Wednesday, September 28, 2011

High Tide, New Moon \ East Of Ellsworth

Nancy: Autumn tides, often with a wind pushing even more water into the bay, can make the lane into a temporary arm of the sea.
High Tide, New Moon
Home lies on the far side
of the whale songs, on the far shore
of the Labrador waters.
This is the road home,
but this is the sea;
we are on the far shore
of the land of bed and teakettle,
and our feet are washed by the herring
of the one sea.
We must wait here, and home is on the far side,
across the mewing of seals,
down the road that sways with the stroke
of great flippers.
We must wait, and when we do go, at last,
through the waters,
we know that our home is an island,
part of the one sea;
that we are washed by the blood of seals,
that the great whales sway with our passing,
and the moon.
When we are home, the door swings inward
on bed, and teakettle,
and outward,
on the one sea.
Alan: Leaving home, heading home: the same road, but never the same.
East Of Ellsworth
The traffic thins with the day.
The road narrows with the light.
Two hours yet to go –
one long slithery slide Downeast –
but I’m content, gas station
coffee warming my gut,
alone, moving through darkness
and increasing rain,
the car like an old horse,
knowing, from here, its own way home.
“High Tide, New Moon” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press & Slow Dancer Press, 1984)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Waiting For A Break \ Approaching Equinox

Nancy: Poverty bumps up against wealth when summer vacationers take to the roads as NY and MA and beyond get a yen to see Canada.
Waiting For A Break
“I’ll do what I can.”  It’s the best promise
I’ll get, and I hand him the key.  Before I’m
out the door he’s back under the big pickup.
The heavy guy by the hoist half grins and shrugs,
like me, he should have been somewhere else,
not watching his livelihood spread itself in pieces
across the oily garage floor.
In the heat haze outside, half the cars in the lot
look abandoned to death-by-grime, and even the ones
with plates crouch over rainbow puddles and sagging
mufflers.  They remind me that I’m not alone,
I’ve just joined the helpless carless class, worse,
the rural helpless carless class, grateful for any offer
of a ride, running the endless tape loop...
“if it’s not too much trouble...”
I’ve got my ride home, if we can ever get back on the
highway: U.S. Route One, the road north, and half
of Massachusetts is fleeing the heat.  In their motor
homes.  In their motorhomes with their boats on trailers.
In their motorhomes with their Lexus in tow and a boat
on the roof and a pop-up satellite dish and cool drinks
in the refrigerator.
It’s like this in the summer, long minutes waiting for a
break while the visible wealth of Connecticut and New York
and Massachusetts flows north in a stream.  In a hot
summer like this there are weeks when it seems like
the whole county, all of us, are just sitting on the edge,
watching the bucks roll by and waiting for a break.
Alan: Observing this place, year after year, I become attuned to the balance points, always the same, always subtly different.
Approaching Equinox
The shadows grow longer,
morning by lucent morning,
laying cool hands
on fields still green
from August's mowing and no frost.
The marsh busies itself with shorebirds,
chaff-like, swirling, settling,
swirling again.
Black ducks lift with a clatter
from the still green water:
staccato blink of underwings
pale yellow.  Perhaps
a heron kicks upward
with a croak, protesting
the need to find another
fishing place.  Sparrows
work the scrub between
lane and shore;
chickadees sing their two-note
Spring call: do they look forward
or back?  At the edge
of a quick slide into darkness
it seems at this moment
we could balance forever.
“Waiting For A Break” first appeared in Fencing Wildness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Stories Of An Old Poacher \ The Tame Hare

Nancy:  The “kiak” in the poem is not a boat, but a Maritimes name for alewives.
Stories Of An Old Poacher
who lived here, in this house
who remembers Paradise
who names his guns, many guns
who shot the two bears between the eyes with a 22
who shows us the apple tree they were in
who shows us where the eel pots were
who had hidden lobster traps
who dipped kiak out of the stream every Spring
who gives us the three best recipes for cooking kiak
who always got his deer by the corner of the house
who points out which corner and where the deer fell
who smiles remembering roast duck
who smiles remembering his wife scolding, eating duck, scolding
who has maybe killed more geese than we have ever seen
who tells us of the thousands of geese
                                thousands of geese
                                every year, thousands
                                geese in the bay, geese flying over the house
                                geese at the lake
                                geese flying at night up to the lake
                                rush and wild call
                                and the noise of gunners
who looks at the bay and the sky over the bay
who shakes his head
who knows we can’t imagine
who says, it’s quiet now my dears
it’s quiet now
Alan: If we truly attend, our separate selves fade and what we notice is interrelationship itself.
The Tame Hare
Watching you,
I see how Dürer tamed his hare,
painted just so among the herbs,
forever watching
deft motions of a hand
immortalizing one small, cautious
Dürer talked, I think, as we talk,
around and obliquely to you,
sharing the general vicinity of your afternoon browse
at the crisp and sunny corner of the lawn,
lulling you past fear of stewpot,
dog bolting from sudden gaping door,
flash and heartleap of death.
Our voices are food enough
to draw you almost to our hands.
Or rather, you have drawn us
into your world, precise and spear-green,
making us sit and watch, and wait, and listen,
everything perfect and in place.
“Stories Of An Old Poacher” first appeared in Fencing Wildness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

P.S 43 \ The Man Who Never Stopped Painting His House

Nancy:  I was only thrown out of school in disgrace twice in my life.  My Mama was “mortified,” a good word I don’t hear much anymore.
P.S. 43
I was smiling when I handed Miss Hoffman
the rat.  I had carried it as I did my roller
skates, by the tail, the weight of it swinging
beside my leg.  My daddy said there was a 
Book of Knowledge all around me and I was
delighted with the rat, and wanted to know:
why was its tail scaly?  why were its teeth
orange?  And no one stopped me as I carried
the rat up the steps, through the Girls door,
down the hall and into the room.
I smiled.  Miss Hoffman screamed.  I knew at
once.  We were not going to open my Book
of Knowledge.  Not then  Not there.  No, NO,
NO, not in Miss Hoffman’s classroom.
Alan: How many houses do we all pass by, year after year, with no one ever around, a mystery made stranger by whatever thin thread of a story we can give to it?
The Man Who Never Stopped Painting His House
On the way to town lived a man
who never stopped painting his house.
We’d see it summers as we jounced
the six miles in from camp for groceries or gas:
scaffold in place, planks that over humid weeks
rode down, minutely, as the new white covered old,
clapboard by clapboard.
                                                    My mom, hinting some moral
only she could parse, told us each year the story.
He’d had a heart attack – the doctor’d warned him
never to exert.  A little chill rippled
the back seat of our car.
                                                   So he painted his house
endlessly, too poor or clogged with Yankee pride
to hire it done: a saint of perseverance
or a fool.  We never saw him out and yet
the work went on.
                                                   One year it was finished,
down to the dark trim, the ladders gone.
He died before Fall: the realtor’s sign went up
but didn’t linger: an easy sell, so neat and so well kept.