Wednesday, August 29, 2012

As Her Body Failed \ Catching Water In A Net

Alan:  My mother’s last months were hard.  Moved to the nursing unit, she showed increasing signs of dementia – “sundowning,” as we learned to call it.  Yet, even as her nights became paranoiac phantasmagorias, when day returned so did a measure of her characteristic common sense.

As Her Body Failed

As her body failed
her hearing grew sharper.
Always good, it now detected
signs of another, distressing
tapping maliciously
on the panes
of our own.

She could hear her name
whispered conspiratorially
by nurses
up the hall,
but when we’d check
there’d be nobody,
or just the meds lady
bending over
clipboard and cart.

“They were there again last night,
shouting!”  “Who?”
“The inspectors,” or,
“Those union organizers.”
“They’re going to close this place.”
“They’re planning a strike.”
So much commotion
on the graveyard shift!

Wild parties erupted
in the darkness below her.
“Dancing again, and so late!”
I thought of the yawning
common-room and the
empty, muffled
midnight halls.

It was hard
to picture her in her
narrow, alarmed bed,
dreaming badly,
hardly daring to roll over,
waiting to be tossed
out on her ear
or trampled by a crisp-fronted,
turn-coat mob.

She asked me once
why no one believed her.
I mumbled something
about each subjective state
having its own world somewhere.
She told me I should take
more time off from my job.

The last time we spoke
she was downtown
with pneumonia.
I thought she might hint
of that chariot a-comin’
or the approaching pulse
of mighty wings,

but all she said was,
“I’m eating my custard,”
so I just said,
“I’ll call again soon.”

Nancy:  Twigs and branches tangled together are enough to slow the rush of tide and storm.  The water brought with it silt and seeds and a mulch of marsh grass which settled out of the quieted waters. Now what was a raw gash in the bank is a thicket of shrub and healthy  vegetation.  What a relief not to feel like the lane is teetering on the edge of disaster.

Catching Water In A Net

Every year the sea bites deeper,
and roots fail, and clay fractures,
and nothing holds until I think
of the slash, branches slender
as my wrist: intricate, complex.

And I think of the Tao,
and the way of the sea itself,
and how we pit against it walls,
which crumble, and posts that fall
on the tide: imperious, awash.

To save the road, this: philosophy,
and sweat, to haul the brush, to trust
its yielding strength
to give the sea its due:
to catch the water in a net.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dragonfly \ Noon Song

Alan:  Roadkill comes in many sizes and shapes.  There’s always too much of it.  We should acknowledge what we destroy.


The dragonfly
flew low
over the road
and dipped just 
as I hit it
going 40 miles an hour
its perfect hunter’s eye
and its clean arc

I had just time to see
in the rearview mirror
a tiny cross
of body and wings
on the pavement
as I sped
out of its world

At the corner:
the first fireweed
in bloom.

Nancy:  Wren song and robin song, vireo, hermit thrush, and under the moon the owl – and my songs? Catch me if you can, nothing as certain as matins or evensong.

Noon Song

The vireos
sing call and response
making cathedrals
of the green wood
cool stone
rustle of cloisters
call and response
drifting away
quiet of noon

Drowse of noon
now a small bird
sings its own name
here and there
in the roses
sings what it knows
its own name

then again

Noon song
morning song, evening
I close my eyes
that sometimes
like a far off
I will hear my own song

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Territory \ August: Archipelago

Alan:  Living in the country, we have all kinds of neighbors.  Some drop by for the occasional visit.   Some don’t get along.  Mostly we all accommodate, but not always.


When the bear walked off
with the open can of sardines you’d put down
just for a moment,
you didn’t stop him.

When the bear, browsing
along the shore, left tracks
like welcome mats across the mud,
I didn’t follow.

We figured the bear came with the territory.
The coyotes, too, and the fisher,
the deer, the moose.
When we arrived, they made room.
We leave them be.

One day the trapper went by in his car.
Our neighbor said a bear was stealing sheep.
A bear didn’t come with the territory,
not in his book.

It feels a lot smaller, now –
the neighborhood, the territory –
all those sheep, and no bear.

Nancy:  I've wondered whether – if I were on the ship – would my shore appear to hover?  Would I float inverted in the sky?

August: Archipelago

Islands rise
drift off
hang in the air

Lavender haze
a white ship
above it another ship
       like the islands
       inverted, paired

Cloud-mountain sky
white mountain sea
terns dive
       the sea-mountain clouds
       shiver and break

Island to headland
white ship below
white ship above
       in the air
       on the horizon

       white ship above
       white ship below

“Territory” first appeared in Living on Salt and Stone (Stone Man Press, 1984).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Red Hill At Sunset \ Dancing To John Cage

Alan:  I was raised to call my father by his first name, which seems strange only now.  He loved our summer place on Squam Lake and its view of Red Hill, with its reddish granite that glowed intensely in the setting sun.  I wrote this poem for Doug’s 80th birthday, the last summer he was able to make it up to the lake.

Red Hill At Sunset

Towards evening the August heat and haze
opens it’s single eye to supple light

Descending, mantra-like, to still each day’s
ordered pleasures.  The dark rocks re-ignite
under their gnarled roots.  So, mirrored there,
glowing, above the cove the old hill stands,

A beacon kindled by the grace of air.
Take this bright moment in your outstretched hands

Even as it passes.  Watch the fires sink
into shadows and Time’s timeless design
gray to ash.  There is nothing mind can think,
holding this image, but to see a sign
that, though all perfect days soon fade to night,
you, whom such visions touch, still clasp the light.

Nancy:  Egrets are rare visitors to our bay.  What great good luck to have bird and tide and fish intersect with our pause at the marsh.

Dancing To John Cage

A pause.  Glissando.

A sharp spear abrupt
Silent deliberation.
Stride, half flight
wings outstretched.
Egret fishing
parsing the marsh.
Blows fall like silent kettledrums,
but fish riding the tide
swerving the shore, oblivious
hear only silence.

Foot raised.
Nothing will happen until
this note just struck
its reverberations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Girl Riding Bike \ The Squash Blossoms, The Cicadas, The Hare

Alan:  Sometimes perception, emotion and memory fuse, or rather come into simultaneous focus like the layered realities in M.C. Escher’s “Three Worlds.”
Girl Riding Bike
Charlotte, Maine, July 19, 2012
She swings onto the empty country road
and back out of sight.
A glimpse of summers past.
Passing, I glance right, 
see the gravel drive, scruffy hedges,
her soft lavender blur, blowing hair,
the weathered farmhouse she’s riding towards,
a sense of fields falling off the edge
and sky.
Is she happy in this moment’s aloneness?
That’s my hope.
What is it like to be made of air and warm sunshine?
To be flying over the landscape looking down,
and not be in or of it?
What is it like
not to have the earth element dragging one down 
or the water element pulling one onward
towards darkness?
We have all known this.  Still know it.
I remember for a moment,
then forget again.
Nancy: Not even a beach is permanent, the glacial till of the cliff feeds it, the sea steals it and the storms turn gentle summer slopes into steep winter berms.
The Squash Blossoms, The Cicadas, The Hare
And what are they but impermanence,
a day, a month, a year; if we attend,
we too can feel the slew of the earth in our
spines; our eyes can discriminate the finest
degrees of change; even as we walk about in 
the world our inner ears sense the slow roll
of the horizon.
I went to the beach; what I saw was the way
the moon had marked it, it was a calendar;
if I lay the beach transparent on the point
of dawn and the measure of dark it calibrates
the days and the seasons.
When I came home I carried the beach with me;
I carried it back and offered it to the hares
and the cicadas.  I just opened my hand and sat
down with them and we sat together dissolving
and reforming in the sighs and the ripples.