PAGE 56, 2017

With thanks to contributors. You know who you are:

 

The temperature was dropping

and a light snow was falling.

Even the sky above the City

had a green tint,

and the rays of the sun were green.

It had, however, but a bare

and uninteresting church,

built in the latest and worst

period of Perpendicular,

with a slate spire and no bells to speak of.

 

The Manichee, therefore, was entirely

embedded in the visible world.

To the new generations of country

and village boys now pouring into

the university in such large numbers,

she had become, in a curious way,

an instructor in manners,–what is called

an ‘influence.’ A lady doctor dressed

in silks was an oddity, and Oscar

Maroney’s curiosity, once engaged,

had to be satisfied.

 

They asked her where she was

making for, and she answered: “You are come

to the very edge of the Wild, as some

of you may know. ….Because it is not ‘engaged’,

the Faith becomes vacuous. In the strict sense,

however, the term historical

criticism refers to the ways in which

a historian might use the New Testament

to learn about history.”

 

Italics signify the couple of little tweaks I made.

ALWAYS AWARE OF SOMETHING–a page 56 poem

This is the poem composed of lines found on page 56 by various facebook friends back in 2011.

 

ALWAYS AWARE OF SOME THING

(found on the fifth line of page 56 in various texts

during National Book Week, 2011)

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world didst rest from all thy works 

and sanctify a day of rest for all thy creatures: 

Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, 

may be duly prepared for the service of thy sanctuary, 

and that our rest here upon earth may be 

a preparation for the eternal rest promised to thy people in heaven; 

through Jesus Christ our Lord

The vision of God’s peace,

spread over all God’s creation,

opened the door to a glorious vision of history–

men stumbling and falling–

it’s been going since forever.

Their pottery and their extraordinary

anthropomorphic clay coffins,

found in the Gaza strip,

also reveal influences from Egyptian art.

 

I had been born again

only about two years and was, as now,

searching always for truth.

The relevant history suggests

that fourteenth-century theology

is too heterogeneous and eclectic

to allow such homogenizing assumptions

to shape any study.

But no matter the occasion

or person being introduced,

the gesture itself is a powerful

sign of respect. . .

 

From the meadow came a dozen satyrs,

who reminded me painfully of Grover.

“I’m going to say a word about him,” Grace said.

“He was uncertain

about the direction of the story,

explaining that he did not ‘know

how to go on.’

I could barely recognize

his drawn face.”

 

She asked the maitre d’hotel

to set up a table near the water

in a spot of his choice,

then ordered a portable stereo tank

placed by the table.”

 

He knew about the nightmares

that haunted her after a series

of particularly brutal murders

by a killer named the Surgeon:

how he’d gotten drunk senior year

and kissed her and then

squeezed her hand so hard

it should’ve hurt but it didn’t,

it felt wonderful the way

he was holding her

and looking into her eyes.

 

She had never done any teaching before,

except Sunday-school teaching,

and she had no idea how much

she ought to be paid for it,

so Grandfather was able to pay her too much

without her knowing.

 

Spread the meat

into two uncooked pie shells

and top with pie dough.

Food that isn’t nutritious

but appears to be

thus becomes an . . INcomplete meal

day after day.

 

When the mantis had crunched up

the last shred of its victim,

it cleaned its smooth green face like a cat.

Research suggests that a reduction

in mechanoreceptor afferent input

can result in the development

of symptoms

that can be identified in the clinical setting.

The therapist said

she would probably always eat that way.

 

Baby had also begun to imitate

the playful sounds of adults –

coughing, smacking lips,

making ‘the raspberries,’ and the like.

I’ve never seen anything like it before.

from paying guests.

We’ll find the money

somehow, signor.

 

The next time you observe a horse

in action or standing still,

whether a real horse

or a visual depiction,

try looking at him through new eyes,

such as the eyes of the Hindu poet

of the Upanishads

who saw his entire world

echoed in the horse’s body.

 

We always expect

to be aware of some thing.

(When I “find” a poem, I allow myself to tweak grammar a bit.  I can also remove words, but I can’t add anything significant.  The italics in this piece indicate a change I made.  I think I got them all!)

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

~Prompt–for a book you haven’t written

 

 

First of all, I must thank my parents.

Without them, I would be normal,

and this book would not

have been possible.

 

My husband did not

comment on it, or even read it.

In fact, for the past eight months,

he has been living

in a tent in the woods.

I love you, sweetie.

Words cannot express

my gratitude.

 

My children are grown

so I thank them for not

getting in my way

(except for two hysterical

phone calls which only

kept me awake nights

for a week or so).

 

I am grateful to my agent,

despite her claim that

I was the direct cause

of her most recent breakdown.

I am not responsible for everything,

but she is responsible

for finding a home for my work.

 

All my editors—every single

one of them—have been

marvelous.

 

The Spring St. Poets

have provided occasionally helpful

feedback and comic relief for years.

Thanks, guys!

 

It takes a village

to produce a book, so I owe

a great deal to my neighbors

who put up with my midnight

hurdy-gurdy/bagpipe fests

and afternoon target practices,

and only called the police three times.

 

These poems

are for them.

 

 

MP   March 1, 2017

‘QASIDA

‘QASIDA

November. I drove through the woods alone.

The chapel had not changed—yellow stone,

pine benches, carven altar, the wide, worn

boards of the floor, pale ceilings adorned

with stenciled flowers. I watched the sun

mark the walls with pattern as it shone

through the western window, low.

Once this was a shelter from the storm

around us.  Once, with you, I won

what my heart desired. But you are gone.

On the forest paths, in shadow, once we roamed,

no need for touch or speech. Some

nights we sang by the lake while moon-

light and starlight from heaven’s dome

brushed us with silver. My voice, a golden horn,

blessed the stones with song. Oh, none

but I can praise our music well, or write this poem!

Free and wise and fair were we, born

between the mountains and the sea, who turned

the wild wood into home.

 

The Qasida is an elaborate form. This is a feeble attempt.

A NAME

A NAME

. . . Surprise is a  name of God.

~Brother David Steindl-Rast

 

Who else would bring a pair of owls

to circle my head on New Year’s night?

Or a fox to the front step

just at sunset yesterday? Who

could have handed us a little child

with round cheeks, his mother’s mouth,

his daddy’s smiling eyes?

In the gray and icy drizzle of winter,

who else would have sent a foot of snow,

north wind to slice through our dismay?

Or gathered us together

and crowned us with roses,

taught us how to sing?

SOMETHING I HAD TO WRITE DOWN

This is not a poem. It’s personal, but so is everything. What else could it be? If we don’t try to tell the truth, what good are we?

 

I need to write this down. I’m frightened. I’ve had trouble with anxiety all my life, and it has been set off big time by the election of this madman. Several people have commented about how those of us who have had troubled childhoods in which truth was hard to find may be having a very hard time with this. Yes indeed. A flat-out conservative president, like Reagan or G.W. Bush was easier to deal with because they were more or less straight-forward. I know, I know—they weren’t really, but the quality of their lying was different than trump’s. His is personal in a way that theirs wasn’t. It’s crazy-making in a way that theirs wasn’t.  Iran/Contra was dreadful. The Iraq War was/is dreadful. And yet, it didn’t feel like those presidents were in fact out to make me scared. Will Daddy be drunk on my birthday this year? Can I bring a friend over on Saturday? Of course my father wasn’t out to scare me, he was just doing what he had to do to get by, to deal with his dreadful childhood and his PTSD. I know that now.  But the feeling of impending doom—I never, ever knew what was going to happen—is familiar (“familiar” having to do with family).

I want the Republicans in Congress to take charge of the monster they have created, just the way I wanted Mother to take charge of Dad, to make it all better, to fix things. When I was older, I thought Mother should have done something, at least she could have been honest about Dad’s drinking, and reassured us that it was not our fault—and that even if we were “good” we wouldn’t be able to stop it. But now I know that she didn’t know any better because she didn’t have any help herself. She thought she was alone. And now, the trick is—nobody is going to take care of us. We are the ones. We are the grown-ups. We’re all adult children of alcoholics now, or adult children of something or other, but we are adults. And naming our fear, instead of pretending we’re fine, thanks, or it will be all better soon, or we’re just overreacting, is exactly what we need to do. This is scary, yes. We’re not “overreacting.” We’re not fine.

The march in Montpelier on the day after the inauguration was heartening. It is always the best thing to know that I am not alone. Maybe it’s the only thing that matters.

Yes, it makes a great deal of sense for those of us who had difficult childhoods to be desperately anxious now. And maybe those of us who know the roots of that kind of anxiety can be of service to others for whom anxiety is new, or only occasional. It’s only anxiety. And even if it is rooted in reality—yes, there are real things to be frightened about—it needn’t cripple us.

Here’s Audre Lorde:

“and when we speak we are afraid

our words will not be heard

nor welcomed

but when we are silent

we are still afraid

So it is better to speak

remembering

we were never meant to survive”

from “A Litany for Survival”

Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems

Read the whole poem.

I WHO HAVE DIED

I WHO HAVE DIED

I who have died am alive again today.

~e. e. cummings

I have surrendered to the darkness

of loneliness, of foreign spaces.

 

Where did you go when you were afraid?

I sat on the kitchen floor and wept

 

for my golden house, the porch,

the rock in the meadow.

 

Broken butterflies predicted loss,

so many losses. And today

 

I live again. On New Year’s Night,

two owls flew over my head

 

in the dark garden. This morning,

there is snow. Again I live, again.

 

This was inspired by a lecture by Br. David Steindl-Rast  about the practice of gratitude.

NOT ON ROCK: a poem for the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter

NOT ON ROCK

On this sand I build my church,

grit of barrier and beach,

shift and shape, tumbling jag

tossed in my whimsical wind.

 

On this clay, sticky with itself,

plow-breaker, seed-wrecker,

slip and slick, firing hard

to slice and slab and cup.

 

 

Out of flesh I build it,

bones, heart, blood, decay.

Out of bread I build it,

risen, broken, given away.

CLEVELAND, 1930: ON THE STREETCAR

CLEVELAND, 1930:  ON THE STREETCAR

Look at his hands and tell me what is his job.

Yes, rough like your pa’s hands, so hard work.

That lady has been crying, has red eyes.

See— gold ring on her thumb.

I think her husband is maybe dead.

 

There is accent behind; no, don’t look.

You know is not German, not Russian.

Czech. Is enough like Polish to make me laugh.

Someday you teach your children

always there is something new to see.

 

Why is that man wearing slippers?

Is he stupid, or did he forget?

Oh maybe no shoes,

but look at his clothes.

He is not poor.

 

Remember story:  I thought my papa

did not miss one pear. Foolish girl! Papa said

God looked down from heaven and saw me

like God saw Adam. Remember:

everything God sees.

 

Is that lady sister or girlfriend?

Yes, girlfriend. Look at their shining eyes.

Here is hospital so we get off. Your papa

will be happy. You make him smile.

Big step down. Hold my hand.

TZADIKIM NISTARIM–part 6

31. She works in a Day Care Center in a dying city. She is tiny, and too old for this work. She has bad knees and a smoker’s cough. And she loves the children. She sings to them, embraces them, wipes their noses, listens to them, talks to them as if they were equals since she knows they are. She recognizes their fatigue and anxiety and takes it very seriously. When she cannot reassure them—and many times she cannot—she comforts them with her kindness. When she was five years old, her own parents died in a boat fleeing a country at war, and her older brother saved her and raised her. When she was too young, she married the wrong man. He tried to kill her, and he killed her baby, and killed himself.  Every night she sits before her cardboard altar and lights candles for the baby, and her brother, and her parents. And she lights one, too, for her husband.

32. She is a librarian in a middle-sized mid-western town. When she was in college, she had a great deal of trouble deciding on a major, so she has a background in English, History, Latin, and Philosophy. Later on, a library degree made a great deal of sense to her. She likes to catalogue. She likes things that fit together, and she likes incongruities. When she prays for the library patrons as they come and go, she imagines them in their proper settings: this matron working tapestries in a castle tower, that high school student taming eagles in Mongolia. Sometimes she recommends books that fit her visions of them, and she is always right.

33. He is a jack-of-all-trades in a hardscrabble rural town, doing his best to support his family.  His wife has a bad back and is not able to work. They have three children, two in high school and one in fifth grade. He plows driveways and mows lawns, does some brush-hogging and ditch-witching and logging and roofing, and in the winter sometimes he makes snow at a small ski area. He has a backhoe left him by his father, and he recently bought a small elderly dump truck so he can haul gravel and crushed stone. He will, his wife says, “give the shirt off his back” to anyone in trouble, and she smiles fondly as she says it. They’ve housed neighbors whose house burned down, they’ve taken in runaway teens and stray cats and abused horses. And there’s always enough. “The Lord provides,” he says, and his wife laughs and rolls her eyes.

34.  Her early marriage ended in divorce, and now she lives with her elderly mother, three fat ginger cats and an obnoxious Yorkie. She used to be an office manager for an electronics firm, but after she recovered from breast cancer, she decided that she needed to spend more time outdoors. Now she has two jobs:  in the winter she teaches skiing at a Mom-and-Pop ski area, and in the summer she is a flagger for a traffic control company.  Her favorite of the two jobs is flagging, something that her friends find very surprising. “It isn’t at all boring,” she says. In the evenings, she enjoys making small books from nice papers, and she writes happy things in them and hands them to the people waiting in the first car in the line. She has dog biscuits in her pockets, too, for their dogs.

35.  He is a widower in charge of programs at an adult day care center. There is never enough money, but he always manages. His salary is ridiculously low, but he remembers the birthdays of all the staff members and all the clients with corsages or boutonniers. In season, they are made from flowers from his garden. He knows hundreds of popular songs and sings them while he plays his banjo. He invites people from all over the community to come offer programs at the center, and he rewards them with bouquets.  A cartoonist comes regularly to give free lessons. Every spring a woman who does bird calls comes with slides of the birds she imitates. A group of junior high students come to sing a capella music. A retired history professor leads a current events discussion group. The only problem he has is scheduling: so many people want to come that he has trouble fitting them all in. He likes eating at the center because he is a terrible cook. Left on his own, he eats cold cereal and microwaved baked potatoes.

36.  She is the Lunch Lady at an elementary school in the town where she grew up. Five years ago, she graduated from a prestigious culinary institute, and after some consideration decided she’d rather work in a school than a restaurant. The breakfasts and lunches she prepares are beautiful and good. There is almost no wasted food in the school now. She has convinced many community members to grow extra vegetables and fruits for the school, and she freezes the surplus for winter meals. With her own money, she bought a grow light system so she can make fresh salads all year. Children are always welcome in the kitchen, and sometimes teachers send restless or troublesome children there to help her. She always has something for children to do:  washing vegetables, arranging things on trays, making decorations for the cafeteria tables. She is engaged to a young orchardist who also drives a school bus. They hope to marry as soon as they finish building a little house on the edge of the orchard. She meets regularly with a women’s circle for meditation and earth-honoring ritual.

TZADIKIM NISTARIM– part 5

25.

She is a clerk in a city bookshop, and since she has an MFA, she specializes in books about music and art. Customers always ask for her when they want to find the perfect recording to give to an aunt who loves opera, or the perfect coffee-table book about the pre-Raphaelites.  She lives alone in a one bedroom apartment two blocks away from the bookshop, over a stationery store, and she has a tiny, elderly dog whom she rescued from a high-kill shelter five years ago. She lives very modestly, without a car or television or computer, though she has an excellent, though compact, sound system. Once a week, she takes the night shift at a shelter for homeless teenagers, and she gives a third of her income to support the shelter and the local food pantry. She also attends AlAnon meetings twice each week, in the basement of the synagogue on the corner.

26.

He’s a high school senior in a small-town union high school. He’s not an athlete, nor especially gifted academically, though he is a solid B student. He isn’t part of the crowd of “popular” students, although he has a good circle of friends who, like him, are creative and funny.  He lives with his parents and twelve-year- old sister in a double-wide on the edge of town. Both his parents work odd hours, so he does most of the cooking for his sister and himself, and he keeps an eye on her after school.   During his junior year, he came upon a group of people teasing one of the special education students who attend his school, and he put an end to the teasing, and defused the situation. He also has a knack for stopping fights before they become violent. This has been noted by one of his teachers, who is encouraging him to go on to work with troubled teens. He likes that idea, and has decided that if he can’t get a scholarship to college, he will work for a couple of years on his uncle’s farm, and then become a classroom aide. He plays the ukelele.

27.

She is the music director in a large church, responsible for two choirs, music for all the services, and a concert series. She is also in demand as an organ soloist and a teacher, and has several advanced students, although her favorite students are the beginners. She loves music, especially Bach and Fauré, and she loves her work. God, she believes, is best known through music, and she once told her husband that if she had to choose between music and God, she would choose music. Her choristers respect her and always give her their best because, as one soprano says, “She cares so much—not just about the music, but about us.”  Her husband is the principal cellist in the city symphony orchestra, and they have one daughter who is in junior high school and plays the clarinet. She has a dry sense of humor, and privately considers the disbanding of the church’s handbell choir one of her greatest accomplishments.

28.

He was born again two years ago when he attended a revival meeting at a Baptist church in the suburban neighborhood where he lives in a duplex with his girlfriend. The early glow has worn off, but he still feels the love of Jesus in his heart. His girlfriend, a massage therapist and yoga teacher, calls herself a secular Jew, and is bemused by his religious fervor, although she loves him dearly and does not make fun of him. He attends a community college, hoping to get a degree in management. To pay the bills now, he is a picker in the warehouse of a large catalogue company. But in the back of his mind, he is always singing hymns and saying prayers for the world, especially for the people whose orders he is filling. His co-workers are very fond of him. He does not proselytize, but they know that he’ll pray for them if they ask him. He likes to bake, and often brings homemade cookies to share at breaks.

29. When he retired from IBM, he started volunteering. He drives elderly and low income people to medical appointments now, in all kinds of weather. Nearly all the staff at the small-town hospital and in the various doctors’ offices know him and greet him when he walks in with a patient. In order to do the job, he had to learn CPR, but he has never mastered the blood pressure machine. The people he transports are often anxious, and he listens to them but does not offer advice. Usually he gives each of them a small white stone from a supply he keeps in a paper bag in the glove compartment. “Put it in your pocket,” he says. “And remember that I’m remembering you.” He gathers the stones on a beach in Rhode Island where he goes every year to visit his wife’s sister, who is alcoholic and diabetic, and does not follow her doctor’s orders.   Her religious and political views are extreme, so the visit is always difficult, and he finds great comfort in his daily walk on the beach, looking for perfect white stones and praying over them.

30.  He worked all his long life as an editor, working his way up from jobs at small-town newspapers. By the time he retired, he was editor-in-chief of a major publishing company. He shepherded uncounted authors through the publishing process, and discovered several major writers. He cared passionately about language and thoroughly enjoyed the changes, including the evolution of slang words, which he defended vigorously against what he called “English-murdering snots.”  After he retired, he and his wife moved from New York to a small town in Vermont, where he occupied himself by writing letters to the editors of every newspaper he subscribed to. He became a warden in the church there, and developed a reputation in town as a curmudgeon, which delighted him. When he was in the hospital undergoing a fiercesome chemotherapy for lymphoma, the parish priest visited him and asked him how he was, and he said,  “Let’s just say I’ve had better days.”  Since his recovery, he has been recording books-on-tape for people who are unable to read.

TZADIKIM NISTARIM, part 4

19.

He is a professional stage hand, on the road all summer and into the fall, mostly on the west coast. His co-workers say that they always feel safe when he’s around. He is deliberate and thoughtful and does his work with great care. Though he is only in his forties, he has become a mentor to many younger people. Since by its nature, the profession involves difficult schedules, he impresses upon his young colleagues the importance of eating well and taking catnaps. He sets a good example. No one in the trade knows more shaggy dog stories. Sometimes he is lonely. He has a twelve-year-old daughter who lives with her mother in Boston, and he calls her once a week, and sends half his salary to her mother for support.  When he has time, he likes to fish.

20.

When his wife and three children died in a boating accident, he changed his life. He sold the boat, and his business, his city apartment, his summer home in Vermont, his winter home in Santa Fe, his Lear 60, and his three cars. He liquidated all his other “assets,” and returned to the shabby city where he grew up. He found ways to give away all the money, always anonymously. Among other things, he bought a number of tidy little houses and gave them to Habitat for Humanity; he gave full college scholarships to four high school students from low-income families and endowed a fund to continue that practice; he bought a musical instrument for every promising child in the city schools who could not afford one, and paid for lessons. He rented a one-room apartment over a hardware store and got a job as custodian in the neighborhood junior high school.  The income just meets his needs. He takes pride in his work. The students like him, and find it easy to tell him their troubles. The teachers and guidance counselors know this, and often send students to him. He listens to them while he is mopping or sweeping or cleaning a bathroom. Although he misses his wife and children and always will, he has never been happier.

21

She makes jewelry from silver wire and semi-precious stones:  birds’ nests and flowers, intricate weavings, tiny children on swings. If she went to a high-end city or had a classy website, she’d make a great deal of money, but she sells her things at craft fairs and local markets. She determines the price of each item by the way she feels about the person who wants to buy it. She once sold a pendant— a silver rabbit under a garnet-studded tree attached to a chain of hand-made links—for five dollars, to a teenaged boy who wanted something nice for his mother.  And once, she sold a pair of hammered hoop earrings—that took half an hour to make—for one hundred twenty dollars, just because she saw the woman who wanted them slapping a little dog.  Her studio is in the old bungalow where she lives with her own little dog. She doesn’t consider herself “religious,” and indeed, she doesn’t think she knows what that word means, but she puts a blessing on everything that she makes, hoping that the people who wear them, or even touch them, will find peace. And somehow, people do, even the woman who slapped the little dog.

22.

She is the pastor of a small church in a small town. Because the church cannot afford to pay a full-time salary, she is also a substitute teacher in the elementary school. Because the rectory is large and she is single, she takes in overflow from the homeless shelter. When her brother asks her if she is afraid to do that, she laughs and says she’d be afraid not to. “Angels unawares,” she says. “Whatever you do unto the least.” Her parishioners worry about her. They think she doesn’t eat right, and they bring her casseroles. She has three cats, Patience, Prudence and Mephistopheles. She does not talk about her past.

23.

He lives with his family in an old farmstead on a back road. He grows vegetables and raises chickens and pigs. The pigs till the ground for the broccoli and tomatoes; the chickens fertilize the soil and pick out the seeds and bugs. He kills the animals quickly, with thanks. He picks the vegetables the same way. Although he could command high prices at specialty shops, he sells his eggs and produce and meat from a shop that was once the creamery connected to his old barn. People come from miles around and often stay to chat because, as one regular customer says, they always “feel better, knowing there is such a good man in the world.”  His wife has MS and can no longer help in the field, but his teenaged daughter and son work after school and all summer, and a retired farmer nearby always comes by to help during the time of the pig slaughter. “We’re lucky,” he says. “We have so much to be grateful for.”

24.

He takes photos for a local weekly newspaper and regularly exhibits photos in local art galleries. His portraits are especially arresting, and he has won journalism awards for several. One reviewer of his work wrote, “His ability to capture the feelings of his subjects is almost uncanny.” He does not talk much about how he works, and when asked, he smiles and says, “I guess it’s just intuition.” Always respectful, never intrusive, his presence at community events—even tragedies—seems to have a calming effect on the people around him. One woman whom he photographed as her house was burning down, said, “It’s like I knew if he was here, everything would be okay.” His wife is Methodist, but he is a member of a Quaker meeting, and he practices walking meditation regularly.

TZADIKIM NISTARIM, part 3

13.

He studies birds. He knows where wood ducks winter. He builds houses for bluebirds and gathers roadkill to feed the crows. He can imitate cardinals and robins, six species of sparrow and ten of warbler. Chickadees, titmouses, nuthatches, goldfinches all eat out of his hand. There are no luxuries in his small house. He has no companion, not even a cat. When he was young, he was a professor of zoology. Now, he says, he professes nothing but ignorance and love.

14.

She is a potter. She lives on a dead-end street in a northern town. Her studio is a shed attached to her bungalow. She was once married to a man who left her for another. Every morning, after her breakfast, she goes into the studio to work. She sings blessings into the clay so that the people who use the cups and bowls will feel happier and stronger. After lunch, she walks into town for a cup of coffee, which she drinks at a table outdoors if the weather is nice. People stop and talk to her, and she listens. In the afternoons, she walks and reads and in the summer, she tends her small garden. She sells her pottery at a local craft guild and online, and because her cups and bowls are beautiful and useful, she makes enough money to get by. She has two rescued rabbits who have the run of the house.

15.

He is a chaplain in a large institutional nursing home. Most of the patients live in double rooms with very few of their own possessions. Many have dementia, and many have no visitors. He makes the rounds six days a week, visiting each resident in rotation, and responding to emergencies and requests as they arise. Because there are not quite enough staff members, he knows how to change clothing and bedding and manage wheelchairs. He has a pleasant singing voice, and several of the residents enjoy singing hymns with him. On Sunday mornings, he conducts a simple worship service with music led by volunteers from local churches. Nearly every week, he conducts a funeral. He lives with his wife, who works in a yarn shop, in a modest house near the nursing home. They have two children: a daughter who is a pre-med student at the state university, and a son in high school who hopes to be a professional guitarist. Both of the children are easy-going, and they often attend the Sunday worship at the nursing home and talk with the residents there.

16.

She stays at home with her two young children and also cares for two neighbor children whose mothers work part-time. Her husband is trying to establish a car-detailing business, and she also does his bookkeeping.  She has been a social worker, and because she wants to stay in touch with the profession, she is on the board of directors of a local service agency. She also volunteers at their food pantry on Saturday mornings, when she can leave the children with one of the neighbors. Food pantry clients like her very much because she is fair and clear, and “treats them like real people.” Sometimes her fellow board members are annoyed with her for the same reasons.

17.

When she was a little girl, she always wore snow pants under her dress. The other children at school laughed at her because her shoes had cardboard soles and because she smelled bad. Now she is a buyer for a big New York department store. At work, she dresses like an ad in the New York Times, but at home she doesn’t. She lives in a one-bedroom walk-up in Turtle Bay instead of Uptown. Wherever she goes—Paris, Rome, London—she carries a pocketful of the local cash, which she gives to any beggar who asks. She has established a shoe and clothing fund back in the town where she came from, so that all the children can have decent shoes and something nice to wear. She also serves as a mentor for children who have been abused.

18.

She has a severe brain disorder and takes medicine, but she still suffers. She lives in a small apartment in the city, and many people in the neighborhood know her and greet her when they see her on the street. For many years, she has cared passionately about endangered chimpanzees, and she sends letters to local newspapers encouraging people to drink only shade grown coffee and to eat less beef. She has four godchildren, and out of her disability income, she buys them books for their birthdays. She sits in meditation for several hours each day, and keeps a prayer list of more than one hundred names.

TZADIKIM NISTARIM, part 2

These people are all made up, but of course they are made up of bits and pieces of reality, since that’s all any writer has to work with.

 

 

7.

She is a rural mail carrier. She carries dog biscuits and knows all the dogs on her route by name. When she must get out of her truck to deliver a package, every dog is happy to see her–even the ones with reputations. Although nothing “keeps her from her appointed rounds,” if she meets someone by the mailbox, she always has time to chat. Two of the people on her route are disabled, and cannot shovel around their mailboxes on snowy days, so she keeps a shovel in her jeep and does it for them. She has quietly replaced the mailboxes of several people with very low incomes when their boxes were smashed by vandals. She bakes bread on Sunday afternoons. When she found out that an elderly farmer on her route used to love the homemade bread made by his late wife, she began making extra loaves and every Monday she brings one to him. She and her husband have three children. Their oldest son, who is seventeen years old,  is a drug addict, so she and her husband are part of a parents‘ group at a counseling center. Their thirteen year old daughter is already an accomplished gymnast, and their ten year old son likes to read. She sings alto in a community chorus and in her church’s choir, and in both, she is known for her good humor as well as her pleasant voice.

8.

He is an actor who teaches at a small community college and directs a community theater. When he is not on stage, he is insignificant and goes unnoticed on the streets. When he is on stage, he is unforgettable. Without being sentimental, he can make people cry. Without showing off, he can make people laugh. Once his wife told him that as she left the theater after a perfomance, she overheard someone say, “I don’t know what happened there, but it opened all the windows and doors in my heart.” He considers that the justification for his life.

9.

She is the manager at a busy food coöp. Her desk is covered with piles of papers, and her telephone rings often. Staff members and board members are in and out of her office all day long. If she is on the telephone when someone comes into the office, she smiles and gestures them into a comfortable chair, and returns to the telephone call.  When she is listening to someone sitting in the chair and the telephone rings, she does not answer it. It rings twice, and the caller is directed to leave a message, which she will return as soon as her present conversation is completed. At home, she follows the same practice; her wife and their three children know that she will not interrupt, or be interrupted. She enjoys doing counted cross-stich embroidery, and grows dahlias that win prizes at the fair.

10.

She makes indexes for history text books. She lives alone in a small house on the bank of a river. Every day for twenty years, in sll weathers, she has walked the same path.  She keeps notes about what she sees: when the kingfishers return, when the alder buds open, tracks of raccoons and possums in the mud or snow.  Once each week she drives her old car into town to buy groceries and to have lunch at a diner that she likes. The people in town say she’s a “character,” and she knows that, but she doesn’t mind. She carries prayer beads in her pocket. Every day she prays for everyone in the town.

11.

He owns a laundromat on the corner of a busy street in a rundown neighborhood in a rundown city. His prices are low. He offers free coffee and bread and jam to his customers. Instead of tattered magazines, he keeps a shelf of books that he buys or gets for free at book sales:  books about birds and flowers, travel books, small volumes of poems by little-known poets. He doesn’t mind if people take the books home. The people who come in regularly sometimes talk about the books while they drink their coffee and wait for their clothes to dry.

12.

She cleans rooms and hallways in the big city hospital. She mops the floors and washes the windows and dusts the tables and cleans the sinks and showers and toilets. Sometimes she has to wear a mask. Usually she is working early in the morning, before the visitors come, and before the doctors make their rounds. Sometimes patients talk to her.  Sometimes they tell her that they’re afraid, or that they want to go home, or that their family doesn’t like to visit very much. She is quiet and listens carefully, and when she answers, she always says something that helps.  One of the doctors, a new resident, has noticed her and thinks that she is the best medicine in the hospital, but he hasn’t told her. If he did, he thinks she would be embarrassed, and that is true.

TZADIKIM NISTARIMv, part one

Tzadikim Nistarim

There is a tradition in mystical Judaism that there are 36 Hidden Righteous Ones on Earth. 

Because of them, God allows the world to continue. 

They do not know who they are, and according to tradition, if you think you are one, you most definitely are not.  

I have not written about anyone in, say, Ivory Coast, or Brazil, or Turkey,

only because the culture of the U.S. is the only one I know well.  

1.

She is a clerk in a store that sells pet toys, tropical fish, little coats and boots for dogs, kitty litter and litter pans of various kinds, bird cages and dogfood and catfood by the can or bag or case lot.  She spends most of her working day standing at a cash register adding up purchases and calculating exchanges and returns. People tell her about the problems they have getting their elderly dogs to eat and about how their cats regurgitate all but one special food that’s hard to find. She always listens carefully and with deep sympathy. When she goes home at night, if her husband is home (he is a truck driver), they make supper together and usually they watch sports or animal programs on television, though sometimes they play cards.  On Saturday evenings, they get together with neighbors:  sometimes for a potluck and a video, sometimes for pizza and a movie in a theater. Their daughter, who is a nurse in a hosptial in Haiti, calls every Wednesday. Their son died when he was a baby, so Hospice relies on her to sit with people whose young children are terminally ill.

2.

He is a retired farmer who enjoys training young horses to work in the woods. He takes long walks in the morning on the country road where he lives with his wife who works as a school secretary. He waves at every car that passes whether he knows the driver or not, and he speaks with everyone who is walking or bicycling on the road. He has leased his land and his big barn to a young couple who have a small herd of goats and who hope eventually to buy the property. He helps them, sometimes, when they ask for help. He still sings in the choir of the Reformed Church he has attended since he was a child. His own children, three girls and two boys, are not interested in farming or religion, and have moved away to nearby cities. He is very proud of them and when they come home to visit, he always enjoys his time with them.

3.

She has taught kindergarten for thirty-five years. Some of her current students are the children of some of her first students. She knits mittens and hats and keeps them in a box in her classroom for children who need them. In the winter, she has a basket of little tangerines on her desk for the children to take whenever they’d like. She lives alone in a small house near the school, and in the summer she enjoys seeing the children walking past to play in the school playground. In her yard are five bird feeders and three bird baths, one of which is heated in the winter. She also feeds a possum, five gray squirrels and, she thinks, a skunk, though she has never seen it. She grows flowers in a small patch of ground behind her house and brings bunches of them to the old people who live on her street. Although she was raised Catholic, she considers herself a pagan. When the moon is full, she stands in her backyard in her bare feet (in the summer; in winter she wears her boots) and whispers an old Irish prayer she learned when she was a girl.

4.

He is a barrista in a small-town coffee shop. He is large and tattooed and takes medicine for anxiety. He lives in a two room apartment over a bookshop. He does not sleep well. He remembers his customers and what they like to drink. He is not sure if he believes in a god, but he prays over the drinks as he makes them, one by one, with great care. People tell him he makes the best espresso in town. People tell him their troubles and he listens. He often gives coffee and muffins to homeless people and subtracts the cost from his salary.

5.

She is a retired English professor. Her husband has dementia and she is still able to care for him at home. Since she can’t often go out, people visit her, and she serves them homemade cookies and tea. A book group meets at her house once a month. There are six people in the group. They are rereading the classics. Three times each week, when the respite care-giver comes for two hours, she usually goes for a long walk and has coffee in a coffee shop she likes before she buys groceries or runs other errands.  Her two sons did not approve of this second marriage, and do not call, but she writes to them every week, simply describing the weather and the books she has read.  She has always had a green thumb, but now has no garden. Her houseplants are astonishingly beautiful, and she shares cuttings with everyone who asks.

6.

He is an artist. He paints single colors on large canvases because he loves colors. No one has ever bought one of his paintings, so he stacks them in a room in the large house where he lives with his husband and their six cats. He teaches art in a high school and two elementary schools. Three of his former students are now well known. Since his husband is a doctor who works long hours, he is also the primary house-keeper. He enjoys hosting dinners for the neighbors, all of them, even the ones who didn’t approve. Now they do.

THE NEXT DAY

THE NEXT DAY

The women awakened before it was light

and gathered together some things she’d need.

They found her there, curled on her makeshift bed,

clumsily nursing the child at her breast.

Her husband was still sound asleep.

 

Surely the men were crazy, all the commotion.

Angels and voices in the sky.

A warrior or a king, or somesuch

come to free them from their lot.

Well that was fine.

 

But here was the inexperienced mother.

They covered the straw with the cloth they had brought,

and settled the baby more comfortably.

They fed her the potion

to make the blood stop and the milk come down.

A few sparrows stirred awake in the rafters.

No sign of an angel anywhere.

MY IMAGINARY FRIEND: Prompt #39

MY IMAGINARY FRIEND

Prompt #39

The poor thing can’t sit still.

She cries a lot, wrings her hands.

 

I ask her to come outside with me

but she wants to sit under the table

 

in the dark. She wants to tell me

stories about the terrible things

 

that happened, or might happen.

She’s fussy about her fingernails,

 

the fit of her socks. She goes to bed

at the same time every night and rises

 

every morning at sunrise

or just before. She never has time

 

for anything important, and

she never does anything

 

trivial. I don’t take her anywhere

but she follows and precedes me

 

everywhere, asking, asking,

Who is to blame?

 

What do you want?
Who is imaginary? What is real?

IT IS A SEASON FOR STRANGE DREAMS

IT IS A SEASON FOR STRANGE DREAMS

It is a season for strange dreams:

The white elk who crashed through

the front window and stood staring

with pale blue eyes before dissolving

out the back door. The child

who offered to give me his tricycle

for my daily commute. The president-

elect as an audiologist who cleaned

the wax from my ears and loaned me

his denim coat because I said I was cold.

LEAVES

LEAVES

 

The tree is dropping her leaves to save

herself for winter. She has nothing

to do with me. What’s the point in saving

things? The trees don’t.

Everything they need now

is underground. I will not be defined by

souvenirs. Between the pages of books

I no longer read, old leaves crumble to brown.

Memory is sepia.

Turn the leaves to ground.

NOVEMBER 10, 2016

NOVEMBER 10, 2016

 

Don’t forget the river:

it takes whatever it can carry,

drops what it can not.

 

Look up at the crows

who transform

stale bread and roadkill

into charmeuse feathers

and obsidian eyes.

 

Think of the willows.

Whenever they break,

they grow anew.

 

Remember the sunset,

the last vivid glow in the west,

yellow light under purple cloud

gilding the last of the leaves

on the east side of the garden.

 

Don’t forsake the moon

shimmering into sight above the pines.

She’s nearly full tonight.

Let all that she will become

fill you with longing for the dawn.

ORDINARY BIRDS

A few years old.

 

ORDINARY BIRDS

Go early, our friends told us,

just before sunrise, when the light

above the mountains is a pink line

that slowly turns yellow, then gold,

and the sun sends up a long pale pillar.

Then the geese will rise, calling,

against the sky.

You can hear the whisper of their wings.

 

We went to see the geese,

early,  Orion and the waning sickle moon

still in the deep blue sky.  We heard

very far away, the geese muttering

in a low wet place, waiting for dawn.

The sky turned pink, and the sun

sent up its shaft of light, and the gray

clouds thickened and the light

shut down.  We stood in the shelter

 

against the south wind.  The geese

we came to see did not rise.

Overhead in the rafters,  little birds

were waking:  a grackle, house sparrows,

one young brown cowbird.  They shook

themselves, preened their feathers,

murmured their unthrilling music–

ordinary birds, plain birds,

in the gray morning,

waking one by one.

 

published in Penwood Review, Fall, 2008

THE YEAR THE APPLES FELL

I wrote this back when I was picking apples at my neighbor’s orchard.

 

THE YEAR THE APPLES FELL

That was the year the apples fell into my bag

no matter what I did.

I would bump up against a limb

and they’d shake loose,

roll down my brown-sweatered arm,

glance off my shoulder

and into the turquoise canvas.

The bag filled, and filled.

 

The year before–most years–

those loosened apples hit the ground

and I left them to wasps, mice,

possums, the foraging deer.

Some of those years–the one

my sister died, or the one my folks left

the old house for the condo and we salvaged

perennials from my mother’s garden

and tried not to cry–it seemed

all the apples were wasted like that,

every last one.  But this year,

for a change, something different.

 

I stood under each tree looking up,

bemused, as one by one the globules fell

red and ready, like blessings,

like easy autumn dreams.

 

Nov. 21, 2002

Published in Connecticut River Review, July/August 2004

POPPING JEWELWEED

POPPING JEWELWEED

 

I didn’t when I was a child. Dad showed me

how when I was well-grown. We were in Newport,

Lake Memphremagog, at my uncle’s camp.

Mist on the water—that water always

cold. Fish under the dock. The old canoes

pulled up on the shore, the brick fireplace

where we toasted marshmallows. The big jug

of drinking water brought from town. Sarah

and I went to Canada once, to buy

fireworks we smuggled back in a beach bag.

A long time ago. The camp is gone, Dad

and Uncle Colin, too. But this morning,

I popped jewelweed along a path I walk

now, by a river. Mist on the water.

VOWELS WITH MEGAN

A few years ago, I was mentor for a high school student working on poetry. We did assignments together. Here is my poem about the vowels.

 

A shaft of orange light, unexpected

before the end of

a long gray day

 

Eel black, luminescent

through the thick green river

 

I am winter-pale peach,

being, thatched with white and black

 

O luminous apple-green:

Mutsu, Greening, unripe Mac

 

YoU are fresh and blue,

tinged with the scent

of summer clover

 

And Y is it sometimes silver,

sometimes jade,

flickering just on the edge

of visible light?

 

 

Dec. 12, 2006

RAGWEED DREAM

. . . an old and very peculiar poem based on a dream.

 

RAGWEED DREAM

 

First the wobbly bookcase top where I sat

after giving tea to the women who interrupted

the poem.   When they at last were ready

to leave, I had to ask a curly-haired girl

to brace the piano stool, so I could jump down.

When she turned into my son as he was

twenty-eight years ago, and when he went

to open my parents’ bedroom door,

I followed him.

 

There was a strange woman

in their bed, pale, dressed in Victorian blue;

it took a hell of a time to wake her.

Jim told me I could sleep here, she whispered,

he said he’d throw cold water on me

when it was time for me to go.

 

I took a bottle and a brush

from the dresser, began to paint my son’s little face.

It was supposed to be Indian brown,

but I couldn’t see any difference.

Then the factory tour, all along a balcony

that opened outdoors, turned into stairs–

the creepy kind, with no railings or edges.

Cautiously I climbed down to the gravel entry

of the inevitable gift shop.

 

I leaned on the fence,

looked up at the grassy ski lift where the stairs had been,

where gaudy mannequins were poised.

Jacques Cousteau–I recognized him right away–

was leaning there next to me, his elbows resting

on the rail.  In my day, there wasn’t even a lift,

he said.  No gift shop, no tour.

 

I had to sneeze

and I woke up, thinking of the beautiful sisters

who brought in a bear and fed him by the fire.

September 3, 2003

 

STILL RESISTING–a prompt poem

STILL RESISTING

Prompt #3 again: What did you most resist before you found it suited you?

 

I don’t do things I resist.

 

I resist swimming because

I sink like a stone,

I don’t like fish nibbling my toes.

 

Running makes my hips hurt.

Bicycling is too much work.

Inflexibly, I resist yoga.

 

Beets taste like dirt, only worse,

so I resist them. And goat cheese.

And martinis. And cocktail parties.

 

And answering the telephone

before noon. And attending

meetings of any kind of committee.

 

If I don’t like a book

or a movie, I stop. I resist

literary criticism with a passion

 

that borders on insanity.

Resisting does not diminish my life.

It suits me. I like

 

screens that keep out the bugs.

I like jackets and boots

that keep out the wet and cold.

 

I like my resistances.

They keep me unbitten.

They keep me dry.

VISIONS

VISIONS

 

Visions broke through at the strangest times.

When you were buying groceries, Jesus

appeared next to you at the meat counter.

When you were at a meeting, the coffee

in your cup turned to blood. Angels visited

you in the bathroom. Things like that.

But gradually—or was it suddenly?—

the visions ceased.

 

You returned to a holy place, a place

of first loves, of moonlight and water

and stones, where trees once breathed

redemption, where fireflies flickered

immortality,  where bells rang at midnight,

and though it was still pleasant,

nothing glittered through the veil.

Indeed, the veil itself was gone.

 

In the morning, you sit on the front porch

in your green chair to drink your coffee

and listen to the birds, or

you walk in the woods for a long time

by yourself, or you spend an afternoon

cleaning the kitchen, and nothing happens

but the sunrise and the birdsong, the green leaves,

the scent of rosemary on the windowsill.

HAGIAGRAPHAMNEMENOR–a Prompt poem

PROMPT # 46

What do you call someone who has memorized the Bible?

Be that person.

~D.Weinstock

HAGIAGRAPHAMNEMENOR

 

In the beginning, I thought I’d learn

a verse from each chapter.

But, mercy! how to choose?

Everyone knows the sweet bits,

good shepherds and lilies and such,

 

But I could not resist the obscure:

 

Of the children of Zebulun,

by their generations, after their families,

by the house of their fathers,

according to the number of the names,

from twenty years old and upward,

all that were able to go forth to war; 

And Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little;

and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it.

 

or the erroneous:

 

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters

which were under the firmament 

from the waters which were above the firmament: 

and it was so.  And infamously:

These are they which ye shall have in abomination

among the fowls;  they shall not be eaten, they are

an abomination; the eagle, and the ossifrage,

and the osprey. . . And the stork, the heron after her kind,

and the lapwing, and the bat. 

or embarrassing bits the songs leave out:

 

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: 

and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, 

and the people shouted with a great shout, 

that the wall fell down flat, 

so that the people went up into the city, 

every man straight before him, and they took the city. 

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, 

both man and woman, young and old, 

and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.

 

Choosing has never been my forté.

 

Your favorite song?—food?—

movie?—lover? —string quartet?

 

So many, and different reasons.

It’s always simpler to do it all.

The Cheap Hotel #2: April Prompt revisited

The Cheap Hotel #2

Pets are welcome.

Guests may not use grills 

or work on vehicles in the parking lot.

~”Information for guests”       

The car stinks of unwashed clothes,

the remains of camping food.

After all day in turnpike traffic,

all we want is beer and sleep.

 

Two ATV rigs in the lot,

a pickup full of road crew,

a guy sitting on the curb shouting into his phone,

a posse straddling their Harleys.

 

Will somebody steal our stuff? 

When I try to open the door of the wrong room

because I got the wrong number, the woman

who answers clearly thinks I look as if I might.

 

We microwave a pouch of bad curry.

The television doesn’t work, but the shower does.

We’ve found our place.

We fit right in.

FAIRY TALE

~an old one

FAIRY TALE

Walking in the woods

always birds

often deer

often coyote

once turning a corner

face to face with a fox

equally surprised

once moose tracks

 

What am I looking for?

monkeys swinging in a branch of pine

seals basking on the old beaver dam

flamingos wading through cattails

or like in a story I read once upon a time

a little door low down in a tree

the golden key in my pocket

 

 

1998

 

EVERY CORNCRAKE COUNTS

This is the first poem I “found,” back in 1992.  It is all printed in a little brochure I picked up in Ireland, describing how to conserve the Corncrake, a bird that nests in what we call hayfields.

 

Every Corncrake Counts

a found poem

A number of factors affecting Corncrakes:

loss of long vegetation along hedgerows,

drainage of small marsh areas

where reeds, white-grass and flag iris provide early cover,

more closely grazed pasture,

marginal land going out of production.

Rotary cutters cut very close to the ground.

 

Any species attempting to nest

on the ground in a hay meadow is at risk.

 

Cutting from the headlands towards the centre kills birds.

Chicks in particular are reluctant to cross mown ground

where they are at risk from predators like hooded crows,

tend to stay in long grass where they are often killed

when the last swathes at the centre of the field are cut.

 

When a Corncrake loses a clutch

–for example in a silage field–but survives herself,

she will lay again often in a hay meadow

which may also be cut before the eggs hatch.

In this way, a female may lay three of four clutches

but succeed in hatching few or no chicks.

 

Listen for Corncrakes on your land.

Listen for their calling at night.

 

The male Corncrake usually calls from the same spot.

You may be able to work out which field the nest is in.

If you have a Corncrake on your land

leave areas of rough vegetation on the farm uncut.

Marshy corners, patches of flag iris and nettles

all provide suitable early nest sites.

Ensure that the headlands have taller grass than the rest of the field

when the Corncrakes arrive.

 

With a little care and patience, fields can be cut  in a way

that will drive Corncrake adults and chicks

to the safety of the field margins.

It will be necessary to work the field

in an anti-clockwise direction.

Headlands at the field ends are cut first

to provide a turning circle.

Leave a swathe uncut in the headlands.

 

Cut the field slowly.

Speed kills, and is not vital

 

 

From  “Every Corncrake Counts,” an Irish Wildbird Conservancy pamphlet

written by Eleanor Mayes

TEN RULES FOR POETRY, #6, #7, #8

10 RULES FOR POETRY

#6

Stop being superstitious. You do not

need a special pen or a blue notebook.

You do not need a tidy study with

a writing desk, or a corner table

in a dark café. You do not need to

drink anything but water, and any

cup will do. You do not need stars aligned,

flights of birds, a yellow candle, a white stone.

You do not need melancholy or fear.

You do not need to be in love or war.

You do not need an oracle or a muse.

All you need is a word, and another word.

 

#7

You have to do something besides it.

Reading resembles it too much except

for books about the Civil War or bird-

watching. Birdwatching is good, except for

seagulls, who steal words. Robbery is okay,

but do you really need more things? Taking

care of things, in moderation, can be

helpful, except for electronic things

that claw out your eyeballs. Nobody wants

to read any poetry about that.

 

#8

Silence is essential but not absolute.

Breezes are allowed, a bit of birdsong,

some water sounds—no seagulls or faucets.

The undertow of café chatter is fine,

but not the shrill of phone chat. Purring cats,

yes. Barking dogs, no. If your husband is

drilling or sawing in the next room no

matter how much you want a new tub surround,

you might as well give up.

TEN RULES OF POETRY, #5

10 RULES FOR POETRY, #5

 

Don’t forget that poems come at you sideways.

The ones in the night generally make no sense

 

even if you remember to write them down.

The ones you work on for days, months,

 

will take on smells and textures

you did not intend at all.

 

If you are lucky, your friends

will point this out so you can rejoice,

 

or despair. Using a simple prompt, often

you will find that oddness slides in acutely.

 

Try to write about “Rules for Poetry”

and you may find yourself thinking

 

about your geometry teacher who wore

moccasins and glasses with rhinestone corners

 

and tied silk scarves around her waist.

She lived with her aged mother.

 

During Christmas vacation she went to Egypt

and rode a camel around the pyramids.

 

Sometimes she wrote obscure quotations

on the blackboard in colored chalk:

 

Size does not matter, or the cow would catch the rabbit.

If you can’t draw a tiger, draw a dog.

TEN RULES OF POETRY #2, #3, #4

RULES FOR POETRY, #2

You may write about anything:

clothespins

horse manure

the pattern on the underside

of a nuthatch’s belly.

 

You can’t write about a damned thing:

your mother

the lover who left

the deplorable state

of the world.

 

 

RULES FOR POETRY #3

Well consider grammar,

its all.

Worry about words,

their everything.

 

 

RULES FOR POETRY #4

Be afraid.

No matter what you write,

things will be revealed, secrets

you have concealed even from yourself.

Especially those.

 

Did you know, for example,

that you’re in love again?

Did you know that you never

liked your father, or the yellow cat?

That your house is on fire?

 

The witch who lives in the cave

under your bed knows everything,

throws everything into her cauldron.

So be afraid. You cannot know

what annealment will ensue.

April prompt #34

April prompt #34

A DR. SEUSS INSPIRED POEM

Kari’s #6

I do not like beets or old goat cheese

on a winter day, in a summer breeze.

 

I do not wear a pirate hat

or dress my grandson like a cat.

 

I like to stand out in the rain.

I want to sing about a train.

 

I think I am a silly goose

for trying to write like Dr. Seuss.

April prompt #33

Your zip-drive has started talking to you. What is it saying?

Ray’s #3

JUST WONDERING

Why keep things, archive your intimacies?  . .

Losing things can sometimes gain you a space in which to live.

~Edmund DeWaal, in The Hare with Amber Eyes

 

What, precisely,

is the point

of saving

it all?

April prompt #32

April prompt #32

THE GARDEN IN WINTER

Ray’s #5

 

I know what is going on below the surface:

white violets make seeds underground. No

matter what I do, come spring, they will emerge.

Dandelions send down roots in every crack.

Nettles knot their webs beneath the mulch, creeping

Jenny creeps around the stones. Gray dogwood

ducks under the fence. Temper, temper! I

have seen so many springs. Weeds know how to

live better than anything I desire.

Is it possible that anything will change?

April prompts #31–poetry month extension

April prompts #31

A Food poem

Janice’s #6

THREE TABLES

You haven’t seen all of Warsaw, but you’ve seen three tables.

~Cousin Gosia

 

Cold Chłodnik (you say “whahd-neek”) green with dill.

And Smacznego. The white linen cloth. Plates

of meat and cheeses, salad of tomato

and greens, mushrooms because it’s the season,

Celinka’s pierożki with more mushrooms.

Thick slices of seeded bread and special rolls

from the bakery at the corner, and butter,

and rose petal jam (say “rose petal jam”).

A basket of paper napkins with red,

white and blue stripes in your honor. Gosia’s

blueberry pierogi. Coka-cola, apple juice

because Dominik will run a marathon,

the narrow glasses of vodka or Jarek’s

soul-cleansing mixture, which surely does.

The salty oscypek made by mountain

people. Pickles, ogórków and mushroom.

You are full. Language, and why did Babcia

Florentia go to Cleveland and why

did Frieda stay and why did the Russians

shoot Rudolf on the front steps of the house

where they were born?  And the puppy plays

on the floor with the children who have been

excused. Two hours and you are really

full. And in comes Jola with her handsome sons

and she has brought a dish of corn and cream

just for you because you do not eat meat,

and a cheesecake and a mazurek filled

with raisins and walnuts and frosted with

chocolate and this is your family and Edek

fills your glass again and na zdrowie.

And you eat.

April 30 prompt

YOUR SUPERPOWER

Mary’s #6

When I was a child, I could fly.

Then I was ten.

A screen door slammed,

my wings fell off

and I learned to ground.

 

When I was young, I could stop time.

Then I was forty.

The curve of space slid behind me,

the clock spun through

and I learned to stand still.

 

When I was fifty, I could hold the sky.

My breath was wind.

Stars prickled my heart.

The I was old, and older.

Now I can smell the coming snow.

April prompt #29

April prompt #29

EXPLAIN WHY YOU HAVE AN EGG IN YOUR POCKET

Mary’s #1

 

It’s so small.

Speckled with brown.

She left it in my garden hat.

Some inexperienced sparrow–

her nest not finished–

the urge upon her–

who can say?

The egg is already cold.

I don’t know what to do,

not being a bird.

But being a mother

I’ll carry it,

for awhile.

April prompt#28

april 28 prompt

You have been sent to apologize to a foreign power on behalf of our government.

Do it in a limerick.

Ray’s #4

(Except I cheated and wrote it nearly a week ago while walking in the woods and when I drew another one, I put it back because I wanted this one today  since I have to go to an all-day Tai Chi workshop again and call my mother’s old friend in Norway first.)

 

TO THE WORLD IN GENERAL:

SORRY.

AT LEAST WE’RE MODERATELY ENTERTAINING.

PROBABLY.

 

Here in this country called US

The system is all in a muss.

The rich guys control it,

Politicians extol it,

‘cept Bernie, who’s making a fuss.

April prompt #27

April prompt #27

 FOUR USES FOR A PIECE OF STRING

(WITH AN OPTIONAL BUTTON ATTACHED)

Mary’s #3

Forget the damned button.

They never stay attached.

All they do is work their way loose,

get lost under the dresser

or in the driveway or

someplace downtown, so

that you have to use string

to hold up your pants,

lace up your shirt,

close your coat,

fasten your sleeve.

April prompt #26

April prompt #26

An adult who affected you strongly as a child

Janice’s #1

 

MRS. FARRINGTON KILLING THEORY

 

Tonic. Sub-dominant. Every Good Boy

Does Fine. The ruler across the knuckles.

The yellow notebook. Erasers balanced

on the hands. It is forbidden to play

by ear. I can read music in my sleep.

My hand position is old-style perfect.

I cannot improvise to save my life.

Playing Mozart, I always forget to breathe.