INHERITANCE: TRANSLATION PARTY VERSION

Sorry, I do not like the mother:
Long night of my ass and short legs.
When I try to swim, I sink.
I keep quiet and pleasant time.

I also had a copy of the father:
My anger is volcanic.
I think socialized medicine worth trying is.
I’m always a little hesitant.

Now, I stuck a few gifts:
Mommy’s insatiable curiosity about people,
loving father and vegetable world rodent.
I pick up the accent.
I’m excited to believe salvation.
You can talk to me
and easy to drink.

But I speak the language of instruction itself.
I can tell I have a story.

 

A failed poem that I ran through Translation Party.  I miss Translation Party.

ELASTIC

Liz Taylor once blamed
elastic for the changes in her shape.
Denial:  All must be well
as long as the underpants still fit. . .

But–Why do you think they invented elastic?
my mother asked when I first whined
about the mid-life spread,
when the underpants started to bind.

Mother Knows Best:
Life is better with a little give,
allowance for the expansion
of miseries that come to weigh us down.
-published in Huge Underpants of Gloom, 2009.  (My favorite publishing credit ever.)

WHAT SHE GIVES

I’ve been burned and hung and stoned and drowned.
Now I’m no-where seen or found–
but the prints of my twisted feet wind paths
through every woods and farm and street.
Wild birds sing my names.
My fingers redden the moon.
My time-bound children, I tell you this:
I’ve made a story of my own.
The bees are mine, the iron wheels,
the sun is mine, the grave.
Mine are the tides, the old white roads,
maggots and leaves, willows and snow.
As touch or breath melt ice and frost
my images transmute.
Every shadow has a glory,
each blossom a wide and darkened mouth.

NINE PATCH QUILT

This was an exercise.  I wrote a fairy-tale sort of line for each pattern of colored paper I used, then cut the paper into squares and arranged them in a pleasing way.  Then I went back and made stanzas, matching the lines with the patches.  Then I tweaked the grammar.   I left it for a few months, and went back and tweaked again.  By that time, I’d tossed the original “quilt” so I made a new one, with colored pencil.  That appears at the bottom of the piece.  Strange, but fun.

 

First Row

1.
Early one morning, through the open window, we heard a rustle of wings.
We three stood silent, in welcome.
A single feather fell at our feet.
The yellow door opened into a garden.
Mist was rising silver on distant mountains
as the door opened and opened
to the sound of rustling wings.
We joined hands and danced through the door,
while from the tower one bird sang one clear note.

2.
The door opened to memory and hope.
Through the silence, our strong hearts beat.
Beyond memory and hope
one candle burned to keep the fear away.
Have we courage enough, and love, to tend that flame?
A freshening wind, wet as birth, swept every broken thing away
but memory and hope remained
in the strong beat of silence
behind that open door.

3.
The gray cat licked my closed eyes with his gritty tongue.
I felt joy like the first prickle of starlight.
Dogs danced and capered around my feet
and love like deep green water cooled my heart.
Last year’s leaf littered the warm soil underfoot
and joy prickled like starlight.
A silent red doe tripped down to the sea
as silver mist settled on the mountains
and the gray cat licked my eyelids.

4.
Dragon fire colored the night
while I stood still as a cornstalk in the rain,
safe in the fire’s heart.  In the center of the storm
I picked three ripe pears from the golden tree.
The Crone gave me a candle, and a sword.
Moving quick as water through the meadow grass,
the fire, the dragon breath burning,
I brought her the golden pears.
One candleflame kept the fear away.

Second Row

1.
In a womb-dark, blood-dark, tomb-dark cave
I slept in dream through the moon-blue night.
Sorrow shone like moonlight
until the Maiden woke me and begged for a song.
In the cave of darkness, among hidden jewels
we laughed and wept, all night long we sang
our sorrow like blue moonlight between black branches.
I slept again, dreaming the moon
growing cold and blue outside my tomb-dark cave.

2.
I sat alone by the open window, listening
to bird song sharp as sun from the wild green wood.
Alone by the open window, listening,
I saw a flutter of feathers,
pink-tipped pines and first light, shadows stretching far,
a red bird against the sky.
I sat by the window, listening
as the bird sang sharp as the sun
clearing the mist away.

3.
A wind wet as birth, swept every broken thing away
across the path above the turquoise sea.
Outside the door no memory remained,
just fire and water, earth and sky.
One bird sang,
its music like a green river over stones.
No memory, or hope–
nothing but fire and water, the falling rain,
one candleflame.

4.
A white owl, silent as stone, flew above the path.
A red fox trotted, black against the sky.
What creature guards the threshold and how can I open the door?
A silent doe eats roses, trips down the street to the sea.
A girl tugs at my skirt, whining for a song
and dogs tangle and grumble around my feet.
Who guards the cask of treasure?
The red fox remains, black against the sky.
The owl is gone.

Third Row

1.
I follow the golden bee, her legs thick with apple dust;
down from my turret I follow, singing one song.
The orb weaver waits in her dew-laced web.
I lift my arms to the sky.
In the silence, the sound of my breath.
Warm soil underfoot, the litter of last year’s leaf.
The silent doe crosses the street to the sea
while from the turret one bird sings.
I follow the bee.

2.
In the blood-dark cave
I light my candle
to keep away the fear
like a rope around my throat.
I kindle a fire of paper.
It burns in a hot red strand,
like dragon fire.
All night long I will weep
with this one small flame to keep away the fear.

3.
Early in the morning, a rustle of wings.
I sit silent, listening.
I try to remember the Maiden’s song
that flowed like water through meadow grass,
like deep green water cooling the heart.
I build up my fire of paper and cones;
I dance, a slow circle around the flame,
sing through the smoke
a bird song sharp as the wild green wood.

4.
The white-pebbled path winds above the sea.
A green door opens low down in the tree.
I will warm the earth with fire.
Inside, hidden jewels
of womb, of blood, of tomb.
Outside, the memory
of fire, earth, cold rain.
I will open the door in the tree.
I will walk the path above the sea.

Fourth Row

1.
I am one woman in black,
as still as a cornstalk in the rain.
I carry a candle and a sword.
I’ve moved quick as water through meadow grass
while the orb weaver spun her dew-sparked web.
I’ve sung through mist and smoke–
the Maiden’s song.
I kindled a fire
and danced around the flame.

2.
First light:  rose-tipped pines, blue shadows,
a doe eating roses,
green river, white flowers floating,
a golden bee.
A door will open
and dogs will dance around my feet
as shadows stretch.
The spider sits in her silver web;
white blossoms float in a river of green glass.

3.
Terror at noon, an orange flame–
dragon fire–
–terror, an orange flame.
The golden crown is mine, I claim the ring
through fire and water, earth and air.
Let the thin ghosts whisper among the trees!
I defy the terror in the center,
summon a freshening wind to sweep it all away.
Now, at the center, the fire is mine.

4.
I picked three pears from the golden tree
as the white owl flew silent as stone.
I slept deep through the blue moon light.
In early morning I opened the window
and lifted my hands to the sky.
A lone bird called
flying quick as water above the grass–
one clear note.
One by one, I ate the silver fruit.

Fifth Row

1.
Does sorrow make shadows like moonlight?
Where will you seek for comfort
in your moonlit sadness
where the white owl flies?
I will give you a candle,
and a white owl.
The moon will shine blue for you.
You will know the way,
a silver mist on mountains.

2.
Make a fire of paper and cones,
a dragon fire to brighten all the night.
Sit by the open window, listening
to the rain.
The white owl flies for you
through fire, water, earth and sky,
calls to you through the mist.
You are safe in the center of the storm.
Dream deep beneath the moon.

3.
Hear the bird song sharp as the sun.
Raise your arms to the sky
and see the green door open.
Blow out the candle, bury the sword.
Let the gray cat open your eyes.
You have a story to tell:
The green door in the tree opened wide
and we laughed and wept, we sang 
like birds in a dark green wood. 

4.
A red fox sheltered with us from the storm,
freed from the fear.
A gray cat licked our eyelids with her gritty tongue.
We loved like deep green water.
with dirt underfoot, and soft leaves,
joy like starlight.
Dogs capered around our feet.
Softly, like mist on mountains
the red doe tripped down to the sea.
                                                                                             

A STUDY FOR THE AWKWARD AND THE SHY

A shy awkward boy should be trained
in dancing, fencing, boxing;  he should be instructed
in music, elocution, and public speaking;
he should be sent into society,
as certainly as he should be sent to the dentist’s.

Who does not pity the trembling boy?
The color comes in spots on his face.
He sits down on the stairs and wishes he were dead.
A strange sensation is running down his back.
He is afraid to be afraid,
he is ashamed to be ashamed.
At the door of a parlor he feels himself
a drivelling idiot.  He assumes a courage,
if he has it not, and dashes into a room
as he would attack a forlorn hope.

Tea-parties are eternal:  they never end;
they are like the old-fashioned ideas of a future state
of torment–they grow hotter and more stifling.
As the evening advances towards eternity,
he upsets the cream-jug.   He summons
all his will-power, or he would run away.
No;  retreat is impossible.
One must die at the post of duty.
There is a very disagreeable feeling
in the back of his neck, and a spinning sensation
about the brain.  A queer rumbling
seizes his ears.  He sees the pitying eyes
of the woman to whom he is talking
turn away from his countenance.
“And this humiliation, too?” he asks of himself,
as she brings him the usual refuge of the awkward–
a portfolio of photographs to look at.

It adds much to his confusion
to see that poor little pretender, Tom Titmouse,
talking and laughing and making merry.
The grandfathers and grandmothers of Tom Titmouse
were not people of strong character;
they were a decorous race on both sides,
with no heavy intellectual burdens,
good enough people who wore well.
But does our bashful man know this?
No.  He simply remembers a passage
in the “Odyssey” which Tom Titmouse
could not construe, but which the bashful man read,
to the delight of the tutor:
O gods!  How beloved he is,
and how honored by all men
to whatsoever land or city he comes!
He brings much booty from Troy,
but we, having accomplished the same journey,
are returning home having empty hands!
And this messenger from Troy is Tom Titmouse!

Therefore, as you know how embarrassing
embarrassment is to everybody else,
strive not to be embarrassed.

~found in Manners and Social Usages,
by Mrs. John Sherwood (author of “A Transplanted Rose”)
1884, revised in 1897

SOLASTALGIA

 

Odd, this snowless, open winter,
strange, this easy, hazy warmth–
though I try, I can’t remember
such a winter.  Has the Earth

so changed?  I’m lonely for the cold;
I miss the shoveling, snowdrifts, ice,
threat of blizzard, slicked down highway,
thawing frozen hands and face.

And is this why sometimes we suffer–
why we need some tears and pain?
If we never know the winter
green Spring cannot come again.

A FEW COMMENTS CONCERNING PROPRIETY

Loud colors are very risky;
and should never be attempted except in the country;
and then in an intimate crowd only.

The smoking of women,
it comes hard to be forced to admit
into a regular treatise on customs.
It is a sad mistake
from beginning to enbd.
As a question of fact,
it unfortunately also admits of none.

At Bar Harbor one summer,
the young woman who had the most attention
was one who rowed beautifully,
swam, played tennis, talked well,
and was generally charming out-of-doors;
who had not brought a ball-gown with her,
and could not be enticed to dance.
That girl knew her forte,
and kept to it
She had a scraggy neck,
and did not “light up well.”

Girls cannot find as many ways
of doing favors for men
as men for girls,
which is truly well.
A young man, if he sets about it,
can serve a girl in a thousand quiet ways.
He can call her carriage,
carry parcels, get a cab,
lend her an umbrella,
ask her to dance, take her to supper,
be nice to her mother,
and indeed to all her family,
remember some trivial wish or request.

There are cheaper methods;
There is tea at bachelor apartments,
excursions to see pictures at museums,
or processes in factories.

Found in Manners and Social Usages, by Mrs. John Sherwood (author of “A Transplanted Rose”)
1884, revised in 1897