words: SIX TREASURED THINGS: A ZUIHITSU

rigid   draw    meadow   peer     lemon       cap

(another one with those words)

 

 

SIX TREASURED THINGS:  A ZUIHITSU

1. A rigid plastic lawn chair, one of four that my parents kept on the deck of their condominium. I keep it on the front step from spring till snow.  I sit there at sunrise and sunset, watching the yellow light flicker like sparks between the leaves.

2.  The white linen cap I bought in Traverse City in a shop that sold hats and, unexpectedly, wine-making supplies. A young friend told me that when I wear it, I remind him of Yoko Ono. I wear it often.

3. Our backyard. It was forest, then meadow, then lawn, and it is now growing up again into forest. We’ve reserved a patch of grass around the house, and bits for vegetables and flowers, but what was barren lawn is filling up with grasses and goldenrod, bramble and sumac, gray dogwood and pine and oak. Five years ago, I planted one solemn young chestnut tree as an act of defiance.

4.The drawing of a cat we had for a few months. Her name was Nanette, and she was tri-colored, and very small. The old woman who gave her to us could not keep her. “There’s something wrong with her,” she told us, and there was. In the drawing, Nanette is curled, sleeping, in a chair that once was in the living room and is now in the kitchen. The drawing was made by an artist friend who stayed with us for a summer—along with her husband and three children—in the room that once was our guest room, and is now the study where I write.

5. The lemons I always have by me. Here is a new maxim I try to live by: When in doubt, add lemon. To vegetables, to pastas, to soda water, to soup. The scent of lemon revives me and a lick of lemon opens my senses to all the good in the world that remains. 

6. Ursula Le Guin wrote “There was nothing she could do, but there was always the next thing to be done.” I treasure a company of peers—poets, artists, women who keep doing the next thing, and the next thing, and the next.

words: SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

joy    exhaust    chorus    toll    appear     trunk

 

SIX WORDS, SIX STANZAS

 

The steamer trunk might have been my grandfather’s, 

but I don’t remember seeing it in

his dark little room that smelled like old clocks.

 

If I sit for a long time in this chair

the right words will appear. Like magic.

Despite the evidence, I still believe

 

that. Believing in anything now takes

a toll. There doesn’t seem to be a god,

for instance, who gives a shit about us.

 

It’s August. The dawn chorus is over

for the year. Sometimes, one dusty robin

lands on the lawn and hops around. The worms

 

have burrowed down under. Everyone is

exhausted by the heat, the drought, the plague,

waiting and waiting for some kind of relief.

 

My grandfather had a small life, and yet

he made himself a bit of joy. Magic tricks.

Walks. Old friends. Keeping all those clocks ticking.

words: ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

soil

flight

farther

tingle

 

ZUIHITSU for a day when there should be no words

1

After the scanty rainfall yesterday (or was it the day before?), I planted beans. Six rows of black beans. I crawled along on my hands and knees to set them in the furrows and cover them with soil. As I patted the soil in place, I left my handprints to show that I’d been there.

2.

On our morning walk, the dog and I noticed a red-tailed hawk watching us from a power line. As we approached, she took flight and landed in a dead elm tree beside the newly cut hayfield on the other side of the road.

3.

Most days, I walk a bit farther than four miles. Today I was cold and wanted to get home to start the laundry. When the washing is all in the machine, perhaps I’ll vacuum the rug. That seems about all I can manage these days:  walks and housework.

4.

Tomorrow—no—the next day—tomorrow is Tuesday—my husband and I will sit in my study and wait for the computer tingle that signals our son’s weekly call. It will be good to see the children. The three-year old tries to touch us through the screen. She has skin like a bisque doll, and enormous blue eyes. There are so many things she will never have to know.

words: Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

Zuihitsu for the 51st Day

1.  I have never paced when I am in distress. I stand, rooted, staring, generally out the kitchen window at whatever birds I can notice eating the suet that we hang in little wire baskets from the canopy supports on the deck. This morning, I saw a pair of white-throated sparrows and a pair of catbirds and a pair of cardinals and a single male downy woodpecker.

2.  The route of my morning walk is flat for awhile, then slopes gently downhill to a worn-out barn on the brink of a gully.  Jim keeps old-fashioned electric Christmas candles in the barn windows. The road then slants uphill until on the left there is an unpaved side road going farther up past an old hillfarm cemetery before connecting back to a main road. My road flattens out again to a swamp where grackles and red-winged black birds and swamp sparrows are nesting now.

3.  Our granddaughter extended her hand toward the web camera to show us a book. She recited Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing Song” for me. My mother, for whom she is named, taught it to me when I was three, and our son taught it to our grandchildren.

4. I wish I could come up with an idea for a big project:  a play, or a series of poems. I simply don’t have enough energy to extend myself much beyond the usual “poem a day,” and even those are getting sillier.

5.  Nettles are creeping down the driveway from the little patch I planted ten years ago so I could harvest them for tea. I don’t harvest them. I’m trying to pull them up by the roots so they won’t take over the whole place. “Remember . . /the nettles that methodically overgrow /the abandoned homes of exiles.” (Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh)

6.  I told our grandson I heard a towhee this morning. Our son asked him if he remembered what they say. “Drink your tee hee hee hee,” he answered, smiling his slanty little smile.

7.  My husband is extending his trip out into the world today—not just the usual route to the grocery store and home again, but a side trip to the pharmacy to get medicine for the cat’s hair loss and more milk thistle and vitamin D for us. He brought two pairs of gloves. 

8.  Linda emailed a poem to me, “the one she’s been waiting for,” she said. Nadine Anne Hura wrote it, “for Papatuanuku, Mother Earth.” She calls on the Mother to “Breathe easy and settle,” and tells her “We’ll stop, we’ll cease/We’ll slow down and stay home”  It would be a change of pace—hell, it would be a change of everything these days to have a president who shares poetry with us, or who even reads poetry. Or anything, for that matter.

9. Just after sunset, I took Julie down the driveway as usual. It was clear and pleasant, so I did not hurry, but strolled along at her doggy pace.  Watching her check the smells—deer? rabbits? that bear our neighbor saw?—along the way puts a fresh slant on things.

 

 

A zuihitsu is a Japanese form, consisting of loosely connected fragments written mostly in response to the writer’s surroundings. The word means “follow the brushstroke.”  For more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book

Words: By Way of Contrast

coffeepot

filigree

chase

novel

 

BY WAY OF CONTRAST

Grandmother’s silver coffeepot—

fine filigree around the handle,

chasing and repoussé patterning the lid.

The matching creamer, 

sugarbowl with tongs.

Her white linen napkins,

bone china cups.

 

My Mr. Coffee maker.

My red ceramic sugar bowl

patterned with spirals and stars. 

My white creamer—novel souvenier

from Columbus, Ohio.

My red-checked tablecloth.

My heavy blue pottery mug.

JOSEPH TALKS ABOUT HIS OLDEST SON

JOSEPH TALKS ABOUT HIS OLDEST SON

 

After what we went through with him—

all the business with angels, and Egypt—

I was hoping things would settle down.

 

It seemed they might. I thought

maybe he could save the world

by being a good man, right here

 

in Nazareth. As time went by,

I even began to think he’d be 

a cabinet maker. He had such 

 

promise. He was careful, deliberate.

He had an instinct for how things

fit together. And he was good with

 

customers. What they wanted, what

they could afford. But then, I had

other sons to carry on, for Mary’s sake.

 

And Jesus? Well. 

It seems he made something

of himself after all.

For John

FOR JOHN

Fifty years have passed since I learned

it is possible to hear snow fall,

it is possible to choose and stay.

And though times and places flicker

on the periphery and people come and go,

always you remain in focus at the center,

standing in the forest in your thin black boots

listening to the falling snow.

THE OLD LADY DISCOVERS FACEBOOK AND OFFERS A SORT OF APOLOGY

THE OLD LADY DISCOVERS FACEBOOK

AND OFFERS A SORT OF APOLOGY

All you want to do

is touch.  It used to be easy,

while winnowing grain or stalking beasts.

Your bodies remember 

the smell of sweat in the longhouse,

gossip by the well, 

embraces under the trees.

   

Once you spoke while hanging wash

or mending nets or minding babies

or scything hay or boiling sap

or making shoes or spinning thread

or pounding nails or stitching quilts.

Now

you are scattered like chaff,

dispersed as hunted game,

 

and so are we.    

 

Oh, children, do not complain at us!

We are as exiled as you.

Like you we want to find our friends

and digging is so hard.

Disembodied

as you, we post lines 

and flickers to our tornaway tribes.  

Now the ether carries in bits

our sketchy sentences, our loneliness,

tears that this strange communication

without skin or breath can maybe begin to mend.

 

I wrote this years ago, when I first joined facebook. Now that I’ve deleted my account, I find  it intriguing that this was the original intent.

March Prompt #7: The Chair that was First Owned by my Great-Great Uncle Asa

THE CHAIR THAT WAS FIRST OWNED BY MY GREAT-GREAT UNCLE ASA

March Prompt #7

He wasn’t actually my uncle. He was my cousin’s uncle, on the other side of her family, you see, but we called him uncle because of that chair. It was passed on to my cousin’s Great Aunt Martha (not my great-aunt, just hers) who was his second daughter-in-law, and she passed it on to her son Freddy, who of course was my cousin’s actual uncle. He was the youngest in that family. Johnny, the middle one, married a Brady girl, and we have, at least my husband has, connections to the Bradys since his sister-in-law’s first husband was a Brady, and her oldest daughter. She didn’t marry his brother till he died. My husband’s. brother. Anyway, Freddy—my cousin’s real Uncle Freddy but we all called him that, used to come to Thanksgiving at my Aunt Bet’s. She was my cousin’s mother, Dad’s sister. So he was my uncle’s brother by marriage. He was the oldest.  Never married. No one ever said why, but we have our suspicions. And one Thanksgiving, when he sat down at the table on that rickety old chair—you know how everybody has to haul out all the chairs at Thanksgiving if there’s a big crowd and there was always a big crowd at Aunt Bet’s since she and Dad were two of seven and Uncle John—not the John who married the Brady girl—that was Freddy’s brother—my uncle who was Aunt Bet’s husband had the same name—  was one of four and by then they all had kids, except Uncle Freddy, and she always took in strays besides. People, I mean, but she did take in some cats, too, but mostly they stayed up in the barn except that orange one that everybody called Blink because it was missing an eye. But he sat on that old chair and even though he was pretty skinny it broke under him. Bumped his head on the edge of the table on his way down. We all laughed, and so did he, but he was never the same after. Neither was the chair, so Uncle John threw the chair in the fire and Uncle Freddy had to sit on a stack of apple crates they hauled in from the shed.

Winter Prompt #14: Climb Something

CLIMB SOMETHING

Winter Prompt #14

(for Janice)

Katahdin, behind my husband and our fifteen-year old son,

leapers both. Up from the pleasant green, the sunshine,

up above the treeline, up to the gravel steeps.

The knife edge.

(Just close your eyes and take my hand.)

The boulders.

Thirty miles of boulders, or was it one hundred miles?

John and Henry leaped from man-sized rock

to man-sized rock while I picked my way around

or crept up and over like a semi-torporous lizard.

Two goats and a lizard climb Katahdin.

The summit was in cloud.

There was no “view,” only miles and miles of cairns

marking the trail, or perhaps the hundreds of lizards’ graves.