FELL SWOOP

 

 

FELL SWOOP

 

Tired at last of myself, 

the way I’ve been for seventy years—

tight and worried, wanting my perfect way—

in a swoop—and was it fell?—I laughed. 

Laughed at the coiled clay vase that wanted 

to be a fish, laughed at the poems 

that wouldn’t be printed in little magazines 

and at my past earnestness 

about the importance of that, laughed 

at my belief that those pants would

make me leggy like the model in the catalogue, 

that this diet or pill or “spiritual practice” 

would fix my — everything. 

And last night I split a bottle of Switchback

with Jean and we laughed at our husbands’ old jokes 

during what would once have been 

a nervous attempt at “dinner party” 

and we made spontaneous 

ice cream sandwiches for dessert 

from crispy brownies and ice cream 

straight from the carton, and I’m still laughing.

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FIRST LIGHT

~in astronomy, the first use of a telescope

1.

A wall is not a bad thing

when one is ten years old and afraid.

Imagination is a good wall:

the goddesses of ancient Greece,

the stories in the stars, the fairies

living under the grasses and in the trees.

And girls in books,

their strength like stone:

Jo and Meg, Velvet Brown, Anne.

 

God makes a good wall, the sturdy one

I met at St. Luke’s, who spoke Elizabethan

in Father Pickard’s imitation British,

who smiled down on pious children.

Hymns made a sure foundation, 

the blue choir robe a kind of armor. 

And when one came of age,

the flat dissolve of the wafer, 

the strange warmth of wine.

 

2. 

Hadrian built this wall 

to keep wild blue people out. 

On our side, sanitation, hot baths,

birthday parties and socks.

On their side, the gods only know.

Dirt-floored huts, animal skins,

raw meat eaten with the hands?

Superstition. Barbaric sacrifices.

Look over the wall, if you dare.

What is hiding behind those stones?

 

3. 

Shall I list the things I fear,

what the walls keep out?

If I give them names,

will that give me power?

Can I clothe them,

give them form,

and seeing their weaknesses,

laugh them into oblivion?

Are they nothing 

but shadows after all?

Bears under the bed?

Barbarians painted blue?

 

4.

Sixty years ago

I could not stand

in front of Mother and say

Daddy is drunk and I hate it.

I’m going out into the field

to pull myself together

and then I’ll come back

and get on with my life.

I want you and Daddy

to solve this. 

Without my help.

 

5.

When my little grandson is afraid,

I can tell him:

This is what’s happening.

This will happen.

The mower is noisy

but we’re safe if we stand here.

The big truck will drive away.

The bird will not bite you.

Mommy will come back.

The shot will hurt and then

the hurt will stop. 

 

I can tell myself:

This story is mine.

The barbarians

are my grandmothers.

Nothing lasts forever.

I can open any door.

TRANSFIGURATION

TRANSFIGURATION

 

We knew the answers then, 

how it could be. Remember

that the old folks mostly hung back,

looked on kindly and amused. 

They knew as I know now

that everything would pass 

like those flickers on a cave wall. 

The community would shrink

and scatter. Ambition, death,

families—would do what they do. 

We’d wake up, sad, 

because the good dream was over.

We’d come down the mountain

twisting our ankles, sliding on scree,

bumping our heads on low branches. 

We’d be bitten by ticks and bears.

And after awhile, like those old 

mountaineers who went before,

we’d arrive at home,

sweep out our houses, 

get back to work.

COUNTRY WEDDING

COUNTRY WEDDING

~Berthe Morisot, 2019

Oil on canvas

 

Stacked blocks of whiteness 

narrow to a steeple. 

 

A white tent stretches

over blue shade. Shapes

 

of color clothe the guests. 

All around is green.

 

In the midground, 

five children scamper

 

with two yellow dogs.

Close to the frame, 

 

two women— one

in red boots— and three

 

men are playing bocce.

Their shadows are long.

 

Deep in the trees 

a robin starts a song.

ONCE MORE

ONCE MORE

” . . . I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides. . . “

       ~Stanley Kunitz, “The Layers”

 

 

 

Is this it? Enlighten-

ment? The sudden knowledge

that despite all, despite

sadness, digestion, pain,

there is Self from which I

struggle not to stray, that

looks out from the same eyes

that I had when I was

ten and knew I was a

lone person who could cope

with whatever life I

got? So often subsumed

but here I am again,

in my bug-jacket, in

the driveway, with the dog.

Once more, it is morning.

MORNING NOISE

MORNING NOISE

~Jackson Pollock, 2019

Oil on cardboard

 

 

 

You can hear them, can’t you? Bursts of red and 

white and gray—those pickups early on the 

road, and the big silver milk truck, there, clear 

streak across. The woodchip truck that always 

uses jake brakes going down the hill—long 

black jag. And underneath and around—back-

ground and more than background—a kind of fore-

ground really—are the birds. Can you hear them? 

Sure you can. Rose-breasted grosbeak, redstart, 

red-eyed vireo, white-throated sparrow, 

goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, 

and clearest, that woodthrush just out of sight.