words: SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

 

cap   rigid   lemon   peer   draw   meadow

 

SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

Like a drawing  by Van Gogh,

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

I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.

I wear my white cap

though the brim is too rigid

for me to bend against the lemon-

brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer

into the middle distance like a drawing

by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.

 

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

crackles with brown grasses capped  

with seeds. The summer draws 

to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid 

sense of what is real? My peers 

cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.

 

When I was young, I wore lemon

cologne. I lay in this meadow 

beside a man—my peerless

lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.

But our bones have gone rigid

with the years. We have drawn

 

living water so long. Now we draw

water grown bitter, like lemon

rind, and brackish, from a rigid

bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow

searching for one plant to cap 

with one pale egg. I peer

 

at her with shaded eyes, my only peer

now in this tight-drawn

season, this heated season, capped

with grasses the color of dried lemon  

peel. Under my feet, the meadow 

soil is hard, cracked, rigid

 

with the hard rigidity

of this rainless summer, a peerless

summer of an anxiety that a meadow

cannot know. The trees live on, drawing

their life from deeper water. The lemon

sun beats and beats on my white cap. 

words: SAME STORY

orange

happiness

shallow

line

SAME STORY

I’ve known the story since second grade,

that terrible year. The teacher checking

our fingernails and handkerchiefs,

teaching nothing but tedium. Gray

and marcelled, as chained as I 

to that small-town school.

The stench of hot-lunch goulash.

White bread spread thick with margarine.

The shallow patch of backlot gravel

where we tried to play. 

 

Reading was my happiness.

Sometimes I was allowed 

to sit on the windowsill with a book.

And where would I have found

such a thing in that barren place?

I can still see the drawing clearly—

the line of the girl’s dress,

the dragon’s orange flame.

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

but it was the same tale—

the monster demanding sacrifice, 

the unexpected release. 

 

words: TO ARIADNE, WITH APOLOGIES

 

fractal

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

manipulate

stoic

TO ARIADNE, WITH APOLOGIES

Winding small and smaller

into this fractaled labyrinth—

this, and this, and oh yes

this again—I know this path,

this curve, this color.

No center, only pattern,

the bourn approached

but never reached.

If Platonic, I’d re-form

the beast, Cynic, manipulate. 

Stoic, I’d pay it no mind.

If there were a beast, 

something here not myself,

this endless ball of string.

 

 

words: Nesting

NESTING

 

wall

kindle

fragile

flight

 

This morning, something— a gesture?

a word? a scrap of dream?—kindled

a yen for flight beyond   

these walls of age and time 

and choices made. But I remain, 

grounded in every sense, rooted

in a garden of my own construction.

 

A robin is building her nest

outside the window of the room

where I write, shaping the sticks

and grass with her muddy breast.

In the budding lilac, her mate sings.

If fates and jays agree, nestlings shall fledge,

fragile as imagined wings.

April again: Line one, 2016

Rearranged, and the grammar changed to protect the guilty.

 

LINE ONE, 2016

I have forgotten how to sleep. 

I don’t do things I resist. 

I do not like beets or old goat cheese.

I know what is going on below the surface.

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

 

It was late winter.

We drove all afternoon and into the night

as if the only reality was the car—

He told me he’d killed the coiled dragon

here in this country called US.

So many trees across the path.

 

These levers, bellows—

Tonic. Sub-dominant. Every Good Boy. 

We preferred tunes in the Crixian mode.

 

Don’t think about walking down the stairs.

It’s bad enough falling, or being chased.

All the women in our family have affairs. 

 

If you’re wise,

forget the damned button—

it’s so small.

 

You know the watering can?

It reminded me of that morning. 

It’s best to pretend it never happened.

 

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

What, precisely, is the point?

Not so much the spot of blindness

I might have been. 

 

In the beginning, I thought I’d learn

the way they forget to.

Oh, my vice, my difficulty! 

 

Goldfinches edge the lawn.

Now, I am drawn to gray, November,

the gannets, 

cold chłodnik* green with dill. 

 

Sleep, little one, sleep.

When I was a child, I could fly.

   

*you say “whod-neek” 

COWBOY

This is an old one I just dug up.

COWBOY

 

Remember the Costa Rican cowboy?

He has returned, and was he always

a dream? He lay on the grass

and read poetry to children. He ate

caesar salad and believed in a god

who understood everything he felt.

Once upon a time, we talked

all night. He drank beer and I drank

sherry and smoked. He never smoked.

Did he kiss me by the water? Did I

marry him?And what if I didn’t?

I hear that he has learned

to play the mandolin.

REHEARSAL

REHEARSAL

 

It was all rehearsal: ways to dampen

anxiety. Yoga, Qigong, prayer.

meditation. Long walks. Gardening. Art.

Old household skills: bread and soup and cookies

and soap. Getting along with others. I

recall how the Brits kept going during

the blitz, my aunts and uncles in Poland

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

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

but you don’t remember your lines or worse 

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

even seen this play, and the director says, 

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

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

IN ISOLATION: AN INVOCATION TO THE OTHER ANTONY

IN ISOLATION: AN INVOCATION TO THE OTHER ANTONY

 

I am beginning to understand.

Alone among the tombs,

in the cave, in the fort, 

you had nowhere to hide.

Did every pebble in your path

become a boulder? Every

bitter herb a reproach?

Deprivation is the door

to the demons within.

 

We see our grandchildren

only on a screen. I have not

had coffee with my friends

for four weeks. I cannot go

to the studio to make things

no one needs. My husband

left the cellar light on. Again.

I want to read and the dog

wants to go out. I want

to go to bed and the cats

want to play.  We have 

run out of bananas.

Oh woe!  Oh woe!

 

Antony, remind me

that little devils are the hardest 

to catch. Teach me 

that this path is not untraveled.

Show me that even my darkest heart

is loved and forgiven.

Antony, pray for me.