Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Extinction \ Crash Course

Nancy:  Boom and bust and the fisheries diminish and disappear – even here.  Surprise and disbelief and blame, and keep on doing the same things.
I have eaten the tommycod
and the true cod
and the haddock and the roe
of the haddock and the tuna
and the swordfish and flatfishes
of the western shore and the
eastern shore.  I have never
eaten the monkfish.  When
the monkfish (about which
we know so little) disappears –
when they go to the fishing grounds
and find no monkfish – when
they drag the bottom and find
no monkfish – when baited hooks
bring up no monkfish – when
the boats go back and forth
pinging and pinging
and the green glow of the CRT
is flat and empty of monkfish
and finally fishermen say
bad year for monkfish
(about which we know almost
nothing) I will say of course
it’s shocking, where did they go?
I have never eaten the monkfish.
Alan:  This poem dates to 1973, when humanity needed a major attitude adjustment about its place in the world, something even truer now.  I look at it as an Earth Day offering from a sardonic satyr.
Crash Course
The twisted oaks of Ocracoke
dance like sinners on the sly;
Kansas sand and Samarkand
cohabit in Cohasset’s sky.
The captured heat of meat and wheat,
the famished quern of egg and sperm,
sing Sunday psalms reply.
Leonardo’s lordly breath
rolled atoms reeling round the earth;
his musty molecules at death
make elementary a birth.
This phthisic physic of the flesh
must mill the oaks, the wheat, much mirth.
What ardent alchemists of yore
could turn the fertile soil to stones?
We divvy up the spoils of war
and sell at interest what are loans.
The mixture’s more than metaphor:
this mobbed, mad meal of grins and groans:
we breakfast on the dinosaur
and supper on our children’s bones.
“Extinction” first appeared in Fencing Wildness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Sister Planted Tansy By The Kitchen Door \ Broccoli Plants In July

Nancy:  They're still there,  lilacs rooted in tumbledown cellar holes,  roses scrambling over piles of stones.
My Sister Planted Tansy By The Kitchen Door
Tansy by the kitchen door,
when there was a door, when there was
a kitchen, tansy on the west side
of the cellar hole.
Roses on the south side, the wind blew
from the south often; when the wind blew
from the south, it filled the house with a sweet smell
of roses.
Lilacs by the road; there was something permanent
about lilacs, settled, formal.  Even after
the house went, and the road,
lilacs remembered.
Men left their names: a man’s bay,
a man’s cove, a man’s town.
They have a glassy permanence: black
and white and flat and still.
But my sister planted tansy by the kitchen door,
my sister, my sisters, sitting with me now
in a south wind heavy with roses, sitting here
where lilacs remember the road.
Alan:  Lamentation, or at least a generalized grumbling, is a gardener’s default mode – along with the conviction that somewhere else lies Eden.
Broccoli Plants In July
When the lettuce and spinach don’t show
and the peas curl up in hot, dry June,
our hopes for green food tighten on broccolis –
little umbrellas out in the rain,
dreaming their heads-up, big-leafed bumbershoot dreams.
But this morning you tell me
six more have snapped in the gusty night –
so many gone!  the tatters of a row –
and you say you have witnessed their dreams
pulling loose, tumbling and sailing away downwind,
seeking some kinder ground
off east in Nova Scotia.
“My Sister Planted Tansy By The Kitchen Door” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press and Slow Dancer Press, 1984)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

One Woman/Three Deer On Timber Cove Road \ Seal Music

Nancy:  For years I rarely missed a ballet troupe, Boston's gift to my memories.
One Woman/Three Deer On Timber Cove Road
There was a pause
   as though they didn't believe in me
   saw nothing of a predator
what held them I don't know.
When they turned
   finally, without fear, arcing away
their bounds were quicker than thought.
So, not thought then –
   some memory
   an image.
Swan Lake, or Giselle
   the white flicker of their tails
fans, handkerchiefs, feathers
   ghosts, dancing away
   through dark trunks of trees.
Alan:  I love listening to the harbor seals, like heavy-set city folk letting themselves go on a day at the beach.  Uncouth but folksy, they seem a world away from The Song of the Seals – or is that just to my effete, earth-bound ears?
Seal Music
In high summer they truck up the bays,
graalching and belching their love songs.
Who can discern the music in this glub,
fancy these zaftigs as husbands or wives?
lords?  mermaids?  One
whose days are a laying on of oars,
a lonely hauling of lines and nets;
or a saint-like vigil at the harbor’s mouth;
whose veins run more to whisky and longing
or to the endless names of God than simple salt.
The land-lover, the sober lubber,
sees and hears only the plain, indelicate seals.
Let me but catch the amour in these eructions
and I will join you in a splash, no matter how frigid the tide;
then we will belly our days together,
pressing sleek bodies into thick, eclectic staves,
sweetly and flagrantly blubbering each to each.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sometimes In The Summer \ Nearing Blue Hill

Nancy:  I loved my thimble and my stork scissors, mastered embroidery, learned cutwork and failed lace.  But the times were changing.  In 1951, in Juarez, street peddlers offered me tablecloths, "genuine nylon made by the Indians."
Sometimes In The Summer
Sometimes in the summer
     dusk, dark
   all the hidden, sought, found
   children quiet
   screen doors
my grandmother said come
and we carried the linen
   roses, fine rolled hems
   stitched, laid by in chests
   used, darned
into the garden,
where for years linens were spread
to whiten
   in dew
   in moonlight
   we laid them on the grass
   the paths
   between pale shapes
   of nightblooming flowers
my grandmother smiled
on her knees
her rough hands smoothing
   breathing the flowers
Alan:  Sometimes a poem, or a conversation, seems to fall out of the air like a strange seed blown in from a distant place.
Nearing Blue Hill
You say:
Each afternoon
cloud piled the mountain,
crashed as rain.
in their gardens
or chatting by the roadside
tore off banana leaves,
held them overhead,
scampered home,
emerging from offices
in skirts and coats and ties,
hoisted identical
black umbrellas.
I say:
The Dharma
falls equally on all,
each according to need.
You say:
On the dry side,
in the cane fields,
water buffalo stood,
lifting moist muzzles
to the distant thunder,
“Sometimes In The Summer” first appeared in Chester H. Jones Foundation National Poetry Competition Winners (1983).