Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Larches \ If I Ruled The Air

Alan:  Hackmatack, tamarack, larch: after the maples, after the oaks and poplars and birches brown and fade, in the falling leaves of the hardwoods, the larches turn gold.

October Larches

Our native hackmatack, maligned and weak,
hides, as if shamed, amid the summer’s rout
of trees more honored, though it will peep out
and nod to those who, passing, stop and seek.

Larch makes a quick, hot stovewood, not much more,
unless you count those tough old bended knees
that stiffened many a hull, through many a breeze,
that hailed from town and village round these shores,

but that purpose is done, or nearly so:
today, the careless woodsman knocks it down
to offer light to trees with broader crowns
and straighter stems, or simply lets it go.

Still, I have seen it cup the waxwing’s nest,
and now, as Fall fades, it burns last, and best.

Nancy: If wishes were feathers, you'd find me riding the updrafts at the cliff at Mill Cove.

If I Ruled The Air

Like the black one,
with his tilt and lift

with his parabolas
and pauses

with his running down
and his wheeling whirling
knifing back.

If I ruled the air
I would never say, now
Raven, sit and watch.  No.

I would call to the wind,
more!  more!
And I would call to Raven,
come!  come!
Now we can go together.

if only I ruled the air.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Letting Go / X3

Alan:  Sometimes the land lies counter to our emotions.  In leaf-fall, joy; in the greening meadow, grief.

Letting Go

This same field
a few springs back
held small pools
in a cold wind
like blue eyes
full of tears.
It sparkles now, white,
or where the sun touches,
green, yellow-green,
yellow, yellow-brown,
The alders
are dropping their leaves,
in the still air,
with a faint chattering
that sounds
like celebration.
Who can discern
why sorrow then,
why happiness now?

Nancy:  Easier asked than answered:  where do these words come from?

X 3

            There was my poem, pinned to the bulletin board
            at Walmart, between the bean supper and the car
            wash, an entirely appropriate juxtaposition
            for many of my poems, focused as they are on
            the weather and/or the scraggly epiphanies
            of survival in a hard place.

Wallace Stevens
            There are nights when I can’t connect with
            malicious greens and gilt umbrellas, nights
            after days when I’ve spent an entire pot of tea
            talking with neighbors about the costs of living
            simply; it’s a relief to turn Wallace Stevens
            face down on the table and step out to pee,
            splintery boards, sharply cold air, an orange
            rind of moon, nothing veiled.

Examining Room
            Weeks from now, when I’ve forgotten worry and wait
            and hurt, I’ll remember sitting on the clinic’s
            hard chair talking poetry with the nurses’ aide,
            who is shy and who keeps her voice low, but who needs
            reassurance; how can these words have such independent
            wills, she asks, where do these words come from,
            who am I, writing these words?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

55 \ Uncorrected Visions

Alan: Everyone gets to write one poem for their own birthday.  Here’s mine.


Most awkward of numerals, these
inverted interrogatives;
their flat, displaced roofs
ripping loose in a gale.
The whole unsteady, no
foundation: the rounded base,
asymmetry threatening to tip
over, crumple,
fly apart.

Fifty-five, still alive.
Clickety-clack, no turning back.

Today I will jog
5.5 miles,
I will drive
not to exceed the speed limit.
I will count out and eat
fifty-five grains of white rice,
parceling starvation's mite.

I will examine what I own:
the double handful of years
dextrous and sinister,
elegant, stubby,
swollen, sore, denying,
affirming; those that accuse
and those that point the way.

I will consider my parents.
Once (for my sake?)
they set all questions aside,
became ecstatic
curves and lines,
symbols of an infinite,
Om and Amen: God.
Once, for me –
or the presumption of me,
it hardy matters.

Eight-five and eight-six,
You have taught me all your tricks.

Today I will not
perform handstands,
will refuse to gaze
I will bless my mother and father,
throwing wide arms around them
from such a distance,
will make my bed in their honor,
eat some sticky rice,
fix the sink,
play with the dogs.

Nancy: Genius, or simply human frailty?

Uncorrected Visions

If, as I read, El Greco’s saints are not
elongating in holy passionate flame, but are merely
the product of defective vision, is it possible
that my lines will slowly grow short of breath,
punctuated emphysemically?  Will my reach shorten
and will the arthritic phrases venture less and less
far from the doorstep, and will I no longer write
of the bear licking its paws in the cedar swamp?
I wonder; it would be sad if the birds dropped
out of a deaf sky and anger went blunt as my
skin grew thick, and the cadence of poetry
took the creak creak of my chair into itself
until it was no more than a muted litany
of weakened failing flesh.

But wait: I like those landscapes
yearning toward the light, and I know now
how little will I have to write prosthetic poetry.
If memory cannot supply the shrill of the hawk
then let it fly silently, let it remain nameless, even,
let my infirmities speak for themselves
of what it is to be flawed.

Within these boundaries, there may be
burning saints and more strange beauties yet to see.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Moon \ The Catch Of The Day

Alan: Why does the moon still tug so on our hearts and spirits, even now, when it has long since lost its innocence?

The Moon

The moon
is just the moon:
a lump of mud
thrown up, anciently,
stuck to our sky;
real estate
to be claimed,
tramped on;
poet's bane.
So there you are
sinking, full,
into wavering smears
and bands of mist –
shell-pink, shell-gray,
white – above
white fields
of the season's
first hard frost.
Still, despite all, shining
as you fade
and settle
into white-tinged spruces.
Still the moon.
Ah, the moon.

Nancy:  The Haddock, the Herring, the Cod . . . what happens to the fishermen when the fish are gone?

The Catch Of The Day

Nothing comes up in the nets.
The catch of the day is blame.
They carve it up at the fish plants.
They pack it in ice and ship it
abroad; they display it to the relevant
agencies; they serve it up to the
biologists.  The women dress it
with bitter words and rattle
their forks across the empty plates.
The men purse their mouths
and spit the bones of it like
poisoned darts.  When they tire
of mouthing stale blame they take
the boats out and get what they
expected; nothing comes up in the
nets.  Mumbling grumbling heartsick
confused they build fires on the
shingle and barbecue the new
catch of blame.  Nothing comes
up in the nets, no love, no new
roof, no hockey skates, no raffle
tickets, no Easter ham, none of the
old joy, when the nets come up

There’s no paint for the windburned
houses; the women clatter their
cups and saucers; the men
take their needles and knit tiny nets
just in case.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Workshop: How To Craft A Nature Poem \ In Morning Light

Alan:  I don’t suppose it was a bad workshop, really, but the title was an irritant that stimulated, if not a pearl, at least a rejoinder.  Dick and Jane and their wretched dog plagued beginning readers from the 1930s through the 1970s.  I was so bored with them that I didn’t learn to read until my mother took me in hand, half way through third grade, and showed me that books could be interesting.

Workshop: How To Craft A Nature Poem

First, find some nature.
Bring it indoors –
quickly, before it dries
or blows away
or is rained sodden.
Lay it out on the table.
Sit down.  Look.
For a full three minutes
(feel free to use a timer).
Now pull out some words,
e.g. “sticks,” “coyote,” “raven,”
“cloud.”  Shape the
sticks etc. into a container
(don’t worry if it’s rough);
fill it with dirt (everyone likes
a little dirt), some blood –
what is Nature, if not boinking
and chomping? – and top
with your present emotion.
Smooth and polish
(this may take awhile).
Notice, to your surprise,
the sunlight through the window,
just like second grade,
when Dick and Jane swam
weakly before you and Spot
would run! run!  and you
yourself wanted desperately
to run away outside
and disappear.

Nancy: There’s always a day when I realize “this is it,” as the world around me shifts; the time for bargaining is past, the time for acceptance has come.

In Morning Light

All summer too much
seemed no more than enough.  Until
last night: the stars grew suddenly
so sharp and fierce that I wanted
to hide myself, to sit under a blanket,

This morning I see
how one vole, fat and careless,
is enough for the harrier.  I see
the hummingbird, which should be gone,
embraced in the honeysuckle, which should be gone.

I see the blind dog stretched in delight
in the trapezoid of morning sun
on the kitchen floor.

Against everything ripe and sere, the asters
are an incomprehensible purple.

One more day, I think,
one more day is enough.