Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Gifts \ Waiting It Out

Alan: Here’s what happens when you mash an old carol through the sieve of incident.
Christmas Gifts
The fleur-de-lis
tracks of the grouse
betray a certain nobility
and superciliousness that,
here in the USA,
we associate, I have to say,
with the French.
Yet this bird that the locals
call "partridge," or more accurately
"pah-tridge" (though it has never
to my knowledge appeared
in our pear tree but rather
frequents the ornamental crab
in the turn-around
(in the snow at the base of which
I notice its footprints
just before dusk
this short afternoon)
where, the time I flushed it,
not knowing it was there
(the time I told you about
when it shot off and
flew straight and at full
speed into our gazebo
screen, bulging it, tearing it
from the molding, and then,
like a wounded plane,
banked and came in
low and wobbling
on a last strafing run
right at me,
so I dropped
as if in sudden prayer
to my knees)
it scattered the calling birds),
looks nothing at all
like a French hen.
Nancy: The long isolation of storm.  Whatever you need, you must find here.
Waiting It Out
In the night, or just before dawn,
fog blew in, heavy.
Heavy hoarfrost on the trees.
At ten it began to snow.
Somewhere, the goshawk waits it out,
but the raven sings.
Garok!  Garok!  across the field
and into the spruce.
We wait.  Day.  Night.
Another day.
The tide may be in, or out,
under the ice, who can tell?
There may be a lane
        fence scratches the snow
        a barn roof.
It’s so easy, after a mile of this,
to be surprised by color,
by rose hips and a squirrel,
or three alder leaves.
After a mile, and no mail,
it’s already dusk.
The alder twig, in a brass pot,
looks Japanese,
and the leaves match the pot,
but your drawing is black and white.
You put away your pencil, and light the lamps.
Another night.
Snow, still.
Closing the cabin door,
I can hear the lighthouse out on the head:
just waiting it out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice \ December Gifts

Alan:  Sometimes, in the season of shortest days, the weather can seem animate, refractory, even predatory.
The year backs up:
dog refuses
collar horse
resists halter –
welter of contrary
winds, weird
Geese explode
from the bay:
water kicks
like bullets.
In the alders,
a white rock
jumps: hare,
exposed by snow-melt,
caught naked.
Earth’s axis
The wind
makes a sound
like a beast
in a cave
moving closer,
Nancy: Long dark nights and gray days – we want the early dawns and long twilights of summer.
December Gifts
The tide in the high marsh,
the low sun, slow to stand over the ridge,
the sea smoke .  .  .
I went out wanting the year to turn,
and turned myself instead, turned back
to today, glad to have received
water, light, frost blooming on dry stems.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gray \ The Bay Between The Islands

Alan: Winter hones things to a sharp edge, or dulls them to a blur, sometimes both at once.  Adrift in a drifting landscape, we anchor ourselves with words.
Gray – the snow sees to that.
A bay and some woods linger darkly
in a space of sky, fields, blurred with snow
fallen and falling, falling and fallen.
Faint gray warmth under white, as of pale paper
or pale, thinned-out ink.
A figure stands somewhere in a space called “field,”
bootprints a doubled line of shadow filling with white.
Two shapes emerge from trees to one side.
They could be dogs running,
blurs of larger and smaller, darker and lighter gray.
Looking downslope toward water or gray mud:
bands or belts of trees leading the eye out
into indefinite gray space.
Beyond, hints of pale wooded horizons
stacked, one behind another, showing
gray filtered through gray filtered through white.
The figure stands in a space called “field”
while gray shapes detach themselves from gray woods
behind and to one side.
Someone perhaps is waiting for two dogs to join him,
or for the snow to lighten, to erase his tracks,
or is just waiting.
It is unclear when he will move.
He is gray, and small,
and he is standing very still
in a space called “now.”
Nancy: Brash ice rustles on the shores, a lace edging on a bay transformed knife sharp and steel hard.
The Bay Between The Islands
Not wine and not water,
not silver, not glass,
not a mirror of the sky,
no, this morning
the bay is shardy, slivery,
edgy, as sharp as aa,
Hawaiian lava, as disorderly
as earthquake rubble, cold fire
in the sun, splintered obsidian,
and it is processing with
cymbals and drums, brash.
Shhhhh, say the islands, old
grandmother islands,
shhhhh, say their shawls
and their dark skirts,
shu shu shhhhh.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

To My Father's Ghost \ December Rain

Alan: My father’s poems sit in files, folders, binders, a few issues of small magazines, several self-published books.  But the source of his poems remained a mystery to him; I think he would have given up the poems to know their source.
To My Father’s Ghost
Where do the poems come from in the night?
Like tiny fish, nibbling our dreams with soft lips.
Like something found in the bottom of the basket
that we unfold, and are changed forever.
Like sudden anger at the madness of street signs
and dead birds.
Even in full light, they come cowled in a little midnight
of rain and buffeting wind.
As meaningless as the shape breath takes, 
this cold morning. As essential.
If I had known the answer sooner.
Even in the perfect faux daylight.
Nancy:  Rains like this are rare, and take us by surprise.  We may hear “heavy rain” or “coastal flooding” but until we see road washouts, flooded villages, the winter woodpiles and summer cabins floating down to the sea, they’re just words.
December Rain
One inch raises the smelt brook.
Two inches floods the meadow.
Four inches tears at the beaver dam.
Five and the stones shudder
at Bad Little Falls.
And yet it comes, six, seven,
down the Piscataquis, the Penobscot,
from Meddybemps to the Cathance.
Spruce tumbles, loosed from the forest,
over the falls; it rides the Machias.
Eight, nine.
What it wants it takes.
It makes us islands, makes us tiny,
our works fragile, our bays rough and roiling,
clear Cobscook, blue Passamaquoddy.
The falls make their own thunder today,
their own tower of cloud.
Beaver gnawed, a log, end over end
tossing in the wild Machias toward the sea.