not the monkeys. 

This lot of monkeys

was never mine.

 

published on the facebook page “Rattle Poets Respond,” July 24, 2017

GONE

an older one:

 

GONE

A statue of the Virgin Mary,

weighing 250 pounds, has disappeared

from a shrine outside a Vermont church.

Police have searched a nearby forest

and cemetery, to no avail.

~June 15, 2012

Tired of inactivity, disgusted

by the behavior of some, infuriated 

by the treatment of others, alarmed

by heat and melting ice, bored

 

with candles and flowers,

The Blessed Mother shook her feet

loose from the cement and shed

her heavy cloak.  Police

 

will find that later, 

along with the halo,

caught on a snag 

under the bridge.

 

Where is she now?  

 

A thin woman in a white dress–

she might be anywhere.

If I were so inclined, I might

tell them to look 

 

at the Farmers’ Market.  

Or in the hospital

cafeteria.  Maybe she’s reading

in the park.  Or maybe

                                       she’s just gone

to that place where all good divinities

go, where it’s quiet,

where nobody needs anything. 

Where nobody even remembers your name.

 

INVOCATION

INVOCATION

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story

of poets in April, of twists and turns.

Driven to and fro by words and noise,

haunted, solid, cursed, concealed.  

Many things they saw:  unpeeled oracles,

flying seducers, flights of sparrows, 

long months dressed in black or gold. 

Thrumming weathers pulsed through their bones.

Even so they saved each other from disaster,

no gods or sirens seduced them.

their own wild recklessness kept them all–

children and fools, they ate the moon,

their muses leapt into their arms

and wept and laughed, and explained their lives.  

 

 

Wrote this one in 2013.

BLACK CAT ZACH

BLACK CAT ZACH

 

 

I am the only one who spells

his name correctly:  Zachariah.

He appreciates that, and rewards me

by losing hair on a patch of his belly,

by leaving half-eaten mice on the rug,

by snagging my sweaters with his claws.

He is seven years old today.

Climber, racer, shoulder-sitter, 

keyboard menace, (;ljhd )

friend of Thumbs Magee, 

destroyer of plants and china bowls.

His beauty covers his sins.

WE HAVE NO WORD

WE HAVE NO WORD

. . . for that feeling when the car pulls away

carrying the children home and the house 

is quiet again as it always is now

except when they come

with their suitcases and boxes and diaper bags

and sippy cups and potty chair,

and we take the portable crib

and the high chair out of the attic

and the blocks and wooden train and smurfs

and drum and tambourine out of the trunk,

and the three-year old takes the big metal bowls

and the measuring cups and spoons 

out of the cupboards and we

take the old picture books off the shelf

and make sure the camera batteries are charged.

And when they go, we put it all back

and get that feeling that has no name. 

LIPSTICK

LIPSTICK

I bought one for the first time in decades.

Pomegranate red.

I’m wearing it.

What possesed me?

It has suddenly become important,

like the high heels Martha wore

the day she got her general’s stars.

Those men, suited or uniformed,

slick-shaved, striding to the podium,

and the unapologetic click of Martha’s heels.

This is the sound of it, I thought.

The shift. The change.

This is what it sounds like.

Did you listen close

while Nancy defended the kids?

A powerful old woman

dancing forwards. And not

just in high heels, but stilettos.

Did you listen to Emma,

the power of her stillness,

unashamed of tears?

 

Not for men’s pleasure,

these symbols of our power:

lipstick, high heels, short skirts.

Maybe it was Eve who woke me up:

This short skirt is mine. 

I am old enought to remember

Bella’s hats, first the necessity,

then the pleasure.

Maybe it was our hats,

those cute pink hats with ears.

We grabbed the derogatory,

transformed it into strength.

What change looks like.

Even tears are power.

It’s what we’re doing now

in our leggings and boots,

and running shoes and fleece,

our torn jeans and t shirts and hoodies

our shawls and scarves,

our nursing bras and aprons.

And yes, in our lipstick and four-inch heels.

March Prompt #11: Is that Mt. Marcy?

IS THAT MT. MARCY?

March Prompt #11

 

. . . or Manford? Or Mohegan? I think it

starts with M. One of those old volcanoes,

or maybe a whatchamacallit like

in earth science. Block fault? Strip fault? Or wait—

folded up? Like something pushed it. Like a

layer cake. Anyway, it’s a mountain,

and a tall one by the looks of it, but

it’s hard to tell here, with all the mountains

everywhere and the hills leading up. Not

like at home where they just come up—POW!—out

of the flat. You can tell. You can see one

a long ways off and just look at it. For

miles. And it gets bigger the closer you

get. It doesn’t come and go like these, these—

what? Ozarks? Pocos? Andirons? One of

those, maybe, or Blue, or something like that.

March Prompt #10: The Chilean Skeleton

THE CHILEAN SKELETON

March Prompt #10

There was nothing to do but baptize it—

God forgive me—that tiny dead thing.

It was still warm, still damp with its mother’s

blood. They were afraid to wash it,

she said, afraid the water would kill it

before they could get it here, to save

its soul. The least they could do, they said.

She kept crossing herself, the grandmother

who brought it to the church. She kept

crying, afraid the girl had sinned, afraid

she herself had sinned. I did what I could.

I blessed her. I lighted candles for the girl.

I washed the little thing in clean water,

sealed it with the cross, wrapped it

in a linen cloth. I offered to bury it,

but the grandmother said they’d see to that.

It’s what women do, she said.

All Ours, II

All Ours, II

It was my grandson they shot,

though mine is three, and white,

and doesn’t live in Sacramento

and as I write is probably playing

with his sister or his toy dog.

His radiance, his embrace.

How he learned to walk.

His first words. The funny way

he said Nan-NAH. He was

mine. How you anyone forget,

how could you forget,

he was also yours.

March Prompt #9: Definitely not a Robot

DEFINITELY NOT A ROBOT

March Prompt #9

Even though, now and then,

I click and whirr. Even though,

now and then, I need to shut down,

amnd recharge. My circuits

are not logical, not digital.

The nightingale, that organ

of delight. Peanut butter

for the dog. One thing does not

lead to another. If this, then

that, but only on Fridays.

This pimple in my nose

makes me want to sneeze.

How much stage direction

do I need to put in? And

margins. Good Friday next

week. Gotta burn those palms.

Storefronts. Street signs.

iRx7*v

March Prompt #8: Art Mangling

ART MANGLING

March Prompt #8

90% of everything is crap.

   ~Sturgeon’s Law

Crumpling works for poems and stories and manuscripts,

for drawings and lighter paintings, too, perhaps.

Crumpling and tossing, with a flourish, into the basket,

and missing sometimes, so that the floor

is dramatically, artistically strewn. Later,

one’s lover can retrieve a piece, smooth

it out and say, “Why, this is genius!”

and the rest is history.

 

Burning is excellent. Oh, the notebooks and canvases

crackling in flame while one cackles

and takes long swigs from a bottle of red wine!

Bonfires are best. Small fires on the edge

of the driveway arose the suspicions of neighbors.

Is there genius feeding the fire?

Who knows? Who cares?

One can always claim that, in after years.

March Prompt #7: The Chair that was First Owned by my Great-Great Uncle Asa

THE CHAIR THAT WAS FIRST OWNED BY MY GREAT-GREAT UNCLE ASA

March Prompt #7

He wasn’t actually my uncle. He was my cousin’s uncle, on the other side of her family, you see, but we called him uncle because of that chair. It was passed on to my cousin’s Great Aunt Martha (not my great-aunt, just hers) who was his second daughter-in-law, and she passed it on to her son Freddy, who of course was my cousin’s actual uncle. He was the youngest in that family. Johnny, the middle one, married a Brady girl, and we have, at least my husband has, connections to the Bradys since his sister-in-law’s first husband was a Brady, and her oldest daughter. She didn’t marry his brother till he died. My husband’s. brother. Anyway, Freddy—my cousin’s real Uncle Freddy but we all called him that, used to come to Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bet’s. She was my cousin’s mother, Dad’s sister. So he was my uncle’s brother by marriage. He was the oldest.  Never married. No one ever said why, but we have our suspicions. And one Thanksgiving, when he sat down at the table on that rickety old chair—you know how everybody has to haul out all the chairs at Thanksgiving if there’s a big crowd and there was always a big crowd at Aunt Bet’s since she and Dad were two of seven and Uncle John—not the John who married the Brady girl—that was Freddy’s brother—my uncle who was Aunt Bet’s husband had the same name—  was one of four and by then they all had kids, except Uncle Freddy, and she always took in strays besides. People, I mean, but she did take in some cats, too, but mostly they stayed up in the barn except that orange one that everybody called Blink because it was missing an eye. But he sat on that old chair and even though he was pretty skinny it broke under him. Bumped his head on the edge of the table on his way down. We all laughed, and so did he, but he was never the same after. Neither was the chair, so Uncle John threw the chair in the fire and Uncle Freddy had to sit on a stack of apple crates they hauled in from the shed.

March Prompts #6: Snufkin

SNUFKIN

 

People who stay and people

who go, or something like,

and one must decide, and

oh, I’ve stayed and stayed,

a Moomin behind the stove,

a Fillyjonk unwilling to open

the curtains to the light.

And there are things: tassels

and white seashells, my handbag,

the equipment I need to make

pancakes and poems, things a tent

could never hold. And yet, in Spring,

in Fall, when the geese are going

or coming, sometimes I wonder

why I am staying.

 

If you don’t know Tove Jansson’s Moomintrolls, it’s time you met them.

March Prompts #5: YARN

YARN

March Prompt #5

(Especially for Maggie)

Not far from here in place or time,

there is, in a closet, a box.

A perfect place for mice

 

with yarns of purple, blue, and green,

too many colors to name.

Soft yarns, striped ones, sparkling ones,

 

neat in balls and skeins,

stacked by size in pleasing array.

But late at night—when else?—

 

when the woman of the house is asleep,

they come. Not mice because of cats,

but Tanglers,

 

a tribe of tiny folk. Who knows

where they live in the day?

Their work is simple.

 

By sunrise the box is a mare’s nest,

a gallimaufry, salmagundi.

The Tanglers will not be distracted

 

by good seeds to sort from bad.

Bowls of milk left for them would be

drunk anyway by cats, tiny garments ignored.

 

Oh, to have the focus of a Tangler,

a single-minded dedication to a task.

Any task at all.

March Prompts #4: TALK IN MARCH

TALK IN MARCH

What does one do about talk

in March? An hour

of medicines, what-he-said,

the kitchen needs paint.

When it’s March and snow

again and sidewalks and roadsides

are full of slush and one can’t

stretch out. When no one can.

When all our talk is weather

and how terrible the news

and how hard to sleep.

When minds need color

and clear space, just one

thing clean and new born.

PERSEPHONE’S WISH SONG

 

PERSEPHONE’S WISH SONG

 

I will not be forever

maiden—that flimsy dress,

the little bouquet.

I am tired, so tired of helping

Mother with the spring.

Nor do I want to sit, solemn,

beside my ancient lord.

I am too old to be innocent,

too young to be still.

 

I want to be Queen of November,

Queen of March,

of coming snow and melting snow,

of browning leaf and stirring root.

Queen of half-moon, gibbous moon.

Queen of labor room, death bed,

first cry,  last word.

 

I want long bright corridors,

doors and windows open

to the music of water

and changing wind.

A land where every step is new.

 

I want to be Queen

of sketchbook, unrehearsed script,

melody stirring in the throat.

Queen of poems that twitch

just out of reach,

Queen of stories emerging

from the dark.

March Prompts #2: ON CLOCKS

ON CLOCKS

~a response to yet again another daylight saving time hangover

Clocks should be limp, like Dali’s,

should flow into the tunes we sing,

the love we make. Clocks should

liquify and drip from the eaves,

turn to jelly and ooze through cracks

in walls and floors.  Clocks should be

loose, relaxed, rubbery, unsettable.

Clocks should be like glue, like wicking,

like olive oil.  Clocks should be

controlled only by cats or lazy dogs.

COMING TOWARD HOME

COMING TOWARD HOME

 

I want to love things all by myself,

not looking sidelong to see

if others are loving them, too:

the sky like old blue glass held in by a tracery of trees,

the great horned owl’s cynical question–

Who’s awake?

the falling cold stars of snow.

 

One night I snowshoed in the woods alone,

the full moon lamplight gleaming

through the lace of soft snow clouds.

Coming toward home I saw in the frame of an uncurtained window

the painting of a summer orchard

above my piano against the green wall,

my husband moving across the kitchen with his teacup.

I thought I would break for joy.

 

This is an old one. It was published in Calyx, in September, 2000

March Prompt #0: ALLOWED

ALLOWED

March Prompt #1

No purpose but pleasure:

Tai Chi before breakfast,

coffee’s bitter “Aha!”

Not to clean the air

but because it’s lovely,

the pink cactus flower

above the desk.

Bread is not nutrition.

Wine is not a drug

to make you live long.

It’s not exercise,

the morning walk

with the dog.

THE CRUELEST MONTH

THE CRUELEST MONTH

Here, it’s March.

The back door was opened.

Now it’s closed.

We don’t know what to wear,

where to turn.

The petals of yesterday’s crocuses

are frightened stiff today.

And Lent, of course,

our season of deprivation.

The less you eat, the longer you live.

 

The dog has to go out, never mind chill below zero.

On this deserted street, through my muffled head

I hear the nine o’clock bells ringing

from the steeple of the Federated Church.

An old familiar carol.

I stop to listen while the dog sniffs

a plastic tricycle left beside the sidewalk.

“The world in solemn stillness lay” is it?

“To hear the angels sing”? Yes.

A pause, and then “Once in Royal David’s City.”

Through carelessness or a great kindness,

through the misery of March,

Christmas rises triumphant.

Now, through the instability of things,

I need this wild sweet music so much more

than I did in December’s beginning time.

 

There is a time to sing,

to eat and drink abundance,

a time to remember the return of light,

youth and brilliance, salvation,

the givenness of everything.

There is no one else on the street,

so I begin to sing along:

with the poor, and mean, and lowly. . .”

The dog looks up at me, puzzling,

and wags her tail.

Winter Prompt #30: View from the Top

VIEW FROM THE TOP

 

From here, the garden:

four stiff stalks of kale,

black leaves folded frozen.

Snow halfway up the rabbit fence.

The old wooden gate to the compost,

center brace broken,

its screen torn and propped till spring.

Will there be spring?

Two spiral stakes mark volunteer

asparagus, one marks the long bed

where under snow and straw

the garlic sets its roots.

Winter Prompts #29: Credo

CREDO

I. Unum Deum

Nothing bursts into being.

Universes bruise together.

Where did the surface scatter first?

What if every what if is real?

The word we need is Emanuel.

 

II. Et incarnatus est

Comprehension: the whole

with its layers of gravity, darkness

at the center beyond the constant light.

 

Every fragment gathered.

One bread, one cup. Water

is wine, enemies beloved.

 

Every anxiety, every wound

of every small being wound

back into the singular dark where

 

division fails, the powers fall.

At the intersection of love and pain

all coheres, and is raised.

 

 

III. Vivificantem

It’s fire we breathe,

the gas of burning

cooked out from the deaths of stars.

Brood across our chaos,

flame through our loss,

singing our every tongue.

Fear not. We will conceive.

 

Cheating. I wrote this a long time ago.

EARLY MORNING TAI CHI

EARLY MORNING TAI CHI

 

Slow, the Jade Lady works the shuttle.

There was a dream about the dead cat

who did Tai Chi whenever she moved,

stepped with great care, raised one paw

in graceful greeting.

                                     Just because

he can’t move slowly doesn’t mean

I have to hurry all the time. The coffee

makes a sound going into the blue cup,

the pen whispers words on the page.

The breath.

There is no hurry.  The grave

will still be there.

 

 

 

Winter Prompt #28: Finding Toys on the Street

FINDING TOYS ON THE STREET

Winter Prompt # 28 

He’s on the second shelf between

the first doll I made and the bricks

I use as bookends. I suppose

he once was plush with brown velvet

paws. I never knew him plush.

One amber eye is nearly blinded

with the straggle. His joints

are still good. Maybe his mouth

and nose were embroidered

by Mother, who found him

in a trash can in front of Veterans’ Row

when she was pregnant with me

and had no money for toys.

She was learning how to live

with a husband with PTSD,

the farm boy she married—

and Mother all the way from Cleveland—

waking screaming with flashbacks

of the crashing planes, the burning

friends. Later the bear—I named

him Pooh—taught me

about steadfastness and make-believe.

About comfort and the importance

of a second chance.

Winter Prompt #27: Something left behind in a place you’ve never been

SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND IN A PLACE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN

Winter Prompt #27

I left two novels.

I left five collections of poems

and scripts for six plays. I left

an article about conodonts

and a treatise on the rights of women.

I left them on that island in Maine—

I can never remember its name—

it was a two hour ferry ride—

where I didn’t live

in a small, low house in a meadow.

Not right on the shore since I couldn’t

afford it, but a short walk to the rocks

where I didn’t sit with my notebook

and my thermos of coffee

early every morning

whenever the weather permitted.

I left a few pottery bowls there, too,

a cello, a field of daffodils,

and in the shallow soil the buried bones

of a couple of dogs I loved.

Oh, and a little lilac bush that didn’t

amount to much because of the wind.

Winter Prompt #26: Ripped Paper

RIPPED PAPER

In memory of Ursula K. Le Guin

Winter Prompt #26

Tear it all up—

old bills and tax returns, bank

statements, stock certificates,

manuals and guarantees.

            But don’t stop

there. Tear up all the useless

books: archaic sciences, outdated

histories, smug theologies,

the whole thick body

of masculine pronoun,

life as battle,

possession as the highest good.

Winter Prompt #25: Sand

SAND

Winter Prompt # 25

Holiday Point, South Hero,

that summer between houses.

 

Popham Beach in the fog,

the first time I met the sea.

 

Fred’s Beach, Fourth of July,

hotdogs. Fireworks over the water.

 

White Strand of the Blasket, inviting,

dangerous, like its mothering land.

 

Kitty Hawk, where the first flight paths

are measured by stones.

Winter Prompt #23: The First To

 THE FIRST TO

Winter Prompt #23

We were always doomed,

we pioneer women, plodding,

we thought, toward a new land

while the residents of the old one

were sliding grumbling into their graves.

 

The lightless caves

were full of bears,

the forests wild with tigers.

Eagles screamed and fell

from the startling sky.

Nothing was easy.

 

The young ones have not followed.

How can we blame them?

The roads we made ended,

not in the City of God

but in the broken place we started from.

 

Some of us are still here

in our Gothic stonepiles,

wrapped in albs and stoles

tending a dying fire.

 

Some of us look sideways,

step into small houses

with open doors and warm beds,

with gently lighted windows.

We are making bread, sharing wine.

 

And some of us are climbing peaks

we could not imagine

when we started our long walk.

Our music drifts down

into the cities, shakes the towers,

rings the ancient bells.

Winter Prompt #22: Crust

CRUST

Winter Prompt #22

I used to study this stuff:

mantle, crust and core.

The mantle and core poetic,

metaphor:

                  Mantle

the thin dark covering

of protection, something

a goddess might wear,

or a saint.

         Core

the golden heat—at least

golden in the texts—

at the center. The wobble,

the weight.  But

          crust

recalls chicken pox blisters,

chapped lips, skinned knees,

burnt toast on school-day

mornings. Shiftiness,

instablility. Not poetic,

only metaphorical.

ALL YOU CAN HEAR

 

 

ALL YOU CAN HEAR

“All you can hear is the wind and the stars and the fog and the snow.”

~Arthur, age 2 3/4

He can hear the stars.

His father did not ask

the sound they make.

It is too solemn a sound,

too private to describe.

Have you heard it?

After the soft snowing stops,

and Orion comes striding

through a gap in the clouds

with his dogs at his heels?

Winter Prompt #21: A Country-Western Song

 

A COUNTRY-WESTERN SONG

Winter Prompt #21

Refrain:

He came through the night,

runnin’ all alone.

All he’d had to eat

was a thrown-out chicken bone.

 

 

This old cat has seen a lot of years

From the night I saw him first—

A streak of white across the drive,

Just fur and bones, but real alive,

All hunger, fight and thirst.

 

Refrain

 

We trapped and took him to the vet

We thought we’d set him free

When he was fixed and had his shots,

But it turned out he liked us lots—

My good old man and me.

 

Refrain

 

So now he’s sleeping on the chair

All full of fish and cream.

It goes to show that any stray

Just needs a hand along the way

To realize his dream.

 

Refrain, fading. . . .

Winter Prompt #20: Bivouac

BIVOUAC

Winter Prompt #20

Whenever I look, I see you twice.

The tent in the forest by Texas Falls

and the couch where you go

those nights you can’t sleep.

The rocky lake shore

in the moonlight and wind

and the chair where you doze with the cat.

This double vision is a peculiar

blessing to the old,

living as we do in many places

with so much behind

and so much less ahead.

 

Winter Prompt #19: Forget Matilda

FORGET MATILDA

Winter Prompt #19

No problem. I never, ever

remember her. Waking at 4 a.m.,

that old fear clutching—I am not

remembering Matilda. Walking

by the sea, filling my pocket

with white pebbles, admiring

the pair of osprey hovering

beyond the tide-line, I do not

think of Matilda. Stretching

my ice-cleats over my boots,

clipping the leash on the dogs’ collar,

following the ways of rabbits

through the snow—no Matilda.

Singing lonesome madrigals,

buying onions and soap,

drinking coffee with my husband,

feeding the cats,

reading to our grandson—

Matilda never enters my mind.

I have long list of sorrows,

but the one thing I do not regret —

I never remember Matilda.