HOT FLASHES–an “old” poem

~response to a young poet 
who thought the subject “too pedestrian” for poetry

“Hotflashes” are not pedestrian–not
dull colorless drab humdrum lackluster stodgy uninspired
“lacking in liveliness, charm, or surprise”
but rather pointed, chromatic, vivid, symphonic, flavorful, fresh, animating.
What better way to describe the quality of heat flaring out from core to face
like the melted innards of Earth vented from volcano,
like wildfire scorching shabby unkempt forest,
like blowtorch, blastfurnace, bunsen burner under ore-filled crucible,
melting out iron, silver–who knows?–even gold,
like hot air roaring, filling the bright bag of a balloon drifting slow
above orchards, over fields of ripened corn.

Certainly they are not lacking in liveliness?
Isn’t it fun to watch us frantically fanning,
opening our collars, rolling up sleeves,
peeling off sweaters like aged strippers gone mad?
Our bedmates awake amazed as we flap the sheets,
throw quilts on the floor, frighten the cats.
We leap up to open windows, let in the blowing snow.
And surely no cosmetic can equal the charming girlish flush
a hotflash paints across a tired face?

Or is there anything but birth or love or death
that can surprise us more?
What is happening? we cry.
We’re barely accustomed to fertility,
and now it’s gone with the scirocco.
It took us so long to grow up, and now, in a flash (or two),
behind our mirrors we see not our mothers’ but our grandmothers’ faces
gaping in wonder at the astonished old women staring back
with eyes that are strangely, still, our very own.

Dec. 11, 2000

CONSCIOUS, Translation Party Version

(When I was working on this poem I ran it through Translation Party and tweaked it.  Sometimes I think I like this version best.)

. . .there is something that it is like to be a bat.

~Thomas Nagel

I find the clean air –this is
the starting point..
Here are the types of sound
floating insects make.
I have one in my mouth.
Take it.

Or a chipmunk, rustic warmth of a hole
filled with nuts and seeds,
the smell of wet leaves and the world.
Or a wasp chewing the old railing,
carrying the pulp home and spitting it out,
building the layers
of my smothering and exquisite nest.

Or a wolf, in a whisper,
I have heard every turn of the deer. 
I return to myself and wake up
in the scent.  Or a porcupine,
shuffling in the forest without scruple.
Partridge–I am a great whirring,
wings open.  A salamander
trying to comprehend the road.

I want to know what it is like
for a bat to be a bat,
a weasel itself, a whale,
the mind of a swarm of bees.
Oh, my little heart has limits!

Can you remember
what was it like to be a newborn–
a differentiation in the world
of its own sort of brain?
Do you even know what is it like to be yourself,
unconscious of nearly everything?