Sunday, February 22, 2009

Surrounded by Sky

Surrounded by Sky


A woman imagines she has cholera and worries she will be eaten by a shark.  She fears she will slip under the fence and be swept over the falls at Niagara.  Whenever she eats, she thinks she will eat so much her belly will explode and kill her and whenever she flies, she thinks she will die in a plane crash.  Every snowy car ride turns into an automobile accident and every Ferris wheel threatens to collapse when she reaches the top.  She collects clippings of people killed by wildfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, escaped lions, burst appendixes, rabid rats, ice falling off church roofs, infected toenails. 


One day, the once worried woman, who had already died a million imaginary deaths, lies dying.  Dementia consumes her and she fails to recognize death's teeth at her throat.  The reaper pulls off his black hood to show his boney face and she only smiles.  She dreams she is a child, and afraid of nothing.  She climbs the tallest pine in the forest, a cabbage pine with branches like a ladder.  Up and up and up and up, like Jack on the beanstalk she ascends, effortlessly, to the tippy top.  It sways in the breeze.  The sky surrounds her.  The treetop bends, then breaks.  She should fall.  Instead, her body inflates with sunshine and she flies.  She flies so high she can see the individual rays of starlight and each has a voice and a song.  When the woman joins the song, a terrible rasping pours from her throat.  No one at her deathbed recognizes as the angel voices the cacophony flowing like a fountain from her lips.



Mary Stebbins

090222-2135-1e; 090222-1756-1st


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Fall that Follows Triptych

The Fall that Follows Triptych

How Gerald Studies the Fledging of Darkness, May 14, 1993


I.  The Fall that Follows


Pigeons fall past the window, twisting and expanding

like newspapers unwadding in the wind.  Gerald puzzles

over this, lying on his side staring up and out.  He realizes

that they plunge from nests in the eaves and do not open

their wings to fly until below his line of sight. 

Though his visitors all praise the view from his window,

all he sees from the bed is sky and a haze of smog

so thick and brown he can't tell if the sun

shines or not.  The window, too, is smudged with grease

and condensation—his breath and sweat, he guesses—

and droplets trace long winding zebra paths through the fog.

His view of the pigeons is divided in stripes

of clarity and veils.  Appropriate, that view,

he thinks, his hours striped by pain.


Today, he learned

that while his past has been growing

steadily longer, his future has shrunk to barely the blink

of an eye.  "Six weeks, maybe," the doctor said,

when he, half joking, inquired, "How long have I got, Doc?"

With no future, no space remains to enjoy the past.

He holds the morphine button in the crook of his elbow

as the pain grows toward a crescendo.  He dissociates

for a moment, watching the flame of pain expand

spread like a wildfire.  It is red and orange and yellow

and smells like gasoline and turpentine

and like the pine pitch in the trees he climbed

as a boy.  Sticky, like that, too, never letting go.


The pigeons flutter upward, back

across the window,

beating their wings wildly

near the top.  He watches

for the fall that follows, after perhaps

they feed their young.  When

he presses the morphine button,

he will fall like that, tumbling

through a morphine darkness

away from himself,

but there will be no wings, no

bread from the feet of the elderly

for his children,

only the long scrabble

back toward the light

before he has to call in desperation       

for the darkness yet again.                                


II.  A Fluid Ribbon


Wings beat at the window,

feathers graze the glass.  Up

and up they flutter.  Grandpa's eyes rise

to the pigeons, for a moment, unglazed. 

Then the happy cooing, like a cat, purring,

like a lullaby.  A smile quivers

on Grandpa's lips before he fades again.  

When he sleeps, Al crosses the room,

sits on the wide windowsill and watches               

Gerald's chest rise and fall with only

an occasional catch.  The view outside

falls away into the distant valley

and ascends to a series of ridges beyond, fades

to blue and disappears into the lambent sky. 

Al turns his back on the rolling hills

and looks up to where the pigeons gather,

on a ledge above the window.


Their droppings streak and coat the upper glass,

the wall beside it, and the ground below.

Above the whitewash, colors!  Iridescence! 

Oranges, pinks, blues and greens glow and shimmer

on the greys, tans, black and white of feathers.

A plethora of variation.  They babble and dance

on the ledge.  Then as though if on signal,

they dive from the ledge and flow through the air

like a ribbon of fluid, twisting and turning

in unison as if choreographed by his own heart.


Below, heading in from the drop-off loop, Geraldine

follows their flight with her whole body,

her arms rising and falling slightly,

as if she would join them.  "Bring bread,"

Gerald had said, "and seeds." 

Al did. Enough for all of them.


III.  It Hurts a Little


At the first grip of toes and prick of tiny talons,

Geraldine shrieks, and in a clatter of wings, the pigeons

fly.  "Shhh," whispers Aldy, inclining his head

toward Gerald in the wheelchair, wrapped in a blanket

and scarf.  "Shhh.  Your Dad wants to feed them." 

Geraldine arranges the torn bread and seeds

on her hand again, steels herself.  The same pigeon

returns, the white one with tan wings and shiny pink        

glow on it's head as if a coat of thin nail polish          

had been painted on every feather.  First the whirr          

and beat of wings, the sudden clutch of pink toes

with their sharp nails.  Then a pecking at the seeds

in her hand.  Though it hurts a little, Geraldine   

sits utterly still on the bench beside her father's wheelchair. 

Then giggles, softly.  The pigeon looks up, cocks its head

to the side and peers at her through a single eye. 

Geraldine stares back at the pigeon with an eye

of her own.  The pigeon turns its head and looks at her

with the other eye and Geraldine does the same.

When the pigeon returns to eating bread and seeds,

Geraldine laughs.  She can't help it.  The pigeon

flutters slightly, but stays.  Peck.  Peck peck.


Geraldine looks around.  Aldy has a pigeon, too,

a grey and white one with pink and  green shine on its wings.

Three black pigeons with blue shiny heads like ravens

balance on her father's bony knees, one on the right,

and two sharing seeds from his left hand.  In his eyes,

a faint smile flickers.  Geraldine smiles, too.






Mary Taitt

for jrlc and mjtc with love and longing

this line ^ and everything below the line are not part of this poem


090220-1941-1f; 090220-0203-1st combined draft

earlier separate pieces:  The Fall that Follows:(090217-1300-2a; 090216-1239-1st

Ode to the Nursing home pigeons: 090217-1520-1b; 090217-1411-1st

It hurts a little:  090220-1:412-1st complete draft; 090218 partial draft)


Note to Dawn and Classmates:  this started out as an ode to the pigeons in the voice of Aldy, second person, and morphed into something very different (as you can see and hear), but since it did actually start as an ode, I decided to bring it anyway.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Where Only He Could Go (Two new poems)

This is probably an unfinished draft--It's a poem for "fun" but I've been struggling with it all week. It is full of hidden rhymes which I've been trying to refine. I have added an image showing the rhymes. You can click on it to see it larger. It is part of my current manuscript, Counting Fingers, Smelting Light. If you are interested, try this, before you look at the image showing the rhymes, see how many you can find--some are obvious, others less so. There is a small new haiku at the very bottom. I have written about twenty other new poems I haven't had time to post.

Where Only He Could Go
How Uncle Jake tells Stories of Tristan to Geraldine, February 14, 1962[?]

Across the Santiago rooftops, he'd dance and run,
full of monkey antics, shenanigans, and fun.
You would have laughed to see him scamper high
Up in the trees, sun lighting his hair in a halo of cinnamon,
though he certainly was no angel. He chased the birds
to make them fly, to hear the whirr of wings and watch them
screeching from all the branches, lift in unison into the sky,
probably yelling curses. And him so pleased
and grinning. Yah, cinnamon, like your candy hearts.
A cinnamon capuchin was what he was. In spite
of his happy games and frolics, he looked so sad
I named him Tristan, and he was bad. He ran amuck.
He'd duck into an open door and steal a banana, guava
or some Senora's pie (a Senora's a lady, Gerry)
and oh, the hollering and fists upraised, like so!
He was always in a jam. Every day and more
I had to pay for that monkey's spunk and thievery.
He filled my bunk with stolen coins and loot. Bought
me a drink or two, I must admit. Even a drunk. Shhh,
I didn't say that, Gerry, don't tell on me. Good girl.
But he spilled a few as well. He was nimble, free,
and wild. And especially sweet when he wrapped his arms
around my feet and hugged and kissed me
with smacking sounds. He liked to ham things up.
And cute. You'd think he invented cute, the clown.
You would have loved him, child. He'd catch a ball
and sometimes fetch it like a dog maybe once
or twice, but then hide the ball, the wretch
in the top of a tree where only he could go.
No making nice would make him change his mind
and bring it down. He put my hat in the treetops too,
and worse, the passport I needed to come home.
I had to learn to climb again and was never as good
at trees as you.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
In memory of Grim, and for my parents
(note: read other version and compare! The one with the rhymes marked)
090213-2312-4d; 090212-2009-3a; 090211-3201-2d; 090210-2220-1b; 090210 1st

At Winterfest

The hawk ice sculpture,
look! Sun and rain have melted
it into a dove. Mary Stebbins Taitt

Friday, February 06, 2009

Waking Twice, a new poem and art piece

Waking Twice

i. Posing Nude in the Snow

On a plate, eyeballs the size of fish eyes
roll and tumble. Round. They stare in every direction,
with irises olive drab. I tip the plate toward my mouth
and pour them in. They smush on my tongue
like capers, salty, sour and sharp. Some escape
and look inside my mouth and belly. Perhaps
they will see my heart: a burned out cinder. A hunk
of graphite. Stone masons attack at it with hammers
and chisels, trying to recarve stone into a facsimile
of love, but the eyeballs all know better.

ii. Catching Dreams in a Butterfly Net

Thousands of rainbows dance in a field of spray;
I imagine they'll slip through the net like air,
like fog, like the spray itself, but it holds them,
shining fish, softer than carp roe, brighter than trout,
slipperier than eels. I swallow them whole
in a whirl of cherry, strawberry, orange,
lemon, lime, blueberries and concord grapes
They wriggle and slide into the cage of my ribs
and swim there, lighting the cold cinder of heart
with color. The sun when I catch it doesn't burn
the fibers of net. It tastes like fireballs, cinnamon
and cayenne and roosts in the cinder of heart
like a banty taking to the trees at dusk.

Whoever told you chickens don't fly
never had banties! Even some of the white leghorns
fluttered to the rafters when the fox came in.
(Which still wasn't the point you were making,
of course.)

Meanwhile, the sun flaps its yellow wings,
fluffs its white belly and puffs my cinder of heart
into a great balloon that thrums in my chest glowing
and shimmering with rainbows, throbbing and singing:
an electrical tinnitus that seems to chant: Oh Joy, Oh Love,
oh Glory. Halleluiah. Wait what? Me? Not likely.
Only a dream. The wind must have tossed those flowers petals
that litter my morning quilt.

Mary Taitt
For Kay Ryan, Jim Doran, Rhonda Welsh, Lottie Spadie, Dawn McDuffie,
Bagelboy, Mike Kline, and Janine

This is a "new poem" made by combining two earlier drafts into a
single poem and then revising some. The art piece is also a revision
of an older piece which I have revised and posted multiple times in
different forms.

Because NO Polar Coordinates is my "Master Blog," I am posting this to
both No Polar and to my poetry, The Smell of Sun.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pancake Day

It's Candlemas, St. Bigid's Day, Imbolc, Groundhog Day. A day to eat
pancakes, see your shadow, light candles, take down your Christmas

I made crepes:

1/4 c milk, i egg, 1/4 c flour for each crepe, more or less, whisk up.
I used whole wheat flour and some seeds and rice milk for mine--yum.

I wrote a poem about it, brand new today, for my class tonight.

How Geraldine becomes a Saint, Feb 2, 1961

One by one, with needles pricking and dropping
with lisping sounds like falling rain through
the drooping branches, Geraldine picks lengths of tinsel
from the browning tree. She turns the dull and shining
strands in the colored lights to see them sparkle,
watches small streams of color wash and wriggle
across the ceiling like eels in Uncle Jake's creel.
She blows at the tinsel, puffs gently on the filaments
draped over her fingers, watches the light ones rise
and flutter while the heavy ones barely move.
New sun filters though the lace curtains, adding
another layer of pattern to the patches of color
and the ghosts of branches on the walls and ceiling.
Mama calls her to come out and see her shadow.
"The woodchucks," she says, "the groundhogs,
are sleeping in the woods, under the snow,
they won't be seeing any shadows, but you
can see yours instead." Geraldine waves
at her shadow and laughs when the shadow
waves back. Laughs and laughs and waves again.
Watches the blue hand move against the pink snow.
"Bye, bye winter," Mama says. "Well, anyway,
it's half gone, and that's worth celebrating."
Geraldine celebrates by leaping up and down
and shouting, laughing again as her shadow leaps
along with her, silent as the watching sparrows.
They give the sparrows yellow millet and golden
corn. "Yellow and gold for the sun," Mama says.
"Yellow for the sun," Geraldine repeats.
"Pancakes for breakfast," Mama says. In the center
of each pancake, she makes the shape of a sun
with a smile and many rays. "For St. Brigid,"
she says, "for the happy, growing sun."
Geraldine eats her suns with maple syrup
and asks for a pancake with her shadow in it.
"Here you are," Mama says, sliding the pancake
onto Geraldine's plate, "St. Geraldine, goddess
of shadows." Geraldine waves goodbye
to the pancake and to her pancake shadow,
as she forks it into her mouth, bite by bite.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
For Geraldine and the High Priestess