Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Picture Of The Moose From The Air Surrounded By Wolves \ Jay's Moose

Alan: The moose-wolf interactions on Isle Royale in Lake Superior have been studied for over  50 years, but what sticks in my mind is a black-and-white photo taken in the 1960s, all stark shadows and a story reaching its climax.

The Picture Of The Moose From The Air Surrounded By Wolves

bears no resemblance to the cage
where zoo-wolves pad down on us
or lie like movie stills slabbed on the gravel
or display wolfish affection or disgruntlement
for the student ethologists or disappear
into their concrete wolf den for pack meetings.
Nor does it much resemble
Wilt Chamberlain’s 500-wolf-muzzle king-size bed cover
or the legends of wolves waylaying shepherd girls
or the whistles of dog-cock hardhats
from up in the air, the position of advantage.
Nor does it capture the fear of the moose
standing and bleeding numbly in the snow
turning this way and that, but always slower,
always too late,
or the movement of the wolves, which is ballet,
themselves the audience.
It says: deficient moose.
Efficient wolves.  Efficient camera.
Efficient camera man.

Nancy: So much is wrapped in the white butcher paper – for the giver and for the recipient.

Jay’s Moose

sooner or later
we must eat Jay’s moose
the tang of the stalk
antlers blocking the sun
taste the anticipation
moose grows taller
time slows
salt of sweat
jolt of sound
hot in the mouth
and the blood, hot
and here eat
the flavor of dew
can you taste dawn
smell steel
crushed branch of fir
here on your plate
Jay’s moose

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Late November: Lamoine, Maine \ The Old Woman Draws A Map Of Her World

Alan: This one could be subtitled, “Monochrome with blue dot.”

Late November: Lamoine, Maine

The yards of Lamoine
are no-yards:
planes of mown space
no longer quite grass.

November’s no-flowers
smile no smile on these gardens –
rectangles, squares tucked in,
readied for winter.

Perhaps a boat
trailered and blocked, tight
in blue tarp.  Otherwise
not even rows of split firewood

to part the close gray;
homes set just so, wan,
silent in half-light, prudent
beside modest drives.

An almost no-sun tiptoes
meekly into this no-drama,
pauses, whispering
snow... snow... 
and makes its way into clouds.

Nancy: Difficult to explain why I’ve been writing on my shirt...

The Old Woman Draws A Map Of Her World

Stone and green.
All the shores, so different.
Canyon wren and hermit thrush.
She ponders Palestrina and mariachi
and decides on the octopus
flashing colors on a coral shore.
Rivers and fish, fossils in the cliffs
or weathered out on the beaches.
As she has always done, she labels
the trees with their names, and the
flowers.  Here and there she leaves empty
spaces; her world is still growing.
Growing, elephant tree, manzanita
Amanita, growing old, growing tired
pipsissewa.  Tired.  Niagara Falls
Bridal Veil falls, she shakes herself
Empty space, footprints, mink and bear
room to grow
the pen
the pen
          a blue-black pool
where it rests
          so tired

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Finishing "The 20th Century In Poetry" \ The Poetry Reading

Alan: I actually loved this anthology (Michael Hulse and Simon Rae, eds., Pegasus Books, 2011), which tells the story of the century through the works of its (English-language) poets.  But by the end both I and the poems (the last section titled, tellingly, “Endgames”) felt exhausted, limited, even jaded, and I wondered, is it possible still for poets to speak the language of magic and transformation?  To shake, if not shape, the culture?

On Finishing The 20th Century In Poetry

She is now, to be frank, a kept woman,
subject to pouts, occasional rages,
wheedling, whimsical, but on the whole
exquisite and, as we desire,
refined.  Visited by a few,
we could call her “prostitute”
or, more charitably, mistress of several.

She longs to be freed from these
brocaded rooms, beyond comfortable,
touched with opulence even –
longs not to be forever waiting
on those who provide this
almost luxury,

remembers how, when young,
she went howling through the winter woods
and could bring hail to the crops
and cause the rivers to flood,
and made all the people follow,
hoping, hoping to be chosen...

Nancy: Culture shock?  The “American Savage” sits in on a poetry reading in London, 1978.

The Poetry Reading

I sat  very still.
I sat still as a comet’s tail, a conscious contagion.
I sat still as an axe seething to bite wood.
I sat still as a glacier giving birth.
I was quiet.
I was quiet as water at the lip of the stone.
I was quiet as a stooping hawk.
I was quiet as a tooth on flesh.

I said nothing, and for the first time
I heard my own sounds,
my voice, guttural as a bear, how it grew from roots
of stone and made its way through the night shadows.
I heard my words crashing against ledges,
falling thunderstruck like pines,
splintering the room and smoldering in the corners.

One by one the poets read their own truths
into the dim room, while I sat very still.
They unrolled their worn land in my mind,
drifted with the ashes of dead fires.  It was quiet.
Quiet.  I wanted to seize their poems in my teeth
and shake them alive;
I wanted to open a window.
I wanted to go home with my wild words,
home to my own wide wild land.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

At The Center \ The Old Woman Says "Then!"

Alan: Sometimes, all one can do is witness...

At The Center

Night of no moon, thick clouds,
and so much rain!
Dark as a bear’s den.  Dawn
shambles out at last, pauses, and sits
heavily, as if to say, “no farther.”

You move to the sofa, trying to find
sleep and the easing of pain.
Songs of Kuan Yin on the iPod,
gentle breathing from a higher realm:

in the kitchen, where I tidy the dishes,
almost subliminal between sudden
paroxysms of rain hammering the roof,
wind chimes all clanging at once,
leaves smacking the windows:

so many musics vibrating together
and at their center,
surrounded by so much
caring surrounded by so much uncaring,
so much pain.

Nancy: Have you ever preferred your Then to your Now?

The Old Woman Says "Then!"

Last week the northeaster blew
color out of the saltmarsh and left
bladder wrack on the lane.  Today
the snow whitens the garden and
leaves the late flowers drained.

The old woman says "no, not yet,
too soon."     She will not say "Now."

She growls.  Bearlike, the old woman
snuffles her way.  She sweeps away snow
with her paws.  She rolls away stones.
She feels criss cross with the world.

"No, not yet, too soon.  No, not yet,
too soon."

The poor old woman goes this way
and that, this way and that   .   .   .
searching for the path to Then.