Death and Temperance, and the Wall

 

I have hit the poetry wall tonight. I’ve been feeling it coming for a couple days now, the slowing, the resistance in my brain as I approach it. And here, tonight, with Death as the prompt, I don’t know where to go. I want to make it light and fluffy, toss it off without thinking. I don’t have the brain cells for much work tonight, and my will to work is shallow and listless. Then I remind myself that some of the shiniest poems happen at the moment of the wall. Of course, that’s when some of the worst ones happen, too. Sigh.

 

 

No, I think she’s a woman in a red cloak
with gentle brown eyes and midnight skin.
Unlike the ferryman, she asks no token,
no proof of passage or confession of sin.

She carries a sickle instead of a scythe,
appearing in fevered delusions and dreams,
and though you may dread to see her arrive,
you will cherish her presence on the journey.

###
There now. I’ve written something. I honestly can’t tell whether I like it or not. That’s part of the wall, too, the loss of a sense of what works and what doesn’t. Best to just get it down there, and come back to it with a clear head when April is over.

TOMORROW’S PROMPT:
So much of it is about Balance, isn’t it? Justice, a few days ago. Even Death–there’s always a balance between death and life, between the fear of it and the hope for it. The Lovers–they’re all about balance between the opposite parts of our inner nature. Tomorrow, again, is another sort of balance: Temperance. We’re not talking about periods of US history here, but about the concept. Passion and zeal are important drivers, and they can be great when you need to get the chariot moving, but fokeeping it going straight and steady, you’ve got to find the temperate balance. Can the Fool, in her naive and wandering heart, find the deep meaning of Temperance?

Gratitude List:
1. Pink trees
2. Cool breeze
3. Bees
4. (Ack! Now I need to keep going with this.) Poetries (Don’t judge me.)
5. Cheese (Hey now, I do love it, and we had some mighty fine Pepper Jack for supper.)

May we walk in Beauty!

The Birdwatcher


The birdwatcher. Even the arthritis didn’t keep him from a little birdwatching during the storm. (Yes, the chair is getting pretty beat-up. Still, it has a shabby charm that we can’t give up just yet.)

We walk the Coyote Road.
Our eyes are full of night.
A thousand sacred sounds
fill the soft bowls of our ears.

That’s the start of something. I’ll get back to it, find its rhythm. I tend to write poems in snatches and dribs these days, between a stack of student essays, or after reading another chapter to the boys.

Gratitude List:
1. Strengthening–I am adding a little extra exercise to my day. Little but little, I feel myself strengthening.
2. That pasta with cream sauce and spinach and peas that Jon makes.
3. The two-hour delay today was especially needed after last night’s insomnia. I had a craving for some cheese, and that seemed to help me to get back to sleep. Maybe i’ll try warmed milk next time.
4. Tree shadows on snow
5. Passing blessings around

May we walk in Beauty!

Wise Folk

barntreeGratitude List
1.
Today when I got home from school, Joss and I spent some time outside. We played tag: I don’t really run–I just wait around until he can’t stand it and comes in close enough for me to pounce on him. Then he played in the sandbox while I lay down on the driveway and looked up into the trees. I tried some odd-angle panoramas to try to get a sense of the vast feeling of trees and sky above. I like the way this one turned out, with the barn below and that shine above.

2.
Today we had an all-school assembly, a further discussion of race and racism, this one based on students’ (and some teachers’) experiences of racism, both personal and what they’ve observed. Some students and teachers told their own stories, and others read stories written by others. Some teachers reflected on the construct of race and the history of racism in the US. More than anything, I was struck by the deep love and tenderness and vulnerability of the speakers. I am proud of these folks, proud of these students who took the lead and worked together to craft this fine program, proud of my colleagues who created the space for student voices to shine, proud of the polite and thoughtful listeners in the space. May we continue to learn and grow together, to listen, to speak up and out.

3.
Jon made the most amazing re-fried beans tonight. Re-fried beans can sometimes be a tasteless mush, but these are really delicious.

4.
This is the beginning of a three-day weekend.

5.
I have such incredibly wise and compassionate and thoughtful and activist friends. Last night I posted some thoughts on Facebook, wondering whether it’s possible to find common vocabularies across political lines. After school today, when I went to check my page, there were dozens of incredibly thoughtful and wise responses. I am blessed in friends. Many of my friends are people I have never met, but people who have enriched my life deeply through these discussions, who have helped me to keep my mind open and my thinking fluid.

So much Love. May we walk in Beauty!

Vowel Limit

Today’s prompt: Choose two vowels and only use those vowels in your poem.  Y is a wild card.  Kind of fun and challenging.  I am choosing I and E because I was thinking of the word thistle today in the fields as we were planting potatoes.

pick this thistle in this field
its sisters will rise in this site

despite the intent
which desires its demise
the thistles will rise

we fiddle, we fidget
intending the best

yet despite my designs
which inspire difference
the thistles will rise

Gratitude List:
1. Planning adventures.  Off to DC tomorrow to ride the Metro, to explore Air and Space, to walk the Mall, and perhaps to see cherry blossoms.
2. Potato planting.  Good help, good company, good hard work.
3. The trees on the hill with their barely-there haze of new red and green.   When I worked at The People’s Place in Intercourse, we used to sell beautiful etchings by the artist Allan Eitzen that I think of whenever I see the trees like this.  I can only find his children’s book illustrations online.
4. Chickadees’ springtime calls: “Suweet!  Suweet!”  Up, then down.
5. Another nice snake skin, this one twisted almost perfectly back around like an ouroboros.

May we walk in Beauty!

Sentinels

Who will tell us who we are
when the voices of the trees are silenced?
Who will give us direction
when the sentinels of the forest
can no longer tell us the way?

 

Gratitude List:
1. Trees
2. Sushi–I am still enjoying the memory of Sunday’s lunch
3. Yesterday’s feathers.  I found three yesterday.  One on the ground, another simply resting in mid-air, caught between a spiderweb and a ray of sunshine, and the third a tiny feather floating down from the sycamore tree.  I caught that one before it hit the ground.
4. Easing into the transition
5. Yesterday’s visit from Mindy and Willow.  One of the children went off in a sulk, and when small Willow saw him again, she peered up into his face and said, “Are you better now?”

May we walk in Beauty!

I Shouldn’t Be Here

<Prompt 23: Write a Poem: “I Shouldn’t Be Here”>

Today we took the children to the Hans Herr House and took the tour through the Longhouse.  The Longhouse at the Herr House was recreated as closely as possible to the remains of one unearthed in Washington Boro, where we used to farm.

So this is on my mind as I look at this poem prompt tonight.  I am stealing my friend Natasha’s ceremonial refrain for the ending of the poem.

I Shouldn’t Be Here

And neither, perhaps, should you.  Or you.
How shall I place this shame in context?

It wasn’t my pigs who brought the plague
that wiped out the thousand Caddoan villages
along the Mississippi.  Nor my gold-lust
that cut off the hands and the tongues
of those who would not yield me tribute.

I did not rush in with the unrighteous mob
when the Paxtang Boys tore down the doors
and killed the last Conestoga villagers.

How have we come to speak so glibly of genocide?

They had no concept, see, of land ownership,
and our own greed had built into a towering need.

They helped us live, you know,
when our own were starving.
We could not have been so bad,
if they helped us then.
And we have immortalized them
with gratitude, so that makes up
a little of the difference.

I shouldn’t be here, but I am,
here in history, here in this place.
And beneath my feet, the bones
of the People Who Came Before.

What can I offer as a token,
as my plea for forgiveness?

A small piece of quartz tossed
into the River which fed them,
Three seeds in the soil
which grew their livelihood:
a bean, a corn kernel, a gourd.
A feather tossed into the wind,
like the eagles who flew above
the myriad villages of the People.

I am sorry.
Please forgive me.

Gratitude List:
1.  A lovely afternoon of learning with friends, honoring the People Who Came Before.
2.  The faery oak tree on the corner of Water and James in Lancaster.
3.  The sentinel dawn redwoods on Ducktown Road.
4.  Popcorn
5.  Center

May we walk in Beauty.

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.

Finding Poetry

Found Poem
Source: Joss Weaver-Kreider

I just saw a tree
that had no leaf left

and

at first I thought
it was a giant feather.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is an old photo, from December,
but it shows some naked feathery trees.

Gratitude List
1.  Ten Years of Goldfinch Farm.  It has gone by in a flash.  It has been forever.  Happy Birthday, Bright Spot!
2.  Prayer.  Or singing.  Or writing poems.  Or drawing.  Or listening.  Or looking.  Or magic.  Whatever you call it, the energy that is the connective tissue of the Universe, the Multiverse.
3.  Four-part harmony
4.  Standing in the borderlands, looking around, and realizing that I’m ready for the journey.
5.  This contemplative morning time all to myself.

May we walk in Beauty, in Love

Mockingbird Says

Mockingbird says:
“Listen well, and your own speech will be enriched.”

Gratitude List:
1.  The trees, those people who grasp the Earth between their toes and grow down toward the heart of the mother, who dream their leaves and needles and nuts and flowers and fruit into the air, who breathe for us.
2.  The spiders, those people who fling themselves with abandon into the air and drift on their own silk to a new anchoring place, who make the connections, who spin and weave.
3.  The birds, those feather people who dash from tree-branch to tree-branch or rest on a hammock of sky–treading wind currents, whose very speech is music, who range in size from the hummingbird smaller than my open hand to the eagle whose wingspan is greater than my own.
4.  Margaret Atwood, who is tearing at my heart with her book, The Year of the Flood.
5.  Fresh corn for supper tonight.

May we walk in Beauty.

The Trees Are Blooming

Gratitude List:
1.  Hello Dogwoods.  Hello Willows.  Greetings to the Impossibly Pink Thing whose name I do not know.  Hello Cherry, and tiny green leaves on the Gingko.
2.  Weaving stories and poems with people.
3.  Meeting someone in person whom I have only known on Facebook.  It’s so exciting to meet someone you already know and care about.  What a brave new world we live in!
4.  Reading poetry with Ellis.  He is getting ready for Poem-in-your-pocket day next week.  I read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 to him and choked on my tears on the last two lines.  So beautiful.  Ellis ended up writing his own poem.
5.  The way the round green hill of Sam Lewis Park rises to meet a bright blue sky dusted with white clouds.  Satisfying.

May we walk in beauty.