words: Open Studio Poem #3

Open Studio Poem #3:  USE THE WHOLE PAGE

The point is growth toward beginning.

Start againnothing flat or square

this time learn to move in three

dimensionscubic, spherical. Can you

write like a dancer? Paint

like an actor? Draw like

a potter? Remember knitting

how to turn a heel, shape

a sleeve from a strand.

DO THAT WITH WORDS.

USE THE WHOLE PAGE.

FILL IT WITH SHAPE AND

COLOR AND SOUND AND FLAVOR

BITTER GREENS AND HOT PEPPERS

AND LEMON ZEST.  WRITE 

BIG AND ROUND.

USE THE WHOLE PAGE

words: Open Studio Poem #4

OPEN STUDIO POEM #4

final   granite  light  synchronize

Rilke said, “No feeling is final.”

Not even granite is permanent—

it crumbles and weathers into parts.

And isn’t it a fine thing

that nothing stays the same?

Time is after all unsynchronized space,

shifting into shapes that cannot last.

Therefore, do not fret.

Keep your touch light,

or maybe don’t touch at all. 

Simply breathe.

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. 

SWAN LAKE

SWAN LAKE

 

I was washing the supper dishes,

and on the radio came “Swan Lake.” 

Since I don’t dance, I conducted. 

As I waved my dishcloth in time,

it dawned on me like slow winter sunrise

that Pyotr was himself a swan

trapped by his times in the form 

of a bearded man. 

                                 If he lived today

he could dance in feathers and white satin, 

caught and steadied by a beautiful prince.

No sorcerer would do him harm.

He would be full of grace and celebration.

And at the end, he would ascend 

above the Lake, and shine. 

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

KINDERGARTEN CLAY

 

 

My clay things are childish, lumpy,

heavy-glazed. Jizus in ting chin

or whatever that brown glaze is,

with unglazed heads 

that don’t quite fit. A vase

dripping with blue globs.

 

I’m making crêche figures—

faceless fingerprinty Mary

and Joseph, a baby

the size of a kidney bean

who fits inside a tiny pod.

Animals from children’s dreams.

 

My favorite so far is a blue fish

with a red mouth and runny

eyes. It waits with baited

yellow tongue on my desk to remind

me that everything is process,

that perfection is overrated,

never attained.

 

 

LABYRINTH

Red boards, white halls.

Posters and paint.

 

The inside of a piano. 

A washer full of light.

 

Two stairways

to one long corridor.

 

You do not have a clue.

You do not need one.

 

If you are lost, cry out,

no doubt someone

 

will hear you.

You will always be found.

 

What you do 

is up to you.

 

At the center—

no minotaur—

 

a glass door. Behind it,

earnest, commanding

 

fairies are waiting.

What did you expect?

 

Their Queen,

at first glance seems

 

innocent, unwinged.

Little do you know. 

 

Her throne a desk.

Her wand a pen.

 

Enter at your peril. 

Are you ready

 

to love the edges?

To practice not-doing?

 

Are you ready

to change your life?

 

 

 

DRAWING LESSON

I wrote this years ago for my friend Maggie, who at age 80 started modeling for art students, because, she said, “They need to know what old people look like.”  She liked the poem, and recorded herself reading it back to me. She died a couple of years ago, in her 90s. I miss her.

 

DRAWING LESSON

—in memory of Maggie Miller

 

Here you are, most with a world ahead,

some with half a world behind,

come to draw the human form.

And here I am naked before you

so comfortable, easy

in my eighty year old skin.

 

I love my folds,

metamorphosed mountains.

You think you can draw 

an old woman, dear babies?

Lean in, look hard.

It will cost you all your life.

 

I have been down deep, 

through muscle, sinew, bone.

Loved long a man long dead,

borne a son and let him go.

I am learning how to pray

and I laugh when you ask me to tell.

 

In my time I have come

to the heart’s solid core–

heat of life and more–

Now over you I pour 

my fire like water.

From where I lie I see

the place the stars will rise.

 

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.

COUNTRY WEDDING

COUNTRY WEDDING

~Berthe Morisot, 2019

Oil on canvas

 

Stacked blocks of whiteness 

narrow to a steeple. 

 

A white tent stretches

over blue shade. Shapes

 

of color clothe the guests. 

All around is green.

 

In the midground, 

five children scamper

 

with two yellow dogs.

Close to the frame, 

 

two women— one

in red boots— and three

 

men are playing bocce.

Their shadows are long.

 

Deep in the trees 

a robin starts a song.