Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Poem In October

I was a sixteen year old girl in a school desk, trying to make it through English class to lunch time; when Sister Mary Michael told us to open our books to a certain page, and proceeded  to read the poem on the page to us in her musical Irish accent.  The top of my head blew off as I listened, that's the only way I know how to say it.   It was the most wonderful thing I had ever heard.  I read it over and over again the rest of that day, and have read it over many times since. It is the poem that woke  my heart up to the love of words,  the love of poetry itself, how the heart's truth could be sung.  It opened the door to a lifetime of reading poetry, writing poetry, loving poetry. These blustery October days of wild winds, warm sun, cold nights, bring it back to me, make me love it all over again.

Poem In October

It was my thirtieth year to heaven
Woke to my hearing from harbour and neighbour wood
And the mussel pooled and the heron
Priested shore
The morning beckon
With water praying and call of seagull and rook
And the knock of sailing boats on the net webbed wall
Myself to set foot
That second
In the still sleeping town and set forth.

My birthday began with the water-
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
Above the farms and the white horses
And I rose
In rainy autumn
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke.

A springful of larks in a rolling
Cloud and the roadside bushes brimming with whistling
Blackbirds and the sun of October
On the hill's shoulder,
Here were fond climates and sweet singers suddenly
Come in the morning where I wandered and listened
To the rain wringing
Wind blow cold
In the wood faraway under me.

Pale rain over the dwindling harbour
And over the sea wet church the size of a snail
With its horns through mist and the castle
Brown as owls
But all the gardens
Of spring and summer were blooming in the tall tales
Beyond the border and under the lark full cloud.
There could I marvel
My birthday
Away but the weather turned around.

It turned away from the blithe country
And down the other air and the blue altered sky
Streamed again a wonder of summer
With apples
Pears and red currants
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels

And the twice told fields of infancy
That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
These were the woods the river and sea
Where a boy
In the listening
Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
And the mystery
Sang alive
Still in the water and singingbirds.

And there could I marvel my birthday
Away but the weather turned around. And the true
Joy of the long dead child sang burning
In the sun.
It was my thirtieth
Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
O may my heart's truth
Still be sung
On this high hill in a year's turning.

Dylan Thomas

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brewer's Wednesday Poetry Prompt, July 14: After The Rain


 After A Dream of Rain

Clouds pile up daily over the Sandias.
We can see it raining sometimes on the Crest.
Dry Thunder rumbles in the south
Over the Manzanos,
In the middle of the hottest afternoons.

Here in the Valley we wait and watch and pray.
The wind comes up in the evenings
Bringing smoke from fires in the mountains.
The news reports tell us it is raining other places,
Storms in Las Cruces, Roswell, Tucumcari.

Last night, sleeping with the windows open,
I dreamed the smell of rain.
Felt the drops coming in over the bed.
Daybreak woke me to reality.
After a dream of rain, empty water barrels.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thalassa, Thalassa

Hard to believe that two months have flowed past since April's poetry challenge had me writing a poem a day.  May and June have been busy with my last classes of my ESL career (as I see it from here, but you never know) and with rage, grief, and constant reading of news about the oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. I have been on Facebook more often than not, reading news, posting items on my own page, sharing feelings about this event with like-minded friends. I don't know what this social networking is for others, but I see it as the reason the Internet was invented.  I have found a community of interesting, sensitive, compassionate, politically savvy friends via this medium.  They are people I know in the Real World, mostly people with whom I had long ago lost touch, as well as people I know only in the Virtual World, some for many years, some for the past months only. Having this medium to vent feelings, gather and share information, has kept me from going completely mad during the past two months since Deepwater Horizon first blew.

If you have read any of my poems on this blog, you know I write about small quotidian bits of life - birds, gardens, weather, food, the conjunction of any of the above - and this Gulf disaster is far too big a subject for my heart to encompass, for my brain to form words.  I think about it all the time, I wake in the night imagining the loss of the marshes, the plight of the birds, turtles, sea mammals.  I go to the river, the Rio Bravo, or Rio Grande as we call it now, and send my prayers for all of the creatures floating down the redbrown muddy currents to where it empties into the Gulf.  A very valuable new friend found on Facebook is a writer named Julia Whitty.  She has written quite a few books, and is also an environmental writer for Mother Jones.  Her blog, titled, like her most recent book, Deep Blue Home,  is on my daily reading list.  She has a lovely habit of posting poetry on Sundays, and this one stopped my breath, went straight to my aching heart:

by Cleopatra Mathis
    When I woke, the waves had gone black,
    turning over the macerated
    curd of the ocean bottom, heaving its sludge
    onto the beach. Some storm far out, I thought,
    had ravaged the sea, stirred up its bed,
    sent the whole mess flying to shore.
    At my feet I found a grave of starfish,
    broken and gnarled among the fleshy
    snipes and heads. Every shade of death
    covered the sand. It looked hopeless
    in the pale day but for the birds,
    a congress of gulls, terns, and the rarest plovers,
    calm for once, satiated, a measure of
    the one law: this sea will claim it all—
    feed them, catch them, grind their complicated bones.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gary Snyder, Poet of Wild Mind

Today is International Migratory Bird Day.  It is also the 80th birthday of the poet Gary Snyder.  It is also one of the many days that wildlife volunteers along the Gulf Coast will be rescuing animals from the oil spill, cleaning them, hoping for their survival.  I find this an ironic conjunction of events on one day. I hope for Snyder some good years yet to come.  As of 2007, he was still writing.  This event in the Gulf must be a huge heartache for him, lover of the wild that he is. He was an early influence on my own writing, I found in him a very kindred spirit.  To honor his birthday I took my ancient copy of Riprap, & Cold Mountain Poems off the shelf and read through it.  This 1956 poem from Riprap is another bit of conjunction to the day. I hope you are well, Gary Snyder.

    Migration of Birds

         Gary Snyder

It started just now with a hummingbird
Hovering over the porch two yards away
                                    then gone,
It stopped me studying.
I saw the redwood post
Leaning in clod ground
Tangled in a bush of yellow flowers
Higher than my head, through which we push
Every time we come inside -
The shadow network of the sunshine
Through its vines. White crowned sparrows
Make tremendous singings in the trees
The rooster down the valley crows and crows.
Jack Kerouac outside, behind my back
Reads the Diamond Sutra in the sun.
Yesterday I read Migration of Birds;
The Golden Plover and the Arctic Tern.
Today that big abstraction's at our door
For juncoes and the robins all have left,
Broody scrabblers pick up bits of string
And in this hazy day
Of April summer heat
Across the hill the seabirds
Chase Spring north along the coast:
Nesting in Alaska
In six weeks.

Morning Haibun

May Morning

All night the canyon winds have slammed the house, loud noises keeping us awake and anxious. This morning gravel paths are strewn with rose petals, hollyhock leaves, small limbs of cottonwood.  Front porch pots knocked over, lying on their sides, their leaves like tangled hair.

     Big orange cat
     Crouched under the feeders
     Waits for hummingbird brunch

Saturday, May 1, 2010

PAD Day 30 - Letting Go

 Letting Them Go

I have held this hornet swarm of anger
Within my heart too long,
The venom, buzz and sting
All painful things
But real enough 
To fill the place deserted
By the soft round bees of love.

Purpose of bees in flowers,
Presence of honey,
Sound of bees in the sun,
Gone from a hive left empty.
Honeycomb abandoned,
Rotted into something
Unbearable to touch, to hold.
A place where angry hornets
Were welcome to move in,
Take space, make noise,
Pour poison through my empty veins.
This could be a way to live.

Yet, in early morning dampness
Comes a vision of release.
I could let them go.
Cup them in the hollow of my hands
Stinging for the last time.
Open hive and heart,
Let them rise into the trees,
Watching as they go.
Clean out the hive,
Stay empty, live bereft,
Wait to see what next moves in.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

PAD Day 29 - And Suddenly______

Evening, Fly-In, Bosque Del Apache

A cold wet afternoon of birding
hiking soggy edges of the fields,
the trail along the river,
following the muddy
footprints of the deer.

December sun sank
behind the mountains,
cloud reflections in the ponds
caught fire.

And suddenly 
the sky was filled with cranes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PAD Day 28 - End of the Line


Never did I plan,
nor was it my intention,
to spend my life asleep
on a deserted beach
with the moonlight on the dunes,
landscape of a dream,
alone when it rains in the night.

Yet here I am
curled in a hollow of sand
against the tossing sea,
the raindrops on my cheeks.
Since this was not my plan,
nor my intention,
it all could be a dream,
and these may be tears,
not rain.

Which does not lessen the darkness,
nor leave me any less alone.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PAD Day 27 - Hopeful/or/Hopeless

Small Bones of Time

These may be all we have:
moments picked as clean
as I have seen
gull bones on the sand,
mouse bones in the dust
behind a cupboard door,
the fox skull I found once
in a field.
These may be all we have.

Small bones of time
empty as abandoned shells,
clean as stones
wavewashed endlessly.
These may be all we have.

Monday, April 26, 2010

PAD Day 26 - More Than Five Times *

The Serendipity of Gardens

I’ve tried to write this poem
Five times now 
Today and yesterday,
Pruning the vitex and desert willow
Trimming back the  Russian sage
Thinking what to put in that border
Where  purple sage and Mexican sunflowers
Were a riot of color last year.
In fact, probably more than five times
While weeding the evening primroses
Digging out the irises that won’t bloom
Deep under the plum trees 
Too far from morning sun.

In the kitchen for some toast,
A coffee, pomegranate jam,
I think maybe I’ll give up now
And just pay attention
To the serendipity of flowers
Forget the impossible poem.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

PAD Day 25 - Poem Inspired By A Song

Bird On A Wire

Migrants coming through
Backyard birds nesting

Constant motion at the feeders
Appeasing avian hunger

Small birds in the pines
Pyracantha, Spanish broom

Then,  midday silence
Nothing moves

The answer on the powerline
Cooper’s hawk overhead

Later, in the evening
Feathers on the gravel

Unkind hawk, flying free,
Has moved on

(Song: Bird On A Wire, Leonard Cohen, 1968

Saturday, April 24, 2010

PAD Day 24 - Evening


We went to the Earth Day Party
At the Co-Op in Nob Hill,
Bought an iceplant for the berm
 at the Santa Ana Nursery,
Listened to Brazilian jazz
And danced our asses off
Under the music tent.

Then walked home through
Unfamiliar neighborhoods,
As the moon rose over the Sandias,
Breathing the purple air
Of lilacs and wisteria,
Listening to the evening doves.

As dusk fell, the wind came up.
Dogs barked behind adobe walls.
Home now, tired and sunburnt,
Feeding the cats late dinner,
Ending a perfect day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

PAD Day 23 - Exhaustion *


They found the old iron bed
In a junkshop on Route Six,
Loaded it in the truck,
And took it home.
It took four weeks
In the sun by the barn
To sand it, paint it white.
They've moved the bed  with them
Several times across the country.
By now it needs repainting.
But it’s under the east window
In the bedroom at the back
Of the house,
Where they go on the days
When a nap is both necessary
And possible.
Crawl under the quilt Ren bought
 At the Texas flea market
On a Hill Country visit
 When everyone was still alive,
The hard times out there
Waiting for them then.
A nap under that quilt,
Dream filled journey in the
White iron bed,
On a bleak winter afternoon
Or a summer day with the
Ceiling fan turning
Can feel like the only thing
Saving them
 from the boneyard.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PAD Day 22 - Earth

At Twilight

Yesterday at twilight as I crossed the lawn
something moved above my field of vision.
Up where woods' edge slopes to lilac bushes,
children's sandbox, kitchen windows.
In that zone between the secrecy of forest
and the known of human dwelling,
three deer:  two doe, one halfgrown fawn,
stood still as trees in trees' grey shadow.

Longlegged bandits from the forest,
wary eyed, curious and hungry,
they had come to browse the garden:
mint, tomato plants, sweet basil,
tender leaves of newly sprouted spinach.

Hours in the mud spent digging, planting,
weeding, moving stones, seemed unimportant
to defend against such beauty.
For this I would have planted twenty gardens
Grace was what I needed more than food.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

PAD Day 21- According To______

Life According To Hoyle

 How would it  be
If being a human
Was like bridge
Or poker or chess,
And it came to us
Complete with a book
Of rules and instructions,
Life according to Hoyle?
No more agonizing,
Making decisions:
Who to marry
Where to live
What to do
What to name the baby
Where to take our vacation
Divest or invest this year?
All the answers
Would be found in Life's pages.
No doubt or confusion remaining
Look each one up in the index
Final directions found here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

PAD Day 20- Looking Back / Forward

In Defense of Looking Back

Don’t look at me like that.
I know you think me cowardly,
Call me slow and weak.
If you had ever loved this way
You would have done the same.

Half mad with grief and loss
All I wanted was to touch her,
Look at her once more.
I thought I’d saved her from the Underworld.
I didn’t know the fury of the gods.
How could I not look back?

Monday, April 19, 2010

PAD Day 19 - A Person

Thomas Jefferson’s Poppies
It couldn’t have been easy.
As founding father, empire builder,
philosopher of state,
He suffered headaches, persistent diarrhea,
Insomnia into the small night hours.
For him the pursuit of happiness
Was an often distant, difficult ideal.

Remember though, he was a gardener,
The Monticello gardens laboratories
Of plants from every corner of the world.
And in those Virginia gardens grew  exotic poppies,
White and purple plants of joy,
Papaver somneriferum,
Sleepbringer to the ancients,
Milk of paradise,
For Kubla Khan the very hand of god.

Jefferson, a man of industry and contradiction
At work atop his mountain
Craved sleep, deep dreams, and peace,
Ever independent and industrious
Took matters into his own hands.
From his botanic pharmacy opium poppies
Offered comfort, brought release.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

PAD Day 18 - To_____

To Be A Bird Next Time

If we return,
And mind you,
I’m not saying
That I think we will,
I’d like to be a bird.
Probably a raptor,
A Cooper’s Hawk, or Kestrel,
Something light and free and fast,
Fierce of talon, eye and beak,
Swift to hunt and kill.
Able to spread my wings
And ride the thermals
On a high blue October afternoon.
If we come back,
And who knows?
Perhaps we do,
It’s time to start working
On my karma.
I’m certainly not yet worthy
To be a hawk
Or any other bird.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

PAD Day 17 -Science

In The Presence Of Chlorophyll

 When Mike came to prune the trees in late September, he said the cottonwood outside our kitchen window was slowly dying from the inside out. This winter I thought at last it’s over, we’ll have dead limbs the flickers will enjoy, and when we take it down only a stump. Then two weeks ago I noticed tiny heartshaped leaves were blowing in the early April winds.

Light energy
Carbon dioxide and water

Friday, April 16, 2010

PAD Day 16 - Death

Pulling Weeds
An afternoon of weeding by the neighbor’s low stone wall,
Begun in sunshine, ended in thunder and rain. We come inside for supper.
My hands smell like mustard and dirt.

Under the Russian olive
White-crowned sparrow corpse
In the foxtail grass

Thursday, April 15, 2010

PAD Day 15 - Deadlines

A Deadline Missed

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, sun so hot I have to get my hat, put sunscreen on,
I wander through the garden, noticing the changes after the windstorms and the rain.
Here are lilacs in full bloom, the desert willow by the shed is proudly budding,
Prairie sage beside the fence already growing tall.
It’s just mid-April but I can see that spring is almost gone

Stone birdbath full of robins
Hummers buzzing by
Too late to plant the lettuce

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

PAD Day 14 - Island

At The Nature Center

They’ve been sitting on their nests
For weeks now
On the islands
In the middle of the pond
Taking turns on the eggs
 As the days grew warm.
Today, while humans worried about taxes
 A better species left the safety of their island
 Led a string of six small yellow goslings
Out onto the water
Proudly introduced them to the world.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

PAD Challenge Day 13 - A Love Poem *

The Prompt was actually "A Love Poem or An Anti-Love Poem"

Thirty Years Without A Love Poem

How long has it been
Since I wrote you a love poem?
How many years has it been?
Almost thirty years now since
I begged you - run away with me to Paris,
Tahiti, the Greek Islands, anywhere.
It hasn’t been the life we dreamed of, has it?
We haven’t been to Paris yet.
But every morning yours is the face
That I wake up to, discuss the day with,
Over tea and cereal.
Every night your kisses
Are the last thing that I know
Before the darkness takes me under.
Thirty years without a love poem
Have been thirty years of love,
Sometimes sorrow, often joy.
This is just another Tuesday afternoon,
I’ve gone shopping for our dinner.
Soon, you will be home, 
Your dear face tired and hungry.
I am writing you this love poem just to say
There are lilacs on the kitchen table, it is April,
Thirty years later we're still here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

PAD Day 12 - City

Duke City Contradictions

Mariachi music in the Plaza,
Gang  shootings every other day.
Techology corridors hang over
The river’s crumbling west bank.
Below, geese and ducks feed on sandbars
 In the middle of the thick brown flow.
Buried bones of mystery women on the Mesa
Tossed in  rocky pits, forgotten.
Murder links them to the violence lurking
Just below the surface everywhere,
Under cottonwoods and willows
Along  hiking trails and bike paths
Downtown bars and sidewalks after dark.
Families Sunday strolling by the water
Enjoying picnics in the park
Giraffe and hippo babies at the zoo.
A five-year-old smothered in the sandbox
Damaged children every evening on the news.
Here between  mountains and volcanoes we are living
Lives of paranoia, cultural celebrations,
Methamphetamine, and guns

Sunday, April 11, 2010

PAD Day 11 - The Last______


(Saying Goodbye To Molly)    

One Last Time

I wrapped her in the old quilt
We’d had as long as we’d had her
Eighteen years or so
Ocean years in Delaware and Truro
Months of traveling across the country
In the camper or the truck
She didn’t care as long as we were there

On that late September afternoon
Two years ago
I held her in my arms
Pulled the yellow rocker out into the noonday sun
Our vet is kind and gentle
The end was easy
The old quilt comforted us both
In the peaceful autumn sunlight I held her in my arms
We let her fall  asleep one long last time.

PAD Day 10 - Horror


Like a bear or werewolf
in a suit and tie,
silk stockings,
good wool coat,
cooking meals,
laundering the bedclothes,
fingering my rosary beads.

And all the while
my claws grow longer;
during dinner conversation
I feel my own fangs
bite into my cheek.
Shaggy heart awakens
to household smells
of dung and blood.

Such a show of contemplation
  A black bear writing poetry,
  A werewolf reading verse.

Only listen:
Just beyond this room
the damp warm night is breathing.
I will rip the glasses from my muzzle,
throw the pen across the desk,
I will burst forth into the
hissing moonlight.

Believe me when I tell you
I will tear the beating heart
Out of your breast.

Friday, April 9, 2010

PAD Day 9 - Self-Portrait

Poem for Myself on Monday Morning                       

I stand among the blue tiles
brown and naked,
toweling my wet
and fragrant self,
feeling the beauty
of my own skin;
wondering     Degas,
where are you now?
Not here, to paint
the muscles in my back, bent,
the way my shoulder curves
to meet my arm,
wet nippled breasts
small shining,
the generous proportions
of my thighs.
My portrait will not
make an exhibition:
Woman Drying Body After Bath.
I will take my secret sculpture
out into the morning,
among the roses,
woman glorious,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

PAD Day 8 - Tool *

 My Mother’s  Garden Knife

Blessed is she who weeds her mother’s gardens
And every garden that I've had was somehow hers.
Even this one, so unlike her Pennsylvania stone walls
 Enclosing rhubarb, rhododendron, and strawberries,
Roses, foxgloves, peonies, and mint.

She taught me everything I know about a garden,
How to plant, and how to weed
Garden knife in hand, long days’ Summer hours
On her knees beside the old red barn,
Her cats for companions in the catnip,
In the buzzing herb beds conversing with the bees.
Through years of pain and loss, depression,
In the herbs and flowers she knew joy.

Here in this dry and stony desert garden,
Her steel blade in my hand,
She gently whispers green thumbed lessons
Instructs me “Listen,
From the pines the doves are calling,
The redbud’s in full bloom.
Take comfort in the iris,
Take comfort where you can.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

PAD Day 7 - Until_______

Until The Lilacs Bloom  (With Apologies To TS Eliot)      

December’s not the hardest for a gardener
Bare branches, winter’s barren room.
No, that honor goes to early April
This cold impatient time spent waiting
For lilacs’ purple bursting into bloom.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

PAD Day 6 - Ekphrastic Poem

The Witches’ Entertainment     

There is no moon tonight
and cloudcast hides the stars.
Put on your hats, my beauties,
soon we ride
across the  darkling Spanish plain,
seeking louts who wander
from the taverns in the town
wanting only
the warmth of their own beds,
fire on the hearth,
a sodden night of sleep
too drunk for dreams.

We shall remake them,
fly them
dumb creatures of the earth,
to ecstasy and terror in our arms.
By hidden light of dark day stars
cross tossing stormy seas
to visit cannibals
eaters of human hearts
then drop them
bloody, riven, gnawed
Through forest leaves.
They will hear music
played by monsters
around a ring of fire
deep within the midnight trees
dance with us,
strange sisters,
then sleep
abandoning despair.
From unreasoning sleep awakening
they will not remember.
Will not care.

(After Goya’s Flight of the Witches)