words: ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

soil

flight

farther

tingle

 

ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

1

After the scanty rainfall yesterday (or was it the day before?), I planted beans. Six rows of black beans. I crawled along on my hands and knees to set them in the furrows and cover them with soil. As I patted the soil in place, I left my handprints to show that I’d been there.

2.

On our morning walk, the dog and I noticed a red-tailed hawk watching us from a power line. As we approached, she took flight and landed in a dead elm tree beside the newly cut hayfield on the other side of the road.

3.

Most days, I walk a bit farther than four miles. Today I was cold and wanted to get home to start the laundry. When the washing is all in the machine, perhaps I’ll vacuum the rug. That seems about all I can manage these days:  walks and housework.

4.

Tomorrow—no—the next day—tomorrow is Tuesday—my husband and I will sit in my study and wait for the computer tingle that signals our son’s weekly call. It will be good to see the children. The three-year old tries to touch us through the screen. She has skin like a bisque doll, and enormous blue eyes. There are so many things she will never have to know.

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

April again: Line one, 2016

Rearranged, and the grammar changed to protect the guilty.

 

LINE ONE, 2016

I have forgotten how to sleep. 

I don’t do things I resist. 

I do not like beets or old goat cheese.

I know what is going on below the surface.

I think I’ll save the dollhouse that my parents made.

 

It was late winter.

We drove all afternoon and into the night

as if the only reality was the car—

He told me he’d killed the coiled dragon

here in this country called US.

So many trees across the path.

 

These levers, bellows—

Tonic. Sub-dominant. Every Good Boy. 

We preferred tunes in the Crixian mode.

 

Don’t think about walking down the stairs.

It’s bad enough falling, or being chased.

All the women in our family have affairs. 

 

If you’re wise,

forget the damned button—

it’s so small.

 

You know the watering can?

It reminded me of that morning. 

It’s best to pretend it never happened.

 

Thanks a bunch, Kari.  Just what I need —to focus. 

What, precisely, is the point?

Not so much the spot of blindness

I might have been. 

 

In the beginning, I thought I’d learn

the way they forget to.

Oh, my vice, my difficulty! 

 

Goldfinches edge the lawn.

Now, I am drawn to gray, November,

the gannets, 

cold chłodnik* green with dill. 

 

Sleep, little one, sleep.

When I was a child, I could fly.

   

*you say “whod-neek” 

NAME THAT ROOT

NAME THAT ROOT

Knobby, greening,  hard white twists sprout in spring.

Planted, they draw stripy bugs who leave orange eggs

and thick red larvae that squash to a gooey mess.

 

Their poisonous leaves  draw spores of blights.

They soften, slime and perish.

So basic their absence can mean famine. 

 

Growing them is a chore, a back-breaker,

but in late summer, grabbling them 

with your grandchild means a feast.

BIRTHDAY

BIRTHDAY

We’ll sing her the birthday song

we’ve done it three times now

for that girl named after my mother,

with my mother’s profile.

Her blue eyes that stayed that way.

Feisty from the beginning—

sure of herself, surefooted, sure

of her wants. Monsters beware!

Disguised as one of them, she conquers. 

From the tops of trees  and towers she reigns.

words: NANA WASN’T A LADY

NANA WASN’T A LADY

I have lied about my Nana. 

She was not elegant. 

She was short and round and sweaty. 

In her old-time woolen bathing suit, 

twirling a red umbrella

as she danced down the beach,

embarrassing Mother. 

 

To guests, she served slabs of apfelkuchen 

with heavy mugs of strong coffee.

In spring, she made elderflower fritters.

When Mother was anemic,

Nana made her beef tea

and duck’s blood soup.

 

She snooped through the lives

of her younger sisters, 

telephoned them every day,

scolded them, loved them.

 

When she wanted to roast a goose

she went to the market

to buy a live one. She carried it

home in a basket. On the streetcar.

Mother wanted to be invisible.

 

Mother wanted to be a lady.

“She’s a real lady” was Mother’s highest praise.

It took me years to shed

the linen tablecloth and napkins,

the bone china teacups Mother

thought I should collect even though

I prefer coffee in a heavy mug.

Words: By Way of Contrast

coffeepot

filigree

chase

novel

 

BY WAY OF CONTRAST

Grandmother’s silver coffeepot—

fine filigree around the handle,

chasing and repoussé patterning the lid.

The matching creamer, 

sugarbowl with tongs.

Her white linen napkins,

bone china cups.

 

My Mr. Coffee maker.

My red ceramic sugar bowl

patterned with spirals and stars. 

My white creamer—novel souvenier

from Columbus, Ohio.

My red-checked tablecloth.

My heavy blue pottery mug.

EXILE

This is the result of a writing exercise I’m doing with a couple of friends. Each of us offers a word, and then each of us makes a piece of writing using those words.  

WORDS:

latitude    embroidery     coil

EXILE

How, you ask me, do I live?

I have come so far, so very far

 

from the earths that shaped my bones,

the people who gave me blood and breath.

 

I make my choices, hold my connections.

I wash my long gray hair in rainwater

 

I catch in a bowl in my garden.

I dry my hair in the sunshine,

 

brushing it in the warmth

and light, the way Matka taught,

 

the way my sisters do

in my home place, in my latitude

 

of memory. I plait a four-strand braid,

coil it around my head. One by one,

 

in ritual, I lift the bone hairpins 

from the linen pouch Babcia gave me

 

as she gave to each granddaughter. 

I think of her, remember her

 

working the red embroidery,

the five-petaled flowers,the long-tailed birds.

MOTHERS, DESCENDING

MOTHERS, DESCENDING

~for my friends who have been here

Everyone has at least

one. As we get old, 

they vanish like dreams 

in the morning. They fall

back into the place of arising,

that holy or unholy womb

of world that held us all.

As they go, they show us.

They echo their beginnings.

Like the three-year old 

who awakens murmuring 

the sharkopuss is going down, down,

they fall asleep explaining how

we resemble their daughters.

Because, of course, perhaps

that’s who we are.

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

TWILIGHT’S LAST GLEAMING

Awoke this morning 

with the National Anthem

playing in my head.

I despised it in my youth

for its warlike passion, and 

I have changed my mind.

O say, can you see? 

 

I thought about my father,

battle-fatigued farmboy

who drank to forget how 

his B24 was shot down,

how his buddy blew up

beside him. How he 

always stood for the flag.

Does the Banner yet wave?

 

I thought of my Oma,

fifteen years old and alone,

wearing a red flannel petticoat 

her mama made to keep her warm,

how she saw Lady Liberty

standing in the harbor

in the dawn’s early light,

how she watched the Lady 

grow larger and larger, 

lifting her torch in welcome

to the home of the brave.