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)

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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.