Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Into the Mouths of Cagebirds


passing the
country by train . . .

yellow blur of
time between towns . . .

fields growing up around
the legs of stationary cows . . .

farm houses low behind
fluttering clotheslines . . .

the thin and narrowing sounds
of the train whistle . . .

small figures shading their eyes
and staring . . .

the imaginary sounds of shrill dogs
barking . . .

the ineffectual fences tilting off
into windy distances . . .

and the near fences holding their birds
from entering or leaving . . .

the telephone poles, too dizzy for counting
the hypnotic lulling, as if this were a forever . . .

transparent window-faces pulling the scenery by . . .
passing the country by train . . .   a long time ago . . . .



now all the cows
give frozen milk from
golden icicles

they turn their heads
and look this way
with slow brown eyes that
have stars in them

the barn is made of
winter and

they live there
breathing their continual
soft blue breath

(first pub. in Epos, 1973)

Walking through the barns
among the huge horses,
the immense cows,
in the farm exhibit
the last day of the fair . . .
Watching the Chinese acrobat
do handstands
on top of six chairs
placed on four green bottles . . .
Watching the sketch-artist
do her last
quick portrait of the day,
too late
to take a number.
Eating a two-dollar hot-dog
while watching the
shivering twilight divers
dive into their
little vat of water . . .
(first pub. in
Tule Review, Premier Issue, 1993)

(After Canzonetta by Isabel Gardner)

As if Chagall painted us—wing by wing
through giddy soar—rhapsodic at first,
in blissful drift, as if one could sing
forever love’s first hymn—that praise
that wings and wings in manic daze
above the common world in burst
     of fantasy—impatient to amaze.

Oh, that is how we were. We knew
the floating animals and barns
were sweet illusions—all that blue
and that safe current, how we stayed
in blissful soaring, unafraid,
aloft like clouds where nothing warns—
     such buoyancy of trust—the pact we made.

We fell, of course—the wounded ground
recoiling from our fall, the light
that tore away with the same sound
that Loons emit on sad lakes
of all the grief that grieving takes—
commiserate to its own plight
     when such illusion fails, and thus forsakes.      



in the gray places of old barns
with the timeless statue-horses
grazing forever the way they are
their heads bent down to
shadowed grasses
the way my camera found them
and never let them change

this is the way we remember
joy and sadness
those separate pangs
of having been somewhere once
and never again
no matter how true the phantasy
we know what we know and
what we see with yesterday’s eyes

a moment of composition
and everything remains indelible:
those horses never move
those barns never lose another board
the same light falls through
and the moment of the wind is caught
bending the anxious trees and the
grass and the horses’ manes
those clouds are held forever
against a flat sky

I am going back to see it all again
and I expect it to be the same:
those horses at last will
lift their heads and look at me
when I stand in the same place
and finally let them startle
and run away in the field…
I will let everything continue



How strange to come from places so far
on these horses of sleep
who bend their necks down
now that they are home.
And we must live here
on their farms
and be their owners.

What of our distances, we wonder,
and there are none.
We are the newly-arrived,
though our names are on the
gates that need painting
and sag from disrepair.

In the houses that
we do not want to enter
are endless things to do.
Weeds grow from the rugs
and there is dust on all the dishes.

But we are loyal to duty.
Like joyful trust
we fly into the mouths of cagebirds
who are hungry from singing
and we feed them our words
which is all we are.

(first pub. in Kudzu, 1979)


Today's LittleNip:


one tumbled down
leaned to the earth
and died
its shredded roof
and the failure of
its walls
hanging on
to clinging air
that sighed and entered
sighed and left
and nothing felt
the fragile moment
or the yield of history
that slipped away
the light
(first pub. in Poet News, 1992)


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's fine poems and pix! Joyce is talking about our previous Seed of the Week, the photo of the abandoned barns. Our new SOW is more ambiguous: Passages—either literal (secret ones, or caves, or doorways) or figurative (rites of passage, seasonal changes, and so on). And please note that we have a new feature on our green board: SOW-pix, a weekly photo to tickle your ekphrastic noodling!