STREET DANCE–and the process

I wrote this last year. The finished poem, if a poem is ever “finished” is the first one. It’s followed by the rough draft and various revisions.

 

STREET DANCE

We have not come so far;

we are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

There are bears among the stones.

Everyone knows how to dance—

the woman twirling in her short skirt,

her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, 

old people and their little dogs,

the children in their wild cavort.

 

 

how I got there:

 

STREET DANCE

At sunset, young animals 

make ephemeral alliances 

and run and run.

Human children here are doing that now

while adults dance, or watch,

or play in the band.

Everyone knows how to dance,

even the people sitting in the folding chairs

chatting, eating ice cream.

Mostly it works, 

what we do. Even though

we’re too far away.

We think we’re here, 

but our brains—

those soft machines—

still live in caves of bones.

A tiger behind every tree.

We need mates, enough space

to gather and hunt and defend.

Our children.

Bands of brothers. 

A powerful sisterhood.

Sharp memory of every fear.

The gods need room 

to speak to us—

they leave spaces in our skulls.

If the gods are gone

we fill the holes ourselves.

What will become of us—

these children in their wild cavort,

the woman twirling in her short skirt

and her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, the old people

in their baseball hats, sitting

on the benches in front of the post office,

holding their little dogs 

or resting their hands on their canes.

July 17, 2017

 

STREET DANCE

Consider: our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. We need 

mates, children, enough space to gather and hunt. 

There are bears among the stones, panthers in the trees.

We remember every fear. The gods 

need room to speak to us.

If the gods are gone we fill the holes ourselves.

 

At sunset, young animals make ephemeral alliances 

and run and run. Human children 

are running together now while adults

dance, or watch, or play in the band.

Everyone knows how to dance,

even the people in the folding chairs

eating ice cream. Eating ice cream

is another way of dancing.

 

What will become of us—

the woman twirling in her short skirt,

her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, the old people on the benches 

in front of the post office, holding their little dogs 

or resting their hands on their canes.

Our children in their wild cavort.

August 28, 2017

 

STREET DANCE

We have not come so far;

we are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

There are bears among the stones.

Human children in their tribes

hunt across the green.

We all know how to dance—

the woman twirling in her short skirt,

her partner in his green shirt,

those flirting girls, 

old people holding little dogs 

or resting their hands on canes.

Young primates in their wild cavort.

undated  but with the comment: (Fairly soon, there will be no poem left.)

 

STREET DANCE

We have not come so far;

we are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

 

STREET DANCE

We are so close to home—

our brains—those soft machines— 

still live in caves of bones. 

September 14

CAVE

CAVE

 

I was in Shaw’s to buy veggie burgers,

making my way down the winding aisles

of chips and sodas, pet foods, cans and jars

and bags of this and that. I’d been annoyed

by the heat, the traffic delay on Route 

17, the new medicine added

this week to my list, because I’m growing

old. I thought of that boy in the cave who 

speaks 5 languages, told them what to bring.

A boy—at 14 more grown up than I—

without a country, and every day I

complain of mine. In the Times—his thin

face peering through the gloom. I bought my

veggie burgers, and drove the 6 miles home.

THE SHELL OF BELIEFS

from a prompt

THE SHELL OF BELIEFS

 

The chambered nautilus expands,

seals off each outgrown space,

and yet the empty rooms remain

as spiraled witness to the change.

 

The growing shell is not a burden

to the wanderer inside

who uses it to stay afloat,

and when it’s time, to dive.

 

And thus may we use all we’ve known

and all that we’ve believed

to navigate the sea we’re in

as long as we’re alive.

GARDEN PARTY

Garden Party

in honor of ol’ Walt Kelly

We are dancing on a dingbat 

in the fury of a gale

while a wiley alligator 

winds a kitestring on his tail,

and we do not have to worry 

if the fury can’t abate,

for the foolish old bassoon man 

has a catfish on his plate

and the streamlined fancy foremast 

casts a shadow on our fate.

 

O, the moral of the story 

is the wellspring of the fool,

and the quarrel of the sorry 

is the spinning of the spool.

 

When the roses grow forgotten 

in the gardens of the moon

and the chickens all fly skyward 

on the string of the balloon, 

when the demons do their darndest 

to knock acorns from the tree

and the long-awaited pirate ship 

comes sailing from the sea,

then we’ll know it’s time to cut the cake 

and have a cup of tea.   

 

O, the moral of the story 

is the wellspring of the fool,

and the quarrel of the sorry 

is the spinning of the spool.

 

I wrote this ages ago, in imitation of the great Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” poetry.

NEWS FROM THE FRONT

NEWS FROM THE FRONT

Meanwhile, the wrens who nest

in the wooden pole that holds up

the clothesline are feeding their hatchlings.

 

All day long, they come and go,

poke bugs into the dark hole

where the babies eat, and grow.

 

The dog barks on the porch.

A great-crested flycatcher rests

for a minute on a blooming branch

 

of dogwood. I sit on an overturned

flowerpot in the garage, watching

through a dirty window.  A chipmunk

 

squeals and runs away. A breeze

flashes through the grass. A red-eyed

vireo sings on and on.

BROWN ANOLES

BROWN ANOLES

1.

Everglades in the dry season. 

Alligator tracks in mudflats, 

mangroves reaching for wet. 

A turtle with a red head, 

one swallowtail kite, 

a brown canal of white birds. 

So much itself, so damaged, 

but when we are gone 

and the river of grass 

overtakes the canals, and the sea 

takes the highrises and malls 

our bones will join the shells

on the shores.

 

2.

Beside a turquoise pool, 

lizards appear and vanish 

on the edges of sight, 

discrete motions, 

particles, not waves. 

Brown anoles, delicate 

and charming wisps of life, 

invasive killers, displacers—

so lovely, so terrible.

 

3.

What could they give me to get me to stay? 

No money, surely, no luxurious house. 

Not here, this land of traffic and noise 

where people live by selling things 

and fixing things and cleaning things—

streets and pools and lawns 

and the tops of the walls built 

to keep out people like themselves 

unless they’re cleaning or fixing.

 

4.

The plastic dinosaurs in the botanical garden 

roar above the calling birds. 

The screen house is filled with butterflies. 

Brown anoles eat them. 

Anoles eat everything—their own babies, 

their own molted skins, their broken tails. 

Anoles everywhere. 

One climbs an orchid stem, 

puffs out his orange throat in threat.

One of the dinosaurs looks like a chicken. 

T. rex’s tiny forelimbs are disturbing. 

It’s hot, too hot even for Florida in May. 

DOUBLE DACTYLS

 

DOUBLE DACTYLS

Written over a period of several months. Try it sometime. . . 

 

1.

Hopalong Cassidy

rode into London, his

horse was worn out from the

long ocean dip.

 

Hop said “The horse is so

antediluvian

next time I’ll make it an

aeroplane trip.”

 

 

2.

Thomas Sterns Eliot

wrote lots of poetry,

most of it excellent;

much of it sold.

 

Thomas, however, was

malasartorial–

pants were too long, so he

wore the things rolled.

 

 

3.

Theodore Roosevelt

went out a-trampling in-

to the deep forest in

search of big game.

 

There by a brook sat a

parasaurolophus–

long thought extinct, and

as huge as its name.

 

 

4.

Little Red Riding Hood

minded her mother and

went to her Grandma’s a-

long the right trail.

 

Wolf never met her, so

characteristically

old Jakob Grimm had to

make up the tale.

 

 

5.

Susan B. Anthony,

activist feminist,

thought if she worked hard she’d

get things to change.

 

Who could have guessed that such

antiestablishment

patterns of thinking would

still seem so strange?

 

 

6.

Frederick Wertheimer,

great Common Causer, be-

lieves the campaign style is

wicked and wrong.

 

Most politicians, so

unsocialistically’re

happy to sell out their

souls for a song.

 

 

7.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

dressed in his Sunday best

called on Rebecca of

Sunnybrook Farm.

 

He never liked her, so

unsympathetically

twisted her elbow which

caused her great harm.

 

 

8.

Jolly St. Nicholas,

frequently flying, one

eve in December a-

bandoned his flight:

 

“I’m sick of being so

omnidirectional.

Christmas be damned, and to

all a Good Night.”

 

 

9.

Princess Elizabeth

learned about protocol,

minded her manners and

kept her nails clean.

 

Good that she did, given

heritability:

when she was grown, they sang

God save the Queen.

 

 

10.

Jacqueline Kennedy,

so very stylish–de-

signers kept busy cre-

ating her shifts.

 

When she was widowed, she

un-Cassandra-ically

didn’t beware of a

Greek bearing gifts.

 

 

11.

President Kennedy

lived in the White House and

said “For your country ask

what you can do.”

 

I think up dactyls and

hypercompulsively

save them in notebooks.  So–

how about you?