Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Waiting In The Infinite Wings \ Survivalists

Nancy: Having met a woman whose daughter had been "disappeared", having seen her face set in a rictus of grief, I found that phrase "walk-on parts" offensive beyond imagination.

Waiting In The Infinite Wings

“For centuries, the main subject matters
[of history as written by men] were high
politics and war, in which women have
usually played no more than walk-on parts.”
     -  Lawrence Stone, NYReview, 30 May 1985

Women are still walking on,
sagging into the arms of friends
again, for the second son, for the third son,
for the daughter, walking
to the walls, waiting outside the walls,
walking to the bone yards outside the city.

     A blockbuster production, history.
     Not even Cecil B. DeMille dared dream
     these infinite wings filled with walk-ons.

Women are still walking on,
feeding the babies leaves, walking,
climbing, through thigh deep snow with a sick child,
with a dead child, walking,
running to the rubble, wailing.

     A cosmorama, history: “high politics,”
     the kind you ride to in limousines,
     and war.

Women are still walking on,
stepping back onto the road behind the last truck,
because there might be milk, or barley,
the gates might open, someone might, today,
someone might pass a slip of paper through the wires.

     Epic smash!  Calls for author, author, and the man
     in the suit walks out and grasps the hand of the man
     in uniform.  “There is no history but biography,”
     he quotes modestly.  They bow.

Maria – not her real name, it is safe to write
Dr. Stone’s name, or the names of men in Addis Ababa
or Buenos Aires, but Maria will walk on nameless –
comes out of the wings searching for her daughter.
Her daughter was disappeared six years ago.
Maria does not know why.  This is not a speaking role,
only a walk-on, the curtain is falling on this act, more women
are pressing out of the wings, walking across
a stage almost as dark as dusk, still more women, more women,
more women, walking on

     still, behind the curtain, between acts,
walking on

Alan: Perhaps someday it will be true again, the meek shall inherit.  It has happened once.


We live quietly as we can amid great noise.
We live frugally as possible in a rank world steamy with wealth.
We live simply, content to practice the endlessly applicable basics.

All about us, dinosaurs are munching the treetops.
Insatiable, great-limbed beings are tearing apart the earth.

We appear to be hardly mouthfuls as we hide in the forest litter.
Our greatest strength is our insignificance.

In our small way we are ready.
Perhaps, if the right things happen,
we shall watch the dinosaurs fall.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Florida, For Wallace Stevens \ Ajar In Tennessee

Nancy:  No longer remote and exotic, the Florida Keys have very little left of the imagined romance of the '20s and '30s.  Crocodiles are replaced by earthmovers and natural vegetation by souvenir (made in Taiwan) stands.  (Not that that stopped optimistic biologists from asking me to help look for crocodile nests.)

Florida, For Wallace Stevens

Nothing here to burn the men of Hartford,
men of Dubuque,
Terre Haute; the streets are as safe as nunneries,
even the back streets,
even the small streets,
even the smaller streets,
that die in palmettos,
or if not in palmettos
in rusted bedsprings and maimed chairs.
Nothing not like Hartford;
the women are not papaya eaters,
no, on the side streets they are planting geraniums
cool as Connecticut.  They are sweeping their floors.

And I am too late.  There is nothing here
to test my fear,
no smoldering flower of temptation.
Wait for me, Mr. Stevens,
hold your ship, I am forty years too late, and
I am without an answer for the woman in the trailer
who asked me, “Why don’t the crocodiles
go back where they came from?”

Alan: With apologies to the master’s “Anecdote Of The Jar.”

Ajar In Tennessee

He came ajar in Tennessee
or Kentucky — one of those broad, squashed states.
He sat himself upon a hill
and, as the poet predicted, green
came nosing round.
He aligned his axis with the state’s,
east-west, then turning, west-east,
feeling the lingo tug him south,
mountains and hollers spin him north,
until feet and head pulled counties,
continents apart.

Green came round, snuffling and licking, not ordered,
and he was not a port in air, not round,
he was ajar, the air a ladder that crumpled in his hands,
the green a wilderness, a pack of blue-ticks baying,
driving their fox to ground, somewhere
here in Tennessee or maybe ol’ Kentuck.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Prowler's Spring \ Too Long Cold

Nancy: Sometimes conversations lead to memories that surface as poems.  I once wrote a thank you to friends who "put their cat's paws against the dominoes of my mind.”

A Prowler's Spring

Be a prowler, be a hunter.
My father took my hand and we set out.

Be a searcher, be a learner.
We put on our boots and went hunting for spring.

The snow was deep.
There was ice on the water.

Papa?  I asked.
He smiled and said "there . . . and there".

Deep in the snow
Green leaves unfolding, green leaves and strange flowers.

Later I learned to find
Liverleaf under the oak leaves,
Anemone in the fencerow,
Mayflower hidden on the hillside

But best of all
Was when my father took my hand

When we went prowling together
Hunting for spring.

Alan: There’s a point every winter when we all begin to say, “enough,” and winter just smiles and bears down harder.

Too Long Cold

How many gaps have opened, this winter.
How many barns gone, their roofs stove in by snow
or flattened like card houses by that last big wind.
Homes burned: chimney fires, “fires of suspicious origin.”
Little gaps in the landscape: scorched trees
forlornly trying to cover their shame.

People are drummed unmercifully.
“The domestic violence project has been cancelled due to snow”
(we can see by the split lips who’s been practicing at home).
Men too young to have heart failure, do;
the old folks “just kind of run out of life,”
their patience gone, and we all (who can’t dream of death, ourselves)
read the obituaries first, then buy the papers for kindling.

People fall in on themselves like the barns,
worn out with adjusting to the gaps on the land, in their hearts,
hurting from not enough green, not enough smiles.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Room Of My Own \ Flurries

Nancy: "Where has she gone now?"  I heard them asking one another as I made myself small and invisible in one of my hidey-holes.

A Room Of My Own

It comes to that.
A skull.

So many failed:
    nests of fern
    hollow trunks
    wickiups, like
    inverted baskets
    corners of rooms

But bone –
bone holds
now that it comes to that.
A cave of bone.
Paintings on the walls.
Words like handprints.
Painted songs, painted stories.

I close my eyes
    locked inside
    I close my eyes
close the doors of my room
    my room
    roll boulders against the doors
    my room
    my bone, my skull
    my own

Alan:  The forecast called for a day of flurries.  They kept coming, on and on, all week long – one continuous, slow, messy, inexorably accumulating drift.


Cars in the                                                                                ditch. 

waddling down

the center of the


white                                                                                    (Flurries
they said.)                                                                                    The

double yellow


you can hardly                                                                         (see)

a huge

shape approaching,

spitting salt and


“Flurries” first appeared in County Wide newspaper.