Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Thin Air: A Letter \ Young Hare With A Star On His Forehead

Alan:  Skaila Kanga (named for the harpist) was one of a kind, and yet utterly typical of her race.  The brave ones, the bold ones, never lasted.  All 9 lives at once.
In Thin Air:  A Letter
She loves this land, but sometimes the quietness goes out of me
and I’m filled with a rage to crumple it into some semblance
of comfort: topsoil, a farmhouse built by our ancestors, rising,
with elms, from the midst of good hayfields.
A wet spring, and June no better.  The corn disappears yet again
under water: we could run a brickworks better than a garden
down in that clay muck.
The cat went two nights ago.  A yowling from the thickets.
Rain came, heavy, with lightning from the south: any scraps
of her gone by now.  A friend missing; a presence rubbing
at our dreams, slipping away each dawn.
I’d like to live on an old New England farm with house cats,
barn cats, field cats, feral cats, their shapes and identities
blurring one into another like the stone walls sagging into
the ledgy bluestem fields.
... Our friends so few that they come and go in the shape of a
mere and marvelous cat ...
Nancy:  This may well be the hare that ate all the tulips, but still – today there’s enough peace for both of us.
Young Hare With a Star On His Forehead
The gods so loved the animals
that they made the pig unclean
that they made the cow holy
that they made the lamb a sacrifice
that they made the goat the bearer of guilt.
But you, small hare, they overlooked.
The hare is here again today.
Mild, so innocent of evil that
he sees Me, not a ghost, a demon
not an angelic savior.
Just one on whom the sun shines
equally, neither bowing to the other.
And so we sit
nothing but green between us.
His first June
mine one of the few left
and everywhere, the compassion
of grass
and sun.
“In Thin Air: A Letter” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

At Straight Bay \ Poppies In The Corn

Alan:  Even in the country, the wild animals are mostly “out there.”  But every so often, their lives and ours intersect and then what should we do?
At Straight Bay
The beaver died before dark
where we had placed it in the back of the truck
in a crate with grass, water and poplar bark.
It had shivered in the sun
all afternoon, covered in a coat, where some kids
had found it.  No telling what was wrong.
“So hard to do the right
thing.  So many animals have died on my hands.”
You cried some.  It pelted rain all night.
I dug a hole the next day
near the old salt-gnarled poplar that grows
in the stiff earth at the edge of the bay.
You wrapped it up and carried
all that beaver sleekness as tenderly as a babe
down the hill, across the field to where it was buried.
Nancy:  While Papa’s vegetables and Granny’s flowers knew their places, I love the intermingled, unexpected happenstance.
Poppies In The Corn
Now that I’m older than my father,
older even than my grandmother,
I can do as I please.  It’s ok with me
that daffodils are coming up in the potatoes,
nicotiana in the corn, poppies
Not that the garden’s untidy.  My rows
are as straight as my father’s, my
flowers as prolific as Granny’s; if
they were disembodied spirits hovering overhead
they could hardly find fault.
No, my hands are as stained,
my beds as tidy, my bean poles as straight
as either of them could wish.  Could
they understand, those lingering ghosts,
why I coax flowers to raise their heads
where they will?  Listen:
Now that I’m older than either of you, my
loving fierce antagonists, I will bring you
together at last, in my garden; in my garden
where I can love you both best.
“At Straight Bay” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Snake \ Neighbors Strangers To One Another

Alan:  What was it?  Nothing like this should live here.  Seeing it once, we always looked but never found, except within us.
The snake, big as my arm,
and black, slipped
from the warm ledge
into rough grass – 
We felt it must have ruled
this place forever,
until our thumping arrival
changed everything.
It moved, then,
into the thickets and rank weeds
of our memories,
where it emerges, rarely,
to stretch and sun,
blacker than ever,
crowned with gold,
though the actual ledge
is cool now, with a rind
of moss, in the shade
of roses and lilacs.
Nancy:  While recuperating from pneumonia, I temporarily traded my bay for a rivermarsh.
Neighbors Strangers To One Another
We know homely and intimate things about one another.
We know paint/no paint.  We know angles.  I know
that their barn is slumped away from the prevailing wind.
We both know the wide rivermarsh between us
and the ledgy tongue of spruce woods which divides it,
giving us each a false boundary.
They are – this is – the house on the other side
of the marsh.
They know, because the eye is drawn by a kind
of human gravity, when I went to bed,
my light, one star, dark.
I know, because I watched the smoke rise,
that they slept late this morning, that the kindling
was damp, that at last the fire caught.
Maybe we both keep bees.  Maybe we both
favor red hollyhocks.  Maybe we have nothing in common,
but we are important strangers to one another nonetheless.
I am – they are – the neighbors on the other side
of the marsh.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lupines \ June, When My Crown Was Dandelions

Alan:   A binocular poem, that tries to see the land as do those whose lives depend on it and also as the Eden we all want to make for ourselves.  Which will it be?
Farmers hated ‘em –
cow-killers, milk destroyers –
roots halfway to Hades.
Spent their lives
grubbing ‘em up,
like to bust a gut.
Other folks loved ‘em,
thrilled by candy drifts,
cooing “Maine,” “June.”
Stuck ‘em everywhere,
spread ‘em around,
like damn Miss Rumphius!
Our hippie neighbor came back
with a new girl, sullen,
silent, not good for much
we determined.  It didn’t last.
Still, she planted lilacs,
a maple the snowplow
whacks every winter,
lupines.  The lilacs
beside his long-empty shack
bloomed again this year.
The maple sprouted once more
from the ground.  The lupines,
scraped along by the plow,
sneak farther and farther
down the lane
towards our old, inherited pasture.
I can’t help it, pick a stem
for the table,
feel the ground shudder
with the quick fury
of the admonishing dead.
Nancy:  Bless mothers, librarians, writers, painters, museums, memory, and dawn.
June, When My Crown Was Dandelions
Shimmering June
      takes Botticelli's hand
      steps out
      into morning
      pearly mist
June, wreathed in
      translucence of peony
      gauzy heart of the arbor rose
That was then
      before the stars were stones
      then, when they walked with us on earth
one of the thens
      when I could take Venus by the hand
      on a June morning
when the skies were roseblossoms
And now
      roseblossoms still
     mist the pale pale pink of the shell
     Venus rising
     June takes my hand