Friday, December 23, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
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.
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.
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.
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.
051117 for Keith and Pat
for my reading tonight at the Wescott Community Center
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.
for my reading tonight at the Wescott Community Center
Monday, October 03, 2005
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.
For Scott Carter, At Silk Creek Retreat '05
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.
Sunday, August 07, 2005
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.
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
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."
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.
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
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
All that space
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.
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.]
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
The sky opens
in sudden, luminescent sun.
A mountainous world
creates itself out of swirling mists,
new, perfect, radiant,
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.
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