CAMP FIRE WOMEN

CAMP FIRE WOMEN

My friend Julie is a Fire Keeper.

Sometimes all night she watches,

holds the flame at the center

of the world. It is her sacred way.

 

And mine? To search the forest,

to gather the wood: This for kindling,

this for tinder, this for cleansing,

this for a long and steady burn.


			

TIGHTROPE

TIGHT ROPE

My ancestors did this, so I can.

I’ve practiced for this all my life—

to be suspended between cliff edges

above a chasm filled with rapids and rocks.

Without a net.

I’ve done the high wire a zillion times. 

It makes no difference

whether there’s a chasm or a sawdust floor. 

The far edge is in sight.

Breathe. 

My thin-slippered feet

move along the cable.

Cloud shadows, a bird shadow.

One foot in front of the other.

Eyes ahead, toward the edge—

where someone is bending

picking at the cable with a little knife

and no one is there to stop him.

Will it hold? Will it hold?

I can not take time to be afraid.

My ancestors did this, so I can.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

One step, one step, one step

words: Open Studio Poem #2

with thanks to Kathy, David, Kathy, and Wanda

 

lazy

looking glass

friend

pluck

OPEN STUDIO POEM 2

Too lazy today to pay attention

to the face in the looking glass—

mirror, mirror on the wall

Does it matter what we look like?

I’m learning lately to be

my own friend. The kind

of friend I need. A friend

with pluck. Spunk. The kind

of nerve it takes to ignore

the face and see

what’s on the other side.

words: Is it too late to invent America?

sand

braid

task

invent

rife

mauve

 

 

Is it too late to invent America?

1.

While the sky outside turned mauve, 

Kushner’s Belize said, “I hate America. . . .

You come to room 1013 over at the hospital. . 

I’ll show you America. 

Terminal, crazy and mean.” 

In a city rife with AIDS, 

every day he did his tasks.

Compassion isn’t what you think.

 

2.

Nobody knows what Jesus wrote

in the sand, but the men dropped their stones

and crept away, one by one. 

No one is without sin

and it’s a commonplace to hate in others

our own grimmest angels.

I hate people who aren’t compassionate.

 

3.

America has never been great

and we’ve never had a decent metaphor.

From the beginning, the pot didn’t hold us all—

why should we stew and amalgamate? 

How about a braid—not of hair, but of water—

slow river moving over a delta, 

living streams carrying their histories,

interlacing,  winding toward one sea.

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.

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.

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.

GIVEN

 

The poem that I wrote this morning, for “poetry month” is pretty ghastly, even by my daily poem standards. So here’s one I wrote awhile ago.

 

GIVEN

God so loved the world that he gave. 

Please stop there. Don’t go on

about belief. Remember

 

what Jesus said before

conditions were applied.

A pearl. A treasure in a field. 

 

A banquet open to all who’d come.

The father who released it all—

Everything I have is yours.

 

The Samaritan gave. The fig tree didn’t.

Uncautious servants took a chance.

Take what is yours and go your way.

 

Give to Caesar his silver and gold.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive.

A dishonest steward did.

 

Some bridesmaids claimed

there was not enough. 

A lad assumed there was

 

and gave his lunch

for thousands to eat.

Twelve basketsful of crumbs.

 

A sower’s wild casting

made more and more.

And more: lilies and ravens.

 

And still: your cloak and coat.

Another cheek, another mile.

Blessed are you who are poor.

AND NOW, A LOOK AT THE WORD “NORMAL”

AND NOW, A LOOK AT THE WORD “NORMAL”

 

Routine, yes? Common.  Usual. Ordinary. 

No surprises, no unplanned happenings. 

Nothing up this sleeve. 

 

No secret compartments,

mysterious strangers,

unexpected doors behind bookcases.

 

No white rabbits with pocket watches.

No huts on chicken legs.

No novel viruses, homemade

 

masks, curbside shopping,

No fairy godmothers. No friendly giants.

No geese laying golden eggs.