Saturday, January 31, 2015

Snow On The Windows \ Descent

Nancy: Blizzard, whirlwind, maelstrom of air, snow packed against, blocking, the windows – creating a world of memory and imagination.

Snow On The Windows

a landscape
a geology textbook
a campsite at Jumbo Rocks
a canyon, walking deep into history
a rolling meadow
a cave
Mount Kailas, streaming cloud
I might say
    I am shut in
    yes, I am shut in

Alan: If I fly, it’s the landing that scares me.  If I climb, it’s the wondering how to get down.


It’s not the climb that’s so hard –
            even Jack knew that –
                       strength, agility, courage
all that’s needed.  Once there
           the adventure, despite dangers,
  doable.  No,
                      with or without the stolen
           or even offered boon,
                                         it’s the descent –
the stalk collapsing, the magic gone.

Shamans who beat their drums
              then threw their rope-ends into the air
                       and vanished
knowing they might not return
                                        might fall down dead or mad.
Those waiting also knew,
                       making the wait a prayer.

My father told of climbing the knotted rope
              to the gym’s very rafters;
                                       then, thinking it smart,
                         he slid down neat and quick,
tearing the calluses off both hands.
              The coach mercurochromed the raw flesh.
     He almost hit the roof again.
A trivial example but worth recalling.

There were oracles of the state who, summoned,
             first went into trance.
                          Only then could they bear the headdress
            hoisted by several men
                                      that otherwise would snap their necks.
    Each time the fierce deity
                         entered them and spoke,
their lives shortened.  Yet it had to be done.

So, as we climb now
     with hands and feet, with our whole bodies
                                     disappearing toward what we cannot know
               may never reach or, reaching, find ungraspable
let us remember
                       when it comes time at last to descend
   to do so gently, slowly –
                                  bearing at least ourselves as proof –
 and with infinite care

Monday, January 12, 2015

Stolen \ Posting the DANGER Signs At Raven's Gulch

Alan:  When something’s taken from us, how do we react?  Maybe if we see the smaller thefts as a training...


I came back to find the generator
or rather to see
                           the blue tarp
                   blown against bushes
and the yellow cord
          with its heavy plug
                           from the outside wall

Easy to guess what happened.
Two men, young, strong, quick
                     could muscle it without trace
(except for the blotch
          of spilled diesel, candy
                             wrapper tossed carelessly aside)
across frozen ground, dead grass, gravel
          and lift it or slide it up planks
                             into their pickup
                      and be gone

They’ll sell it for scrap or pawn it
             for drugs or maybe to pay off Christmas
                               or even (I can hope) keep it
if they get it running
                     after years of no use.

We live in a world of stolen.  Long ago
              when this was just a summer place
                               uninsulated frame camp
                          cobbled from reject lumber
you arrived in the dark
             after the slow hard trip from Boston
                                to light the gas lamp
                                                 heard hissing
             jerked the match away
                                from the cut line in time

Hap McDaniel hired a crew once
             to clear alders at the edge of the next-door field
went home for lunch
             returned to find them driving away with his tools –
guys he was paying.  Hap’s long gone
                        but forty years on we remember

We remember too the story
             of the man who found his front door missing
was sure he knew who took it
                             went to get it back, was asked in, was talking
looked up, noticed a door-shaped bulge
              in the just-papered-over ceiling 

When a thief took every bit 
                               of Ryokan’s so-very-little
he grieved he could not offer him the moon
            shining through the hut’s open window.
For myself, I only wish 
                               along with the generator
I could give to these
            whose need can never be satisfied
a share of the happiness I feel now
            seeing it gone

Nancy: When the icy sea is yet warmer than the frigid air and the air icier than the frozen ground and your own breath is the loudest sound, this is a lonely planet and a cold star.

Posting The DANGER Signs At Raven’s Gulch

Zero degrees.
Wind cuts across the cobble beach
but the trail goes up, into trees.

Not much talking,
climbing; wondering what animal,
or was it the earth itself,
breathed out these white feathers beside the trail?

Height of land.  Now the trail
pitches down.
“STOP,” the signs say, “DANGER.”
This is what we came to do.

And in the cleft,
only the sea, smoking,
smoking.  No ravens.
Except for the hammer, driving nails,
no sound.

The sky,
receiving sea smoke,
makes clouds.

Note: The poem refers to degrees Fahrenheit.  0º Fahrenheit is roughly -18º Celsius.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Salt And Stone Poetry At 200

Two hundred weeks, that is.  When we started Salt And Stone Poetry on March 9, 2011, we gave no thought to its possible lifetime, only that we wanted to post our poems – old and new, one each every week – for as long as we had suitable material.  But having done so for the best part of four years, it’s time to make a change.

We will keep Salt And Stone Poetry going but from now on will post on an irregular rather than weekly basis.  If you want to see material as it is posted, please sign up to follow the blog by email.

Thank you for your interest.  We hope you will continue to read the blog and to share any poems that you particularly enjoy with others.

                                                         Alan Brooks & Nancy Nielsen

The Steps \ Wabi Sabi – The Green Door

Nancy: Yes, the walk to the well, the weight of the bucket, the climb back up the hill, have compensations difficult to describe but very real.

The Steps

Down the hill, at the well,
four steps have been carved into the icy white stone
of winter.  Four deep steps.
I take the buckets and go.
When I was a child, I was taken to
a famous building.  Later I felt foolish
when they asked me what I had liked best.
The steps.  The white marble cupped and worn
by the passing feet.  They laughed, and I never
mentioned it again, but I remembered the cool sound
in my mind, of stone wearing under the feet.
I think of those steps now, and of the deep wells
of the desert, where the steps are cut
into red or gold sandstone, and generations
of women have worn smooth patterns of descent and climb.
Four steps, the splash of the bucket, dip, lift.
Is it not more wonderful than monuments
that a child could see the feet of strangers in the stones,
and that I burnish, slowly, the heavy cover
and tile of the well?  Is it not beautiful,
to see the dark well water fill with sky?

Alan: There is a comfort, a sadness and mystery in something as simple as an old door nearing the end of its service.

Wabi Sabi – The Green Door

even more worn
more faded now
than in the photo –

flat December dawn
that yet proved luminous –
boards softer

more gapped, warped,
green almost gone
from the grain –

still opens out
into marvelous air
out from shadow