Monday, April 25, 2011

Mercy Is A Dry Day

Photo by Katy Brown

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

On the higher slopes, sheep
move sun-wise, white and charcoal
clouds in a sky of grass.

A man with hay-rake
moves from sun to cloud-shadow,
pauses to check the sky

as he turns windrows
of mown grasses, clover, vetch,
and filaree—

flowers and seed-heads
full for a summer’s hay. In April,
Mercy is a dry day.


—Taylor Graham

On this date, Shakespeare was born
and died, they say, Wordsworth expired,
and Bobby Burns sold his copyright.

But Time falls away as I travel
through a book, where Herdwicks
graze the Cumbrian hills,

and old Scotch curl-horns grace
the Highlands, white
with their faces spattered black,

a checkerboard of distance
burred as the ploughman-poet’s
verse. And what is Time

but this season of grass
or snow, of sheep at pasture,
and the grace of words?


—Katy Brown, Davis

The sheep looks over a rock wall
from a thicket of blackthorn and bracken,
night pooling in the hollows.

This creature appears alone,
having grazed, a step at a time,
away from its flock.

Now with the sun sliding down the sky,
the sheep is alert to sounds of danger;
a scent of fox lingers in the air.

Today, only a screen of bracken
separates the one from the many.
This sheep will slip through

a break in the shadowed hedge,
stepping into evening, and a cloud
of others moving across the grass.


—Katy Brown

Alchemists devised 46 recipes
for stained glass—
replicating the miracle of grass
and stars and tears in molten sand.

Copper and iron, lead and sulfur,
tin, silver, and gold—
keys to sevenfold perfection:
pigments for light to paint creation.

In dark and secret workrooms,
in cellars and attics, they boiled acid
and combined metals, trying
to forge the key to life.

All around them, in fields
and meadows, simple farmers,
milkmaids, and shepherds knew more
of the magic of a moth-wing;

knew more of the turning
of the seasons and the mystery
of a new-born lamb scampering
in vetch than they could ever divine.


Here's what's going on today: Taylor Graham and Katy Brown have been having a conversation in poetry, which is continued today, including the sheep photo Katy took in England [see last week's posts]. D.R. Wagner has now jumped in, saying: Taylor got to me. Here is what happened. Then Joyce Odam jumped in, too, saying: I have—deeper and deeper—this great sensitivity for animal life, as connected to planet life, as connected to human life. My 'animal' heart breaks so many times, over the plight and indignity shown the animals, domestic and otherwise...

If you'd like to join this conversation with your own work, feel free! As you can see, the topic is wide and rich. Send 'em to or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No, it's not the Seed of the Week—just something spontaneous that's sprung up here, poets talking to poets. Enjoy.

D.R. also writes: Robin Gale Odam's sky photo Saturday prompted me to send these: "The Streetlights Just Coming On" and "Wind Tearing Clouds". Hope you like them. Hope Robin does as well.

The Streetlights Just Coming On
—Photo by D.R. Wagner


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

We walk among the glimmer
Of the cocoons of dreamers,
The pulsations of fractured light
Right at their calm, the high
Notes of the harmonies.

Now come the distances
Where the morning is miles away
But it too glows and draws us.
Even if it be fire,
Unrelenting as light to moths,
We will travel to get here.
I will exclaim. We are able
To gather like this once again

And I will sing the praises
And I will bow before you,
And you will hold me and touch
Me with your hands and I
Will weep so deeply that freedom
Will seem like like a thought of
Bells upon a mountain top.

Will soon discover
That we indeed are those dreamers,
That there is no understanding.

We spin our way toward waking
Once again and we use our
Memories to do so, the flashing
Northern Lights are our very
Breath, even as we touch one
Another. If this has held
Your attention thank your own
Precious soul and the dancing
It does across this sorry page.


—D.R. Wagner

Far below the melody a street
Lined with clarinets and the metallic
Click of strings, made to speak
Directly with you without guile or
Presence of mind. They will instead
Be birds flying high above the flood.

We will not recognize this until you sing
To us. Up and down the streets
Waiting for the sounds that mean
We will no longer be bewildered.

The straits will open.
I will remember nothing until
Tomorrow. We will disappear.

You will know these words
No longer. The crown of understanding
Will be lost to the dark.

I will still reach to you,
I will still make love to you.
It will be time to go once
Again. The street lights
Seem to be making sense,
Giving us instructions,
Winds upon the deepest of oceans,
Claiming they know where
There is land.


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

We hear of frogs that are missing,
that are deformed,
that are thinking new thoughts,

there in their bog of language and evolution
strange to themselves—
or not even strange,

but different—
green-smelling and iridescent,
like spells cast by witches in fairy tales.

But, here, they are real—enormous-throated
with warning, with trepidation,
the world around them bristling with doom.

They freeze, then leap
into known environments—the shallow green of murk,
the thickening shadow of extinction.


—Joyce Odam

swimming into the mouth
           of locked water
                     a young whale

                            finding the
                                shallow beach
                            at the end

                     and rocking itself
           to death
against our helplessness

(first published in Parting Gifts, 1997)


Today's LittleNip: 

Sometimes I experience God like this Beautiful Nothing, and it seems then as though the whole point of life is just to rest in it. To contemplate it and love it and eventually disappear into it. And then other times it's just the opposite. God feels like a presence that engorges everything. It seems the divine is running rampant...that the whole of Creation is some dance God is doing, and we're meant to step into it, that's all...

—Sue Monk Kidd, The Mermaid Chair 



Wind Tearing Clouds
—Photo by D.R. Wagner