Saturday, August 07, 2010
A Few Wild Stanzas
Rain, and then
the cool pursed
lips of the wind
out of the ground—
red and yellow skulls
through sand; astonishing
in their suddenness,
their wetness, they appear
on fall mornings, some
balancing in the earth
on one hoof
packed with poison,
chunkily, and delicious—
those who know
walk out to gather, choosing
the benign from flocks
of glitterers, sorcerers,
shark-white death angels
in their torn veils
looking innocent as sugar
but full of paralysis:
is to stagger down
fast as mushrooms themselves
when they are done being perfect
slide back under the shining
fields of rain.
A DREAM OF TREES
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
Isn’t it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about
spiritual patience? Isn’t it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?
Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.
Every morning, so far, I’m alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky—as though
all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined
their strong, thick wings.
THE BLACK WALNUT TREE
My mother and I debate:
we could sell
the black walnut tree
to the lumberman,
and pay off the mortgage.
Likely some storm anyway
will churn down its dark boughs,
smashing the house. We talk
slowly, two women trying
in a difficult time to be wise.
Roots in the cellar drains,
I say, and she replies
that the leaves are getting heavier
every year, and the fruit
harder to gather away.
But something brighter than money
moves in our blood—an edge
sharp and quick as a trowel
that wants us to dig and sow.
So we talk, but we don’t do
anything. That night I dream
of my fathers out of Bohemia
filling the blue fields
of fresh and generous Ohio
with leaves and vines and orchards.
What my mother and I both know
is that we’d crawl with shame
in the emptiness we’d made
in our own and fathers’ backyard.
So the black walnut tree
swings through another year
of sun and leaping winds,
of leaves and bounding fruit,
and, month after month, the whip-
crack of the mortgage.
Today’s LittleNip (for Joyce Odam, singer-poet, on this, her 80-somethingth birthday)
What in her singing made us hear her
was less that flowing motion singing shares
with all the graceful ways of flying birds
and more a stillness, more a hover of flight.
As trees draw outward from the rooted ground
from trunk to branch to twig to stem and leaves,
her song was as she might have drawn upon
the air a tree, and it stood still.
Her last notes turned again to meet the first,
enclosing space whose entry hearing held
since her first notes began. Whatever her words
whatever that was she sang, speaking of change,
the flight of time, of our mortality,
the flowing turmoil space in which we move,
she said the moment shaped was more than these.
Her singing took the flight and held it still.