Friday, December 23, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wear Something Nice

I hope if you are free you will join us for my Westcott Community Art Gallery Opening at The Westcott Community Center from 6-8 PM Friday night (tomorrow!)Poetry will be from 7:15 to 7:45. Jane Cassady will MC.Refreshments will be served.The Gallery is on the second floor of the Westcott Community Center on the corner of Euclid and Wescott, an old firehouse.If you cannot make the opening, the gallery is open from 9-5:30 M-F and lots of evening for programs. The show will run through Dec 30. Posted by Picasa

Opening poem remarks for tonight's reading

Opening remarks for Westcott Opening reading

The two poems I am going to read refer obliquely to my work as a poet, photographer, and artist. I hope the connection will be sufficiently evident.

For those of you who knew my father, I will have to explain that the second poem is from a dream I had last night, and does not refer to his “real” dying.

Both poems are brand new, I wrote one last night and one this morning, so I apologize for their roughness.

Mary Stebbins


Two new poems

Here are my two new poems for my reading tonight at the Wescott Community center.

I wrote one last night and one this morning.

Unfortunately, the formatting was lost in the transfer to the blog so you cannot see the stanzas. I don't have time to fool around with it now, but I may go back and fix them later if I can.

Not my Thing

I could have skipped my walk, but trudged

instead into the rain. Hard rain, a long crawl

through blazing darkness, under the trees.

Raindark, early dusk. Not quite a crawl, more like a crouch.

Not really trees, but thornbushes. Hawthorne and buckthorn.

I could have gone mall-walking, but it’s not my thing.

Through the thorn bushes, it’s two steps

across the Peninsula, river

on the north, bay to the south. The trail clings

long to the slick edge of the bank, a misstep

away from dark water.

On all sides, thunder.


Over and over.

Non-stop crashing,

a blaze of noise and light.

On the trail, half a dead fish,

huge pike, mouth open, eyes

turned up, milky but staring

into the strobe of sky.

A smear of moon shone through clouds,

waxing gibbous, a blur under the lace

of mist, visible between flashes.

To the rain and moon I lifted my face,

suddenly glad I had come. I wanted

to lick all the light from the sky.

Mary Stebbins

051117 for Keith and Pat

for my reading tonight at the Wescott Community Center

A Jungle of Light

A Jungle of Light

As he is dying, my father furiously paints.

Instead of the small invisible strokes

he used earlier, precise as a photo, he splashes

light on the canvas with a wide brush,

bold and bright.

I find him at work, crouched over his easel

painting the sunroom he'd always wanted

but never had. He looks out from a jungle of light

and leaf to a succession of mountains gold and gold

in the setting sun.

Beside him is a painting of water lilies, each one

flaming green and gold, light defining

the leaves and liberating the water. He creates

the light with an absence of paint.

He tells me when he looks inside, all he sees

is darkness, and vultures, circling.

But in this painting beside him, still wet, a phoenix

circles the sun. It pulses with brilliance,

yellows, oranges, and reds.

When he can't stand any more, he sits,

and when he can't sit, he paints lying curled on his side.

His last painting is himself, ink blue, black,

purple and plum. Drenching him with light,

the sun rises inside his heart.

Mary Stebbins

for Pa


for my reading tonight at the Wescott Community Center

Monday, October 03, 2005

Pattern: Yellow Queen Ann's Lace, photo by Mary Stebbins. Is it just me, or do blogs without photos look dull? Maybe I am still a kid--I like picture books. So--here's a picture for the poetry blog. The original white one is on Imagik. Posted by Picasa

The Plunge

The Plunge

Tonight was your first time. You stepped

Toward dark waters, burdened with blankets and light.

Your first time. Dark weeds engulfed you,

nettles stung your bare legs. You struck

at them with a stick, as if they were serpent,

as if they were hungry, while the weight

of the night swung precariously

on your back. You reached out

a foot for stepping stone, a foot

for the dark water, and slipped. Sudden,

unexpected, you plunged into the icy creek.

Water swelled up around you, your body

slid into the dark current. Away downstream,

your hat swirled and you rose up to plunge

after it, staggering to shore with the prize, dripping,

angry, embarrassed. Your dumped a quart

and a half from each boot. Slogged up the hill,

home. All these years you've lived on the creek,

and you never fell in. Now you can laugh, and you do.

And you don't. You're poised on the creek bank

again in the nettles, one foot stretched

toward the water. You still have to cross

the dark water.

Mary Stebbins
For Scott Carter, At Silk Creek Retreat '05

050925, 050926

After the Click

Opening Poem note: Keith and I talk every night on Yahoo voice chat and I use the computer speakers to listen to him. It is always a shock to hear the silence when he clicks off.

After You say “I love you” and click off voice chat

The room, inhabited just moments ago with your words,
with the round lush sound of your voice, goes suddenly quiet.
It’s a box, this room, a hole into which the silence pours.
It empties me. Then comes the low hum
of the computer. The sleepy sounds of the night bird shifting
on its roost. Yellow light, spreads from the lamp;
a small spider climbs the blank wall. Four hundred miles away,
you pull the covers to your chin and close your eyes. Immediately,

you sleep. In my box of wakefulness, I am alone.

For Keith

Mary Stebbins

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Saratoga, 1956

Opening Poem Note: At my age, I am still writing poems about my childhood. Some memories of that long-ago time are still incredibly vivid.

At Saratoga, 1956

On an island in the creek I discover frost. In June.
I gaze from the bank. Crystals sparkle on every leaf and blade of grass,

on every twig and pebble. Shimmer in the summer sun. Magical but forbidden,
locked behind a cast iron fence. The mainland world seems green

and ordinary. I’m ten years old, desperately yearning to explore.
The teachers? Busy with other kids. I look both ways, plunge

in and wade the creek. Scramble over the fence.
Crush jewels underfoot. Touch

warm frost. Amazed, I touch again. It crumbles instead of melting.
In my eagerness, I break the delicate jewels.

Slowing, slowing, surrounded by radiance, I finally
lift one crystal leaf intact and hold in my own hands

a piece of all this light.

Mary Stebbins
For Peggy Bell, Stuart Brewer, Mr. Sharp and Mr. Armstrong
050122a; 11/13/2004 10:12 AM
sent to Avocet 10-22-05

Closing poem note: What I did was wrong, and I am wrong not to regret it. I know that if everyone did it, the place would be ruined, but I would not want to erase that memory!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Hibiscus Wind

Opening remarks: My mother, who’s living at Loretto nursing home now, had a brain tumor the size of a lemon in her head, and though the operation was supposedly a success, she has lost her short-term memory and is often confused. But she often says remarkable things:

A Hibiscus Wind

Mom rolls her wheelchair to the red hibiscus
in the nursing home lounge,
watches closely. Dusty petals tremble,
and so do her thin shoulders, rounded
under sweaters and afghans. She leans closer, bowing
her head toward the fabric blossoms. Her pale
face reflects scarlet and gold. She glows
with excitement, leans ever closer.
The air conditioner snorts, rattles, and wheezes.
"Oh," she says, backing suddenly away,
voice falling, like her hands. "It's only
the wind. I thought small birds
were gathering to burst out
and I wanted to be ready
to catch one."

Mary Stebbins,

For Margaret (Mom)

050804c , 050805a

Loretto, with Mom, “true story”

Closing Remarks: I personally would like to be near the bush when the birds of wisdom and love burst forth and I’d want to gather them all into my arms for a moment. Perhaps they’ll arrive in a rainbow of color, sprinkle me with joy dust.

While my mother suffered only disappointment, I experienced something akin to a small epiphany, hearing her words and seeing images of these birds, seeing another would superimposed over the everyday one.


Opening Poem Remarks: This is another dream poem. I was noticing as I was collecting my poems for this reading that my recent dream poems are among my favorites. Because it resembled a myth, I worked with it with that in mind. I apologize to those of you who have already heard it at the Brigit Pageen Kelly workshop. I’ve changed it some since then.


Lurch of fear: the heart tumbles,

plummets into freefall. Terror,

terror. Clutching. Quick,

if only I can remember what I know. Remember

before I smash

or wake.


have I wanted to be an enemy

of birds. Love, only love,

drove me to collect their wings,

feathers and hollow bones.

Only from the dead.


from the living. The miraculous

living. From the dead,

I took shriveled, scaly feet, bony

beaks and skulls. I pinned the wings, hung

them on the walls to dry. Admired

the simple aerodynamics of bone,

flesh and feather.

At night, I stretched and flexed

the wings and waxed them to my body, flapped

around the dark house practicing. Tossed

myself from the table, the shed roof,

the second story.

Then from a cliff,

I launched myself into their private sky.


flesh grew light

as I stepped into

sudden air,

All that space

around me.

Like the vulture,

aloft for hours.

Relax, as the earth hurtles upward. Shift

and stretch the plunging heart. Empty. Lift. Soar.

Circle and glide. Ride thermals. Trees shrink away,

ribbon rivers flutter. The earth tilts below.

O feral heart, only the air matters.

only the wind.

Mary Stebbins

For Keith


050806, 050615, 050509(4)bb, 050322(3)d, 021003(2)a, 020507(1)b

Closing Remarks: I used to often dream of flying. It is disappointing to me that I rarely do any more. I wonder if it’s because I am so heavy. Or more frail and awkward. I hope one never gets to old to fly!!!!

[NOTE: Revisit and consider Brigit Pageen Kelly's remarks on this poem, if possible, time allowing and if it can be located.]


Dix Reading copy
Opening Poem Remarks: I’m not sure whether being heavy and old stops me from flying, but I am fairly certain it stops me from climbing mountains. I haven’t got the strength and energy I used to have, not all that long ago.


Through fog, dripping trees and mists,
we climb, all day. Up
and up, higher and higher.
Step by step.

Finally, trees shrink and twist, become
Krumholtz, the shrunken fairy forest.
Then disappear. The granite peak, veiled
in shifting vapors, unfolds dimly before us.

At the precipitous edge of rock,
in your yellow raincoat, you raise your arms.
Sudden sorcerer, you banish the clouds. Orchestrate
the realms of heaven, the songs of cloud, wind
and fog.

The sky opens

in sudden, luminescent sun.
A mountainous world
creates itself out of swirling mists,
new, perfect, radiant,
still dripping
the afterbirth
of joy.

Mary Stebbins
for Charles Schirmer
050806; 050129b; 3A, 9/27/2003; 2C, 9/26/03; Draft 1D,1st draft, 2-8-98, For Charles Schirmer, because he asked for it, and he deserves it: a small ©Valentine’s Day gift from a friend. (for Chuck primarily, and for everyone I love, of course) P981-A: dix.doc 98-2-8; obscuring

Closing Poem Remarks: It is always a relief to get to the top of the mountain, and beautiful to see the view, but even more so when fog and suddenly clears. I miss the small ecstasy that comes after the long struggle.

Almost Imagined

Opening Poem Remarks: This is one of the poems I've been lucky enough to have published recently in AVOCET, A Journal of Nature Poetry. Avocet is a print journal, and I recommend it to those of you who write nature poetry.

Almost Imagined

At the edge of the gorge, I squelch my lamp

and stare into an absence, or what appears

to be absence. Darkness, uniformly black,

featureless. Slowly, imperceptibly, individual

trees begin to appear. Beside, behind,

a forest takes shape and deepens, one tree

at a time. The gash of gorge lightens

until a faint swath of creek materializes,

almost imaginary. But loud.

Then: an owl

in the maple beside me. Twinned moons

shine gold from the disc of its face.

I have nothing to add but a shiver.

Mary Stebbins

At Silk Creek

Closing Poem Comments: This poem is about Silk Creek. The Silk Creek Review, our new on-line Zine that has just gone Live. The web address is: We also have a BLOG, Silk Creek Portal, that anyone can post on with an invitation from me or comment on any time. The address is: If you want an invite, email me.