Friday, October 03, 2014

All We Can Do

—Photos by Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch
from his "St. Joachim and the Dragonfly" series

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

curious, cold, hungry,
gathered courage,
ventured toward cave people
and camp fire.

Early man,
seeing orange eyes peering
into their circle, threw scraps—
bones, raw meat, fat;
waited, reckless in wonder.

On Neanderthal nights,
sparked by light, food, warmth,
wolves gravitated
toward mankind—
campfire-by-campfire evolving

slowly into man's best friend.


—Claire J. Baker

We arrive at a meadow
made musical by finches
and wild canaries.

In blades of grass we see
seven shades of green
growing even greener.

Surely we have admired
this one stem before
yet never before

and could find it
again and again
among waves of grass.

(from author's collection,Trails of Naming, Book Two)

—Nancy Haskett, Modesto

To the bird,
the reflection offered
infinite extension of blue sky
and Oregon high desert,
more space to fly
between pine trees,
over bitter brush, junipers,
near the imposing home
with fieldstone walls,
built on rough edges
of the manicured golf course,
a redwood deck surrounded
by immense picture windows
that are cruel distortions,
deadly sirens that lure wings
to glass,
break necks in mid-flight,
cause a loud tremor which sends
shock waves into calm air,
leaving a smudge
that’s hard to wipe away


to the yardstick
that always hangs in the closet
under the stairs,
or the small, heavy bolt
that was left right there
on the Delft blue bedroom carpet
under the unfinished inversion table,
and the narrow hand shovel
that’s always on the potting bench
or in a flowerbed,
or, finally, the hammer
which has its own designated spot
above the garage workbench—
all mysteriously disappeared
within the past week,
no signs, no clues,
and no sightings of the miniature,
household gnomes
who undoubtedly need all these items
for some major project—
a much more pleasant notion
than that of a burglar unlatching the back gate at night,
sneaking into our yard, garage, house,
or—worse yet—
that we have simply misplaced
or accidentally thrown away
all of these items
and have no recollection
—Nancy Haskett

—Nancy Haskett

The everyday, easy ones
don’t get much thought—
paper or plastic, Ranch or Italian,
this shirt or that one—
hundreds of choices
we answer almost automatically,
rarely much at stake.

The harder ones—
the kind we wrestle with a little bit,
appear less frequently,
consume more of our time,
back and forth,
pros and cons—
grad school or marriage,
rent or buy, Honda or Mazda,
remodel or relocate—
win-win either way.

The rare gut-wrenching ones
that keep us awake at night,
the life or death choices—
coma or pull the plug,
chemo or radiation

or neither—

never have a “right” answer,
accompanied, always by “What if”,
so we weigh all our options,
take a deep breath,
close our eyes,
accept the future with no regrets.
It’s all we can do.

—Nancy Haskett

I. It was Jay and Anna who taught us to play Pinochle,
nights spent sitting around the card table,
newlyweds in our first apartment,
we often played until well after midnight,
eating malt balls,
drinking RC Cola,
slowly catching on to the strategies of the game.
It’s where I learned, literally
what it meant to follow suit,
to stay confident and fight for the bid
when I knew I had strength,
to trust that my partner would, somehow,
be able to support me.
But it’s also where I learned what it meant
to renege—
to break a promise, in a way,
to admit my mistake in front of everyone,
press on
through this game changer.

II. One night years later we played Pinochle
in Pat’s Springfield home,
sitting at the wooden kitchen table,
carefully sorting our cards into suits
after she dealt the round,
and when it came time to bid,
we all passed, one after another,
nobody having enough points
to even begin the game.
“Bitter bunch!” Pat announced,
so we threw our cards into the center
where she collected them, shuffled,
started over.

III. I wonder if she thought of that
when she received this recent diagnosis
of lymphoma,
when nobody gives you a chance for a
when you simply have to sit up straight,
make the best of a bad situation,
play the bitter hand you are given.

—Nancy Haskett

In that moment just before boarding,
I raise my hand to touch you with Namaste,
a ritual greeting of skin on metal,
a connection of human and machine that affirms my trust,
acknowledges your power,
your heart beats beneath my feet,
your voice whines with excitement
as we are pushed back from the gate,
your arms dip somewhat clumsily,
awkward, like a large goose,
for this is not your element,
not your comfort zone,
you are destined for greater things,
as you wait at the end of the runway,
I sense your restless spirit,
I feel you trying to lurch ahead,
a thoroughbred held back, reined in,
until you are free,
and there’s a pause as you catch your breath,
begin to jog, then run,
and a big smile forms below your nose
as you start to roar,
raise your head and lift your feet—
for this is what you were made to do,
this is what you do best,
this is your domain, yours alone,
where you carry me with extraordinary confidence,

and I am no longer afraid.

—Nancy Haskett

It’s the film I sneaked in to see
over and over on Saturday afternoons in 1964,
sat with friends in plush theater seats for eighty-eight
tantalizing minutes, then fidgeted through the second feature—
almost always Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey
walked back to the lobby when it ended,
mingled cleverly with the incoming horde of teenage girls,
turned around, found a new seat and watched everything again
and again,
until we knew the lines by heart,
whispered them to ourselves as the scenes played,
dreamed of meeting each Beatle in person,
practiced a British accent,
dressed like the girls on the screen,
wrote stories filled with kisses and naive sexual references
in our beginning time.

Seeing them now from this different perspective,
I am astonished at their youth,
their optimism and sheer joy of performing
simple harmonies and straightforward lyrics,
before the world recognized their true genius,
long before Sgt. Pepper and Let It Be,
before the weariness of travel, drugs and fights over money,
before Yoko, cancer, and Mark David Chapman,
they are that new 45 record that we couldn’t stop playing,
the new piece of sheet music carried home in the vellum envelope,
they are fresh, genuine,
captured forever in black and white,
in their beginning time.

Today's LittleNip:

—Nancy Haskett

If it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,
it’s probably also a sin
to kill a living tree
like we did yesterday,
when we cut down the Chinese pistache,
chopped the trunk with an axe
until it splintered,
fell into the street,
bleeding red berries everywhere.

I will miss the way its autumn leaves
turned the north-facing rooms pink/orange
in afternoon sun,
but I won’t miss the berries,
the ones that stain the sidewalk
deep purple,
roll in the gutter,
stick to the soles of our shoes,
provide the main motivation
for doing this evil deed.

Next November,
the berries will be forgotten
when the new gingko tree is planted,
and our lawn is carpeted
in leaves of gold.

—Medusa, reminding you to keep watching the "Webilicious" feature in the green box at the right of this column! Our current link celebrates Britain's Poetry Day (which was yesterday) with many fine readings.