Here’s to the Fool!

Today’s poetry prompt is to write about resistance:

I have seen the way the world is weighted,
heard you murmuring the words
distress, despair, disgrace,
marked the way it seems the fates
conspire to place you
underneath the wagon’s wheel.

If I can try one phrase to bless
this wretched space in which you rest
between the gales and squalls,
let it be this:

May your soul be a sail.

Your spirit will resist the winds that drive you
into dusty earth or claw you from the cliff-face.

May you catch that wind and rise.
May you surprise yourself in flight.

Gratitude List:
1. The Chalice Labyrinth.  Balancing my light and my shadow.  Finding my way across the divide between the different parts of me.
2. Six deer silhouetted in the dusky moment just before dawn.
3. And then the sunrise.  I am learning my colors: magenta, chartreuse, indigo, aquamarine, tangerine.  And there’s one that’s not quite peach and not quite tangerine, something I can’t quite name yet.
4. Walking over the fields with my guys: Jon, the boys, and Fred the Cat.  And that bird: peregrine, perhaps.  Or osprey.  Long crooked wings, and white beneath, sweeping over the fields in the spring breeze.
5. Saying yes to the new thing, new growth, new learning.  Trusting, like the Fool, in the grace of wind to catch me in the leap.

May we walk in Beauty!

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Calling it a Month

Today’s prompt–last one of the month–is “calling it a day.”  I really love these challenges, pushing myself to write even when I don’t feel inspired, to put something out there whether I am ready or not.  Sometimes I feel like I just toss out whatever scrap I can come up with, but occasionally that panic to not publicly embarrass myself seems to draw out poems I never knew I had in me.  So while I am looking forward to the rest, I’ll miss the challenge and the thrill of the day poem.

Calling it a Day

I came here because I thought–
oh never mind.  You see,

it’s been on my mind to–
well, you wouldn’t understand.

The band is packing up.
We’re totally out of peanuts, and
someone spilled wine
on my yellow dress.

I thought the dancing was fun.
Didn’t you like the dancing?
And the music kept it lively.

Were you about to say something?
Oh, I thought I heard you start to–
it doesn’t really matter now, does it?

Good night.
You sleep well, too.
Drive safely, now.

 

Gratitude List:
1. Secret poems sent to me by FB message and snail mail.  My heart is full.
2. Mirror, reflection, turning it back
3. Seeing through
4. Book Faeries
5. Networks

May we walk in Beauty!

Lost Language

Today’s Poem-a-Day Prompt is to write a message poem.

Lost Language

A bark-stripped twig along the path
etched with the burrowers’ runes.

Creekside, the wide webbed prints
of heron’s cuneiform stamp.

Overhead, shifting shapes
of scripts in the migrating flock.

A scatter of leaves on the pavement.
The pattern of bees zipping through sun rays.

When did I unlearn this language?
When did I forget how to read this alphabet?

A message that slips out of memory
just as it reaches the back of my throat.

The last hazy image of a dream.
The world is waiting to be read.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  Getting out there.  Deciding.  Starting the search.
2.  I found my old resumes, my portfolio, my syllabi and course schedules from when I taught community college fifteen years ago.  That old me, the younger one, wasn’t too bad.  If she could do that, I think maybe the newer me, the older one, can manage it, too.
3.  A new pair of shoes.  I’m sort of saying that to try to mitigate the sadness that the old ones finally gave up the ghost this morning.  Really, a pair of sturdy, stylish and comfortable shoes that lasts for ten years–there’s some deeper meaning there.
4.  Opening doors for the Universe to pour in.  (Oooops.  I accidentally typed “pout” there.  Heh.)
5.  That poem by Mary Oliver about death, about being married to amazement.

May we walk in Beauty, in Amazement!

How the World Began

Welcome to National Poetry Month!

So much to do!  I was away from home all day today, so tomorrow I will inaugurate this year’s Poetree in my dogwood.
Stacia Fleegal of the poetry blog Versify offers a challenge to read a poem a day.  I won’t put all mine on videotape, but here’s today’s attempt.
I think I will try the April Poem-A-Day Challenge again.  Today’s prompt is a two-fer: Write a Beginning poem.  Write an Ending poem.

How the World Began

In the beginning, Spider
launched herself into the spring breeze
from a rattling stalk of dried nettle

toward a skinny maple sapling.
She missed the maple.  Landed,
light-foot, in a heap of leaves

gathered around its base.
A quick scuttle upward, launched again
and through the breeze once more

to nettle stalks this time, and
the gossamer cord caught.
Then launched herself once more

into the gentle breath of wind
until she’d spun herself a world,
until she had encompassed all.

In the end, Spider gathered strands
and wove herself a spirit cloth of silver thread
to catch the wandering dreams

of mockingbirds and wild geese
passing over the chilly meadow,
following tomorrow’s sunrise.

 

Gratitude List:

1.  Flicker calling from the treetops this morning
2.  The golden flank feathers of the pheasant who walked through my parents’ lawn this afternoon, and his squeaky screen-door squawk.
3.  The Fool, dancing on the edge, willing to take risks, to laugh lightly at herself, to seek adventure.
4.  Energy.  Taking responsibility for my own, learning to sense it, to listen for it, to watch, to shift it.
5.  The smoke ring that emerged from the palo santo smudge that Nicky used this morning, how it rose so languidly through the grapevines, twisted, turned for a moment into a baby dragon, and dissipated like a mist, like a wraith.

May we walk in Beauty!

Aunt Eliza’s Advice for Lost Children

<Prompt 13: Write a Self-Help Poem>  Oooh.  I am tired, but I am loving the wildness of where this one is going.  So I will write down what I have and come back to it later.

Once upon a time there lived a golden child
who followed a trail of bright flowers
deep into the heart of the forest.

That’s you, in case you hadn’t picked it up,
and the forest is the life you are wandering in.
This is the story you chose for your own
in those rainbow days before you were born.

Oh, for most of us, and much of the time,
the forest is fairly navigable, and not too scary.
But sometimes we get caught in the brambles,
overwhelmed by the shadows, befriended
by suave and creepy fellows in wolfskin.

We forget how to find our way,
forget that we are the main character,
the child of the glorious day,
forget our identity,
forget our destiny, our star
forget how to follow our guides,
forget who they are.

So step into the clearing, Dearies.
Have a seat by the fire.
Here’s a little advice:

Keep following the flowers,
the butterflies, the little birds,
whatever drew you in here in the first place.

Go ahead and flirt with the wolves,
but don’t give them Grandma’s address.

Breaking and entering is still
breaking and entering, Sweetie,
even if it’s a cute little cottage.
You never know what’s in the oatmeal.

Listen to the doll your mother gave you.
Your mother’s voice inside yourself
will always lead you true.

Beware of riddling with old women.
Always remember your manners,
and always be kinder than necessary.

There’s a happily-ever-after
right around the bend,
but you might have to travel
half a lifetime and complete
three impossible tasks
to reach it.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  Appearing in a friend’s dream.  I feel like my day and night selves are working in tandem.
2.  Cozy clothes on a cold day
3.  Sourdough bread–I finally got the stuff baked, after two and a half days of proofing and rising and prepping.
4. Coalescence
5.  Irridescence

May we walk in Beauty.

Throw Myself in

<Prompt 12: Two in one–Write a happy poem, and then write sad>  I’ve wandered a little far afield with this one.  The idea for a Passion/Calm poem started to work on me this morning as I was headed to work, and I decided to follow that rather than the specific happy/sad prompt.

Now I realize that I must fling myself
into the center of my life
with a fierce intensity
and passionate joy
or risk dissipation.

And all while holding the center,
embodying the nature of the tree.
This, too, helps to hold it all together.

That still small place cannot exist for me
without the passion that feeds it.
Nor can I maintain the fire
without the quiet and glowing core.

Gratitude List:
1.  Venus.  At least I think that’s who it is, like a bright flower, these nights.
2. Warm hen eggs on cold fingers
3.  My sourdough starter fluffied up.  Tomorrow, sourdough bread.  Mean while, my mother’s amazing banana bread.  My brother is running a marathon on Sunday, so I am carb-loading for him.
4.  John Tavener.  May he be finding the deeply spiritual music he always sought.
5.  White sage and rehmannia root and lavender and hyssop.  Dandelion root and birch bark and whole dried chilis and lemon balm and St. John’s Wort.  Peppermint and elecampane root and dried elderberries and hawthorn berries and juniper berries.  Chamomile and jasmine and helichrysm blossoms.  I weighed and packaged herbs today at Radiance.  What a marvelous day.

Blessings on the blossom.  Blessings on the root.  Blessings on the leaf and stem.  Blessings on the fruit.

People in Trees

mikola_gnisuk_people_in_trees

<Prompt 11: Write an ekphrastic poem>  Ekphrastic poetry is based on another piece of art.  Brewer posted several evocative images on his blog, and I can’t get “People in Trees” by Mikola Gnisuk out of my head.   And also, today, I have been looking up photos and videos of murmurations of starlings.  Did you know that a flock of starlings is called a murmuration?  Here goes:

At the start of it we traveled through a fat mist,
a couple dozen of us in the thick soup,
and all was silent except for the light drip
all around from leaf to leaf,
and our footsteps on the ground,
and then the huff and shuffle of our breath
as we sped faster through the trees.

It was not fear that drove us on,
I know that now.  Nor just the thrill
of what we knew must come.  Still,
on we moved, and faster, through the birches.

And then the murmurs of the others,
the shift and scrape of feathers
and the whoosh of the wind,
and we were flying, a body of starlings,
twisting and whirling as one through the trees.
Like separate atoms of one single bird
we flew through the morning
and into the day.

 

Gratitude List:
1.  Light rays through the clouds.  Yesterday, we watched a vulture sliding between those rays, like shifting between worlds.  When I was a teenager, I spent part of a summer in Venezuela.  One afternoon, we were riding in the back of a pick-up through the Caracas barrio, when the clouds opened up and let down glittering rays.  Our host, who was seated next to me, suddenly began singing, full voice.
2.  Even with his razor claws, this warm purring kitty on my lap.  Those poor arthritic paws can’t quite retract the sharp bits, and my shoulders are constantly scabbed.
3.  Setting up a puzzle in the living room.  The kids are finally old enough that it won’t be a total mess, and Farmer Jon is feeling free enough to sit and work on it!
4.  Hot tea
5.  That moment when I am making a doll or an animal when it becomes itself, when I can see the sort of character it will be.  I finally finished my horse today.
2013 November 067
Blessings on the Roots.

Nests

All through the verdant season
the nest-builders have concealed
within the thick cover of leaves
their great treasures, crafted
of vines and twigs, cobwebs, grasses:
their work of the season’s passing.
Then, mystery and secrecy–
the eggs, dappled and speckled,
and suddenly, ravenous nestlings.
But now, all is revealed.  The trees
have dropped their golden skirts
about their ankles, and the secret is spilled.
There, in the yellow maple,
a random twiggy pile of mockingbird nest.
A bedraggled clump of matted grass
at the furthest dangling limb of the poplar
is all that remains of oriole’s art.
In the tree at the top of Ducktown Road,
a gray orb, nest of a colony of paper wasps.
“Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.”
–Rainer Maria Rilke
In the sky, those rippled clouds,
ribs of the gods, and birds gathering,
riding the sky-road south for winter.
2013 November 001

Mockingbird’s secret

(Blank) Sheet, a Grouchy Little Poem

<Prompt 4: (Blank) Sheet> I really did have this one finished yesterday, but I fell asleep in the recliner while I was waiting for my turn at the computer.  I am having a little more trouble trusting Mockingbird this year.  I want my poems to be just a little more polished before I post them.  I don’t want to go with first impulses, which feel flimsy and light.  Instead of trusting that writing will bring the inspiration, I am waiting around and pushing for it.  Then I get stuck.  So this poem turned into a complaint.  Here goes:

A sure-fire method to freeze the gears,
to gum up the fine workings of the Muse:

Tell the poet to write
about the Blank Sheet.

The Blank Sheet is the yawning chasm
we stare into, the poet’s dark
and treacherous Void.
It draws me in like a moth
to the challenge and the danger.

Tell me not to think about the elephant
and suddenly everywhere I see an elephant.

 

I need to keep reminding myself that the first time I did this, lots of days were duds.  The whole point is to keep the lines open, to keep fluid and hopeful, to begin to shape the inner work of the daily life into pieces of a poetic puzzle that fit together.  Even though something in me is cringing at my early attempts, this grouchy little poem is exactly what I needed today, even if it won’t make the chapbook.  Today’s prompt (I will try to be more prompt in execution) is a two-fer: Write a concealed poem.  Unconceal everything.

2013 November 008

Gratitude List:
1.  Pushing through
2.  Those leaves!  I feel as I if I died and went to Vermont.
3.  Rilke
4.  Elephants
5.  Endings and Beginnings: Today begins the last week of CSA shares for the 2014 season.  Now we gear up for December shares.

May we walk in Beauty.

Poetry Prompt: Breaking the Sentence, Breaking the Sense

I used to write Morning Pages.  Religiously.  I think I wrote for an hour every morning, fast and without pondering.  Julia Cameron said it would help me learn to know my inner artist, and so I did it.  That was about fifteen years ago, and I was writing many poems during that year and finding richness in the writing.  Ask me why I stopped and I can fire off a dozen excuses, some of them actually sort of reasonable.

Just a few weeks ago, at a writers’ retreat in York, John Terlazzo asked us do a similar process in response to several writing prompts, and then encouraged us to pick it up as a daily practice.  And so I have taken up the practice again.

Yesterday, this came out on the page as I was writing: “The idea is that I am trying to break up the sentence, to pull back that veil of sense that covers my brain.  To let myself go.”  One of my favorite ways to write poetry is to string apparently unrelated images together, collage-style, until a unified and profound whole emerges.  I have been wanting to take this process a step further and string words and sounds together in a similar way.  I’m not quite ready for my shoo-be-do-be-doo poem.  And I found that even breaking the sentence was challenging for me.  I’m still stringing images together.  But I’m getting there.  And I want to take it further.

Then this lovely quotation visited my Facebook Feed yesterday.  I agree with many of the people who responded when I posted it (find that conversation here) that many scientists and mathematicians value poetic language to describe the world they explore.  But the basic idea, of the poet approaching truth through paradox–that grabs me:

“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.

“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.

“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.”

—Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”

This will be my homework for myself in the next few days, for Monday’s poem:

Poetry Prompt:
To write without stopping for half an hour each day for the next three days, ignoring sentence sense, trying to bring myself into a patter-spatter of images and words.  To break the sentence, to step behind the veil of sense.  Then, sometime on Monday, to glean a poem from among those writings.  Will you join me?

 

Groundhog skull an Goddess Potato:2013 March 098