Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Inside Outside \ Facing Morning

Alan:  April is whiplash weather, an ache for new growth, a depleted woodpile: weariness and wanting.

Inside Outside

Standing at the stove,
waiting for the kettle to boil,
I look out on April dusk,
the day’s snow we’re already sick of,
bird feeders rocking in the wind,
strips of bark torn half off the birches,
and suddenly think: I am
only alive in this moment,
which has occurred to us all and
which is worth laughing
or crying about
I suppose.

Nancy:  Slow waking on a summer day – my day cued by the sun – the fishermen by the tides.

Facing Morning

Too dark to see my watch.
Find my moosehide mocs by scuffing
             my feet across the floor.
Check Venus:  I’ve time to put the kettle on,
             make a pot of coffee, drink the first cup
             before sunrise.
A few yips from the woods, a bark from
             my dog.  Scratch of a match.
Last night the big barred owl was hunting,
             now she’s shaking her feathers, settling
             against the trunk of a fir.
Extraordinary morning star.  Mug, cream,
             the first best wonderful bitter mouthful.

Across the bay, across the wooded mass
             of Crows Neck, in the next bay west,
             the stutter of an engine.
Fisherman.  I wonder who woke him, got him on
             the water so early.
I wonder if he has a thermos of coffee.
Maybe he’s standing there, happy to be
             sipping it, one hand on the wheel,
             watching the horizon.

Sun just nipping the window.  Another cup
             in the pot.

“Facing Morning” first appeared in Fencing Wildness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Taking Away The Mountain \ Where I Fished With My Father

Alan:  Another poem for my brother Don.  For a long time, I couldn’t believe he was really gone, or how, or why. 

Taking Away The Mountain

I looked up this morning, and saw that they
had taken away the mountain.
“They” being just an expression: some conspiracy –
persons or forces unknown.
It happened in the night without tumult or dust,
bulldozers, prior notification:

this mountain, there in the long dark range,
backing my days, hardly noticed
over the shoulder, one horizon or another.
Now its absence a rebuke: a gap
visited over and over by the tongue.

Mountain, I looked up and saw that you were gone,
and the place where you were filled me with sadness.
I looked again: all the mountains clouds, it seems,
or even stranger beings – less substantial – all along.

Nancy:  The unplanned shaping of a life.  A time machine as simple as a footprint on a muddy bank, the smell of woodsmoke mixed with mist rising from water.

Where I Fished With My Father

From the banks of the slow streams
           poles buckets walk low chatter
           above my head
           long legs short legs catch up
           my pole my bobber my fish
           everyone laughing
           little girl little fish
           pat it pat it put it back

and cold ponds
           tall quiet man and gangly girl
           opening his childhood
           passing on mists and names
           receiving dawns and silences
           learning kindling
           the ways of a fire
           the taste of fish

and by the Tawasentha
           I’m showing you this
           you can always come here
           you can come alone
           you’re a big girl now
           leave us a note
           just say gone fishing by the creek

And when I flew home
           back to my own family
           with his tackle box
           his rod case
           his ashes
           there were many waters still
           where it was quiet
           or misty
           and I fished with my father.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Easter Morning \ Journal Entry

Alan:  Mid-April: so much promised, so much withheld.

Easter Morning


Out on the bay flats
a figure in a white wind-breaker
bent double, hacking at the mud
for clams.
The blue sky arches over all
cloudless and cold.
The sun will warm the soil in its beds
enough for turning.
I must prepare a garden.
The clam digger and I
in the same stone church
of necessity and choice.


It is such a weak word, “depression.”
No suggestion of the way dreams claw at one,
the every-morning flail
from the crypt of sleep.
No sense of the craving for extinction,
the lying there with weight on the chest
until finally, out of habit, rising.
Nothing of the loaded shoulders,
the difficulty breathing,
constant awareness of pressure on the breast-bone,
someone pushing hard on one point,
the pain in the heart, or is it the “heart”?
Going through the motions in airless darkness,
the boulder rolled tight against the cave-mouth.
Being inside.


Digging over this ground
I am aware that I am
half-happy.  Like the worm cut by the spade.
Content to be alive,
though knowing
much is lost that may,
given time enough,
grow back.
It is sufficient
to feel my soul hover
somewhere in the weak sun
at about chest height.
A mosquito
newly emerged
drowsily looking for a place
to draw blood.


Under last year’s debris
the creamy-blue puschkinias,
chalices of purple, yellow, white crocuses –
daffodils thrusting green arms
already budded in prayer.
All this rubbish
begs to be cleared,
stacked in a rick and burnt.
Smoke: the first offering.
Leaving behind ashes
so that we may smear our faces
and wail.


The tide creeps in, covering blue-gray mud.
An emptiness between two shores
that is one shore, followed far enough.
The blue below mirrors the blue above
and is as heartless.  The figure in white
has risen and is gone.
The place needs its demiurge
to be any more than longing.
The dirt is still the dark dirt.
It desiccates fast
under this vaporless bright dome.
Where are the heavenly hosts?  Oh,
there is birdsong.  Somewhere,
if not here, there is birdsong.

Nancy:  Better, I supposed, to take out angry disappointment on the innocent buds than on some equally innocent bystanders.

Journal Entry

The spring buds
the waxy ones that yield to the teeth
and the soft ones, stroking my eyelids,
my upper lip
and the ones that drip sugar.
The ones that are hidden in the bark
and the ones that thrust at my skin
and the candy ones and the bitter
and ones that chewed bring cramp,
convulsions, death.

The spring buds
the red ones, fire on the hillside
and the taut polished ones by the brook
and the quick ones in the farmyard.
The ones bunched in clusters
and the metallic poised ones
and the black shriveled ones by the stone wall
The ones that unfold into fans
and the ones that force out veined winged things.

The spring buds
the ones that stain my hands
and the ones that I crush, acrid.
The ones that I destroy with my nails
and the ones that I crumble
and the ones out of reach, that I curse
and the ones that I tear until they snap
sapless, to die of thirst
because they promise flowers.
Today I can bear no promises, none.

March 21, 1979
Today I noticed the buds.

“Journal Entry” first appeared in Blackberries And Dust (Stone Man Press, 1984).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

First Returns \ And The Sailor, Home From The Dream

Alan: One day, nothing.  The next, robins everywhere.  First come the ones a friend calls “meat robins,” russet and robust, but they don’t linger.  Or if they do, they soon turn wan in our chill hungry spring.

First Returns

The robins are flocking north,
the big robins, hungry guppy bellies
hanging from straight stiff planar wings,
the bright early robins, red
from a winter of southern-fried worms,
not like the late-comers,
the pale pinched robins,
the ones that arrive in a few more weeks
to summer by the therapeutic sea.
These are the fly-boy robins,
pausing to refuel,
the fighter pilots, leather-jacketed,
goggled, arrowing in
ahead of the storm.

Nancy: Wind in the spruces, so like surf, and an old house creaking, wind finding a loose rope somewhere – rather than disturbing sleep take the sleeper away voyaging.

And The Sailor, Home From The Dream

Would the morning light lie
and say rafters,
make rafters, make the white roof overhead,
make there a basket, there a bright sash?

Would the morning light lie
me aground, when nightlong
I went with the lashing of wind
and the timbers creaking
and the spruce breaking in shoals,
when nightlong I went with the water pouring
over the bows?

With the light east and the wind west
and the morning breaking,
I lie where I lie, in my own loft,
and the truth is surprising,
for the world is in motion
and this house is made fast to the shore
in the morning light.