ZUIHITSU FOR AN UNKEPT LENT When our grandson was not quite two, we brought him to a park, where we pushed him in a swing for a long time. After awhile, he wanted to stop. He just sat there in the swing, staring ahead of him, with a half-smile on his lips and a faraway expression in his eyes. I took a photo of him, like that. I keep that photo by my desk. The Father is Silence. The absent, silent one. The Son is Word, the teaching presence within and with and beside and behind and before. The Spirit is Practice. So they say. I take the dog into the pine woods every day. Sometimes I take her twice. I take her there in all weathers. Lately, heavy wet snow covers the path. It’s too sticky for snowshoes, so I slog through in my high heavy boots. The dog bounds. Lately, I’m watching a broken tree for signs of sheltering animals. I’m watching a hole under the roots of another tree to see if anyone is using that. So far, I have seen the tiny tracks and the tail-drag of a white-footed mouse disappear into that hole. A Bargain for Frances is about a little badger girl whose friend tries to trick her out of a china tea set she wants. When I was a little girl, we had a tin tea seat, turquoise and white. I will buy our granddaughter a tea set for her birthday, a china one, packed neatly into a little white basket. She already has a tea set that used to belong to her mother, but it isn’t in a basket. There is a place on the front step that is always icy after a heavy snow. This happens because the snow piles up behind the bars that keep it from sliding off the metal roof. The weight of the snow causes it to melt underneath, like the water melts under a glacier. That melt drips onto the step, and freezes there. I keep a bucket of sand just inside the front door. My friend Molly recently sent me a poem by Tim Jones, a poet who lives in North Carolina. I liked it so much that I looked him up and found a book of poems written by him, and I bought it. This is from his “Lent” poem: “Blessed are you, for yours/ is the lengthening of the light.” This morning, just at first light, I awoke to hear a cardinal singing in the shrub under the bedroom window.
Category Archives: Seasons
Zuihitsu in February
ZUIHITSU IN FEBRUARY Six good things about being old: It’s easier to say No. It’s easier to say Yes. The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated. . . One can recognize languages other than one’s own. One can no longer die young. Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. One unpleasant thing about being old: arthritic thumbs. Return to Clay Studio: The plan is to make a troll to put by the pallet covering the wet spot between the yard and the woods. The children know the stories. According to our granddaughter, every story should end with the sentence, “And then, the bees got her,” adjusted, of course, for gender and number. The terra-cotta amaryllis was lovely. Four blossoms on two stems, just as advertised. The red one was even better: one stem with five blossoms and one with six, beyond all expectation. And last week, it made one more stem with six blossoms, smaller than the first eleven, but just as red. Things one can do with arthritic thumbs: knit with medium needles, play the piano, make things from clay, change wax filters in hearing aids. Things one can’t do: play the harp, knit with small needles, pick up pins. Be Gentle, says the Oracle of the Day, you’re hatching. Hard work, hatching. That weird little egg tooth on the end of the beak. Coming out into the world all scrawny and hungry and wet, opening your orange mouth. Or if you’re a butterfly, with bent wings to pump up and stretch. So yes, gentleness is called for. The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well. And then, the bees got him. This old woman is learning Finnish. Why not. The nouns and pronouns are not gendered. It’s as foreign as Klingon. No means “Well” and Ja means “and.” Tuo has nothing to do with “you” as it likely would in an Indo-European language. Suomi on niin vaikea kieli, mutta kaunis. I have a plastic reindeer on my desk. No niin.
DECEMBER ZUIHITSU It is easier to awaken in the dark of winter. The body opens slowly, warms slowly with Qi Gong practice, with hot coffee. The summer body is restless, quick, easily exhausted. Why must my study be the coldest room in the house? From the windows I watch bare ash trees and brushy hemlock trees moving slightly in the North wind, dark against a silver sky. Sometimes a feeling of desperation. The weather, the news. The way my hips still hurt. Driving into town we pass a herd of young horses racing across a frosty pasture. We agree that it must be a wonderful thing to be a young horse on a cold morning. On weekends, the woman who calls herself The Lady From the Gravel Company sells Christmas trees for her son who is out West hunting deer. She hopes he doesn’t get one, she told me, because already she has two deer and a bear in her freezer. The dog wants to eat her scraps on the living room carpet. The old cat wants the young cat’s food. The young cat wants the old cat’s food. My husband wants cooked chicken thighs. I want Rasta Pasta. At supper, I find the jalapeño pepper that had disappeared into the stew. Water does not put out that kind of fire. Strange bedside fellows: Neil Gaiman and Barbara Pym. I expect she could write about him: a mysterious man with tousled hair, much admired by excellent women. I cannot imagine what he could write about her. The dog must go out in the dark again to see if the fiend who hides under the steps is still hiding under the steps and to see if every deer track down the driveway was made by the same deer. I must go out with her to see the moon and to listen for the owl who sits in the oak tree behind the house.
OCTOBER 13 The leaves are scattering and so too the people who came to see them, their glorious impermanence. For a little while, until the snow, I don’t have to wait in lines at shops or cafés. I don’t have to remember to stop and gaze myself: those red maples, sugar maples, popples gold against the evergreens. Oaks will come later, but no one comes here to see the somber oaks. For a little while there is no demanding, just the ease of amber and gray, the silence of these late days, the beauty of this coming dark.
SEPTEMBER FIELD JOURNAL: KINGSLAND BAY
SEPTEMBER FIELD JOURNAL
What is your name and what
do you know and what
together can we do?
Folded, weighted, shifting,
broken and remade,
the layers hidden underneath.
And where on this map
of shifting stone
do we belong?
Come walk and name
this place, this very place,
this weather and these trees:
the edge edged with white cedar
—and the rain.
And when the blowdown comes
may we trust
our own entangled roots?
the world, the flesh
An unexpected poem.
the world, the flesh They did it to me when I was too young to resist: in my name they renounced my skin, my heart, my lungs, my sex, my brain, my little fingers. They renounced my senses, my fears, my hungers, my animal urgency. They renounced the world. The deserts and trees, mountains and seas, everyone who crawls and swims and flies: denizens of the dirt, tigers and dogs and whales. They don’t have souls the story goes, and all that matters is what isn’t. When the trout lily leaves emerged, when the bears came out of their winter dens, when the buds swelled on the maples, every spring we remembered our renunciation. How strange when the empty tomb recalls the garden and the flesh. I repent. I reclaim all I was taught, along with the devil, to renounce. Beginning with this patch of ground where rotting trunks flower out their fruits, where robins overturn the unraked leaves and acorns sprout along the edges of the unmown grass.
First day on the job alone,
he had to keep calling the sergeant.
Good-humored, she was,
joking about new machinery
that made the work harder.
Typical military we all agreed.
I voted for Bernie.
I’m all about peace,
and eliminating fossil fuels
and reducing my carbon footprint.
I drive a Prius, for Christ’s sake.
The new fighters they’ve got—
we couldn’t believe
they’d be louder than the F-4s
but they are. We can hear them
all the way from the Adirondacks.
And they’re expensive, useless.
Can’t dogfight, so what’s the point?
Three took off. We waited
for the fourth, like clockwork.
Shit, they are noisy suckers.
But fuck it. I’m a
fighter pilot’s wife.
My man used to fly machines
like those. I’ve stood on the flightline,
watched him take off,
seen him loop and hammerhead,
do the Memorial Day flyby.
I gave birth on the eve
of drill weekend, kept house
that winter he trained in Witchita
when he was DCM, that ice-storm winter
our son was in second grade
and we had a funky woodstove.
I watched my pregnant friend
watching the Missing Man
formation over her husband’s
grave. What can I say?
What can I say?
I make no apologies
for my life. Love is a funny thing.
So now this new improved i.d.
is good another three years.
We stopped on the way out the gate
to look at the old F-4
on static display.
Not Miss Piggy, my husband said.
It’s got Rich’s name on the door.
Oak and Ash and Birch breathe their gold.
It sifts through their twigs and branches
over our cars and lawn furniture.
Oaks and ashes and birches think
life is worth continuing. They want
to make acorns and winged seeds
and tiny cones. They want to make
food for turkeys and squirrels and jays.
If they told you the Council of Trees
had decided to fill this year with abundance,
if they told you they had decided
this was a good year to cover the wounded
Earth with their love, to spread their gold;
if they told you that you, too, could participate,
wouldn’t you say Yes? And here you are!
Every sneeze, every dribble, every gasp,
they tell you, is a price you can pay.
before the comfort of book and bed,
I stood in the yard and worshiped
the highest moon.
Soft-edged shadows spread
across the frosted grass.
The darkest month gives
the brightest night—
not an insignificant grace.
Open Studio Poem #19
With a frisk of rambunctiousness,
a Pomeranian energy,
the March wind like a red-rubber ball
is bouncing away the long cold dark.