SEASONAL AFFECTIVE

 

SEASONAL AFFECTIVE

It always happens when there is too much 

light, too much pollen, too much 

of everything. 

The birds sing me awake. 

The leaves are closing in. 

I get tired. 

I can’t digest. 

 

All my life.

While my sisters played on the porch

I hid in the meadow.

While my friends splashed in the pool, 

I climbed the outcrop to be alone.

While my colleagues ate eggs and muffins, 

I sat on a green bench by the river 

to pull myself together. 

 

And now, this terrible year, 

when there are no parties to avoid or dread, 

I’m weighted down by the heat, by the sun. 

Like a bear, I could be in a cleft in the rocks, 

asleep until snow, 

until mornings are quiet and dark again. 

Until there is nothing to eat but roots and bread.

Because I have to write something

ANOTHER ZUIHITSU because I have to write something

1.

It’s as if someone is deliberately making things so bad that nobody can stand it. Almost enough to make me believe in the Beast, the AntiChrist, or something like that.

2.

We hoard dark roasted coffee beans in little brown bags in the freezer. I think I have enough now.

3.

I’ve been trying not to look at the news every hour, but I can’t help it. It’s the only way I can participate, living here, in this little green bowl. 

4.

Chipmunks live under the front steps. They scurry out to get food, scurry back in for fear of hawks and weasels and our dog. But they’re never safe from weasels.

5.

A very satisfying conputer game: drag random clusters of jewels into rows and columns on a board laid out in squares. When I place a cluster, I hear a lovely “click.” When I complete a row or column, I hear a very satisfying “ping.” I can’t stop playing this game even though it makes my neck sore.

6.

I had to get coffee beans out of the freezer last night. They were so hard that I couldn’t grind them till this morning. I know that some people don’t like to freeze beans, and some people say one should grind the beans right before brewing, but I don’t care.

7.

I have painted a piece of cardboard with a color called “Tea Room”—one of those small samples of paint available for a dollar at the paint store. When the paint was dry, I drew square tiles with a black marker and installed it in the cardboard box castle we made to illustrate fairy tales for the grandchildren.

8.

The Great Crested Flycatcher sits on a high perch to hunt for insects. If she misses an insect on her first pass, she pursues it in the air. Unless her nestlings object, she offers the whole insect, wings and all. If they do object, she pummels the insect until the offending wings break off.

9.

Many twigs, new-leafed, blew off the trees last night in the wind. When I walked the dog down the driveway early this morniung, I picked them up—at least, most of them—and tossed them back among the trees so they wouldn’t have to dry and turn to dust on the driveway stones.

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

words: Now

wring

blossom

restore

coat

 

NOW

 

Oh, stop wringing your hands.

There’s not a thing you can do

to restore what you foolishly thought

was normal. There is no such thing

and never was. You can’t bring back

a past that didn’t happen. 

All of it, all of it, every year of it,

every moment of it, is a construction 

of your wishes and beliefs, of your fears. 

 

Put on your coat. 

Go out into the world.

Listen to the song sparrows 

claiming their spaces. 

Look at the scilla blossoms

under the gingko tree— 

you say they are blue,

but who knows what they say 

about themselves?

Words: The Erratic

tear

wind

stone 

stamp

 

The Erratic

Stamp the clay off your shoes!

Stand on the stone on the hill

where once the old pine stood.

This is holy ground, this boulder,

this plough-breaker. Remember

the ice that brought it here,

remember the long melt. You stand

on a rise at the bottom of the sea.

The clay on the bottom of your shoes

settled in those depths.

Remember the glacial wind.

Let the wind today purify

your winter skin. Let tears

open your eyes to the tears

in the ground. 

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.

 

 

RESETTING

I’d already posted the first stanza. Here’s the whole thing.

 

RESETTING

1. 

Not the old patterns,

or variations printed on different cloth. 

Orange fleece instead of black wool.

The kind of comfortable shoes, but red.

Yellow candles.

The same time, but silence instead of prayers.

Most of the people, but not all.

What the crows talk about.

Where the bobcat crosses the road.

Music in a different key.

Cypriot O Antiphons.

Black currant juice, rye bread.

Things that smell like roses.

White tulips. Marigolds.

 

2.

I do it all the time.

Twice a year, all the clocks.

The weather station

whenever something goes awry.

The computer to accomodate

change, to fix a glitch.

The stove, the microwave

anytime the power goes off.

Why not now

during this long and changing time

of glitch, outage, awry?

 

3.

How should I pray?

No bloody psalm cries

and paeans to a thunder god.

No reconstructed ritual.

No begging for heaven;

I don’t have a soul to save.

 

I know a different god,

not father, but

farther, unbribeable,

god of asteroids, black holes,

god of hurricanes and floods.

Job’s god, who makes no sense,

no sense that matters now.

 

Jesus died for love 

and we’ve overburdened him.

Byzantine, Victorian, 

witch-hunter,  rough-rider,

Supreme Court Judge.

The wineskins split

and the wine is spilt away.

Salt has lost its savor,

and someone turned out the light.

 

The wind blows where it wills,

and not where we expect.

Over the shattered walls

of shuttered holy houses,

through boreal and coral forests.

It breathes in the hearts of foxes,

between the beaks of owls.

The sun is warm but the wind

is cold and carries too much rain.

 

Teach me to pray.