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: SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

 

cap   rigid   lemon   peer   draw   meadow

 

SESTINA FOR THE SUMMER OF 2020

Like a drawing  by Van Gogh,

I stand rigid in the meadow. I wear my white cap. 

I peel a lemon, and peer at the trees.

I wear my white cap

though the brim is too rigid

for me to bend against the lemon-

brightness of the sun. I stand alone, peer

into the middle distance like a drawing

by Van Gogh of a woman in a meadow.

 

It is August, and the earth is dry. The meadow   

crackles with brown grasses capped  

with seeds. The summer draws 

to a close. Have we yet let go our rigid 

sense of what is real? My peers 

cannot guess. News sours me, like lemon.

 

When I was young, I wore lemon

cologne. I lay in this meadow 

beside a man—my peerless

lover—who wore a Greek fishing cap.

But our bones have gone rigid

with the years. We have drawn

 

living water so long. Now we draw

water grown bitter, like lemon

rind, and brackish, from a rigid

bottle. A butterfly wavers over the meadow

searching for one plant to cap 

with one pale egg. I peer

 

at her with shaded eyes, my only peer

now in this tight-drawn

season, this heated season, capped

with grasses the color of dried lemon  

peel. Under my feet, the meadow 

soil is hard, cracked, rigid

 

with the hard rigidity

of this rainless summer, a peerless

summer of an anxiety that a meadow

cannot know. The trees live on, drawing

their life from deeper water. The lemon

sun beats and beats on my white cap. 

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 #1

For the past few weeks, I have been the only poet in an online open studio. Instead of knitting last time, I decided to ask each of the other artists for a word, and I wrote this poem while they did their arts.

 

fuchsia

malleable

daffodil

liberty

 

The unpruned fuchsia in its faded pot

is a mess of sticks, spotty leaves, a few stunted buds.

It is not a malleable plant; 

it’s fussy about water and light.

Not like the daffodils. Every spring—

flood or freeze or April snow—

they push up through thickets of grasses

and edge the lawn with yellow and white.

I expect there is some liberty

in taking what is given, staying deep,

blooming from the settled bulb.

words: OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

raven

flimsy

brush

live

set 

crane

worry

 

 

OBSERVATIONS ON A HOT SUMMER MORNING

I recognize my friends by the worry behind their masks.

In town, the biggest crane we’ve ever seen

looms like something in a surreal movie set. 

 

Early this morning, I walked past a meadow

overgrown with weeds, the hopeless sticks of elm.

Raven flew close, brushed me with the shadow of her wing.

 

What does it mean to live these complicated days?

Have all days been this way, and ourselves

too caught up in flimsy occupation to notice?

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.

words: Nesting

NESTING

 

wall

kindle

fragile

flight

 

This morning, something— a gesture?

a word? a scrap of dream?—kindled

a yen for flight beyond   

these walls of age and time 

and choices made. But I remain, 

grounded in every sense, rooted

in a garden of my own construction.

 

A robin is building her nest

outside the window of the room

where I write, shaping the sticks

and grass with her muddy breast.

In the budding lilac, her mate sings.

If fates and jays agree, nestlings shall fledge,

fragile as imagined wings.

words: untitled

cheer

fizzle

green 

seat

 

Rain, nearly snow, yet

the robin speaks of spring,

of blue eggs, of cheer.

 

Who am I, to let hope

and joy fizzle away?

The lilac is sprouting green,

 

the muskrat, seated

by her reedy lair,

is washing her face,

 

and in the gray dogwood,

the yellow-throat

has found a starting place.

NAME THAT ROOT

NAME THAT ROOT

Knobby, greening,  hard white twists sprout in spring.

Planted, they draw stripy bugs who leave orange eggs

and thick red larvae that squash to a gooey mess.

 

Their poisonous leaves  draw spores of blights.

They soften, slime and perish.

So basic their absence can mean famine. 

 

Growing them is a chore, a back-breaker,

but in late summer, grabbling them 

with your grandchild means a feast.

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.