KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

 

My clay things are childish, lumpy,

heavy-glazed. Jizus in ting chin

or whatever that brown glaze is,

with unglazed heads 

that don’t quite fit. A vase

dripping with blue globs.

 

I’m making crêche figures—

faceless fingerprinty Mary

and Joseph, a baby

the size of a kidney bean

who fits inside a tiny pod.

Animals from children’s dreams.

 

My favorite so far is a blue fish

with a red mouth and runny

eyes. It waits with baited

yellow tongue on my desk to remind

me that everything is process,

that perfection is overrated,

never attained.

 

 

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

Awoke this morning 

with the National Anthem

playing in my head.

I despised it in my youth

for its warlike passion, and 

I have changed my mind.

O say, can you see? 

 

I thought about my father,

battle-fatigued farmboy

who drank to forget how 

his B24 was shot down,

how his buddy blew up

beside him. How he 

always stood for the flag.

Does the Banner yet wave?

 

I thought of my Oma,

fifteen years old and alone,

wearing a red flannel petticoat 

her mama made to keep her warm,

how she saw Lady Liberty

standing in the harbor

in the dawn’s early light,

how she watched the Lady 

grow larger and larger, 

lifting her torch in welcome

to the home of the brave.

WHOSE WOODS?

WHOSE WOODS?

after R. F.

He doesn’t tell if it was a newcomer

who didn’t understand about hunting,

or a local curmudgeon with a grudge

who posted the woods along the road.

But he made a promise to himself,

and one dark and snowy night

near the end of deer season,

he drank a few cups of tea,

saddled his horse,

and set out to make things right.

When he got to that lonely place,

he slid off the horse, and in the most

basic way he knew, he made 

the lovely woods his own again.

 

 

I know I’m not the first person to have this thought.

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

VISITING THE GRANDCHILDREN

Books. Markers and tape.

Blocks go together or not. 

From this height, piles of leaves

look too small for jumping

but they are fine.

The trail by the river is inviting

but too long for feet and too

embarrassing for the stroller. 

Were we ever so busy?

We don’t remember.

The house is filled 

with scampers, changes, babble. 

Firefighter hats and a monster cape. 

Harmonicas and a little tin drum. 

What’s in the closet

and who knows the words?

What we want and don’t:

peanut butter, another story,

a good night’s sleep. 

To be the first one found, or

the last one lost.  

 

 

Imaginary Paintings: Poet in Garret, November

POET IN GARRET, NOVEMBER

~attributed to Jan Vermeer, 1703

You see at once that she’s cold,

the way she hunches

over the table in the fireless

room. Light from one small

window slants across her page.

She is half-turned toward you,

her lips are parted, her eyes

focused on a word appearing

just above your right shoulder.

Imaginary Paintings: All Souls’, The Witch

ALL SOULS:  THE WITCH

~The Kilkenny Book of Hours, c. 1410

Outside, a half moon, waning.

Inside she sits by the fire, 

gray cat on her lap.

Her clothes are unremarkable

and her long gray hair is unbound

and mingles with the cat’s fur.

On the plain table, a wooden

bowl of apples. Garlic

and onions hang on pegs. 

A single dove shelters

on a rafter. A sudden wind

blows open the door.

 

 

This was originally for Pentecost, but I think it works for All Souls, too.

DRAWING LESSON

I wrote this years ago for my friend Maggie, who at age 80 started modeling for art students, because, she said, “They need to know what old people look like.”  She liked the poem, and recorded herself reading it back to me. She died a couple of years ago, in her 90s. I miss her.

 

DRAWING LESSON

—in memory of Maggie Miller

 

Here you are, most with a world ahead,

some with half a world behind,

come to draw the human form.

And here I am naked before you

so comfortable, easy

in my eighty year old skin.

 

I love my folds,

metamorphosed mountains.

You think you can draw 

an old woman, dear babies?

Lean in, look hard.

It will cost you all your life.

 

I have been down deep, 

through muscle, sinew, bone.

Loved long a man long dead,

borne a son and let him go.

I am learning how to pray

and I laugh when you ask me to tell.

 

In my time I have come

to the heart’s solid core–

heat of life and more–

Now over you I pour 

my fire like water.

From where I lie I see

the place the stars will rise.