words: Open Studio Poem #3

Open Studio Poem #3:  USE THE WHOLE PAGE

The point is growth toward beginning.

Start againnothing flat or square

this time learn to move in three

dimensionscubic, 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

words: Open Studio Poem #4

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. 

Simply breathe.

words: Three Bold Attempts

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.

			

words: Not a Mast Year

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.

words: WHAT WE CARRY

tough   sleeve   bag    wave    half    fire

l.

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.

words: SIX TREASURED THINGS: A ZUIHITSU

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.

words: SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

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.

words: Open Studio Poem #2

with thanks to Kathy, David, Kathy, and Wanda

 

lazy

looking glass

friend

pluck

OPEN STUDIO POEM 2

Too lazy today to pay attention

to the face in the looking glass—

mirror, mirror on the wall

Does it matter what we look like?

I’m learning lately to be

my own friend. The kind

of friend I need. A friend

with pluck. Spunk. The kind

of nerve it takes to ignore

the face and see

what’s on the other side.

words: Is it too late to invent America?

sand

braid

task

invent

rife

mauve

 

 

Is it too late to invent America?

1.

While the sky outside turned mauve, 

Kushner’s Belize said, “I hate America. . . .

You come to room 1013 over at the hospital. . 

I’ll show you America. 

Terminal, crazy and mean.” 

In a city rife with AIDS, 

every day he did his tasks.

Compassion isn’t what you think.

 

2.

Nobody knows what Jesus wrote

in the sand, but the men dropped their stones

and crept away, one by one. 

No one is without sin

and it’s a commonplace to hate in others

our own grimmest angels.

I hate people who aren’t compassionate.

 

3.

America has never been great

and we’ve never had a decent metaphor.

From the beginning, the pot didn’t hold us all—

why should we stew and amalgamate? 

How about a braid—not of hair, but of water—

slow river moving over a delta, 

living streams carrying their histories,

interlacing,  winding toward one sea.