words VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

bear

grace

raven

point(ed)

VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

1.

The raven has been flying to and fro 

over the earth. She has returned.

I think it will rain again. 

 

Do you know the meaning of grace?

The word you say before you eat;

the way a dancer walks in her pointed shoes.

 

The bear has been seen again.

We say “the bear” as if there were only one

running through the woods between our houses.

 

2.

It’s enough to make me believe

in Satan’s test of Job.

How much more can they bear?

 

The talking raven will not be silent.

Over and over she says 

“What’s the point? What’s the point?’

 

Like Hecate preceding and following Persephone,

grace precedes and follows us.

The question remains, “When?”

 

3.

Once I found a raven grazed by a car.

I set her in the grass, covered her with leaves.

The next day, in the same place, 

 

a raven circled me three times. 

The acknowledgement was almost more 

than I could bear. And I’ve wondered

 

since if the point was not gratitude but

taunt. “You cached me in the grass,

foul human, but see! I live.” 

 

4.

A raven pair tumbles over the yard

and the dog will not stop barking.

A bear climbs the fence and the dog is silent.

 

Raven is a trickster.

Bear is a god.

Is there a difference.

 

Walk the shore to the farthest point,

the place where sand turns to stone.

There is no limit to grace.

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE

 

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE

It always happens when there is too much 

light, too much pollen, too much 

of everything. 

The birds sing me awake. 

The leaves are closing in. 

I get tired. 

I can’t digest. 

 

All my life.

While my sisters played on the porch

I hid in the meadow.

While my friends splashed in the pool, 

I climbed the outcrop to be alone.

While my colleagues ate eggs and muffins, 

I sat on a green bench by the river 

to pull myself together. 

 

And now, this terrible year, 

when there are no parties to avoid or dread, 

I’m weighted down by the heat, by the sun. 

Like a bear, I could be in a cleft in the rocks, 

asleep until snow, 

until mornings are quiet and dark again. 

Until there is nothing to eat but roots and bread.

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

WITHOUT EVENT—A ZUIHITSU AGAIN

~with thanks to Ray for showing me the form

1.

Our son sent a photo of our grandson at his pre-school graduation ceremony.  He’s sitting in the backseat of the car wearing a cardboard hat with “2020” painted on in glitter. He looks so happy and proud. I’ve heard there are juniors at the High School here who want to do a drive-in graduation next year, because it is so much more “personal.”

2

I have seen—has the world seen?—the photo of a black grandfather carrying a wounded white racist to safety. ‘I’m protecting our kids,” he said. Take up your cross and follow me.

3.

I don’t have Big Girl Underpants—mine are all the same—so this morning I put on my Big Girl Lipstick and brushed my hair behind my ears and took the dog for a walk again.

4.

In the late 1880s, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. This is how it ends: 

. . . . . .while there went/ Those years and years by of world without event/ That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door. 

5.

The prayer beads I carry in the pocket of my jeans are mostly wooden relics of my old Camp Fire Girl days. Four onyx beads. Two pewter suns salvaged from broken earrings. A tiny diary key. And an onyx cross, maybe half an inch long.

6.

Ever since that first Gulf War I’ve had doubts about intercessory prayer. What about all those people who don’t get prayed for except in a generic way (Dear God, bless all the people in the world.)?  I pray in a generic way these days. May all beings be free from suffering. At least that reminds me that I’m not alone, which may be the whole point. 

7.

As I walked this morning, I noticed a tiger swallow-tail fluttering along the roadside, parallel to my path. She seemed to be looking for flowers, which are fairly scarce along that shady stretch. She ignored a patch of spindly buttercups, landed finally on a plant I didn’t recognize, and began feeding on what I would hardly call flowers, just nubs of pale greenish white, hanging in clusters at the ends of the leaves.

Because I have to write something

ANOTHER ZUIHITSU because I have to write something

1.

It’s as if someone is deliberately making things so bad that nobody can stand it. Almost enough to make me believe in the Beast, the AntiChrist, or something like that.

2.

We hoard dark roasted coffee beans in little brown bags in the freezer. I think I have enough now.

3.

I’ve been trying not to look at the news every hour, but I can’t help it. It’s the only way I can participate, living here, in this little green bowl. 

4.

Chipmunks live under the front steps. They scurry out to get food, scurry back in for fear of hawks and weasels and our dog. But they’re never safe from weasels.

5.

A very satisfying conputer game: drag random clusters of jewels into rows and columns on a board laid out in squares. When I place a cluster, I hear a lovely “click.” When I complete a row or column, I hear a very satisfying “ping.” I can’t stop playing this game even though it makes my neck sore.

6.

I had to get coffee beans out of the freezer last night. They were so hard that I couldn’t grind them till this morning. I know that some people don’t like to freeze beans, and some people say one should grind the beans right before brewing, but I don’t care.

7.

I have painted a piece of cardboard with a color called “Tea Room”—one of those small samples of paint available for a dollar at the paint store. When the paint was dry, I drew square tiles with a black marker and installed it in the cardboard box castle we made to illustrate fairy tales for the grandchildren.

8.

The Great Crested Flycatcher sits on a high perch to hunt for insects. If she misses an insect on her first pass, she pursues it in the air. Unless her nestlings object, she offers the whole insect, wings and all. If they do object, she pummels the insect until the offending wings break off.

9.

Many twigs, new-leafed, blew off the trees last night in the wind. When I walked the dog down the driveway early this morniung, I picked them up—at least, most of them—and tossed them back among the trees so they wouldn’t have to dry and turn to dust on the driveway stones.

BIBLE STUDY

BIBLE STUDY

The people were tired 

of being held down,

tired of the collusion 

between the occupying power

and the religious power 

too prudent—or too timid—

to stand with them and declare

enough is enough.

 

They’d heard him bless 

the poor, the hungry,

the mourners, the persecuted.

They’d heard him curse 

the rich, the sated,

the scoffers, the praised.

So when he rode into town 

on a borrowed donkey,

the common people–

the ordinary people–called out

Blessing and Peace and Glory! and

Save us, please. Save us!

 

The powers were alarmed

and tried to silence the people.

And what did he reply?

Turn then, if you would,

to Luke 19: 40-41

and read what he said.

And read what happened next.

 

 

words: ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

soil

flight

farther

tingle

 

ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

1

After the scanty rainfall yesterday (or was it the day before?), I planted beans. Six rows of black beans. I crawled along on my hands and knees to set them in the furrows and cover them with soil. As I patted the soil in place, I left my handprints to show that I’d been there.

2.

On our morning walk, the dog and I noticed a red-tailed hawk watching us from a power line. As we approached, she took flight and landed in a dead elm tree beside the newly cut hayfield on the other side of the road.

3.

Most days, I walk a bit farther than four miles. Today I was cold and wanted to get home to start the laundry. When the washing is all in the machine, perhaps I’ll vacuum the rug. That seems about all I can manage these days:  walks and housework.

4.

Tomorrow—no—the next day—tomorrow is Tuesday—my husband and I will sit in my study and wait for the computer tingle that signals our son’s weekly call. It will be good to see the children. The three-year old tries to touch us through the screen. She has skin like a bisque doll, and enormous blue eyes. There are so many things she will never have to know.

STORYTIME

 

STORYTIME

 

If you don’t have fairy tales, how do you live?

The Miller’s Youngest Son answers the riddles.

The Serving Girl rises from the Cinders 

to marry the Prince. If you give a cup 

of cold water to the woman at the well 

you will receive a jeweled reward. If you don’t,

you will spit serpents for the rest of your life.

If the odds are against you, you will win— 

the youngest, the fool, the poorest, outcast, 

the least likely to succeed. Isn’t it

what you want to believe, you, who like me

are all those things and more?  If you finish

the witch’s tasks and don’t ask for  answers,

she will give you all the light you need.

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: Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

1.  I have never paced when I am in distress. I stand, rooted, staring, generally out the kitchen window at whatever birds I can notice eating the suet that we hang in little wire baskets from the canopy supports on the deck. This morning, I saw a pair of white-throated sparrows and a pair of catbirds and a pair of cardinals and a single male downy woodpecker.

2.  The route of my morning walk is flat for awhile, then slopes gently downhill to a worn-out barn on the brink of a gully.  Jim keeps old-fashioned electric Christmas candles in the barn windows. The road then slants uphill until on the left there is an unpaved side road going farther up past an old hillfarm cemetery before connecting back to a main road. My road flattens out again to a swamp where grackles and red-winged black birds and swamp sparrows are nesting now.

3.  Our granddaughter extended her hand toward the web camera to show us a book. She recited Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing Song” for me. My mother, for whom she is named, taught it to me when I was three, and our son taught it to our grandchildren.

4. I wish I could come up with an idea for a big project:  a play, or a series of poems. I simply don’t have enough energy to extend myself much beyond the usual “poem a day,” and even those are getting sillier.

5.  Nettles are creeping down the driveway from the little patch I planted ten years ago so I could harvest them for tea. I don’t harvest them. I’m trying to pull them up by the roots so they won’t take over the whole place. “Remember . . /the nettles that methodically overgrow /the abandoned homes of exiles.” (Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh)

6.  I told our grandson I heard a towhee this morning. Our son asked him if he remembered what they say. “Drink your tee hee hee hee,” he answered, smiling his slanty little smile.

7.  My husband is extending his trip out into the world today—not just the usual route to the grocery store and home again, but a side trip to the pharmacy to get medicine for the cat’s hair loss and more milk thistle and vitamin D for us. He brought two pairs of gloves. 

8.  Linda emailed a poem to me, “the one she’s been waiting for,” she said. Nadine Anne Hura wrote it, “for Papatuanuku, Mother Earth.” She calls on the Mother to “Breathe easy and settle,” and tells her “We’ll stop, we’ll cease/We’ll slow down and stay home”  It would be a change of pace—hell, it would be a change of everything these days to have a president who shares poetry with us, or who even reads poetry. Or anything, for that matter.

9. Just after sunset, I took Julie down the driveway as usual. It was clear and pleasant, so I did not hurry, but strolled along at her doggy pace.  Watching her check the smells—deer? rabbits? that bear our neighbor saw?—along the way puts a fresh slant on things.

 

 

A zuihitsu is a Japanese form, consisting of loosely connected fragments written mostly in response to the writer’s surroundings. The word means “follow the brushstroke.”  For more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book

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.