Sunday, January 31, 2010

RIDDLES, #2

THE CORPSE




It was such a little thing,

with its soft spotted hide

and pointed feet.

It lies there now, nearly invisible

in the brown leaves,

its little chest opened,

ribs cracked,

its child-sized heart cut away.



Saturday, January 30, 2010

RIDDLES, #1


THE HOUSE


Front step broken,

front door deeply cracked,

generations of paint.

Scratches around the keyhole,

fingerprints around the knob.


On the hall table a notebook:

lists of the birds that come,

sketches of children

playing in the snow.


A little too much furniture:

rickety tables, one broken chair,

iron plant stands with potted ferns.

A battered dresser: chipped crockery,

a few old letters, knick-knackery.


Upstairs, the unmade beds.

On the walls, crayoned pictures:

apple trees and beehives, a sleeping child,

the smiling sun shining on a cottage

with its red roof, ascending smoke.


Fo the next few days, I'll post poems that are the back stories for some fairy tales. See you can guess which ones.



Friday, January 29, 2010

REVOLUTION




Every spring she lifted

the carpet in the lounge

where the old boys

sat drinking their single-malts.


She turned the good brown soil

and planted seeds: radishes and lettuces,

and as the days grew warmer,

chard and onions, tomatoes and squash.


Still they sat, dozing,

while the warm room filled

with leaf and vine, the scents of ripening.

Every day she came and watered and hoed,


and every day they sat,

reading their papers,

talking of business, the progress

of their cold gray war.


She filled apple baskets in autumn

and left them on the roadsides

for squirrels and children and crows.

The old boys grew thinner,


more querulous. When they rose

to go to the bathroom or the bar

they were careful not to dirty their shoes.

They would not speak to her.


When winter came

she tacked the carpet back down,

swept up the last dry leaves

and followed the boys to the sea.


There, while they sat

in the sun on their private beach

building castles of golden sand,

she went to work with her tiny trowel.


Little by little, so slowly they didn’t notice,

fresh water flowed between their striped cabanas,

the tall grasses grew in a river over their heads.

Crocodiles came by quietly, looking around.


With her trouser legs rolled she waded

through the warm green water;

her wide feet pressing into soft sand

eons of white shells and bones.



MFCP--I wrote the first draft of this on Jan. 29, 2007.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

INVERTED PSEUDO DEMI-SONNET #1




White egg, full moon of spring

above the hill. White wings

of geese in silver strings

spread out against the dark

last night. They flew

and pierced my heart

like light.

Thank you.




MFCP

My friend and fellow poet David Weinstock once said that a friend of his mentioned that poetry readings typically end with the lines, ". . . like light." (Pause) "Thank you." So I wrote a poem that ended like that.


Monday, January 25, 2010

IN HERITANCE





All of us started in the same house;

climbing the spiral stair


so treacherous, so slippery with blood.


We took the same names:


God-Fighter,

One-Who-Fills-Graves-With-Bones,

Conqueror-Of-Mountains,

She-Who-Always-Stands-Alone.


Our story began when we opened our mouths

for the wrong food,


set our feet upon the wrong road.


I abandoned my Mother,

betrayed my Father,

raped my Sister,

murdered my Brother


Our gods in fortified heavens

hurled thunderbolts and curses.


We never believed

we were at home.


No one taught us--

we never learned--

a way to tame the four-armed dragons

breeding in the caves below.


We never learned--

no one taught us--

to unfurl our tight-skinned arms,

to grow fragrant feathers and happy eyes,

to drift easy over this soft green blue

cloud-veiled home that had been ours always.


We keep climbing the stairs.

Our gods keep hitting us.

We do not know we have wings;

We have never learned to sing our other names.


I wrote this poem for "Quatrain," a performance group that worked together for several years. The different colors represent different speakers, and the lines in black were spoken all together. I think we did this in a show about fairy tales.

Friday, January 22, 2010

WHERE IS YOUR RESISTANCE?

WHERE IS YOUR RESISTANCE?

~question asked by a voice teacher




In the soles of my feet. The ground

is rough, and uneven. I sink

into the earth, stumble over roots;

my shoes are covered with clay.


In my belly. I can not digest

leftovers, cold vegetables or surprises.

Every adventure

pulls the system down,


yet my heart beats too fast against

the insistence of ordinary days,

as if everything in my horrific

imagination is forever coming true.


My eyes close against

shattered scenery I cannot repair;

my throat against the possibility

of anything beyond my present range.


It’s in the imperfection,

uncertainty of the times,

that’s where it is. I only want

everything always to be all right.



MFCP, February 13, 2009


Thursday, January 21, 2010

CATCHING LULLABIES


There may be butterflies around here, too, but these are lullabies.

~Jennifer’s nephew Gus, age 2 1/2



How quickly you comprehended

the correction; the lullabies

were relieved that they could stay.

You had captured this one with difficulty,

displayed it on your upturned palm

to your aunt, invited her

to touch its wings gently.


Outside, the last of winter

blew the snow against the windows.

The hard crystalline structure

of frozen soil in tiny ice towers

waited for the collapsing sun.

Tornadoes twisted somewhere else,

and far away there were bombs


but there in your room,

the lullabies were saved.

I would like to see them myself,

hovering around my room

when I am too weary for sleep:

my father’s voice remembered,

the one old song he used to sing.



MFCP, published in Bellowing Ark, 2006


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

OLD MAN WINTER--a sing-along


Old man Winter, that Old Man Winter,

He don’t need nothing; he must want something.

He just keeps blowing, he keeps on snowing along.


He don’t wear sweaters, he don’t wear longjohns,

And them what wears them will soon be bygones,

He just keeps blowing, he keeps on snowing along.


You and me, we shovel and strain,

Backs all aching and wracked with pain:

Clear that walk! Chop that ice!

Vermont Life makes the winter look nice.


I get weary, and sick of freezing,

I’m tired of sniffling, and tired of sneezing,

But Old Man Winter, he just keeps blowing along.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ESAU




I am the oldest child

They come to me for blessing


the sixteen-year old girl with a baby and a three hundred-dollar electric bill

the mummified beggar asking on his knees for three dollars for mouthwash

the old man whose brain has left him only the memory of loss

the mother by the bed of her tube-filled beautiful brain-injured child


I give them what I can

I tell them

God loves you God is with you even

in the dark even in places where you can't

feel your cross is carried

Jesus has overcome

all shall be well

and all manner of thing--


I lug them around

and I lift them up

and up over and

over praying in the

dark that I'm right


Hast thou

but one

blessing

my father

bless me

even me

also

O my

father


MFCP --I wrote this years ago, when I was doing parish ministry. Esau was the oldest child of Isaac. His younger brother Jacob got the blessing that should have been Esau's, and his lament, which is the last stanza here, has always touched me. This isn't the best poem I've ever written, but somehow it reminds me of what's going on in Haiti.

Monday, January 18, 2010

SHAPE OF SOULS




That one is crumpled like a scrap of paper

she thought she didn’t want,

but changed her mind, and salvaged,

smoothed out as well as she could.


His is small and bouncy,

no one can catch it--

it’s slippery, elusive--

a transparent glitter-filled superball.


That one is thin, lean, hard, strong,

a wing bone.

It moves swift, deliberate,

no time, no flesh, to waste.


This one: an empty flower pot

stained with moss.

This one: a formal garden

with no weeds, nothing out of place.


Here is one large and welcoming,

wide, soft, slow: a sofa soul that holds

between the plushy cushions

secrets, like lint and scattered change.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

CAT

ONE WORD LINES ABOUT A CAT



She

rattles

not

one

thin

china

cup

as

she steps

precisely:


one

neat

paw,

one

neat

paw,

one

neat

paw,

one

neat

paw.



MFCP Dec. 2006--this was another exercise I did with my friend Megan.

Friday, January 15, 2010

NATURE CALLING

Civilization will not allow for instinct:

no dinners of raw mice,

no clawing the eyes of enemies,

no mating

or defecating in the public streets.


Often, the dog scenting dog, coyote, fox

--something pungent,

instructive, on a tuft of grass--

will turn against my call, ponder, consider,

squat to make her mark.


One morning, as I walked

between red cedars, young pines,

stooped to move between low branches,

to follow a mossy path worn deep by wild feet,

I felt an insistent urge to pee.


So there it was:

a seizure by immediate beauty

--light filtered through dark pines--

compelling me to say in the simplest way I could,

my animal way,


I was here.

This place is mine.


MFCP--in honor of Stiffy Byng, who died on Wednesday, age 13. She taught me so much.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

EVERGLADES








TRAVEL


I didn’t much want to go,

not caring for adventure,

what to expect,

imagining


alligator attack,

drowning in deep water,

some vicious consciousness,

so far away from home.


The long train ride,

whistles in my sleep,

tug away from every thing I knew.



TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS


Because it’s tidal,

easy out toward the islands:

piles of shells in the shallows.


Mangrove roots red and tangled

dripping shells,

dripping mandrake-shapes,

wading seedlings gathering shells,

shell-sand grinding the canoe.


Sand crabs, mysterious digs

and arguments.

The strangeness of these fish.


Bromeliads arranged and mosses,

deep green shades, mosquitoes

between the trees.

All between the gumbo limbo

and mahogany, all along

Calusa paths.


(new stanza)


Thick water silence,

green-gray shell-made clay,

islands the mangroves made,

Calusa made.


Hours of slow shell-grinding,

drip of water from oar,

drip from mangrove thick leaf, tangled root.

Then easy in,

the shallow tide slip gray-green.



PLUMAGE


To have without acquisition:

The new hat, but not on the head,

only the eye seduced with plumage.


Great Egret dressed in lace and masked in green,

Green Heron wing, Little Blue Heron blue,

Purple Gallinule: purple feathers, bill red and lavender.


Guy Bradley gave his life,

shot in the back on the shell-shored island.

Plumes worth more than gold.


Now they stand unconcerned, preening,

across the water among the trees.

Not enough water, the long grass river

not long enough,

but enough for now.



EL LAGARTO


Terrible Lizard among us,

slowstep by step,

heavy lids the somnolent disguise.

There! a gentle drift, clear water;

there! the muscled tail winding snakewise

while each wading bird

steps delicately aside.


Its appalling ignorance,

the warm wet brightness of its home.



ANHINGA TRAIL: LIFE LIST


Underwater birdsnake anhingas brown, black,

sliding up, the speared fish tossed and caught,

white puffs of nestlings fed in the limey trees,

spreading tail, the arching display of black and white.


Little white little blue heron blotched with blue

in the molt, one glossy ibis, ordinary cormorant

eyes sapphire and obsidian, the orange of its bill.

Great blue heron. Woodstork. White ibis.

Egret, egret, golden-shoed egret.



MARGERY STONEMAN DOUGLAS


Margery Stoneman Douglas

did not go slogging,

did not count the woodstorks,

homely as she, as endangered.

In her airy house she wrote the history, letters;

in palaces of power the old woman raised her voice:

Boo louder! Can’t you boo louder?

and so what is left is left.

Her stork-face and unflattering hat,

comprehension of necessary salvation,

typing fingers dripping green water,

blue plumes, white plumes,

mahogany, bromeliad,

Mikasukis, Cow Creeks.

Everglades whispering

River of Grass, River of Grass,

the name she gave.




YEAR WITHOUT


I stopped asking.

Things happen anyway,

we stay or go:

never what I think.

And yet,

there is a kind of love,

a river slow as Everglades

moving through sawgrass,

flood sometimes,

sometimes dry.

Not deep, but wide,

and most days enough

to float the canoe.



MFCP

I wrote this after our first visit to the Everglades. There was a notice posted in the visitor's center, written by a naturalist whose name I forgot to write down: "The Everglades is a test. If we save it, we get to keep the planet." It's one of the most amazing places I've ever seen.





Tuesday, January 12, 2010

EMPTY STREETS


Once there were women with baby carriages;

men in bright uniforms,

their black boots and swords.

Once, yellow dogs roamed the streets;

you could see around the doorways

feral cats napping in the sun.

White washing hung from the lines between houses.

People were cooking chickens or baking bread.

Now and again, a red balloon

some child had let go

drifted above the towers and the trees.


Where once there was music,

there are no echoes left.

In this darkness that was bound to come,

you cannot see your broken hands.

Perhaps, when it is finished,

you will find again that house

with the mock orange tree under the window

or the school with the broken stairs.

Perhaps you will meet your mother

all in blue with ribbons in her hair,

or a dim version of your little self

rolling a hoop or dressing a shabby doll,

or the lover whose jacket smelled of lemons.


But now there is nothing

but the whisperings of white-clad strangers,

and everywhere a cold scent of snow

streams from the open doors.



MFCP

Monday, January 11, 2010

GASTROLITHS

Traditionally, the rich partook of diamonds

in the drawing room just before dinner.

Butlers filled and passed the heirloom lith-bowls

made of ebony or jet, and subtly shaped

to show to advantage the clarity, the fire.

To employ a family crest or other personal symbol

has always been considered execrable taste but

at State and Embassy functions, it has not been uncommon

to see one’s country’s flag displayed in coloured gems

on a small rectangular tray above one’s service plate.

However, since good cheap synthetics are available now,

many discriminating people have turned to laser-shaped obsidians

imported from Armenia or Greece, or hand-knapped flints

from paleolithic sites in Middle Belgium or Southwest France.

A small monogram may be engraved on each.


The newly rich debate the merits of river stones

from the Amazon, the Volga, the Nile.

They choose colors that match their decor,

shapes that complement their latest dinnerware,

textures that enhance the dining experience.

They arrange the stones in individual dishes

garnished with rose petals or eucalyptus leaves,

or on polished boards of exotic woods, or in perfect shells.

They are careful to select compatible wines.


Vegetarians, Progressives, and others of that ilk

use organic pebbles which they gather from pure sources

in local mountains or deserts and pile in pottery crocks

or scatter in fountains of filtered rainwater.

They select and swallow a few any time of day,

whenever they feel the need.


The rest grab whatever they can get:

broken cement, beach glass,

a handful of winter gravel

left over on the edges of the road.



MFCP May 16, 2008


I wrote this after a visit to the Natural History Museum with my husband and son. We got to wondering what it would be like if people had gizzards. This is my answer.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

JUDGEMENT DAY

When the angel with the flaming sword asks:

What have you done that is good?

What have you done that will last?

This is the answer I will give:


I walked long with my husband

on wild uphill footpaths

remembering the names of flowers.


I gave thanks on a cold blue morning

while the new-raised sun

spread my shadow

along the unmarked snow.


I kept rosemary in a white pot

in my kitchen window.


I held my sister’s hand ten days before she died

and we watched the sky turn orange one more time

and listened to a meadowlark

and did not need to speak.


I played the piano for an old man in a nursing-home:

“when the roll is called up yonder,” and he sang.


I counted shooting-stars with my son

one summer midnight

and felt the skin of dew-covered grass

pulling us in safe.


The day before a February storm,

I took in a thin silver stray cat

with eyes the color of green olives.


I sat most of an afternoon in the sun

with my old dog, and later we rolled in leaves.


I trust that these will suffice.


MFCP--this was published in The Witness, December 1998

Friday, January 8, 2010

COMING TOWARD HOME


I want to love things all by myself,

not looking sidelong to see

if others are loving them, too:

the sky like old blue glass held in by a tracery of trees,

the great horned owl’s cynical question--

Who’s awake?

the falling cold stars of snow.


One night I snowshoed in the woods alone,

the full moon lamplight gleaming

through the lace of soft snow clouds.

Coming toward home I saw in the frame of an uncurtained window

the painting of a summer orchard

above my piano against the green wall,

my husband moving across the kitchen with his teacup.

I thought I would break for joy.



MFCP --published in Calyx, September, 2000

Thursday, January 7, 2010

RACING CATS



The cats run up and down the hall at night

like small rampaging elephants.

They chase one another, dust mites,

the occasional mouse stupid enough

to move into this house,

stupid enough to stay.


They gallop and wrestle like stallions,

cavort like porpoises.

When I step from my bedroom into the hall

I am overcome by wildlife,

the wild racing, the pitpat wildness

in my house, under my very nose,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

LARYNGITIS



The creatures went right for it

and gunked with their excretions

the delicate folds of speech;

they clogged the rippling edges

with sludge: the stuff of

drain baskets, between the teeth

of ancient combs, what grows around

the ketchup bottle necks.

But

there is no clearing it, no

huge guttural HAAAR!

that will shake it loose, no

solvent drop or tea, no

roto-rooter delicate enough.

So

I do not speak, and when I try,

my sister says AAARG! Like my mother-

in-law! and my son

You sound like some weird

old woman who smokes

three packs a day.



MFCP (Gross, I know.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

WAITING FOR SNOWTIRES



You’d think we were waiting for bad news.


A red-haired woman in Raggedy Ann leggings

holds on her lap an enormous hoop;

she is quilting on black satin: golden stars, a silver moon.

The village celebrity, solemn and tweedy, aware of his beard,

discreetly refolds The New York Times.

A woman even older than I sits still with her eyes closed,

plastic shopping bags around her feet.

Maybe she is listening to the music.


How far do you think we could get,

all of us together, if we had

a pickup truck and a sandwich or two?


The town crier in his cowboy suit

and yellow hardhat stomps in, announcing

The world is all fucked up and it pisses me off.

The tire man says Yes, yes, isn’t that so,

and brings him coffee from the back room.


Somewhere up in the Continental Divide

a trucker pulls over to chain up.

In Houston someone makes a tiny correction

to the orbit of a tiny moon.

Tonight while we are sleeping

it will slip unnoticed

across our hoop of autumn sky.


MFCP Published in a Quatrain chapbook: Each Unique Moon

Sunday, January 3, 2010

WRITERS' BLOCKS



Mile high glass mountain,

enthroned on the peak

the jeering Muse in her Unattainable Princess mode.

She is eating a melon, spitting out the seeds.


Basaltic monolith set down by an alien god

in the middle of the narrow way

between the abyss and the infinite seething swamp


Fierce dark angel with a sword thin as a laser

darting to and fro, to and fro,

severing all connections

the strands of the web

synapses in my brain

sinews in my hand


Little wooden cubes

painted with apples, balls, clowns,

letters upper and lower case

A

B

C


MFCP, published in The Kept Writer, July, 2002

Friday, January 1, 2010

VOWELS WITH MEGAN


A shaft of orange light, unexpected

before the end of

a long gray day


Eel black, luminescent

through the thick green river


I am winter-pale peach,

being, thatched with white and black


O luminous apple-green:

Mutsu, Greening, unripe Mac


YoU are fresh and blue,

tinged with the scent

of summer clover


And Y is it sometimes silver,

sometimes jade,

flickering just on the edge

of visible light?


MFCP



I wrote this in Dec., 2006. I was mentoring a high school student, and one of the exercises I assigned to her called for describing the vowels. This is my version: I like the way it came out.