Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gritty Wind Blues \ Man with Dog and Cone

Nancy:  "Shopping" means a 45 mile drive.  Plenty of chance to appreciate the grotty end of winter.  Written in the parking lot of the big box store, where the anonymous shopper made my day.
Gritty Wind Blues
There’s no crayon in the box for this,
nothing as dirty as old ice,
nothing as cold as the jagged bay,
nothing as tired as the matted grasses
and the ubiquitous plastic bags
impaled in the roadside branches.
We’re all ground down to a nameless shade
of worn.
So it’s not surprising that I saw the woman
with the shopping cart as defiant.
Way to go, lady, with your ribbons,
with your improbable rainbow garden
of plastic flowers.  Red, pink, orange,
purple, green, a whole fistful of colors.
Just what we needed, spunky graffiti
scrawled on the grit of the day.
Alan:  There’s nothing like a long, solo car trip with the radio off to encourage a poem.      Here’s one that came out in a rush.
Man with Dog and Cone
A large man
walking the roadside
against sparse rural traffic
leads a small, no-breed, somehow
cheerful dog while holding by its tip
an orange-and-white striped
cone, the cone in his right hand, starboard
so to speak, the dog trending slightly to port,
protected by the man’s heft and maybe the cone
and really as I now see it a step or two ahead:
some rustic Diogenes, it appears, lifting
a blind and useless lantern
while tugged by mongrel hope.
I would not mind
being thus encumbered
in equal parts by bright
enquiring foolishness and shaggy
dog-trot optimism, the more staunchly thereby
to face each on-rushing, deadly truth
or lie, particularly if the alternative meant
to set them down, one or the other
or both, and become then simply
a rather bulky person bereft
of companionship, walking the edge
to nowhere, holding out
nothing at all.

“Gritty Wind Blues” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tracking Fox \ Over Wind Mountain

Nancy:  Coming down the lane toward home and it was all written out.  A light snow on a solid crust.  No tracking skills required.
Tracking Fox
tangle of roses, field
hollow, deer mouse
precise, with intent,
neatly drawn, red fox
snow firm enough to hold
the calligraphy of toes, nails,
pads, the fine line of a tail
drawn across the surface
each foot so carefully placed
writing fox
across smooth white snow
fox, mouse, fox
we want our stories to end
but this one is still writing itself
down the slope
fox, fox, mouse
Alan:  Sometimes a print of an old photo in a simple frame on a white wall speaks more compellingly than what’s beyond the window.  This one has called to me more than once.
Over Wind Mountain
                On a photograph by E.A. Curtis
What lies beyond the hill —
this mountain filling the frame
(other than boat and water and sky)?
Sky luminous: sun, it seems,
held in mountain’s sleighting hand;
water hardly rippled, a shining
here, there, polished dark between;
canoe high-prowed and angled
away, inviting — paddles ready —
any breeze might lift it, set it free.
No context, code or narrative
for what is off beyond, behind us
or even to the sides,
so we who look and trace some journey here
see only shadowed height;
the boat to reach it by;
distance we can measure;
distance immeasurable beyond it:
a slowly darkening sky.
“Tracking Fox” first appeared in Friends of Acadia Journal.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March, April Coming \ Climbing March Hill #1

Nancy: Hard long winters leave the eye hungry for the first red dogwood twig or golden willow branch.  By May we go from the subtleties of Ansel Adams to the exuberance of Carnival.
March, April Coming
The winter’s been etchings, charcoal, scratchboard,
white walls, black stove,
grey wool pants,
crows, ravens,
impastos white on white,
edge, line, petroglyph, cuneiform.
It surprised my eye to tears,
yesterday, to see a hare against the grass
and you in your shirt sleeves,
that old shirt, blue.
Alan:  But before we can get there, we have to slog through what always seems like the longest month of the year.  It’s a time that’s saved by those rare calm, clear nights when the stars are at their brightest.
Climbing March Hill #1
There are times, climbing March Hill,
when Spring seems as far off as Arcturus,
and as alien, and as distant from anything sticky, or sweet,
as that place in the night
we call the Beehive.
“March, April Coming” originally appeared in Living on Salt and Stone (Stone Man Press, 1984)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fencing Wildness \ Winter Rain

Nancy:  Sometimes, reading to students, I could see them start to giggle at the last line and then wonder whether that was ok.  Fine.  I wanted them to understand that poetry could come out of or be part of their own lives.  (I was actually told once, in a fourth grade class, that poetry was written by people who were dead.)
Fencing Wildness
There’s still a garden fence – a gesture toward hares.
On the west side I set cedar posts
and chiseled mortises and leveled rails
but it’s not much of a fence: freestanding,
it supports roses.  Along the lane
there’s a tangle of posts and wire
waiting to be cleared away.  It’s not worth fixing
now that I’ve no sheep or heifers,
no horse, no pony to be kept out
or held in.
Without fences, the lines blur,
bear shoulder through the alders,
deer trample and browse the raspberries.
Because of this, the dogs make their own fence,
lining it out in urine and posting it
with sharp barks.  I step across,
but coyotes acknowledge it.  Night after night
they sit and sing, just over the line,
looking in.
What a small scrap this is,
a house, a garden, a few fruit trees,
hayfields growing back, and wildness pushing in.
Every morning, the dogs rush past me,
past the garden,
and lift their legs again.
Alan:  In winter, our ears take over when our eyes get tired of too much gray and white.  Under the right conditions, I can still occasionally hear – or perhaps feel – the basso profundo of the groaner buoy as it rolls with the waves off the headland, 10 miles away cross-country.
Winter Rain
“Rain, rain coming” the dogs proclaim,
crying their news across the unseen boundaries of the towns.
“Rain!  Rain!  Rain!” a bobcat rants from the swamp,
intemperate as a drunk banging homeward,
cursing the sober and sane.
“Rain, very much rain” the foghorn lugubriously booms
from the outer head across icy miles of swell.
“Rain, cold rain” a docking freighter blares
like the last trump testing the range.
And again in the dank dark: “Rain!”
Then... silence.  Nothing
in all that broken and hidden terrain
makes a sound.  Nothing stirs, whatsoever,
except, perhaps, a fussy, faint,
hardly-to-be-thought-about motion in the trees,
a timid complaint in the outer branches
of certain of the trees.
And the dogs slip into their houses,
the wild things stumble to bed,
the Taiwanese crew of the Eighteen Venture turn below,
to the yellow light, beer and smoke,
and we go upstairs and lie for a long time,
waiting... listening... listening
as the east wind bubbles, and foams, and froths,
to the eaves, to the ridge, to the chimney-top,
over the rim of the rattling cauldron of the world
and suddenly boils with rain.
“Fencing Wildness” originally appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.  “Winter Rain” originally appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal.