Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bear Hunters \ Burning The Barren Ground

Alan: As a non-hunter, it took me awhile to notice that hunting, around here, is an essentially social act.
The Bear Hunters
The man in the bear suit
lies at full stretch beside the road
on his side, with his nose in weeds,
one hand twisted under,
his broad feet splayed
while the man in plaid flannel
bends and prepares to insert
and twist the tag
and start to cut open
the belly.
Other men, a handful, stand around
aimlessly, wanting to be part of
the scene, to not have business
elsewhere,
an inconsequential back road
taking on, for a few minutes
through their attentiveness and witness
an air of drama or at the least
tableau.
Pickup trucks, six or seven,
line the gravel, two with drivers still
at the wheels
as if watching
a drive-in movie.
There is something almost pinched
about their eagerness
as if they feel a gnawing
in the gut.
Only the man at work
and the bear, who has an expression
of something that has not yet got used
to being dead,
look unhungry.
There are traditions
in which it is said that hunters
return in their next lives
as what they have killed, when,
not remembering exactly,
but having a sort of fading image
of what they were before,
they are drawn, curious, or careless,
to the very places of danger
and the men who now hunt them,
and so are killed, in a sense,
at their own hands or, as good as,
hands like those they once had.
Whether or not this is true
there is, on the faces of the men at the roadside,
something enough like a bear’s insatiable hard stare
that it might be possible to think
they could almost be wondering
when the one who has now commenced skinning
will finish,
pull on the thick black pelt
and take off running
into the woods.
Nancy: Hundreds and hundreds of acres of rolling, stony uplands left by the glacier and now covered with Maine blueberries.  It all gets burned every other year.
Burning The Barren Ground
Yesterday,
fire running everywhere
men whipping it on, their magic
out in the Phoenix gardens
fire all day
veins of fire running out in the dusk
dying between the stones
What if the women made magic?
Never told anyone?
Today, raining
the fields all sard and onyx after the burn
wet, shining
too early yet for a rising
just stony black fields
naked red stems
silver veins of rain
“Burning The Barren Ground” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Translator \ Ghost Image

Alan: All writing seems an act of translation, as deep reading is a hope to be translated.
The Translator
She sat next to me, reading
La Neige Tombant Sur Les C├Ędres
the whole flight, east coast to Seattle,
except for a meal, a nap or two,
her book filling the dry cabin
high, high above the parched nation
with mystery, with green and solemn light.
I felt then the cedars I was leaving
and those toward which I was passing,
how cool they would be, even in summer,
and how in winter the snow off Fundy
or Puget Sound would hold the half-light steady
in its moist fingers, weaving a story, the same and not the same,
among the branches over my upturned face.
Nancy: I feared neither man nor beast when Folly was with me.  And she would be with me, even if it meant bending the bars we’d put on the pickup cap.
Ghost Image
for Folly
The black dog falls out of the drawer
in casual parts, as she wandered through photographs
which were not meant to be photographs of dogs
but of gardens, or friends, or of the north Atlantic.
Missing the dog is much the same.  Bits of dog
scattered all through our landscapes take us by surprise.
I must have thousands of images latent: see how she runs
in the shadow of a bird, black on snow, caught
in the act of quick grace.
There’s no weighting her down with a stone,
this dog who has gone everywhere.
“The Translator” first appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal.  “Ghost Image” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press & Slow Dancer Press, 1984).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Water-Rock Poem \ Eighteen Strangers Are Bused In To A Poetry Workshop

Alan: How we live seems normal to us, but not, apparently, to most.  This poem sums it up – with a nod to Han Shan, whose own poems were found, after he vanished, on rocks and trees.
Water-Rock Poem
When you challenged the incumbent,
we were “hippies that ran around in the woods naked smoking dope.”
When you went downstate to read,
you overheard in the ladies’ room that you
“didn’t smell” the way she “thought you would.”
My father, tapping the inside wall
that was also the outside wall,
pronounced our situation “marginal.”
My mother fretted and fretted
until we finally got a phone,
although for a long time
it was under the stairs
in an unused house
ten miles off.
Still, we have been here over thirty years
together, living our poems,
painting them on rocks,
the bark of old trees,
in water,
in rain that blows in
from the east,
sun that blows in
from the west.
Nancy: “Enrichment,” or a day out of school, a better-than-school-buffet lunch and a folder full of handouts.  Or perhaps, sometimes, a spark that lights a fire? 
Eighteen Strangers Are Bused In To A Poetry Workshop
Her boyfriend’s twenty-five, she’s
  ten years younger.
This is a poetry workshop, I only learn
  about her two-year old (girl? boy?)
And we’re off to another town, another affair
  of the heart.
The stories pour out in poems, a lot
  of love, a lot (stifled, distanced) of anger.
It’s ok, I tell them.  Be honest.  You have
  a right to that, poems are no place
To be polite.
The girls bounce off one another’s poems
  as though they were trampolines.
They have so much to say.
The boys sit with their shoe soles up
  and out, I see their faces
Distant, behind tread patterns and logos.
One of the girls leaves the trampoline,
  she’s talking about guns.
Nobody has written about guns.  The boys
  come alive, feet back, heads forward.
Everyone talks at once.
About fights.  About community (they don’t use
  that word), about the towns
Where school buses are stoned after basketball games,
  about the car full of kids
Trying to run down the soccer player.
About the kid who was shot.  How he was
  everyone’s friend.
About grief, and fear.
I know that across the hall they’re hearing
  about proofreading and punctuation.
It’s ok, I say, the hour is up
  but remember, you have stories
For one another, you have the right
  to write it as you see it.
I get a last word from the girl
  with the child: a sigh,
“When I get home – it’s Friday –
  by the time I get home,
Half of my class will already be drunk.”
“Eighteen Strangers Are Bused In To A Poetry Workshop” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Released \ Yearly Event

Alan: In the fall, the white-footed mice come into the house, seeking warmth and crumbs.  Until I found a reliable live-trap, I would set snap-traps before bed, then lie awake waiting – and not wanting – to hear the snap.
Released
I release the trap,
dropping the dead mouse
at the edge of the clearing
where it will be found
by a crow or fox.
I release the trap,
dropping the mouse
that was too quick
and so is maimed
with one eye bulging and milky
and a crushed jaw
but is not yet dead
next to the house
where it takes a sideways hop
and sits curled on itself
in the frost.
Ah, mice!
The sun strikes
the big spruce tree
shaped like a pagoda.
Nancy: Deer season, and all the talk is pounds and antlers (“racks”); time for bragging rights, show and tell and mincemeat pies with venison.
Yearly Event
It may well be the biggest buck
in town, feet out one side of the trunk,
head wedged, rack well displayed
out the other.
It’s on tour.  Casual.  Just happened the wife
needed milk from Buddy’s store.
Everybody needs something from Buddy’s store;
there’s a parade of pickups.
That deer’s going to just happen
to stop a dozen times today.  Every time
it’s like honey; men cluster around the trunk.
Sometimes they touch the deer.
The way they hang deer here
is on ladders, leaned up against the porch.
They hang them by the front door.  This week
the town is full of deer driving around,
and men counting points, keeping score.