words: SIX TREASURED THINGS: A ZUIHITSU

rigid   draw    meadow   peer     lemon       cap

(another one with those words)

 

 

SIX TREASURED THINGS:  A ZUIHITSU

1. A rigid plastic lawn chair, one of four that my parents kept on the deck of their condominium. I keep it on the front step from spring till snow.  I sit there at sunrise and sunset, watching the yellow light flicker like sparks between the leaves.

2.  The white linen cap I bought in Traverse City in a shop that sold hats and, unexpectedly, wine-making supplies. A young friend told me that when I wear it, I remind him of Yoko Ono. I wear it often.

3. Our backyard. It was forest, then meadow, then lawn, and it is now growing up again into forest. We’ve reserved a patch of grass around the house, and bits for vegetables and flowers, but what was barren lawn is filling up with grasses and goldenrod, bramble and sumac, gray dogwood and pine and oak. Five years ago, I planted one solemn young chestnut tree as an act of defiance.

4.The drawing of a cat we had for a few months. Her name was Nanette, and she was tri-colored, and very small. The old woman who gave her to us could not keep her. “There’s something wrong with her,” she told us, and there was. In the drawing, Nanette is curled, sleeping, in a chair that once was in the living room and is now in the kitchen. The drawing was made by an artist friend who stayed with us for a summer—along with her husband and three children—in the room that once was our guest room, and is now the study where I write.

5. The lemons I always have by me. Here is a new maxim I try to live by: When in doubt, add lemon. To vegetables, to pastas, to soda water, to soup. The scent of lemon revives me and a lick of lemon opens my senses to all the good in the world that remains. 

6. Ursula Le Guin wrote “There was nothing she could do, but there was always the next thing to be done.” I treasure a company of peers—poets, artists, women who keep doing the next thing, and the next thing, and the next.

GIVEN

 

The poem that I wrote this morning, for “poetry month” is pretty ghastly, even by my daily poem standards. So here’s one I wrote awhile ago.

 

GIVEN

God so loved the world that he gave. 

Please stop there. Don’t go on

about belief. Remember

 

what Jesus said before

conditions were applied.

A pearl. A treasure in a field. 

 

A banquet open to all who’d come.

The father who released it all—

Everything I have is yours.

 

The Samaritan gave. The fig tree didn’t.

Uncautious servants took a chance.

Take what is yours and go your way.

 

Give to Caesar his silver and gold.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive.

A dishonest steward did.

 

Some bridesmaids claimed

there was not enough. 

A lad assumed there was

 

and gave his lunch

for thousands to eat.

Twelve basketsful of crumbs.

 

A sower’s wild casting

made more and more.

And more: lilies and ravens.

 

And still: your cloak and coat.

Another cheek, another mile.

Blessed are you who are poor.

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.

COMMUNION

COMMUNION

 

All morning we cleaned the shed beside the church—

one of those places all over America

where the hungry poor come to stand in line

for day-old bread and canned beans,

for commodity tubes of hamburger,

bags of shredded orange cheese,

MRE-style pouches of beef stew.

We hauled out the cardboard and the plastic 

from the cases of cans of corn 

and mac-and-cheese and fruit cocktail.

We scrubbed down the rusty metal shelves;

we vacuumed up the dust, tidied the refrigerators.

We made room in the freezers 

for the dated meats and donuts and pies 

another crew pickes up from the market.

 

We didn’t talk much. 

We know each other well enough 

to work in silence— 

four women, the Tuesday volunteers,

each of us old enough to have a few scars.

At noon, Phyllis handed out some 

blueberry muffins she’d baked. 

We took a break, ate 

standing outside in the parking lot

in the late September sunshine.

Then we got back to work.

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.

March Prompt #7: The Chair that was First Owned by my Great-Great Uncle Asa

THE CHAIR THAT WAS FIRST OWNED BY MY GREAT-GREAT UNCLE ASA

March Prompt #7

He wasn’t actually my uncle. He was my cousin’s uncle, on the other side of her family, you see, but we called him uncle because of that chair. It was passed on to my cousin’s Great Aunt Martha (not my great-aunt, just hers) who was his second daughter-in-law, and she passed it on to her son Freddy, who of course was my cousin’s actual uncle. He was the youngest in that family. Johnny, the middle one, married a Brady girl, and we have, at least my husband has, connections to the Bradys since his sister-in-law’s first husband was a Brady, and her oldest daughter. She didn’t marry his brother till he died. My husband’s. brother. Anyway, Freddy—my cousin’s real Uncle Freddy but we all called him that, used to come to Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bet’s. She was my cousin’s mother, Dad’s sister. So he was my uncle’s brother by marriage. He was the oldest.  Never married. No one ever said why, but we have our suspicions. And one Thanksgiving, when he sat down at the table on that rickety old chair—you know how everybody has to haul out all the chairs at Thanksgiving if there’s a big crowd and there was always a big crowd at Aunt Bet’s since she and Dad were two of seven and Uncle John—not the John who married the Brady girl—that was Freddy’s brother—my uncle who was Aunt Bet’s husband had the same name—  was one of four and by then they all had kids, except Uncle Freddy, and she always took in strays besides. People, I mean, but she did take in some cats, too, but mostly they stayed up in the barn except that orange one that everybody called Blink because it was missing an eye. But he sat on that old chair and even though he was pretty skinny it broke under him. Bumped his head on the edge of the table on his way down. We all laughed, and so did he, but he was never the same after. Neither was the chair, so Uncle John threw the chair in the fire and Uncle Freddy had to sit on a stack of apple crates they hauled in from the shed.

March Prompt #0: ALLOWED

ALLOWED

March Prompt #1

No purpose but pleasure:

Tai Chi before breakfast,

coffee’s bitter “Aha!”

Not to clean the air

but because it’s lovely,

the pink cactus flower

above the desk.

Bread is not nutrition.

Wine is not a drug

to make you live long.

It’s not exercise,

the morning walk

with the dog.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HOUSESITTER

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE HOUSESITTER

If the door has blown closed, open it.

You do not need a key.

Feed the birds.

There is seed in the blue jar.

 

Pick the apples, eat the cherries.

Make wine from the grapes.

Do not eat the yellow pears

for they are bitter.

 

The garden is full

of deep green weeds.

Cook them in oil.

They will make you strong.

 

When dew shines on the leaves

go out and wet your feet.

The copper basin holds rainwater

to wash your hair.

 

Milk the goats

at sunrise and sunset.

Drink what you like

and make the cheese.

 

The dogs will kiss

you awake.

The cats will sing

you to sleep.

 

They will tell you

what they wish to eat.

They will tell you

what to dream.

 

At midnight,

the owls will come.

The great gray owl

will speak. Listen.