words: Open Studio Poem #1

For the past few weeks, I have been the only poet in an online open studio. Instead of knitting last time, I decided to ask each of the other artists for a word, and I wrote this poem while they did their arts.

 

fuchsia

malleable

daffodil

liberty

 

The unpruned fuchsia in its faded pot

is a mess of sticks, spotty leaves, a few stunted buds.

It is not a malleable plant; 

it’s fussy about water and light.

Not like the daffodils. Every spring—

flood or freeze or April snow—

they push up through thickets of grasses

and edge the lawn with yellow and white.

I expect there is some liberty

in taking what is given, staying deep,

blooming from the settled bulb.

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.

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.

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.

BREAKING

BREAKING

It’s what happens when you see it,

when you know it’s all free as God.

 

One day it’s all duty,

but the rope breaks,

or a bell rings far away.

You see someone else

doing the thing you could not do

and all the stars come out  

and your closet door 

blows open wide.

 

And now what do you expect?

Nothing.  Nothing, at last.

Perhaps sunrise.

When you drop a cup, it will fall.

You will not glance off Earth,

go careening into the dark.

But the rest, not a thing:

consistency least of all.

 

Even what you will do tomorrow.

Sunrise, yes, yes,

but the color of the clouds,

the way the wind moves which new leaf,

where the sparrow sings,

the pattern of the towhee’s scratch.

What treasure will disclose.

How many orange tulips,

and  asparagus from each deep root.

 

 

 

published in Ruah, 2005

NO WEATHER

No weather lasts forever.

Even this craziness, this winter

that doesn’t want to end. 

 

The sun is still up there,

above the heavy clouds.

There are currants driving the winds.

 

The blackbirds have returned

and are searching for seeds

and the robins have found the sumac.

 

It is our grandson’s third birthday.

He talks all the time;

he’s trying to read.

 

Our granddaughter will be one

two days from now. She

is walking, and working on words.

 

Small plants, lettuces and pansies,

are growing in greenhouses

and the farmers are potting up tomatoes.

 

My nephew is feeding his chickens

and gathering the eggs.

There are new black calves in the pasture.

 

Sometimes I can believe

that the world doesn’t matter, 

that what matters is the earth,

 

and the people who do good work

every day, who walk their dogs

and love their friends.

 

Winter Prompt #30: View from the Top

VIEW FROM THE TOP

 

From here, the garden:

four stiff stalks of kale,

black leaves folded frozen.

Snow halfway up the rabbit fence.

The old wooden gate to the compost,

center brace broken,

its screen torn and propped till spring.

Will there be spring?

Two spiral stakes mark volunteer

asparagus, one marks the long bed

where under snow and straw

the garlic sets its roots.

NOTES FOR MY 50TH  HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

NOTES FOR MY 50TH  HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

 

Once I read Latin, long phrases from Caesar and Virgil.

Now I practice Polish, but only after dark.

 

Once I played the piano: Mozart, Debussy, Bach.

Now I play simplified Gershwin songs when no one is around.

 

Once I had a small vegetable garden.

Now it is a jungle of vines and weeds.

 

Once I fell in love with a warrior.

Some things never change.

 

Once there was no space for anything.

Now time stretches before me like the sea.

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.