words: Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

1.  I have never paced when I am in distress. I stand, rooted, staring, generally out the kitchen window at whatever birds I can notice eating the suet that we hang in little wire baskets from the canopy supports on the deck. This morning, I saw a pair of white-throated sparrows and a pair of catbirds and a pair of cardinals and a single male downy woodpecker.

2.  The route of my morning walk is flat for awhile, then slopes gently downhill to a worn-out barn on the brink of a gully.  Jim keeps old-fashioned electric Christmas candles in the barn windows. The road then slants uphill until on the left there is an unpaved side road going farther up past an old hillfarm cemetery before connecting back to a main road. My road flattens out again to a swamp where grackles and red-winged black birds and swamp sparrows are nesting now.

3.  Our granddaughter extended her hand toward the web camera to show us a book. She recited Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing Song” for me. My mother, for whom she is named, taught it to me when I was three, and our son taught it to our grandchildren.

4. I wish I could come up with an idea for a big project:  a play, or a series of poems. I simply don’t have enough energy to extend myself much beyond the usual “poem a day,” and even those are getting sillier.

5.  Nettles are creeping down the driveway from the little patch I planted ten years ago so I could harvest them for tea. I don’t harvest them. I’m trying to pull them up by the roots so they won’t take over the whole place. “Remember . . /the nettles that methodically overgrow /the abandoned homes of exiles.” (Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh)

6.  I told our grandson I heard a towhee this morning. Our son asked him if he remembered what they say. “Drink your tee hee hee hee,” he answered, smiling his slanty little smile.

7.  My husband is extending his trip out into the world today—not just the usual route to the grocery store and home again, but a side trip to the pharmacy to get medicine for the cat’s hair loss and more milk thistle and vitamin D for us. He brought two pairs of gloves. 

8.  Linda emailed a poem to me, “the one she’s been waiting for,” she said. Nadine Anne Hura wrote it, “for Papatuanuku, Mother Earth.” She calls on the Mother to “Breathe easy and settle,” and tells her “We’ll stop, we’ll cease/We’ll slow down and stay home”  It would be a change of pace—hell, it would be a change of everything these days to have a president who shares poetry with us, or who even reads poetry. Or anything, for that matter.

9. Just after sunset, I took Julie down the driveway as usual. It was clear and pleasant, so I did not hurry, but strolled along at her doggy pace.  Watching her check the smells—deer? rabbits? that bear our neighbor saw?—along the way puts a fresh slant on things.

 

 

A zuihitsu is a Japanese form, consisting of loosely connected fragments written mostly in response to the writer’s surroundings. The word means “follow the brushstroke.”  For more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book

ANOTHER WALK DOWN THE SAME ROAD

ANOTHER WALK DOWN THE SAME ROAD

 

I don’t understand “routine.”

Nothing bores.

Something crossed the road, here.

 

I don’t know what, yet. I don’t know when—

yesterday at sunset, or in the dark, or at dawn—

that’s what I’m trying to discover.

 

If you had the sense, I’d tell you.

If you would stop pulling and walk nicely,

you would not miss countless meadow voles,

 

chipmunks crouching in the roadside brushpiles,

the red squirrel peering from a hole in the dead pine,

the owl lumbering through the trees.

 

Stop. Sit. Wait.

Even now, in the woods 

at the edge of the long hay field, something stirs.

 

ODDNESS AGAIN

ODDNESS AGAIN  

  ~That Bluebird Fair is back

Oh, how the edges are odd! 

Bread from white flour,

coffee carefully measured.

Opera in the afternoons.

Friends on the screen.

Walking on the other side.

Stop, says the sage, and I stop

in the driveway when the dog

stops to pee. Before sunrise:

a robin is singing, a cardinal,

a dove. Look: the bare trees

against a gray sky. The house

with her red roof, smoke rising

from the chimney, a light

shining in the kitchen window.

 

(Brother David Steindl-Rast recommends practicing “Stop. Look. Go” as a way of remembering to be grateful.)

HUNTER

HUNTER

 

 

Life has given me a yellow dog

who noses the ground.

Shall we go hunting? I ask her, 

and she laughs.

 

She eagers her way down the drive,

shows me where deer trailed 

into the woods, where rabbits

skittered into brambles. 

 

She raises her head

to catch something in the air—

a whiff of owl? A drift of horse 

from the neighbor’s barn?

Fox, fisher, coyote, stray cat? 

There is so much out there

to track and find.

 

Hunter ascends at dawn, 

her crescent no longer

the crown of youth but

the mark of crone. 

 

She glows in the cold sky

above the house where

my husband still sleeps.

Her light is enough to see by,

and what shall I see?

There is so much out here

to track and find.

ONCE MORE

ONCE MORE

” . . . I am not who I was,

though some principle of being

abides. . . “

       ~Stanley Kunitz, “The Layers”

 

 

 

Is this it? Enlighten-

ment? The sudden knowledge

that despite all, despite

sadness, digestion, pain,

there is Self from which I

struggle not to stray, that

looks out from the same eyes

that I had when I was

ten and knew I was a

lone person who could cope

with whatever life I

got? So often subsumed

but here I am again,

in my bug-jacket, in

the driveway, with the dog.

Once more, it is morning.

THE SWING

THE SWING

~after Marc Chagall

 

His mouth is open, mid-sentence.

The soles of his shoes are yellow,

his pants are green, his jacket

is blue. The figure behind the swing

is a brown blur. The swing

is in mid-arc, coming toward

the artist. In the ether 

above the child, three cats

and a dog named Crazy

who is brown as Earth

are springing into being. 

Crazy went away once

for a fortnight. When he got home,

he fell asleep at once. The animals

came with the swinging child

when he drove from California

to Vermont in one day.  The cats

are named Thak, Willy, and Quilly.

They all died before you were born.

 

 

~Realized the next day that this is an imaginary Chagall painting. NOT Cassatt!

 

 

APRIL 10, 2019: REPORT

April 19, 2019: REPORT

 

Here in Vermont, for instance, it’s Spring. 

A robin sings in the scraggly pines

next to the drive. The sun rises through deep

pink cloud, so rain coming. Daffodil spikes,

free at last from the long weight

of snow, have pushed up through the mass of flat

leaves out by the mailbox.The dog says 

a rabbit, or something, under the yews.

The house smells like fresh coffee. The ink flows

easy, like the inconsequential

run-off brook through the woods beside the house.

The house still stands.

THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE

 

Only one.

Painted in yellow ochre,

her black eyes shine with calcite.

Her teats are distended with milk, 

her curved tail suggests motion.

You wouldn’t notice her.

Indeed, she was not noticed 

for years since she is small,

overshadowed by the horses,

the lions and bulls;

since she was not officially domestic

for another twenty thousand years.

Beneath her, in the dust,

a fragment of mammoth bone.

Painted above her head, 

a single handprint,

again in the yellow.

A small hand, carefully placed,

poised as if to caress.

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

Let there be no routine.

Let the white cat disturb

your meditation,

the black cat interfere

with your tai chi.

May the dog demand

to go out while you’re trying

to pray. 

May your husband knock

on your study door 

because he cannot find 

his glasses. 

Your old friend will call

while you are chopping onions

in a mindful way.

Answer the phone.

MEDITATION WITH ANIMALS

MEDITATION WITH ANIMALS

 

I set my coffee cup on the table, 

open the book for lectio divina.

I will not light the candle today

because the north wind blows through the window. 

The white cat creeps up onto the table

and asks to be in my lap. I comply. 

I open the book. The dog, who has been

asleep on the couch, looks out the window

and sees a rabbit in the yard. She screams

to go out. I set the cat down, cover

my cup with a saucer to keep the coffee

warm, replace the bookmark, and get up to

let the dog out. My husband, who had trouble 

sleeping last night, is still asleep on the

porch, so I guide the dog past him, silent. 

I hold the dog’s collar till I’m sure 

the rabbit has escaped through a holes in

the fence, and I let the dog go. She tears

around the yard. I return to my table 

and book, listening for the dog’s call to 

come in. The cat settles back on my lap. 

I read a sentence, and there is the bark. 

I do not cover my coffee this time, 

but go through the porch to the back door 

and let the dog in without waking my

husband. I give the dog her rawhide bone

dipped in peanut butter and return to 

the table, the cat, and the lukewarm 

coffee. I read another sentence.