Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Opening \ Elephant

Nancy:  Remnants of ice flows (blocks sometimes several feet thick) may still be there in April, buried in the greening marsh grass.
The Opening
The ice is barely breaking free
on the bay, floes stacking themselves
on ledges at low tide, volumes
of winter piled haphazardly, as children
might have left them, untidied
and abandoned,
as I say, this has just happened
but already my mind has chosen
to superimpose the flash of light, of
open water on the marsh, on the
bay, the gabble of oldsquaws in the dark,
sorting out, pairing up,
yes, already I am leaping (as I did
once from ice to ice across the flood tide)
leaping to the first pea tendril
the heavy green massy tomato plants
starred with flowers, a chair
in the shade,
perfume of hay and nicotiana,
all this because it is coming
because piece by piece
the ice is tumbling free, floating
free and the sharp cold air is rich
with open marsh and mud.
Alan:  Akshobhya, the Buddha of the East, whose emblem is the elephant...  I’d like to thank Margaret Brooks and family for the story that seeded this poem.
                      om vajra akshobhya hum
Ponderous, plantigrade,
the elephant sways and shuffles
in the dawn processional:
polished, gold-tipped, inevitable
amid the crowds and chanting.
Just in front, a small child
walks, proud and singular;
then trips, sprawling, arms
delicate as lily stems
flung out, helpless.
The beast, unable
to change stride,
cups an immense foot
and touches the earth
in two places, bridging
her fragile bones,
walks on, imperturbable.
She springs up, laughing
and crying, the tiny glass
bangle flashing on her wrist,
a mirror of blue water,
a circle unmarred.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Almanac Straight Bay March \ Misspoken

Nancy:  March storms come with this consolation:  March snows disappear faster than those of January and the days are coming when we don't have to backpack the groceries in.
Almanac            Straight Bay            March
Sun slides down the north slope of Stone Man Hill;
early risers find live coals in the stove.
If a man’s willing to stumble through drifted snow
he has the right to hoe the flats for clams.
What do you want to eat?  What are you willing to carry
on your back?
Wind slicks all white.  The dogs never ran their
investigations; I come home never having left.
The calendar and the woodpile disagree.
The dogs believe in omnipotence.  They ask to
roll in the grass.
Clouds open and let us see the face of the moon,
23,000 miles brighter.
The moon pulls the sea over the road and out of the bays.
Some almanacs ignore this; some make a brief reference:
Moon, full, perigee.
Riddle: how can a woman of moderate height reach
into treetops and stroll over the garden fence?
Answer: the woman goes where her snowshoes take her.
Looking in my backpack for food, newspapers, daffodils.
As for buds, I defer to grouse.  When they gather in the
birches I believe in change.
Winter storm warning.  What am I willing to carry
on my back?
Alan: Age was cruel to my mother, and so it may be to me.  Perhaps all we can do, in the immortal words of the Dead Dog CafĂ© Comedy Hour, is “Stay calm. Be brave. Wait for the signs.”
Fumbling in half-light, I tell you
I’m going to take the mail up the road
and you laugh.  It’s “trash,” not “mail”;
today’s Friday, the day I take the trash up the road.
This happens when I’m tired or distracted.
My mind shuffles the deck and pulls some random noun,
or what I see bumps what I’m thinking, as in
“How’s that new clock you’re reading.”
Maybe some day I’ll be like my mother,
for whom language is a sea of flotsam she swims through,
desperately fending off or grabbing whatever strikes her.
Maybe some day I’ll say, “I think I’ll scrub the kitchen floor,”
when what I mean is, “I love you.”
Maybe I’ll say that today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Storm \ Kestrel

Nancy:  In March, when we're getting eager for spring, we may, instead, have the worst of the winter storms.
Say:       storm
Say:       the wind reminded us of gray wolves
               these wolves came out of the north
               on long legs
Say:       storm
Say:       wind, snow, cold, and the chief of these,
               running out of the north
From this follows the house shaken
the rafters shaken
the cedar sills shaken
the teacups shaken from the shelves on the north wall
From this it follows that the shingles
let in the snow
the windows let it in
the door let it in
on the floor, snow, and a drift on the bed
From this follows cold.
The smoke will not face a wind running out of the north;
fire will not throw itself in the face of the wolves.
Thirty hours.
Say:        quiet
                you dream the quietest thing you know
                in the unaccustomed silence
“Thrushes”, you say when you wake,
“I heard thrushes singing, far,
far away.”
Alan:  An unexpected view of a common enough bird – one that begs to become abstracted, but remains its own surprising self.
                        over the fields
          in your Air Element
a symbol of grace
                        or God,
folded, stiff
and still
as sticks
on the low branch
of forsythia
in leafless
only your head
making tiny movements
as if reading a newspaper
of dead grass,
for word of a vole
or oblivious junco
within your
quick grasp;
your small beak
and sideburns
crisp as a gigolo’s moustache,
your russet
fluffed and showy
as a dowager’s stole,
                         not seeing
           this single
                                     behind you
          with excitement
                                      from twig to twig

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Storm Warning \ Climbing March Hill #2

Nancy:  The color of the sky, the flight of birds, air smelling of salt or spruce or mudflats:  quirky weather guides for quirky coastal weather.
Storm Warning
And in the falling snow
in the blowing snow
the crows rose up
for no reason
for good reason
the crows shook the trees
shook the snow
shook the branches
white green black branches
and the warning was
not the snow falling
not the wind turning
the warning was there
in the rising
the going
the empty tree 
Alan: Moving through the seasons is like riding the waves: whatever forward motion we seem to make, it is they that roll away under us and pass into the haze behind.
Climbing March Hill #2
Every year we move
without moving: nomads
in this one place.
And soon again we will be
climbing March Hill,
up the muddy slope of days
watching the sun lift
and settle
a little farther north,
believing that once more
over the frozen crest
will be some sort of water,
some sort of green.