FELL SWOOP

 

 

FELL SWOOP

 

Tired at last of myself, 

the way I’ve been for seventy years—

tight and worried, wanting my perfect way—

in a swoop—and was it fell?—I laughed. 

Laughed at the coiled clay vase that wanted 

to be a fish, laughed at the poems 

that wouldn’t be printed in little magazines 

and at my past earnestness 

about the importance of that, laughed 

at my belief that those pants would

make me leggy like the model in the catalogue, 

that this diet or pill or “spiritual practice” 

would fix my — everything. 

And last night I split a bottle of Switchback

with Jean and we laughed at our husbands’ old jokes 

during what would once have been 

a nervous attempt at “dinner party” 

and we made spontaneous 

ice cream sandwiches for dessert 

from crispy brownies and ice cream 

straight from the carton, and I’m still laughing.

FIRST LIGHT

~in astronomy, the first use of a telescope

1.

A wall is not a bad thing

when one is ten years old and afraid.

Imagination is a good wall:

the goddesses of ancient Greece,

the stories in the stars, the fairies

living under the grasses and in the trees.

And girls in books,

their strength like stone:

Jo and Meg, Velvet Brown, Anne.

 

God makes a good wall, the sturdy one

I met at St. Luke’s, who spoke Elizabethan

in Father Pickard’s imitation British,

who smiled down on pious children.

Hymns made a sure foundation, 

the blue choir robe a kind of armor. 

And when one came of age,

the flat dissolve of the wafer, 

the strange warmth of wine.

 

2. 

Hadrian built this wall 

to keep wild blue people out. 

On our side, sanitation, hot baths,

birthday parties and socks.

On their side, the gods only know.

Dirt-floored huts, animal skins,

raw meat eaten with the hands?

Superstition. Barbaric sacrifices.

Look over the wall, if you dare.

What is hiding behind those stones?

 

3. 

Shall I list the things I fear,

what the walls keep out?

If I give them names,

will that give me power?

Can I clothe them,

give them form,

and seeing their weaknesses,

laugh them into oblivion?

Are they nothing 

but shadows after all?

Bears under the bed?

Barbarians painted blue?

 

4.

Sixty years ago

I could not stand

in front of Mother and say

Daddy is drunk and I hate it.

I’m going out into the field

to pull myself together

and then I’ll come back

and get on with my life.

I want you and Daddy

to solve this. 

Without my help.

 

5.

When my little grandson is afraid,

I can tell him:

This is what’s happening.

This will happen.

The mower is noisy

but we’re safe if we stand here.

The big truck will drive away.

The bird will not bite you.

Mommy will come back.

The shot will hurt and then

the hurt will stop. 

 

I can tell myself:

This story is mine.

The barbarians

are my grandmothers.

Nothing lasts forever.

I can open any door.

SITTING ON THE FRONT STEPS, 6:15 A.M.

SITTING ON THE FRONT STEPS, 6:15 A.M.

 

I’d forgotten how to begin

the day, the late summer

 

day, in the moistness,

the early coolness

 

when the bees are busy

in the jewelweed, when

 

the waning moon 

floats between dispersing 

 

clouds. What does the little

world of men have

 

to offer then? To offer them,

I mean. To offer me?

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

BACK TO THE EDGES OF ODDNESS

 

Since midsummer, fairies with green wings 

twinkle around my eyes all night long. 

They beg me to be invisible, 

offer me fernseed and a cap woven 

of milkweed and thistle fluff. 

The dog is restless when they are in the house, 

and my husband can’t sleep, 

and I can’t explain. The cats 

don’t seem to mind.

 

Whatever shall we do with realism, 

reason, logic, the sciences that deny 

the way things are? A cloud of demons, 

their sharp laughter, the steadfast angels 

raising their lavender shields. 

Every tree has a soul;  early in the morning

you can hear them singing to the sun. 

Their music wakes the birds. 

Angels are stars, balls of flaming gas. 

Everything is real, but more or less 

than anyone can imagine. 

God is everything. 

Nothing is mutually exclusive.

TRANSFIGURATION

TRANSFIGURATION

 

We knew the answers then, 

how it could be. Remember

that the old folks mostly hung back,

looked on kindly and amused. 

They knew as I know now

that everything would pass 

like those flickers on a cave wall. 

The community would shrink

and scatter. Ambition, death,

families—would do what they do. 

We’d wake up, sad, 

because the good dream was over.

We’d come down the mountain

twisting our ankles, sliding on scree,

bumping our heads on low branches. 

We’d be bitten by ticks and bears.

And after awhile, like those old 

mountaineers who went before,

we’d arrive at home,

sweep out our houses, 

get back to work.

Heat

 

HEAT

Heat eats time. Heat sits, placid 

monster, pale and bloated,

a vapid balloon across the land,

filling its maw with hours, 

ambitions, appetites,  joys.

It knocks birds from the sky,

cats from their windowsills.

Gardens sprout thermophilic

weeds and nobody cares.

No one can swim in the lake scum.

All the fans have broken.

 

Fighting is futile.

any knight who dares apprach

falls stuporous and weighted down.

 

Remember the cold?

Once upon a time 

it stretched its fine boned hands

over us, and what did we do then 

but whine?

Never again, we cry. 

O never again will we complain 

of its kind and gentle blue-frost smile.