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.

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

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” 

SILENT

SILENT

. . . it is better to speak,

remembering

we were never meant to survive.

     ~Audre Lorde

 

And yet. . O yet, there are times,

this time, closed and tight together

or closed up tight alone

when it is better not to speak

to another, to ourselves,

of the distresses of mortality,

deprivation of company,

the small irritations undispelled.

 

Truth is speaking now—

her own voice 

pushing through cracks 

in the crumbling

towers and walls,

rising like magma

from the beaten ground,

spreading like water

and flame,

claiming her spaces

like returning birds.

 

For awhile now,

it is better

not to speak.

For awhile

to open

to her voice.

To be silent, 

if we would survive.

April Collage: Last line, 2015

The last lines from April poems in 2015, tweaked a bit:

 

LAST LINE, 2015

It never even entered my mind. 

Winter gone, and we are still alive,

hearing jackdaws in Ostrowy. 

You can’t miss them—

syrinx and larynx and lung.

 

My friends. And you, too. Definitely you.

One square inch, the world,

always knowing where you are.

Those goldfinches, newly gold, outside my window.

The music pours out.

 

Anyone who loves you will understand.

I’ve been killing for years.

The brown heat lingers

and the white cat won’t leave me alone.

I hold a pair of smooth gray stones.

 

Greek writers praised Donatis of Evorea who died in the 4th century,

a Thursday, at dawn, as oarless as his Nan. 

Always, we remembered his weeping.

He wore an extra-large, cold-weather hat.

He was a sacrifice; every tree paid in pain.

 

Our children are full of our songs,

bottles of water, cans of beans.

They lead me on

while my keys clack down and my strings resound.  

The blessed lick their fingers clean, and sigh.

 

Back when I thought 

I could do anything

the light congealed,

too steep to climb.

Rain.

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.

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.

THE END OF POETRY MONTH

~a manifesto, or possibly just a rant

 

People who write poems do it ALL THE TIME.

Even when they aren’t writing.

When they’re walking, eating,

sitting in the coffee shop staring out the window.

When they’re watching movies,

running errands,

drinking with friends.

ALL THE TIME.

And once a year,

in the cruelest month,

you haul them out,

put them on display,

act like you care.

THEY ARE NOT LIKE A DISEASE

requiring an awareness month.

You do not pay them a thing

and they do not ask you to.

Maybe they should. 

Maybe they should

go on strike.

In April.

No bookstore readings,

no interviews. 

No new poems.

The extremists among them might

knock poetry books from library shelves,

might stand on street corners.

Their placards might read

 

NOT POETRY MONTH

HAVE YOU NOTICED?

THE POET’S STUDY

THE POET’S STUDY

(oil on plywood, 4’ x 8’)

~after David Weinstock

Not a simple abstraction—

if there is such a thing 

as simply abstract—

but layered.

Ghosted.

 

Under the brown glaze, 

green—or rather,

greens—escaping 

like leaves,

blades,

tattered flags.

 

The finest edgings

of red,

fingered outward

like flame.

 

Are those human faces

in the cloudiness

at the center,

or pomegranates?

or are they cats,

or planets circling

a central sun,

or is it—a bowl?

Or is it merely the gold

at the center of everything?

I HAVE FOUND MY CARAVAN

I HAVE FOUND MY CARAVAN

. . . someone untied your camel last night

For I hear its gentle voice

Calling for God in the desert.

~Hafiz, trans. Daniel  Ladinsky

The camel loosed herself.

She ran off alone,

early in the morning

before I rose to load her

with the burdens of my day.

She was running free

between the dunes

as the Milky Way

faded into the silver of dawn.

When I whistled, she came,

docile, but with the wild gleam

of starlight deep

in her long-lashed eyes.