Why I Write Poetry June 26, 2020
I suppose it is because I always feel
the pressure of a list of things to do
that I write poetry. In through the eye gate,
processed by the brain, and quickly,
the first time, out through my fingers
holding a pen or pressing tiny keys
the words emerge, the thoughts emerge.
They emerge and I see them like the mother
sees her child in those first seconds of life,
a beautiful thing.
But like the mother/creator,
there is no time in the beginning
to think deeply about them. That takes
hours or days or in some miraculous space,
only minutes to know I have not got it right yet.
Those words are like the butterfly net
missing the butterfly because the
colorful strong wings carry it higher,
faster than my net can trap it.
Maybe I need a ladder,
or a to look again at the reality,
or time to recreate in my head
those thoughts, those feelings,
that drove me to paper the first time.
And sometimes, I line out the first words
when they are the honest ones
and now I must find more honest words to say
what I really only think I meant
that first time that will be
more honest, somehow. More transparent.
Ars poetica: June 27, 2020
Even the word ‘art’ pulls me back and forth
– like a moth to the flame.
I want to look at art.
I want to create art.
I feel guilty about wanting to sit in front of a painting
as big as a wall, as small as a book,
for paintings are too much like
books without words.
I feel guilty, as though I must rush
the experience because there are ‘meaningful’
things to do, work to do, the kind that stains your
shirt with stress sweat, black the right color for it.
My mother taught me to work hard.
But I want to believe that God was an artist. After all,
who else could create such an array of colors,
the shades of difference so minute only the
eye close watching can see them.
Only the close participant in the art
can feel it, for it wants to awaken
every sense because God made it that way.
Still I hear the call to be busy about that which,
matters only in the immediate. Ah, perhaps
it might make tomorrow possible.
But art makes tomorrow pleasurable,
so it cannot be wrong and I must not
feel guilty. I must revel in this freedom
I, only in this very moment, know.
Inspiration June 27, 2020
Inspiration comes to me through the senses.
Through what I feel with my fingers or with the thickness of my body.
Through what I see with my eyes and then imagine with my heart.
Through what I smell with my nose and remember with the frontal lobe of my brain.
Through what I hear, the temporal lobe of my brain makes sense,
tying the new to the old sounds and those sounds slide over
to that part of my brain that feels in response to all of the senses.
I feel sadness when I see a purple gladiola because there were too many
at my brother’s funeral and my mother said they always made her think of him.
A Sacred Place June 27, 2020
I think of inspiration as an act of God,
a knitting together of all that is in me,
all of my learning by or through experience,
all of my learning from books and papers and speakers,
and the new experience. Real learning comes from
the manipulation of the brain pairing old and new,
like with like, the sensory with the history
and lessons of old sensory.
Inspiration, for me, happens when
God rings a bell in my brain
and I am free to think new thoughts made up of old
everything seen in a brand new way,
as though God is giving me the latest in eyewear
at the same time He gives me the latest in hearing aids
and the latest in yoga or meditation skills.
And the fog, the cloud, the smoke
is blown away and for moments I see afresh,
a sparkling happens, a luminescence that enlightens
and I must get it down before the wind blows the thought away
or it falls into the box of puzzle pieces I cannot sort out later.
Why do I write? June 27, 2020
I write to understand what I think, to understand why I think it,
to catch it before it flies away and even I forget it.
If I don’t write it down, I will remember
that once I had a thought.
I was standing there in the bedroom and the thought
pressed its way up through the chores yet to be done,
up through the chores done, the delights experienced
and those waiting to be experienced, a thought worthy
of remembering of exploring,
but if I do not write it down,
all I will remember is that once I had a thought.
My role as a writer June 27, 2020
I write to let it out, all the words, the stories,
the how-to lessons, the things I think someone might like,
or want to know how to do,
to make someone think.
And sometimes I write
to hold on to history before it evaporates
like water in a glass left out for days,
water you meant to pour into a plant,
and you don’t, so the plant dies.
The Breeze at Dawn in response to Rumi’s The Breeze at Dawn
June 28, 2020
We cannot see the wind, the breeze,
only its effects as it passes,
but you know that.
Leaves in the tree caressing one another
or smashing, crashing into one another
as if God had a point to make,
a warning to take the sh, sh ,sh
of the leaves seriously
or miss the prize of the soft
breeze, his warm words of love –
of I have been here all the time.
And I am lonely.
I want to walk this day with you.
And if you will listen, I will whisper
the way, the paths and you can choose.
One will feel easy, comfortable and you
will go to sleep just the same as you wake.
Still afraid of what might await.
You don’t know me yet.
The other may be steepened and over
a rock-strewn track, waiting to twist your ankle,
rain-clouds waiting to turn the soft brown dust into mud.
Aloneness and misunderstandings waiting around
that bend in the road.
No illusions these impediments, but
I laid them there as a trust,
to show you I will never leave you,
nor forsake you, that you never have to do it
I will hold you up.
That is what I whisper to you in the morning.
Wait a moment. Don’t just leave me here.
June 23, 2020 poems
From My Bench: a series
From My Bench
Dragonflies zip through the air like helicopters on surveillance duty.
I har the coded conversation of birds singing across the water,
and I wonder if each species understand the other
and some graying hen minds the chicks
while the mothers meet in the tree over my head.
The white blotches on the other bench and
the corner of my picnic table evidence a
coffee klatch of birds or would they have
had a flying bug klatch?
Memories play funny tricks, don’t they?
I peer through the trees lining this dirt road
and can make out the dry rock bed
of a creek that comes and goes.
There, I see my Aunt Caresta,
and she’s holding my mother’s hand
and they’re laughing, my aunt
and my mother, girls not
grandmothers and I want
to snap that picture,
but it folds in on itself.
All that remains are
the rocks, too long and too
wide and too thick to give up
their mass to the spring floods
or summer hurricanes and
thunderous storms chewing away
the banks leaving the occasional tree
balancing over the water, bare feet on tiptoes,
toes curled into the rocky bank, a tenuous hold
like my hold on some dreams.
The tree knows that one day
the torrents will tickle those rooty toes
free and the tree will lay down in surrender.
After a while, the creek will
float that tree on down a ways where it
will grasp another bald head, and
they will share stories until
some boy pulls them apart
where the current thrust them
up against the bank to dry.
And he will build a fire and
the trees will sing out in
thin whistles and sighs,
their last stories.
A fish jumped, or was it a frog?
I don’t know. I looked up only in time
to see circular ripples, wavelets
following each other out to where
they bummp into the sturdier wavelets
generated and driven by the wind.
I watch and in scarcely moments,
there is no evidence, no wrinkle in time,
to borrow from Madeline L’Engle,
to show the fish or frog who risked the jump.
But wider waves, the ones driven by the wind,
they are persistent. I see no break
in their intent as they swim on with unified
breaststrokes down the lake, swimming
round the fishing boat, bobbing the lure
through the clump of weeds and leaving
brown shadows on the distant shore.
It’s a common sound – the wind blowing through the leaves
in early summer. The sky is blue and clear, the air warm,
and I honor all the women before me and who will come after,
who will pause as they pin a shirt or a towel to the line,
and think If only this very moment could never end.
So Many Voices
I hear so many voices up here on the mountain,
voices of the long dead immigrant coal miners
from Scotland and Ireland and England
hoping for a better life.
I don’t think they ever imagined
they would spend their last days up here
hidden in this little village, pop-up village
when a hunter found a lump of shiny black stone
someone named coal.
So they came to work and build houses
and churches and play games and sing songs
and die, when scarlet fever took their children,
a mine accident a husband,
a childbirth accident took a wife.
I read the tombstones,
still speaking grief into the air.
A swimming hole, a round spot in the creek bed
where little kids played in the shallow side
and grownups and teenagers swam to the deep side
diving in from their perch on the high rocks
where the rushing water spills into the pool.
In the summers of my early childhood
we took bars of Ivory soap with us
and my mother would oversee the shampooing
and the baths that helped justify the trip
out to the cool of the mountains.
We learned to swim there
out to my father, into his arms
clinging to his hairy chest,
black ringlets of safety
arms then of love.
A teenager, I introduced my boyfriend
to the bedrock polished smooth by the
spring floods and where we would lay
out our picnic and he would build a
Boy Scout fire to cook our hotdogs
and roast our marshmallows.
Sometimes crowds would beat us to the
water and we would go to Little Lamoka
where the swimming hole was scarcely more
than a wide spot in the creek, a deep hole
twelve strokes long and four wide.
It was on the rock of Little Lamoka
that he took a rock and a screwdriver
to carve in the letters JK with a plus sign
and CB underneath. We visited it
a couple days ago and you can still
read the letters even though someone else
filled in the K to make an R.
But I didn’t want to get into the water this time.
I didn’t want to sit in the flat spot where my feet
could touch the water or go down
to the edge where I would inch my way in,
careful not to slip where the rock was slick
with thin summer moss.
I didn’t go in because I could still see the couple,
the man and the woman, scarcely more than
teenagers, arguing at the edge of Big Lamoka.
I don’t know why they were arguing
or why he hit her or shoved her or
put his hands around her neck.
The water was icy cold and
she must have hit it with a splash
that surprised them both.
And somewhere between Big Lamoka
where she went into the water
and Little Lamoka where they
found her body that spring,
Someone put a cross with flowers on it
at the edge of Big Lamoka where
we used to park our car.
And maybe the same person or
someone else put another cross
and more flowers and a sign that
said In Memory Of with her name there
next to the path we took down to the water.
And I don’t want to go into the water
I know it is new water there now,
new water rushing out of the mountains
cold and clear and fresh, unstained
But I see it still and I remember her
and I am angry that he hurt her and
and so filled with grief that I cannot,
I will not, feel the joy this
mountain stream once offered me.