Words: Open Studio Poem #6 fragile pineappple audible edible Name something audible that sounds like a pineapple Name something edible that smells like a floor. Name something fragile that tastes like an apple tree. Name something fragrant that feels like a door.
Open Studio Poem #3: USE THE WHOLE PAGE
The point is growth toward beginning.
Start again—nothing flat or square—
this time learn to move in three
dimensions—cubic, 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
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.
I finally figured out that I can do a screen shot of my formatted poem and publish it as an “image.” Good grief. This poem has been in my “to blog” file for ages because the format matters so much. It’s about a wonderful film about Pina Bausch.
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.
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.
tough sleeve bag wave half fire
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.
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.
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.
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.