Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Heavily Flapping Are The Bustards' Plumes" \ Humming To Myself

Alan:  I now know that our fish and game department has a project to establish wild turkeys, here where they never occurred naturally.  The title  comes from an ancient Chinese poem of frustration and complaint.
"Heavily Flapping Are The Bustards’ Plumes"
"Heavily flapping are the bustards’ plumes."
The turkey, new unwanted neighbor,
skulks at the top of the lane.
Back!  O destroyer of gardens!
Heavily, booted and wet-kneed,
I tramp the lane, checking for washouts,
every culvert choked and gurgling.
The dog – old at last – coaxed from sleep…
for this?  Still, his nose, better
than all our eyes, seeks news.
At the mailbox, we turn
the half mile back
into the rain's slant,
the turkey – I am sure of it –
leering from the alders, watching
our diminishing, soaked backsides,
sensing, in our movement
and direction, garden.
“Heavily Flapping Are The Bustards’ Plumes,” from Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo, eds. (Indiana University Press, 1975)
Nancy: Such vivid memories.  We were our own instant image makers and they remain unfaded, wrapped in sound and odor and the textures of bark and wool.
Humming To Myself
Awoke to summer.
Drank cold sweet water.  Ate fish from a slow river.
Was lost in cornfields.  Walked through trees
growing thick over limestone beds.
Whispered to old grampa, who had marched for the South.
Carried peonies to the graves, my father’s mother,
my mother’s father, my grandmother’s grandpa,
who took up his gun for the North.  Sat on a blanket
in the graveyard.  Listened to the stories.
Learned the seeds of the corn and the squash.
Learned the paw paw, the black walnut, the sycamore,
the sassafras.  Drank the tea of the sassafras.
Dug dandelion greens.  Ate dandelion greens wilted
in hot vinegar.  Saw black tongues of cloud.
Watched my father break slabs of coal.  Touched
the fern in the heart of the coal.  Learned to sing
Shall We Gather At The River.
Coughed all night.  Coughed all winter.
Made the wool patches of my winter quilt into hills
and valleys.  Made cabins in my hills and rivers
in my valleys.  Breathed steam, spicebush filling
my lungs, said it was the mist rising from my rivers.
Ate soup made from an old hen.  Ate my corncakes
with molasses.
Made a shrill noise with a willow whistle.
Watched the peonies open.  Helped spread the blankets
in the graveyard.  Helped unpack the food.
Walked on the road with the tall popple.  Watched
my cork bob on the water.  Made a small hot fire.
Cooked fish rolled in cornmeal.  Cooked them in bacon
grease.  Helped Mama shave soap.  Dipped water from
the rain barrel.  Folded sheets.
Went to my grandmother, maker of salves and plasters,
with cuts and splinters and cinders in my knees.
Was tutored in stoicism.  Was given a handful of
mignonette.  Learned to can tomatoes.  Climbed
the cherry tree with a lard pail.  Had a swing
hung in the rose arbor.  Had another swing hung
from a high high limb.  Came down from the sky and
learned to make pies.
Fell asleep waiting for the stars to fall.
Fell asleep on a blanket on the grass, with my father’s
strong voice behind me singing.  Yes,
we’ll gather at the river.  The beautiful,
the beautiful river.  The beautiful, the shining,
the silver river.
“Humming To Myself” first appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal.