Sunday, February 28, 2010

WHAT YOU'VE TAUGHT US


for Sarah Hughes



Not for gold, but for love--

your arms light and supple like wings.

Little hawklet, eaglet,

skipping along the wind in the joy,

diamonds following your flying feet.


So desperate we’ve been, for so long.

Faces tight as tambourines jangling

our despair, our hearts pounding

prophecies of destruction.

We’ve moved in spasms,

like marionettes with tangled strings.

Perhaps there is no music,

no pattern anymore.

Perhaps there never was.


But here you are at last, lovely one,

here you are laughing

as you spin and spin perfection

all around the margins of the dark.

With nothing to lose, you lost nothing,

and nothing at last was lost.



MFCP. I wrote this during the 2002 Olympics, after watching Sarah Hughes win the gold medal. Remember? It was such a dark time, with the Iraq war in its terrible early stages, and she was such a delight to watch.




Saturday, February 27, 2010

ORNITHISCHIAN BEHAVIOR, part two




BEHAVIOR


Territory


Size: 2-4 Square Miles

Main Behaviors: See-sawing, Twigger-Call, Song


The size of a T. Rex pair’s territory depends upon the availability and variety of food sources. The male begins to claim a territory late in the dry season by standing on a hill or ridge of ground near the center of the desired area and See-sawing, while giving Song. Usually there is little competition, but occasionally another male will approach the See-sawing male while its back is turned and begin See-sawing without Song. When the intruder’s presence is recognized by the first dinosaur, a Display Fight generally ensues. The vanquished dinosaur will back away from the victor, who immediately continues See-sawing and increasingly loud Song. Females within the area watch these behaviors closely and initiate courtship immediately after Territory is established.

Mating


Main Behaviors: Side Hopping, Necking, Peel--Call, Bibble-bibble-Call


Once the male has established a Territory, an interested female will approach Side Hopping. If the male reciprocates, Necking and copulation follow very quickly, and continue for several hours. Females may travel great distances before they find Territories that are satisfactory and males that will accept them. This appears to be the case especially when food is scarce, perhaps acting as a control on population.


Nesting


Main Behaviors: Horizontal Fluff, Twigger-call


The nest is built by the female alone, while the male watches to keep intruders away with the Horizontal Fluff display. The female scratches a rudimentary hole in the dust, and lines it with grass stems and dead fronds. Between five and twelve pale blue oval eggs are laid at the rate of one or two a day, and brooding begins after all eggs have been laid. The male shares brooding, and the non-brooding T. Rex will generally leave the area to hunt. Because eggs are one of the favored foods of carnivorous dinosaurs, nests are guarded closely. Observers have not seen a T.Rex consume eggs of its own species if the nest is guarded, but an unguarded nest, though very rare, is considered fair game.


Nestlings and Fledglings


Main Behaviors: Side Hop, Begging, Horizontal Fluff, Peel-Call, Twigger-Call


Eggs hatch within a few hours of one another, usually during a two-day period. Nestlings are covered with fine dull gray feathers, which fluff out within a few hours. The nestlings are brooded by the female only, while the male hunts. He feeds the female first, bringing her large pieces of meat, then regurgitates a semi-digested “Tyrannosaurus Milk” to the young. Commonly only three or four young survive this stage, since competition for food is vigorous. After six or seven days, the young begin to leave the nest for short periods, but never stray far. The male then takes his turn guarding the young, freeing the female to hunt on her own. Both parents Feed. When the young are hopping about strongly--in about ten days--the parents lead them away from the nest, in single file, with the female (usually) in the lead and the male bringing up the rear. Along the way, both parents hunt small game and bring it live to the young ones who attempt complete the kill. After another week, the young generally hunt well enough on their own to venture short distances away from the parents, but the parents are still watchful, and remain so until the young are nearly full grown. During the entire period, the young are protected from predators by the parents, first by warning calls, then by direct attack, if necessary. However, once the young are half-grown, the only serious threats to them are environmental.


Group Behavior


Main Behaviors: Bibble-bibble-Call, Display Fighting (among males), Twigger-Call


After the nesting season is over, the T. Rex family groups stay together until mating season begins again. They hunt, sometimes cooperatively. When food is abundant, there is no competition between family groups, but in times of scarcity, both sexes may give the Twigger-Call, and males may engage in Display Fighting. Just before sunset, they settle on a rise in the land, often an old nest site, and the young run around for an hour or so until nearly dark, at which time the family group huddles together for warmth.


Near the beginning of the following dry season, the juveniles lose all but their head feathers and leave their parents. Each group of siblings will stay together for another year. They may form larger flocks with one or two other juvenile groups. When they reach sexual maturity at the age of three, these flocks disperse and the young dinosaurs go off alone to find their own Territories and mates.

Friday, February 26, 2010

ORNITHISCHIAN BEHAVIOR, part one



after Bird Behavior by Donald & Lillian Stokes



Tyrannosaurus Rex:

AUDITORY DISPLAYS


Song

A rapid, rising bubbly song with a bounce. Distinguished by a “Bibble-bibble” at the end of each sequence.

Males only

CONTEXT On territory at beginning of breeding season

Calls

Twigger-Call

“TWIG’GER-TWIG’ER-TWIG’GER-TWIG’GER

Male or female

A low buzzy call with a strong accent on the first syllable. May be repeated up to five times, growing louder and higher each time.

CONTEXT On territory at beginning of breeding season by male; by either male or female when nest is approached. Occasionally while hunting, when prey is scarce.


Peel-Call

“PEEEL, PEEEL, PEEEEL”

Male or female

Soft, high-pitched, each syllable distinct.

CONTEXT During courting behavior, between parents and young during feeding.


Bibble-bibble-Call

“BIBBLE, BIBBLE”

Male or Female

Bubbly, rapid, rising and falling in pitch. May be repeated many times.

CONTEXT Between male and female during mating, also during nest-building and between members of a flock while hunting.




VISUAL DISPLAYS


See-sawing

Male

Front feet are held out to the sides to aid balance while the dinosaur alternately raises and lowers his tail and head in see-saw fashion and shuffles his feet to turn slowly in a circle. Usually occurs on rise of ground.

CALLS Twigger-call or Song

CONTEXT On territory at beginning of breeding season, and for a few days after arrival of females.


Display Fighting

Males

Two males bang the tops of their heads together while gnashing their teeth and scrabbling at one another with front feet. Very rarely results in injury.

CALLS None.

CONTEXT On territory, after one male has challenged another.


Horizontal Fluff

Male or Female

Stretched in a horizontal posture, the dinosaur fluffs its head feathers. The mouth is open.

CALL Twigger-call

CONTEXT Given when another T. Rex approaches nesting area. Occasionally directed at other dinosaur species as well.


Side Hop

Male or Female

Dinosaur with food in its mouth hops sideways toward another and passes the food.

CALL Peel-call or Bibble-bibble-call

CONTEXT A courtship behavior initiated by the female. If the male accepts the food, she waits while he finds and brings a piece of food to her. If he does not accept it, she may try again, but will generally leave his territory and approach another male. Also occasionally between a mother and a fledgling. Observed on rare occasions between two females.


Necking

Male and Female

A mated pair rub heads and entwine necks while clicking teeth

CALL Bibble-bibble-call

CONTEXT Before and after copulation


Begging

Male or Female Young

Arms are held at sides and fluttered up and down while the dinosaur leans forward with its mouth open wide

CALL Peel--call

CONTEXT Given by nestlings and fledglings when they receive food from parents.


(I'm posting this in honor of the coming Spring. If birds evolved from dinosaurs, why not bird behaviors?)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WORKING ON IT WHILE I DREAM




The night after my doctor put me in a nursing home

I got a job in a restaurant under new management

but at the training meeting I took off the dirty apron

they’d given me and said I couldn’t be a waitress

after all because I could never remember

why I got up from my own table to go into the kitchen

so how could I remember what a customer wanted

and the management agreed it would be silly

to have good food and lousy service and

I think it was my roommate in the nursing home

a fine old lady who encouraged me to leave

because I didn’t belong there after all since

I was as healthy and strong as I could be

who also gave me the guts to quit the serving job

before I even started it even though I did apply

because though I’m working at it I’m not there yet



MFCP, April Fools' Day, 2003


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

LAST OF THE DADAIST LETTERS

To Clara Schumann:

Whatever can I say? How can I possibly apologize enough? My only excuse, which is of course inexcusable, is that I didn’t know how deeply involved you were with him. Of course I’ll never, ever see him again, and of course I’ve burned the photograph. I hope in time you’ll forgive me.


To John Locke:

The air this morning is like clear green tea, and the mists are draping over the hills like little lacy handkerchiefs. Oh, I know you accuse me of being sentimental, and I suppose I am, but I keep expecting you to appear between the trees like a Knight on Horseback, or better, the King of Ireland’s Son.


To Hilary Clinton:

She had the baby, did Mother tell you? And she still won’t say who its father is. It’s a big child, with clear gray eyes and long fingers. I strongly suspect the oboeist, but I may be wrong. I wish you hadn’t left her in the station that night, but there it is. I know quite well how difficult she can be.


To Han Solo:

Would anyone be surprised if I did it? Would anyone say, “She was so competent, usually cheerful. I think she had a lot on her mind lately, but she didn’t seem especially depressed.” Sometimes I wonder if anyone would even notice. I didn’t write a poem today when I first got up. This means that I’ve missed that odd loose brain state--emergence from the fragmenting, defragging stuff of dreams.



To Sir Isaac Newton:

Chimpanzees don’t get backaches. Maybe if you could grow longer arms? Knuckle across the ground? Would you then worry about leopards? We’d have to live in pods then, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to fish for termites, either.


To Werner von Braun:

When they said “We have died with Christ,” maybe they meant “We have accepted the inevitablity of our death, so that we may fully live.” This day stretches ahead of me like an old rubber band that holds together a bundle of letters or a tattered cookbook.


To Lao Tzu:

Oversleeping leaves a part of my consciousness abandoned in dream. I probably shouldn’t try to write until I find it, but there doesn’t seem to be a map. Maybe another cup of tea? I’ve been drinking the strong English Breakfast stuff, brewed in a little red ceramic pot.


To Martha Washington:

I’ve been meaning to write, but somehow the time just slips by. I’m occupied, it seems, with many things: reading to the cats, making mittens from milkweed fluff, carving swans from bars of soap. Have you stopped stressing out on your own personality? I am simply trying (oh, once again!) to accept the snippiness in myself. I would think that the Right Man would accept it in you.


To Albert Einstein:

I’ve been reading bits of Levertov’s Memoirs--they make my own childhood life so humdrum that I’ve decided to invent one . Watch out! Only you and a few other old friends will know what really didn’t happen.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

and more DADAIST LETTERS

To Princess Diana:

Enclosed are 3 photographs. One was taken on Dover Beach, right before the war. The others are obviously photos of you when you were a little child. Funny how much you resemble yourself, even then.


To Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

I’d like to go to Paris, or Tokyo--someplace big and confusing where I can’t speak the language. I need a navy blue sweater with white, narrow stripes and some white pants to wear. And red shoes. I don’t want to take my mother.


To Margaret Mead:

I must sign off so I can get this to the Post Office today. It takes several hours to walk there, now that the bridge is out. I carry scraps of bread and chicken bones to divert the foxes, who can be harrassing this time of year.


To Ophelia:

Birding in the Azores? What will you be doing next? I’m sure things will work out with Sue Ann. She’s a good soul, but needs lots of space, and less time. Buy her a green balloon next time you go to the zoo.


To Dr. Kevorkian:

I’m so sorry we didn’t make it to the party--by all accounts it was fabulous! I had no idea your daughter was so accomplished--and the flowers! and the music! Next year, I promise you, we’ll be in Taos for the season.


To Emily Dickinson:

Thank you so much for the vase. Just knowing its lineage makes it precious to me--Ludwig, and the Washingtons, Marvin and Ann-Louise. But it’s beautiful, too--the shape and the way the light plays around the thin clear rim. I shall keep it filled with apricot-colored roses, in memory of our times at the Cape.

Friday, February 19, 2010

MORE DADAIST LETTERS

To Elizabeth Bishop:

I do like the obituaries you send: so many interesting lives, so many different ways of composing them. But most of all, I want to thank you for naming how badly I need a daughter! I’d really, really like a daughter. Interestingly, I’m finally able to appreciate my mother’s love for me, something I didn’t do when I was younger. At last. She seems to want to talk a great deal about that period of her life, which is so good, since we know nothing about it.


To His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

I’m re-re-re-re-reading Little Women, of all things, and find it a great deal more moralizing than I did when I was young. And women’s laughter--the Heretics group I’m in (all of us over fifty) laugh a great deal when we’re together--not necessarily even about anything. We were getting to be a bunch of boring old people sitting around telling the same stories all the time.


To St. Francis:

Well, as you said, I’m about to ramble. I planted Swiss chard this morning, and gladiolas, and cherry tomatoes in pots. I love gardening! Well, the Apocalypse didn’t come yesterday--were you surprised? I hope that you are all better after your “very, very, VERY rare” experience. The chorus I sing in is preparing the “Laudamus Te” and the “Magnificat” from the Solemn Vespers for our spring concert, and I got to thinking that maybe the whole suffering bleeding mess of the world has been worth it for that music. It’s political, but we came at it obliquely, through Vikings and El Salvador and the Crusades and the Trojan War, for example.



To Christopher Robin and Pooh

I think it was Martin Smith who said/wrote that women’s soul work is different from men’s. “Holy detachment.” I want to come visit you soon. Maybe I shall. I miss you. What would it be like to be in that café and see people Raptured away? And speaking of books, I now have The Penguin Rhyming Dictionary. I have been wanting one for awhile.



To Robert Frost:

How many cats do you think is normal? Is three pushing the limit? I think it depends on the cats: some are equivalent to more or less than one. I think that our 3 are in reality (whatever that means) 5 1/2 cats. That doesn’t, of course, include the 4 5/8 dog.


To Martha Stewart:

How many times do I have to tell you that if you don’t write to me once a week, I go crazy? Yesterday I broke a frying pan, banging it on the front walk. I cracked the cement, too. PLEASE WRITE!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TO LUCY



TO LUCY

Australopithecus afarensis


1.

I sit on the bones of my pelvis

wondering if you looked into my eyes

you’d see an explanation,

a daughter you’d recognize.


You would know me by my hands adept with tools.

You’d hear me singing with my friends,

watch me bounce my baby nephew on my knee.

You could meet me on a summer morning,

help me gather arnica and goosefoot greens.


So much I want to know of you:

did you fish for termites, crack nuts, chew leaves,

pull strips of flesh from antelopes and birds?

Did you awaken stiff and scared from twitching dreams?

I would tell you that when I wake from mine,

I remember my Nana’s lullabies;

I want to know if someone sang for you.


What did you make of your life?

What did you understand?

When it came your time to die, were you afraid?

Were you surprised?


2.

Your Great Rift Valley was a careless archivist:

in her sandstone house she stashed

scrapbooks of mysteries,

a trunk of discarded fashions.

She tossed the crumbled pages

of your story in the river, to the wind.


Some artist made a grinning baby

of that ball of bones

from Afar’s nipple-pointed hills:

knees, milk teeth, tiny toes,

one finger curled, brown skull

returning from the dust.


3.

Through dust of volcanoes

on feet like mine your people walked.


I would like to walk

into your landscape:

the yellow grass and scrub,

the seeps and gullies of home.


In this cold land of glacial till

and blue lake bottom clay

I press my feet into ground,

footbones with their musical names:

talus, calcaneus, cuboid, navicular,

cuneiform, metatarsal, infantry of phalanges.


Across years and continents

these bones have arched their way.


Southern Ape from Afar,

where have we arrived,

our footprints everywhere?


We trail white vapor through the skies;

broken machines encircle us,

the crawling increase of our kind.

We’ve made our own volcanic air.

Our children are sorted into rooms,

our babies lie crying, all alone.


We make beautiful and deadly tools.

Our music would break your heart.

Our lives shatter, our bones come apart.


4.

Brooding over you, I dreamed

I lost my way. I stopped

at a café where they were butchering

a road-kill fawn. A baby escaped

from my suitcase. I had to walk

home in the dark and I could

not find my shoes.


5.

My journals are out of order,

unsorted letters in shoeboxes.

Unnamed ancestors smile in sepia.

In one musty drawer I keep an envelope

with two baby teeth, a cheap bracelet,

my grandmother’s amber beads.


Now that I am old,

I need a Nana most of all

to sit with in the dappled shade,

to speak of things encrypted

under layers of language,

this endless chatter in my enormous brain.


6.

I cannot look too long

in any eyes. Before I see

the hawk, I feel its gaze.

There is something wholesome

in the taste of green.

I lie awake when the moon is full

and when the moon is new.

I remember where the plums

and wild asparagus grow.

Even now I know by smell

when the snow will come.


7.

How hard, to evolve,

walk down across the land,

feel the twinges of selection:

bones growing longer,

speech changing the brain.

All around the world is turning,

brown and yellow and green.

Stars change the sky.

Do you remember?

Did you know?

Out of time, you walk with me

toward an Earth

as strange and familiar

as that house I sometimes dream

where once we lived,

that house I’ve never seen. .


~ for Barbara J. King



MFCP--I wrote this over a period of months in 2007, inspired by some Barbara J. King's Teaching Company lectures "Biological Anthropology, an Evolutionary Perspective," and "Roots of Human Behavior." It's a research poem--I did a great deal of reading and checked out the science with Barbara, which is another reason this poem is for her. She has a new book out--Being with Animals, and a Friday Blog about animals--both really good stuff!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

DADAIST LETTERS

My friend Karin taught me about these--you put slips of paper with the names of "recipients" written on them into a hat, and a bunch of sentences (or poem fragments) on slips of paper into another hat, and draw them out to make random letters. Here are some of my favorites, preceded by a little poem I wrote about writing them:

Writing imaginary letters

I feel my thinking

expand into places unexplored:

fields beneath the ocean,

valleys on the mountaintops,

the woods above the treeline.


To the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture:


I much like that after fifty, women stop being “female impersonators.” Last year they ate a nest full of baby robins just outside our living room window. This grieving business is VERY complicated, isn’t it? The older I get, the more certain I am that nobody can FIX anybody else. Certainly no one has every succeeded in fixing me, and not for lack of trying!



To a Tufted Titmouse:


I might spend some time in meditation working on an exercise Brendan taught me--he’d ask me to picture a situation and ask “whose eyes are you looking through?” and I discovered that very often they were not my own.



To Persephone:


I have finished reading Writing a Woman’s Life and liked it very much. Among my favorite bits is “Exceptional women are the chief imprisoners of nonexceptional women.” The Ethics Question about the letters: there is one, and I’ve been thinking about it. I’ll put some old fleece out for the squirrel to use--as if we need to encourage the squirrels around here. We sang a five-minute bit of Mendelssohn’s 2nd: “The night is departing,” a lovely bombastic thing. The orchestra is pretty good, and we were, too, so that was a satisfying way to end the choral season.



To Mary Wollestonecraft:


The creation, as you say, is full of Wild Cards. Apartheid, the end of slavery in Britain and the U.S., child labor laws (here, anyway), and now the amazing growing Eat Local movement, and Farmers’ Markets springing up like mushrooms! I love your fox story. There is a red squirrel trying to remove from an odd wooden person who stands in our front yard a scarf that I made from some old flannel. It’s funny to see her tugging away at it.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

PLANET OF THE APES




It hasn’t been that long, you know--

we’ve only just planted the garden.

We’ve only just come away

from our clustered huts beside the river.

Now we find ourselves surrounded

by things that click and break,

things we make but barely understand.


I wonder where we’re going,

since the process does not stop

despite what we can do,

despite the way we splice and grow.


It’s been hard, too--beasts, weather,

those other tribes across the way--

no surprise that we still know best

to fight, or cower, or run.


Though we wish and wish an Eden

once upon a time the people were not nice.

Arrow-pierced skulls decorate the shrines;

babies’ bones sanctify foundations.

The horns of the altars are stained with human blood.


It will take a long time to learn

to be quiet inside, not to

hit back, not to be afraid.

How long will it take to shoo the gods away?


Can you imagine what could be next,

what possible world might come

since nothing impossible has happened,

and nothing happens that cannot change?



MFCP I wrote this several years ago, after reading a great deal of biological anthropology and seeing the original "Planet of the Apes" film.




Friday, February 12, 2010

FILED AWAY




Poor wee things, headless,

buried all along the edges of the forest path,

or in the pasture, in secret.


It’s their ghosts that haunt you at night,

the plots that twist and flutter through your dreams:

that house on the hill full of flowers,

geologist found in his field with a rock hammer in his head,

Magi on their way to Bethlehem: Druid, Bodhisattva, and African witch,

the girl who ran away to dance and was shot by a clown,

the church haunted by the specter of an evil priest.


Someday, you tell them,

I will try to resurrect you.

But they twitch and turn

in their shallow graves, unbelieving:

those wasted carcasses,

uneasy dead.


MFCP--This is about ideas for stories that never happened, just in case you can't figure that out. I wrote it in Feb., 2004

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TRACKS

Years ago, I wrote a column for a wonderful monthly local paper called "Five Town News." The pieces were not poems, but sometimes came close, and sometimes inspired poems. I'll occasionally post one of the columns here, and, as with the poems, feel free to copy and share--and I'd love to know if you shared one, and where.

TRACKS


There is a fox living in the bank bulldozed up years ago on the edge of the little woods near the house; every snowy morning I see his trotting tracks skirting the edge of the field; I see his little scent marks on tufts of grass. One morning, I found a clump of bloody rabbit fur that he had dropped on his way home. The next morning, the fur was gone, and the perfect print of a bird's spread wings, each feather clear in the fine snow, showed where the crow had come to tidy up.


There are more bird prints in the woods: around the hemlocks that have dropped their cones in the wind; there is a place I know where a mouse's tracks end in a scurry and a drop of blood under the feather-marks and talon prints of an owl.


But more usually the tracks of mice end in holes, edged with the ice-crystals formed from their tiny breaths. I leave sunflower seed outside the holes, believing in a vague and silly way that if I feed them in the woods, they will stay out of the heating system and the air filter of my car. Mice are a dreadful nuisance in the house, but how can I set traps for people whose tracks are the prints of perfect, miniature hands?


The skunks are up and about now, lumbering through the deep snow on their ridiculously tiny feet. And the turkeys are scratching here and there, and the partridges are wandering around in a way that looks to me to be totally random, but no doubt they have routes and schedules and businesses of their own. They have been sleeping in their deep tunnels near the path; I hope that I'm never too jaded to feel my heart jump wildly when a partridge takes its noisy whistling flight from a spot next to where I stand.


There is a place where squirrels live and dig for their stores under tree roots. There is a place, not far from the fox's den, where the rabbits come to dance and to feed and to be fed upon at night.


During one summer, there was a lone beaver trying to make a living in a long-abandoned beaver pond in the woods, and he dammed up a trickling winter run-off stream to make a secondary puddle on the pond's edge. He left flat, slappy tracks in the muddy slide between his ponds. But he is gone now, and what was once his domain is nothing but a pile of rotting sticks where the chickadees perch, leaving their thin stick-like tracks in the fine snow.


If someone were to track me, what would she find? First, the clumsy, inorganic snowshoe marks, made by the only creature who can't go comfortably barefoot in its own winter yard. Then, the packed down place where the snowshoes came off and my old felt-pack tracks led to the house. Then tiny puddles through the hall, into the kitchen, and to the back door of this mudroomless house where the boots were changed for clogs. And then nothing.


The tracker could follow me to work, sometimes, maybe, if she were clever: my smaller suede boot prints leading to the car, the marks of my tires on the road, my boot prints disappearing into the thousands of other prints on the streets of the city where I work. She would notice, if she tracked carefully, that sometimes the car stops and the boots track wetly into places where food is stored, and gathered, and paid for. And now and then, she'd find evidence of meetings, the remnants of shared meals, the prints of dancing shoes.


How close am I now to the creatures in the woods? My booted feet trace my journeys far from my den; I do not search desperately for lost acorns in the snow; the strong smell of the fox does not freeze me into immobile terror. And yet, as I walk to and fro--in the woods, in the city, through the market--I know that my little activities are the same as theirs: I hunt, I gather, I build, I fight, I flee. And sometimes, I even dance in the dark with my companions.


March, 1993


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

MANNERS FOR GENTLEMEN




MANNERS FOR GENTLEMEN

A gentleman should never question a lady's poems.

~Ray Hudson



A gentleman always pours wine for a lady

so that the fire under her skin

will not set the alcohol ablaze.


A gentleman always precedes a lady into a crowd

to shield the innocent

from the power of her gaze.

A gentleman always seizes his hatbrim when a lady passes

so that the whirlwind that follows her

will not carry it off into the street.


A gentleman always opens a door for a lady

so that she may have her sword arm free

to vanquish the villans lurking behind.

(This is also why he carries her packages.)


A gentleman always walks on the streetside of a lady

so that she may, with a white-gloved finger,

tap into place any loose bricks

in the foundations of civilization.


A gentlemen always follows a lady into a carriage

so that he will not be in the way

if she must stun the driver, seize the reins,

and gallop resolutely toward the invading hordes.


MFCP--published in ATLANTA REVIEW, Fall, 2008


Monday, February 8, 2010

SEVEN BIRDBOOKS


White-breasted nuthatch--

the fellow outside my window now--

its smooth black head,

V of black feathers on its grey back,

white underside intricately patterned in chestnut brown.

Inverted, it picks a seed from the hanging feeder,

flies away, returns to pick again.


And juncos, titmouses, chickadees--

common birds in winter, in Vermont--

hopping down the branches,

opening their orange mouths,

scratching in the snow.


Blue jays, goldfinches, cardinals--

the way they cock their heads,

twitch their tails, curve their wings.

Mourning doves perched placid on the fence

until the sharp-shinned hawk

rockets down and sends them whistling away.


I have seven birdbooks

and I am too heavy to understand a world

where crows survey the town from treetops

and rooftops, calling out their private news.




MFCP--I wrote this quick one on Feb. 8, 2008

Friday, February 5, 2010

JEWELS



The moon in a mackerel sky

suggested spring snow that would not come;

and in the frozen orchard a deer lay dying,

her belly swollen with fawn unborn.

In the road, blood, a piece of headlamp, hair.

Francis came to shoot her

since she could not die.


Not a man to preach to the birds,

this Francis plows winter roads,

cleans the ditches of gravel and trash,

gave his niece money for a honeymoon in Vegas.

He parked his gray pickup in the drive,

walked between bare apple trees,

between winter prunings, with his gun.


I think that each soul looks like a jewel

resting in God’s great dark hand.

I think the deer is red, a garnet;

Francis a diamond, carbon compressed.

I think from his place that saint

calls down the crows, the hungry coyotes,

each to its consecrated task.


MFCP

This was published in Writers’ Journal, May/June 2004

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

RIDDLES #5

THE FOOT



It came to nothing--

Mother’s ambition,

my sacrifice.


I always knew

that she was the one--

everything they look for--

that hair, those eyes,

the tiny foot.


Mine healed badly.

I shall always hobble.


No one ever told me

what was required

for balance,

what was required

for love.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

RIDDLES #4

A DIARY



Today is cold, but there is no wind.

I found a robin redbreast, frozen, by the water.

It made me sadder than usual.


They caught Willow, in the forest.

She had gone early, to pick new blossoms.

People get careless; people forget so soon.


I dreamed I swept the churchyard,

brushed the pebbles into piles.

There were no candles anymore.


The children were playing at hunting

in the spring meadow this morning--

stalking one another,


smelling, tasting the windy air.

It felt good to laugh again--

the first time since Grandmother--

since she’s been gone.



Monday, February 1, 2010

RIDDLES #3

THE BIRD


Her hunger was terrible:

few seeds, and drought

had driven the earthworms deep.


Only one nestling still lived.

The others--poor scraps

of down and bone--too pitiful

even for the crows.


But then, along the forest floor,

winding through the tall black trees,

a trailing of coarse brown crumbs.