OPEN STUDIO POEM #17

 

Open Studio Poem #17

disco

lickety-split

splendid

magenta

 

Fairies shelter behind the disco ball

hung in the portal to the kingdom of odd. 

After sunset, they emerge lickety-split,

and all night they dance through the city, 

their magenta wings flashing splendid

in the lights of streets, and traffic, and stars.

 

 

The other occupants of the Open Studio are out to get me, as you can see. But I know where that disco ball hangs, and I know the fairies, too.

words: WHAT WE CARRY

tough   sleeve   bag    wave    half    fire

l.

WHAT WE CARRY

 

Each of us carries a bag, a tough bag, 

filled with the weight of our times and years.

 

Each of us is half-dead these days. We wave

to one another across the firewall.

 

We wave, and blink our eyes. For each is still 

alive, one sleeve rolled up, scrubbing along

 

however we can, lugging our bags, 

bearing our bit of the impossible load.

THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND

THE TRICKSTER IS STILL AROUND

Not Loki or Enki,

not Coyote who stole fire

or Wakjunkaga who made

himself some women’s parts 

and gave birth to three sons. 

 

This one carries his tiny penis

in a jumbo jet. His wives

and daughters are plastic dolls,

his sons the undead.

He eats honor, shits coal.

His houses are built of bones.

 

Make no mistake:

somewhere under our nice

we want to be like him—

possess without limit,

rule without shame.

 

He shows us, uncovers us.

Unless we change our lives,

he will never go away.

words VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

bear

grace

raven

point(ed)

VARIATIONS: FOUR WORDS, THREE STANZAS

1.

The raven has been flying to and fro 

over the earth. She has returned.

I think it will rain again. 

 

Do you know the meaning of grace?

The word you say before you eat;

the way a dancer walks in her pointed shoes.

 

The bear has been seen again.

We say “the bear” as if there were only one

running through the woods between our houses.

 

2.

It’s enough to make me believe

in Satan’s test of Job.

How much more can they bear?

 

The talking raven will not be silent.

Over and over she says 

“What’s the point? What’s the point?’

 

Like Hecate preceding and following Persephone,

grace precedes and follows us.

The question remains, “When?”

 

3.

Once I found a raven grazed by a car.

I set her in the grass, covered her with leaves.

The next day, in the same place, 

 

a raven circled me three times. 

The acknowledgement was almost more 

than I could bear. And I’ve wondered

 

since if the point was not gratitude but

taunt. “You cached me in the grass,

foul human, but see! I live.” 

 

4.

A raven pair tumbles over the yard

and the dog will not stop barking.

A bear climbs the fence and the dog is silent.

 

Raven is a trickster.

Bear is a god.

Is there a difference.

 

Walk the shore to the farthest point,

the place where sand turns to stone.

There is no limit to grace.

words: SAME STORY

orange

happiness

shallow

line

SAME STORY

I’ve known the story since second grade,

that terrible year. The teacher checking

our fingernails and handkerchiefs,

teaching nothing but tedium. Gray

and marcelled, as chained as I 

to that small-town school.

The stench of hot-lunch goulash.

White bread spread thick with margarine.

The shallow patch of backlot gravel

where we tried to play. 

 

Reading was my happiness.

Sometimes I was allowed 

to sit on the windowsill with a book.

And where would I have found

such a thing in that barren place?

I can still see the drawing clearly—

the line of the girl’s dress,

the dragon’s orange flame.

And the prince—not St. George, I think—

but it was the same tale—

the monster demanding sacrifice, 

the unexpected release. 

 

words: TO ARIADNE, WITH APOLOGIES

 

fractal

born (or borne)  or bourn, for that matter.

manipulate

stoic

TO ARIADNE, WITH APOLOGIES

Winding small and smaller

into this fractaled labyrinth—

this, and this, and oh yes

this again—I know this path,

this curve, this color.

No center, only pattern,

the bourn approached

but never reached.

If Platonic, I’d re-form

the beast, Cynic, manipulate. 

Stoic, I’d pay it no mind.

If there were a beast, 

something here not myself,

this endless ball of string.

 

 

words: Nesting

NESTING

 

wall

kindle

fragile

flight

 

This morning, something— a gesture?

a word? a scrap of dream?—kindled

a yen for flight beyond   

these walls of age and time 

and choices made. But I remain, 

grounded in every sense, rooted

in a garden of my own construction.

 

A robin is building her nest

outside the window of the room

where I write, shaping the sticks

and grass with her muddy breast.

In the budding lilac, her mate sings.

If fates and jays agree, nestlings shall fledge,

fragile as imagined wings.

COWBOY

.

COWBOY

 

Remember the Costa Rican cowboy?

He has returned, and was he always

a dream? He lay on the grass

and read poetry to children. He ate

caesar salad and believed in a god

who understood everything he felt.

Once upon a time, we talked

all night. He drank beer and I drank

sherry and smoked. He never smoked.

Did he kiss me by the water? Did I

marry him?And what if I didn’t?

I hear that he has learned

to play the mandolin.

REHEARSAL

REHEARSAL

 

It was all rehearsal: ways to dampen

anxiety. Yoga, Qigong, prayer.

meditation. Long walks. Gardening. Art.

Old household skills: bread and soup and cookies

and soap. Getting along with others. I

recall how the Brits kept going during

the blitz, my aunts and uncles in Poland

after the war. You’ve had the dream, I think.

You’re in a play, about to go onstage,

but you don’t remember your lines or worse 

never learned them, or worst of all you’ve never

even seen this play, and the director says, 

“It’s theater, for Chrissake. Fake it. Make

something up! The curtain’s rising. You’re on.”

FIRST LIGHT

FIRST LIGHT

~in astronomy, the first use of a telescope

1.

A wall is not a bad thing

when one is ten years old and afraid.

Imagination is a good wall:

the goddesses of ancient Greece,

the stories in the stars, the fairies

living under the grasses and in the trees.

And girls in books,

their strength like stone:

Jo and Meg, Velvet Brown, Anne.

 

God makes a good wall, the sturdy one

I met at St. Luke’s, who spoke Elizabethan

in Father Pickard’s imitation British,

who smiled down on pious children.

Hymns made a sure foundation, 

the blue choir robe a kind of armor. 

And when one came of age,

the flat dissolve of the wafer, 

the strange warmth of wine.

 

2. 

Hadrian built this wall 

to keep wild blue people out. 

On our side, sanitation, hot baths,

birthday parties and socks.

On their side, the gods only know.

Dirt-floored huts, animal skins,

raw meat eaten with the hands?

Superstition. Barbaric sacrifices.

Look over the wall, if you dare.

What is hiding behind those stones?

 

3. 

Shall I list the things I fear,

what the walls keep out?

If I give them names,

will that give me power?

Can I clothe them,

give them form,

and seeing their weaknesses,

laugh them into oblivion?

Are they nothing 

but shadows after all?

Bears under the bed?

Barbarians painted blue?

 

4.

Sixty years ago

I could not stand

in front of Mother and say

Daddy is drunk and I hate it.

I’m going out into the field

to pull myself together

and then I’ll come back

and get on with my life.

I want you and Daddy

to solve this. 

Without my help.

 

5.

When my little grandson is afraid,

I can tell him:

This is what’s happening.

This will happen.

The mower is noisy

but we’re safe if we stand here.

The big truck will drive away.

The bird will not bite you.

Mommy will come back.

The shot will hurt and then

the hurt will stop. 

 

I can tell myself:

This story is mine.

The barbarians

are my grandmothers.

Nothing lasts forever.

I can open any door.