TIME IS A STRANGE THING

TIME IS A STRANGE THING

At times I get up in the middle of the night and stop all the clocks, all of them.

~Hugo von Hofmannsthal, from Die Rosenkavalier

 

She stops the clocks

to hear the silence

defined by their tick and chime.

One must not fear the time.

 

She stops the needle,

and feels the space beyond

that only the compass knows.

That’s the place she goes.

 

May 17, 2017

‘QASIDA

‘QASIDA

November. I drove through the woods alone.

The chapel had not changed—yellow stone,

pine benches, carven altar, the wide, worn

boards of the floor, pale ceilings adorned

with stenciled flowers. I watched the sun

mark the walls with pattern as it shone

through the western window, low.

Once this was a shelter from the storm

around us.  Once, with you, I won

what my heart desired. But you are gone.

On the forest paths, in shadow, once we roamed,

no need for touch or speech. Some

nights we sang by the lake while moon-

light and starlight from heaven’s dome

brushed us with silver. My voice, a golden horn,

blessed the stones with song. Oh, none

but I can praise our music well, or write this poem!

Free and wise and fair were we, born

between the mountains and the sea, who turned

the wild wood into home.

 

The Qasida is an elaborate form. This is a feeble attempt.

April Prompt #6

APRIL PROMPT #5

 in which the initial subject disappears

 

MAUNDY THURSDAY, 1960

 

Holy twelve year olds, our confirmation

dresses washed and put away, Pam and I

sat together in the quiet dark church

for our assigned hour, watching with Christ

in Gethsemene.

Light through the east window barely colored

the fair linen with blue, the brass pulpit

and the brass eagle gleamed a little.

The red light burned by the tabernacle

that on Friday would be empty, the way

the tomb would empty on Easter morning.

I read the story again from my new gilt-edged bible:

 

Jesus was forsaken by his friends.

I was sure I would never forsake him.

The story was so sad.

He was so lonely.

 

Pam and I talked about everything those days:

Camp Fire Girls and fairy tales.

God, and how we wanted to be writers.

Pam had a big brother instead of a little one.

Her black hair was curly instead of straight.

Pam’s parents had unusual names.

Her father Hill delived fuel oil and played the carillon.

Her mother Bunty was Canadian.

Maybe that’s why Pam put ketchup on her French toast.

 

Sometimes I think about Pam

when Maundy Thursday comes around.

a tiny gazetteer

a tiny gazetteer

 

 

Ostrowy, Poland.

Broken bannister painted brown. 

 

Somewhere in Quebec:

Three-eighths mystery.

 

Albany, Vermont 

Two sons, their separate ways.

 

Charlotte, Vermont.

Nothing but the garden.

 

Cleveland, Ohio.

Live geese in a basket;

Bavarian china on layaway.

 

Stowe, Vermont.

Pasture ghosts.

The wrath of trees.

 

Portland, Maine.

The freedom of the uniform.

 

New Guinea.

Crash and shatter.

 

Newport, Vermont.

Not dancing at the Inaugural Ball.

 

St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

First light.

First fear.

 

St. Albans, Vermont.

One lonely field.

 

Essex Junction, Vermont.

How the stars came out.

 

Burlington, Vermont.

The bottom of Lake Champlain.

 

Essex Junction, Vermont.

Walking a different way.

 

Johnson, Vermont.

One butterfly with stunted wings

 

Castleton, Vermont

Promises.

The mantle falls.

 

Keelogues, Ireland.

Cemetery filled

with familiar names.

 

Warsaw, Poland.

Three tables.

 

New Haven, Vermont.

White oak.

Deep blue clay.

 

April 10, 2014

A THANK YOU NOTE

Dear Santa Claus,

I learned long ago
that you were really my parents.
Dad built the doll beds
and Mom dressed the dolls.
Often my wishes were not
granted because
they had no money.

But I want to thank you anyhow
for the feeling I always had
on Christmas morning
when I woke in the dark
knowing that you had come.
Thank you for the certainty
that it was the light step
of your reindeer on the roof
that I’d heard.  Thank you

for bringing me, sometimes,
better things than I’d wanted
even though I hadn’t been
very good:  the ballerina
with jointed legs,  the microscope
in the wooden box.  I still
have them.   And thank you
as well for the disappointments.
The cheap Betsy Wetsy knockoff.
The pale blue mohair sweater
comes to mind, too, though
by then, I’d stopped believing.
Life is complicated.  Thank
you for teaching me that.

O, Santa, I want you back again.
I want the Christmas tree lighted
when I get up on Christmas morning.
I want an orange in my stocking.
On the table by the rocking chair
I want to find that empty plate and cup.
I want to hear again the faint jangle of bells;
I want a dust of snow on the living room floor.

3.19.13

BRIDGE OVER OTTER CREEK

Clouds beneath the river
deeper than the river goes,
grasses by the river
flowing as the river flows
behind the city houses
blind and unaware
that the river dances
among the grasses there.

And what behind your open eyes
stays hidden from your sight?
And what behind your dreaming eyes
makes stories in the night?
For all that’s happened in your time
and all that will ever be
is flowing as the river flows
through long grass to the sea.

 

 

2007

TIMES

TIMES

1.
Anytime you need an extra hour
remember you can do it;
no one will care.

Tell your boss, the teachers at your school,
dentist–whomever–TIME CHANGE!
It depends, as Einstein said,
and hours are anyway makebelieve.

Even sunrise and sunset
are most precarious,
depending as they do on balance,
the fine rim of universal turn.

2.
For the days to be long,
for time to pass slow,
there must be markers of excitement, but

why would I want a comet to fall,
anything but this
graceful swing around the sun,
this easy similarity of days?

3.
How the Magical Thinking works:
You notice that all is ordinary,
and you’re thankful.

You’re asking for trouble;
now things will fall apart.
This is no mere superstition.

4.
It doesn’t matter what you think.
Troubles come whether you will or not.
It’s how evolution happens:
adaptation to stress,
the tiny advantage in your genes.

I have stopped handing mine along;
trouble is no longer my necesssity.
But the times don’t listen;
still the auspicious hours arrive,
still they pass.

5.
Listen, time passes.
Listen?  Touch it–the texture
like tight wound wool,
rows of pattern knit in color,
yarn around the fingers,
needle click.

Smell it pass–
the coffee brewed again,
yeast to bread to toast.

Can you taste it–
time–flavored like wrinkled apples,
new maple syrup,
the cherry lollipops you coveted
way back, when you were a kid.

6.
Hindus have a Day of  Paint.
Children learn early to paint themselves first,
with water color, before someone else does it
in color that will remain till the skin wears away.

7.
Though we might not suspect it,
we are never groundless, here.
We have all the dust of time
solid beneath our feet.