Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September \ The Assessor's Report To The Governor

Nancy:  Every September a restlessness as real as a memory comes on;  it's as though thousands of years of migrations left some marker in our cells.


the leaves are sealing themselves off from life.
September is secrets,
noon suns that lie,
night filling the lowgrounds with mist,
a tensing for journeys that were.
September is choices,
accepting small deaths on faith,
relinquishing known lands for new.
September is songs without singers,
follow the herds and the stars,
move to the harvest grounds,
sharpen the spears.
September is blunted,
by the walls,
by the fires,
by neglect.
Sealed off,
our ancestors pass us unseen.

Alan:  When I first moved here “from away,” I sometimes felt like a functionary of yore, sent out to a far corner of  the empire and required to file dispatches on everything I saw.

The Assessor’s Report To The Governor

In this country, many men have bad backs.
Women often damage their hands and wrists in seasonal occupations.
The children work fast when they have to:
a distinct advantage.

Dwellings frequently stand incomplete:
perhaps only a roofed-over cellar to a family.
Some houses, in towns and from a prior era, are sumptuous.
Many have burned.  There is much pride in ownership.

The chief dangers to the workforce are logging, fishing, clamming, 
     berry-raking, hunting.
It is recommended, wherever possible, to promote regular industrial  
Small-scale farming may reduce income needs:
difficult to record, this should not be encouraged.

In-migrants have reinforced the local population;
after many years, they become similarly inured to adversity.
Barter is rampant, a terrible evil.
A stubborn independence runs through all things.

Poor roads and distance from markets put a limit on commerce.
Travelers bring much-needed cash and are generally welcome.
In the event of war, the populace will have to relocate.
It would be unwise in the meantime to risk major investment.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Swift Shadows \ September. Distant Thunder

Nancy:  All it takes is the pass of the hawk to suddenly silence the chattering morning.

Swift Shadows

Sometimes I see it:
the improbable leap of the fox,
the snap of the jaws, or,
the body of the hare, hanging,
swinging, as the big cat
turns its head, stares,
and disappears into the trees.

But sometimes,
this morning, early sun,
bright air, I see nothing
but this: a puff of feathers
falling from an empty sky,
an almost visible silence,
immaculate light.

Alan:  To be open, expectant without expectations, in this moment: that is enough.

September.  Distant Thunder

Two ravens

The seals
dance on the
far, far

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Swing \ Trimmed

Nancy:  My feet still know the moves, my mind hums the tunes, my senses replay the routine: lift the needle, flip the record, wind and go.


When I least expect it, the yammer
of news segues into one of those “best of”
features and I’m not sitting here
in a sagging cabin on the Bay of Fundy
but it’s 1944,45 something like that
and I’m sweating and swaying on the 2nd floor
of the old firehouse, so hot that the purple
ink stamped on the back of my hand
is smearing.  We didn’t air-condition July
in the forties.  The firemen put on
a dance, 25¢, every Friday night in July
and August, 78s and all the water you
could drink and good luck finding a partner,
three hours of maneuvering, or, if you were shy,
of slouching or twirling at the edges of the room.
Eventually the chief called last dance and finally
even the shy guys picked out their girls
and the old floor whispered under penny loafers
and the dirndl skirts and eyelet blouses melted
together and flowed down the stairs into the
night, breaking apart and drifting into the shadows
like a string of pearls.

Alan: Middle age can feel like adolescence inverted: the same disconnect of self and body, body and surroundings, except this time it’s all diminishment, all the way down.


The man in the mirror
looks to be in his fifties, older than he feels,
but there it is.  He reveals
bad teeth, mouth beyond lopsided,
responding affably to the barber’s small-talk;
and neck – much neck tapering to the suggestion of chins.

The man receives his modest trim,
a little off the ears, leave some to comb on top,
grateful for hair enough though gray;
and what are the kids getting these days?
“Mushrooms! mushrooms, mushrooms!”
And then: “Want one?”  A jest: a jape.

Ear-hair clipped, eyebrows tamed again,
the whisk and he is rising,
surprised and pleased that it is less
than expected: surprised to be pleased,
wondering at his small good fortune,
pocketing the three dollars change.

In the far high corner the sports channel
endlessly reveals people with impossible bodies
performing the impossible.  The man
is departing the mirror, or disappearing
into it, considering: next the bank, laundromat;
maybe, as reward, coffee with a little light lunch.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Rag Man \ Prayer For My Old Age

Nancy: Because my Granny told me so, I believed.  Hid behind the porch railing or the thick screen of the Moonvines.  My realistic bogeyman had a regular route.

The Rag Man

It was a well known fact that children
who misbehaved were taken away by the rag man.

When the rag-man came, you searched your heart.

The sing-song.  Any rags?

Any bones?  Any bottles?

Hide.  Repent.  The bottle-man
with his familiar, rag-bone horse.

Not the ice man, egg man, bread man,
vegetable man, who called smiling.

The shivery man.  Sack of bones man,
bag of rags man.

Oh the awful quiet bundles of the rag man!

Look, don’t, don’t get caught
looking, at the rag-man.

He’s going down the road singsonging

past the house
past the drive
past the last tree
and he’s gone!

Nothing this week for the Rag Man.

Alan: Watching my mother move through the stations of the cross that is nursing home care today, I could see that, whatever else, she remained generous with what she had.

Prayer For My Old Age

Oh, may I not be a saver
of small things, like my mother
and so many old women
and the occasional surviving
old man.

Let me not accumulate
used tea bags in a saucer
or opened single-serving-sized
salad dressings in the fridge.

Let me not hoard newspapers,
plastic bags, books, or ideas.

Let me relinquish, as she is doing now,
phone numbers, motor skills
and the days of the week.

And as for memories, when the time comes,
may I take them out, one by one,
and give them up lovingly
to the people sitting beside me,
to my right and to my left,
who have none.

“The Rag Man” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press & Slow Dancer Press, 1984).