Monday, May 31, 2010

FAIRY TALE




Walking in the woods

always birds

often deer

often coyote

once turning a corner

face to face with a fox

equally surprised

once moose tracks


What am I looking for?

monkeys swinging in a branch of pine

seals basking on the old beaver dam

flamingos wading through cattails

or like in a story I read once upon a time

a little door low down in a tree

the golden key in my pocket


MFCP, 1998


Friday, May 28, 2010

IN THE KITCHEN



I like it when he comes in here, after supper,

when the washing up is mostly done

and I’m just mopping the table

and setting things to rights.

He sits on the flour barrel in the corner

and plays his music, and sings.

We don’t talk much.

I don’t suppose there would be trouble if we did--

who cares what an old Irishman

and an old woman like me do in our free time?

Mam said I was lucky to get this work,

but I think not lucky--I’m a good cook,

and they know it. At least I got a couple things

out of the plantation--cooking, and my baby.

I’m glad she’s up north now.

It’s not safe here for a pretty girl like her,

and the lady of the house where she works

is teaching her to read in the evenings.

These railroad men don’t scare me:

I’ve seen it all.

I can take care of myself.

And he comes in to sing

just at the dangerous time of day,

looks after me, in a way,

reminds me to bolt the car door behind

when he goes.


This is part of my American Folk Song Suite.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ALPHABET



Art the Accident.


Beauty the Broken.


Creation the Crisis,

Duty the Death,

Entropy the Elegy.


Fantasy the Fear.

Gentleness the Grief.


Hidden the Hunger,

Ignorant the Instance.


Juggle the Joy.

Killer the Kiss.

Listen the Liking.


Music the Miracle.


Never the Necessity,

Only the Ordinary.


Portion the Present.

Question the Queen.


Restore the Ridiculous,

Sing the Synchronous.


Terrible the Telling

Under the Umbrella.


Verify the Verse:

Wish the Words,

Exercise the Excellent.


Yesterday the Yes,

and Z, after which

the silence

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NOT MOMMY




-for Henry and Heather



I do not get up at night to feed you. I do not

hold your hand, or tell you where to go. I do not

take care of you, any more. I do not

want to be mommy to you, to anyone, at all, but


something longer, higher, broader:

something open wide as vulture wings;

tough as stems of witchgrass overgrown;

solid as beach sand packed hard by winter tide.


And I would be audacious as first green leaves unfurling;

bracing as lightning bugs, as yellow flag, as frogs.

I who am not mommy shall yet be

woman, window, candle, friend.


I will not love you from my need--

but love like wind loves poplar leaves,

like fire loves the dark of autumn stones,

like light loves the slow drip and freeze of water from the eaves.


You are free as earthquakes;

free as snowgeese, as summer rain.

I will be free as wild apples,

a cranky old crow flapping over in late September skies.



For Graduation & wedding season!

MFCP June 2001

Free Focus, spring 2004

Monday, May 24, 2010

NAMING THE POWERS



Ariel, you were, and Tiriel,

Gabriel, Uriel. And elsewhere

Isma’il, Uthra, Susniel, Melha.

Mercury, too, one of the names you bore

as you pushed through the ether

bearing light, news, the necessities of your time.


You are still there, and not just

in intrigue, memory, myth.

You traffic inside, but outside, too,

the small circle of solar light,

beyond the milky path

of your old confinement.


We are learning your names again;

we call you Quark, Neutrino, Positron.

You are Muon, Pion, Kaon.

Ah, you who spin the Cosmos,

who sing the notes we hear

on our borders, in the dark,

I name you Uncertainty,

I name you Quanta.

I name you Gravity’s Speed.



MFCP, 2003


Sunday, May 23, 2010

NOT LIKE A DOVE




Come Holy Spirit, come

like a red eft creeping out

from under wet leaves,

crossing the travelled highway

at night after rain.

Come like the brown anole comes north

unexpected in bananas or limes;

like a gecko hunting roaches on a wall.

Come like chameleon;

like iguana still as deep green death

flittering a cloven tongue.

Come like Komodo parting the ways

with your stinking breath. Come

clear the carrion from this isle.

Come Holy Spirit

come like the Dragon remembered of old

rattling and clanking on golden wings.

Seize our treasures for your twinkling hoard.

Burn away all that will burn.


MFCP, published in The Other Side, May & June, 2003


Saturday, May 22, 2010

EVERY CORNCRAKE COUNTS



A number of factors affecting Corncrakes:

loss of long vegetation along hedgerows,

drainage of small marsh areas

where reeds, white-grass and flag iris provide early cover,

more closely grazed pasture,

marginal land going out of production.

Rotary cutters cut very close to the ground.


Any species attempting to nest

on the ground in a hay meadow is at risk.


Cutting from the headlands towards the centre kills birds.

Chicks in particular are reluctant to cross mown ground

where they are at risk from predators like hooded crows,

tend to stay in long grass where they are often killed

when the last swathes at the centre of the field are cut.


When a Corncrake loses a clutch

--for example in a silage field--but survives herself,

she will lay again often in a hay meadow

which may also be cut before the eggs hatch.

In this way, a female may lay three of four clutches

but succeed in hatching few or no chicks.


Listen for Corncrakes on your land.

Listen for their calling at night.


The male Corncrake usually calls from the same spot.

You may be able to work out which field the nest is in.

If you have a Corncrake on your land

leave areas of rough vegetation on the farm uncut.

Marshy corners, patches of flag iris and nettles

all provide suitable early nest sites.

Ensure that the headlands have taller grass than the rest of the field

when the Corncrakes arrive.


With a little care and patience, fields can be cut in a way

that will drive Corncrake adults and chicks

to the safety of the field margins.

It will be necessary to work the field

in an anti-clockwise direction.

Headlands at the field ends are cut first

to provide a turning circle.

Leave a swathe uncut in the headlands.


Cut the field slowly.

Speed kills, and is not vital



MFCP--This is the first poem I "found." It's in “Every Corncrake Counts,” an Irish Wildbird Conservancy pamphlet

written by Eleanor Mayes. I think of bobolinks in the fields around here, now that people are already haying.

Friday, May 21, 2010

STARTING OVER



--and do you remember the night the long rain stopped?

We woke to silence, and moonlight through the high window.

No sound but the animals breathing in their sleep--

--and the owls---


It was so hard to wait

but when the dove did not return

you worked open the swollen latch

and we pushed the ladder out.

I shooed away the chickens--

all those chickens underfoot.


You insisted on going first

even though your rheumatism was bad--

and I came down right behind you

with my knees not so much better.

Soft wet dirt, all the swamp stink,

but not a cloud in sight.


On top of the hill, that one tree

--Olive--with little leaves unfolding,

beginnings of buds where new olives would be--


The children crowded down behind.

Everything that could fly flew;

and the mice and monkeys, squirrels, possums,

horses, camels, cats and dogs.

Stones everywhere, like bones;

and bones, so many bones.


I scattered the seeds I’d saved on the slick and blackened ground.

You made a pile of stones, went back in and fetched a lamb, a calf.

The sun warmed my face--

We brought fire from the little lamp

while the bow shimmered there, hanging there--


Somehow the freedom of it--

so strange even now remembering it, believing it--

knowing that we are the ones--

the making and mending, the losing, yielding,

how it all comes out--


So soon the olives bloomed, blossoms fell,

little seeds grew up to grain.

We made wine from the grapes;

apples ripened red, so sweet,

on every clean-picked twig the nub of next year’s fruit;

in each white heart one strange and impeccable star.


MFCP--a Spring poem


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

RIDING A TRICYCLE ALL NIGHT LONG




She did not leave a note.

They had not believed her about the dinosaurs;

why would they believe she needed to travel?


The roads were good, even the clabbered ones.

She stopped at a castle and left her trike in the lot

since tricycle parking was free on Tuesdays.

She wandered the gardens, the garderobes,

climbed the narrow winding stair.

The view from the parapegm was not remarkable.

She was afraid she could not get down.

A woman who translates for cats

(at night the big white ones yell “Guys? Guys?”)

talked her down--“Just don’t notice”--

one level at a time, so easy she did not notice

when she reached the green Mosaic floor.


Back on the road,

there was the usual difficulty

about bathrooms

but she found one in time, clean,

in a schoolhouse.

Someone had written the alphabet

in perfect currish

all over all the ceilings and the walls.


She saw lions playing in the meadows

as she drove through the countryside,

but she was not afraid.

She knew they were too young

to harm her, too young

to have intractable claws.


In the college town,

at the complicant intersection,

someone she could not see--

perhaps one of the younger dinosaurs--

jumped on the back of the trike to give her directions,

but she could not say where they were going.

Maybe Montana.

Maybe home.


Here's what the weird words mean:

complicant: folded over

currish: like a cur!

parapegm: Gk. a tablet on which laws were engraved set on a pillar



MFCP March , 2007

Monday, May 17, 2010

TWELVE SECRETS OF THE WOODS

found in the 1920 Girl Scout Handbook



the umbrella that stands up spread

to show that there is a restaurant in the cellar


the manna-food that grows on the rocks

and holds up its hands in the Indian sign

of innocence so all may know how good it is


the vine that climbs above the sedge

to whisper on the wind

there are cocoanuts in my basement


the rabbit puts his hind feet down

ahead of his front ones as he runs


the squirrel buries every other nut

and who it was that planted

those shag-barks along the fence


what the woodchuck does in midwinter

and on what day


the pale villain of the open woods--

the deadly amanita--for whose fearful poison

no remedy is known


poison ivy that was once so feared--

now so lightly held by those who know


the balsam fir in all its fourfold gifts--

as Christmas tree,

as healing balm,

as consecrated bed,

as wood of friction fire


the wonderful medicine that is in the sky


the bread of wisdom,

the treasure that cures much ignorance,

that is buried in the aisle

of Jack-o-Pulpit’s Church


what walked around your tent

on the thirtieth night of your camp-out


Saturday, May 15, 2010

USE A WORD THREE TIMES AND IT IS YOURS

Chalaza:

1. During the production of megaspores,

the chalaza isn’t a good hangout for someone with allergies.

2. Without a chalaza, where do the integuments and nucelluses join?

3. If you stand with your back to the chalaza,

on a sunny day you can see light coming through the micropyle.


Parallelepipedon:

1. The bareback rider leaped from the galloping horse

and landed gracefully on the smooth silver top of the parallelepipedon.

2. After much searching, the antique dealer

found a parallelepipedonic jewelry box for the completion of my collection.

3. She felt tired, unbalanced, as if a giant hand had pulled her normally cubic form

into a parallelepipedon.


Smouch:

1. Jeremiah smouched a lavender-scented Tum from his mother’s handbag.

2. Creeping around through the kitchen door, the wily dog smouched

the leg of lamb that Cook was planning to roast for the family’s dinner.

3. In the soft summer evening, under the moon, he smouched a smooch.


Gyacutus:

1. The gyacuti, wary of the influx of flatlanders to Vermont,

are migrating in large numbers to the Canadian Rockies.

2. The orthopedist told me that if I didn’t get a lift in my left shoe, I’d walk like a gyacutus.

3. It is now believed by reputable ecologists that sidehill erosion in many New England localities

was not the result of overgrazing by sheep in the 1800’s,

but by herds of post-glacial gyacuti.


Tarantism:

1. When the baby heard the old man singing “Don’t fence me in,”

she was seized with tarantism, and bobbed up and down,

up and down, on her mother’s lap.

2. I suffered from tarantism once, but after several years in a support group,

I find that I can stand still on most rhythmic occasions.

3. There is nothing in nature that can be compared to the sight of a herd of gyacuti

in the grip of their springtime tarantism.



MFCP


Thursday, May 13, 2010

ANY MORE UGLY FURNITURE





In the night while I slept,

someone sneaked into my house and left

two mis-matched chairs, a dented coffee table,

a broken-backed sofa covered in shabby gray.

When I awoke hours later,

I saw only my own old things.

I’d been thinking about reupholstering;


I’d been thinking about flowers.

Under the snow sleep pink peonies,

bluebells, tulips of orange and red.

Each bulb of daffodil has in its center

a thin whip of gold, ready to go.

Every spring they do it again.


Last night in my bed I walked

along in the dark, up a steep hill.

When a light clicked on,

I saw where I was, and slid down

into a drift of snow where a woman

with daffodils in her hair stood waiting,

waving a scrap of yellow cloth.


MFCP


Saturday, May 8, 2010

COMPREHENDING CASSATT




I did not like the paintings

of Mary Cassatt:

female licking an envelope flap,

two females drinking tea.

Seductive children: the slip

sliding off a shoulder,

a mother absently fondling

or turned away.


I did not like Mary Cassatt--

this cool objectifier--

until I looked anew and saw


in painting after painting

the expressions in the eyes,

those women and children bored

and beautifully dressed,

reading or drinking cups of tea,

staring into into space,

focused so softly

on nothing at all.



Sunday, May 2, 2010

GREEN UP DAY WITH LIZZIE




Cocky as the angle of her baseball cap,

sharp as the blades of her hockey skates,

she’s not quite twelve, ready for Junior High.

I did a project about women in the Civil War,

she tells me as we pick beer bottles from the roadside.

They took care of the farms, they sent food to the army;

some of them disguised themselves as men to fight.

I’d hate to live near a battle field, where all those people died.

An empty potato chip bag, full of cigarette butts.

This is disgusting! My Dad quit smoking

when Mom had us, she tells me, and leaps

across the muddy ditch for a McDonald’s cup.


It’s a long road uphill between pastures and woods.

Old foundations, wrecked barns, not many houses.

There’s a bag of rotting deer parts by the culvert;

we mark it for the road crew. That’s awful.

It’s wasteful. I think they should let deer hunt people,

she says. The Indians used everything:

skins for clothes, bones for needles,

teeth for jewelry. My Dad quit hunting

when we were born so there wouldn’t be guns in the house.


Another green bag is full; we leave it on the shoulder.

I write poetry, she tells me.

Lots of it is sad, like when our dog died.

A large man in a pickup drives slowly past,

turns around and comes back.

What’s he doing? Following us?

Decoys in the truck bed; shotgun in the rack.

Hunting, I say. Spring turkeys.

I hate it when they do that.

She adjusts her cap, I open another bag

and we watch as he parks, opens the door,

goes off behind the brambles with his gun.



MFCP--I wrote this 7 years ago, after doing a Vermont Green Up Day with a feisty young neighbor.