Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ariel And Wodwo \ Cabin Fever

Alan:  There are times when I can’t resist turning on my elders and betters, Poets with a capital P.  And yet I do protest too much, methinks...
Ariel And Wodwo
I am, I should hope, a somewhat reasonable man;
somewhat advancing in years – not likely
to put my head into ovens, scissor
my angst into crows, fancies into foxes,
not likely to fashion my ladyfriends, passions,
neuroses into anything identifiable, metaphorical what-
soever.  In short, not a poet.  But then
I have you to thank for inflaming me
with what a poet is, how lives,
how dies, one thumb off and the other
grasping against smeared fingers
the bloody, blank, bird-feathered pen
with which it so busily waits
for the red core and thumping heart of it
to be smashed out on the page.
Nancy:  There’s always a day – maybe the sun comes out or the air softens – and suddenly the temptation surges to open a window and toss everything out, grab a broom and start over.
Cabin Fever
Rain, again.
Empty boots marching around the room to different drummers.
Socks, swimming.  Socks in repose.
Socks engaged in mating rituals.
Cats in preliminary poses for a series on the Furred Maja.
Techniques of Chinese Cooking.
Things to be filed.  A guide
to the formation and operation of small businesses.
Birds of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.
Yesterday’s mail.  Yesterday’s lemon,
possibly good for one more cup of tea.
Tea, again.  Rataplan.  The socks swim on.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Helpless \ Indian Mary

Alan:  The mind wanders down strange roads, waiting, unable to act.
No ghosts, no galleon,
no ribbon of moonlight,
just gray sky
and glazed, gray ruts
bending through tired snow
to where the trees press in.
No Tess, no redcoats,
thank god no shot in the night,
just you, sick,
asleep on the couch,
grocery store blooms
wilting at your head.
No highwayman,
no, no highwayman –
certainly no highwayman – 
no gallop, no clatter of hooves,
no dark, dangerous mission,
just me, sitting near you,
riding my thoughts,
wishing you well.
Nancy:  One story or many, more or less true.  And at least one woman had a photograph taken in a wonderful tall beaver hat, and her life was well known.
Indian Mary
Indian Mary floated down past the islands
on the ice;
she would’ve drowned.  They’re still telling,
“Pierre, he pulled off his boots,
dove...”  She went to live in the white town
then.  About Pierre, we don’t know
whether he drank, or was unkind;
they say he bought his Mary silver buttons
and a beaver hat, but the story is not about that
but about his dive,
and how he raced the sea ice for love.
Women wear stories like that.  I myself
can feel an invisible silver locket between my breasts,
filled with heroic love.  But last week,
when I crossed the ice, the tide was setting in,
and the floes were jostling under the pasture fence.
No chance there for the splendid gesture.
The plain truth of our life here in the winter
is that it is spare.  You have never given me
a silver locket engraved with forget-me-nots, but
for love you rise twice at night to feed the fire,
and first at dawn to put the kettle on.
I thought it worth the telling.
“Indian Mary” first appeared in Living on Salt and Stone (Stone Man Press, 1984).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tracking Buddha \ Raven In Winter Feels Free

Alan:  Nancy put this one on the refrigerator – her highest honor.
Tracking Buddha
This morning was perfect
for tracking Buddha:
a little fresh fluff
on crust you could run on:
snow’s formlessness
holding the perfect forms
of the prints.
I found plenty of
squirrel tracks –
tracks of whitefooted mice –
voles – the lick of their tails –
a shrew’s starved scribble –
coyotes, hares –
fox’s purposeful meander –
but no Buddha.
Searching the field edge,
crossing the wide glare
to peer under apples,
spruces, I read the news
of porcupines – deer –
raccoons – even, by the marsh,
some geese.  No Buddha.
Then, on my neighbor’s land,
near the vanished farmhouse
and ramshackle barn,
I found where a grouse
had stepped out
from the woods,
stitched its careful, straight seam –
put its wings down, once –
and flew, what, five yards?, six?,
surely just a single beat,
to land in a sliding skid
of two long parallel
I imagine that bird
waking after a bitter night
to peer from cover into sun –
step forth – look around
cautiously and, 
knowing it is alone,
execute a moment
of perfect impromptu
before walking on,
wings at sides
as if in silent
into the far trees.
Nancy:  The raven’s a bird of infinite fascination, acrobatic, versatile and clever.
Raven In Winter Feels Free
Listen to that high flown rhetoric!
Raven’s preaching, running for election,
riding his invisible bike on an invisible wire,
punning, coining aphorisms, assuming
a supervisory position,
and delivering himself of various pithy
(and unsolicited) bits of advice.
In the winter, Raven’s positively garrulous.
We’re astonished.  Wouldn’t you be astonished
to see your quiet neighbor take his calloused hands
out of his pocket and launch into The Devil’s Trill
on a harmonica?  Why, it’s like watching the parson
do the hula on a beach in Hawaii –
still in his three piece suit.
No doubt about it, winter can be long
and hard, but summer folks miss a lot:
winter’s a good time
to get to know the neighbors.
“Raven In Winter Feels Free” first appeared in Blueline magazine.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Beautiful \ Nightcoach

Alan:  My French was always exĂ©crable.  I’m happy enough to muddle along in English, knowing it has a way of sopping up other languages’ gravy.
The most beautiful words in English,
my father declared, one supper,
to his family whose minds opened
like the mouths of baby birds,
were – according to a Frenchman
he said he’d met through work
(oh, exotic arbiter!) – “cellar door.”
So under-appreciated an object
to roll so golden off the tongue!
Handcuffed by first-year French, still
I could hear the resonance, for one
whose “that, of gold” was “cela, d’or.”
Later, I found the record label l’Oiseau-Lyre,
the lyrebird, and judged
the stranger had the better of us there.
Still later, meeting in school Yeats’
jeweled automaton, Stevens’ gold-feathered bird,
I felt the music we all seek
comes not from cages or ideal palms
but from the quibble of rusty hinges
and the half-felt must of air
reaching from cool and freshly opened ground.
Nancy:  I loved trains.  I loved the motion, the sound, the world passing, the imaginary lives I lived vicariously, the history and stories I played out as the landscape flowed past, my imaginary other selves.
Kettaklak, kettaklak
thousands of miles asleep with my head on the rough upholstery
and awake
writing my name in the coaldust on the windowsills
a railroad man’s daughter
in the backyards of a thousand small towns
watching their milkmen
their empty night streets
kettaklak, click, kettaklak
beating them to their own dawns, and
sleeping again
to the roll, the long whistle
kettaklak, lullaby, kettaklak
it gets in the blood
of a railroad man’s child
“Night Coach” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To One Dying In Hospital \ Mortalities And Entanglements

Alan:  We were told he had fallen on the ice and wouldn’t recover.  All that his family asked was that our makeshift Sangha ease his passage from this life with well wishing and loving kindness.
To One Dying In Hospital
The trees
draw their light
from the top,
as if a blind
withdraws slowly,
upside down.
huddle in the thread
of the stream
that winds across the low-tide
marsh; grow nervous
but do not lift.
I have been asked
to hold you in my thoughts,
though we have never met,
so I do.
The sun,
just visible beyond the ridge
makes brightest
the single small cloud,
not moving
in an otherwise
blue sky.
Nancy:  At a conference on whale populations, I overheard this remark: “Death is the least known aspect of the life of whales.”  Except for those washed ashore or impaled on a ship’s prow, what do we know?
Mortalities And Entanglements
Rising out of the black,
the whales slowly take on form; they become
distinct and whole, finely shaped, various,
individuated; they come to meet us at
Wide.  Blue is wide.
We come to know one another in a wide
blue way.
Musicians play Villa-Lobos,
and the whales show their appreciation of cellos and flutes
with slow rolls.
Poets write and recite poems.  Scientists
fill their family albums with snapshots of whales.
Word goes out: the whales have come back
from Patagonia with a new song.
We all get copies.
We stand in the water,
hip deep, watching them die.
Death is over the edge of blue.
Is this all we have to show for it?
Bones?  From bones we learn about bones,
but we want to be taught requiems.
I want to ask the whales,
how can I know, when a poem sounds,
whether it has gone to feed
or die?  We want to know more,
we want to know why.
When the whales go, they take the answers
with them, over the edge,
sinking blue,
deep blue, indigo,
“Mortalities And Entanglements” first appeared in East of the Light (Stone Man Press & Slow Dancer Press, 1984).