My house, howling.
Sunlight in loose thin patterns.
The intense stillness of the curtains.
The cat in a deep sleep.
The air closing like fur around my thick breathing.
The motion and non-motion.
A future closing upon a warning.
Or maybe just a winter.
Simple as that.
The cat curled once around herself.
My intense listening.
Time pulled in all directions.
The sunlight giving up.
The wind like a lost voice.
My house straining not to answer.
The way all things resolve to some beginning.
The way a page holds words.
The way a door seems to want to let someone in.
Someone not there.
The way I brace for welcome.
The cat gone out of herself.
Her fur bristling.
THE BLUE COFFEE POT
(adapted from The Coffee Pot, 1915 by Miro)
Old blue coffee pot, in this idle kitchen morning,
full of blue light from the filtered sky of curtains—
how you gleam, curving the slow light around you
in a soft blue dance of intricate small patterns
as the curtains move in the morning breeze
as the curtains move . . .
as the curtains move . . .
giving my eyes
such satisfaction in watching the quiet way you steal
the color, and the motion, and the rare blue light, and
turn yourself into this quiet work of morning devotion.
You have been standing
a long, long time
with the stolen rose
in your hand,
waiting to complete
your act of giving.
And now that the bush
has stopped its trembling
and the garden’s beast
is healing the wound
in his tragic mind,
I come to you
in my furtive plunder
(first put. in Handy Homilies, 1969)
THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL COWS
After Young Herdsmen with Cows by Aelbert Cuyp,
The strange and beautiful cows who are so
tranquil, with their slow eyes, gazing at everything,
and nothing, lying so gracefully among each other
on the hillsides, and in the fields—watching the
busy traffic pass, or just each other—or just stand
staring—into the wide persistence of the sky.
But I am so taken by the absolute serenity of the
cows—how the sun shines on their hides, giving
them such a sheen—the absolute quiet that I feel of
their surroundings—that I want to stop my car and
walk out among them. I want to feel what they feel:
their complete, indifferent laziness, no haste or dread,
nothing to get caught up in, just watching the day’s
clouds mimic their own shadows over the ground—
that I, too, want to gaze into the uncluttered distance
and give no troubled thought to anything.
you do not want
inferior to pain
and useless as
that will die and
useless as the
giving of flowers
as symbols of ineptness
or maybe an eloquence
or maybe a fragment
of silence left over
from worn-out love
some love ungiven
or unreceived if given
you do not want
any of this
you turn away
your broken gardenia
in my hand
is that you
cluttering through the house
like a broken tool?
I hear you muttering
in whatever room
I am not in. I hear you
scrape a chair
and scruff a shoe.
You open endless cupboards.
And you tap
your fingers on the air.
If I should call out where I am
your silent eyes
would glare at me
through all these walls,
and I would feel that look
against my own dark stare.
Stay in your other rooms.
We shall wander the house
searching for separate things.
Let us never find each other
in the uselessness of love.
Love is the toy
you could not mend;
the rule I would not learn.
is a word we share
Whatever you hunt for, let it not
Lake Ontario, Whitby, Canada
Wide—and gray—and flat, like the gentled sea at
ebb tide—lapping against the narrow stretch of land
before the road turned back toward the houses.
We stood in the winter light and tossed stones and tried
to find words for each other. I don’t remember any gulls.
I expected gulls from this memory. Were there none?
We walked up and down the small stretch of land that
called itself a beach. I tried to find something of beauty
to exclaim about—the wide, gray, lisping water—
the distance of it, with its own horizon—bits of light
on everything, giving it all a subtle contrast: the rocks,
the weeds—the very air—the brief exclamations
we would make for conversation. What was there
to talk about: you had promised to show me the lake,
and I was properly mesmerized by the here of it.
They are the ones who will never arrive.
The fragrant water of their travel has
lulled them to such a half sleep they think
they are the dreams of their own creating.
They wait under the white patience of the sky
in the boat of silence. The winged fish
that pulled them have also slipped into
this lull of timelessness…
There are no tides or under-warnings. The
weather is perfect for their thoughts.
They are in a simple drift, so easy to
surrender to. They feel no omen in the
changing blue that is fading ever so subtly
on the horizon or note the single shudder
of the bird that has been resting on the
motionless rail like a carving.
(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 1988)
He brought the image to her as a gift. “It is for you,” he
said. “It will be anything you want it to be.”
“It is tearing like the leaves,” she sighed, “and it is
smothering like the wind that is too full of leaves.”
“What are you thinking?” he asked her.
And she answered, “I am thinking of your hands that
bring such gifts as this.”
: comes to her arms,
comes with his heart all weeping
having broken himself upon his life
and lost the pieces,
how he cries to her,
telling his long and pain-filled story
giving it sharp and deadly
making it deep, carving it in,
how can she listen?
maybe never open
let gather dust
box of wonder
as small as
a thimble maybe
just the boxes
THE ART OF ONE MORE DIMENSION
Such is the art of one more dimension
space of difference
out of fear.
How best contain a place for it?
Open new symbol?
Believe in skill of comprehension.
We are private,
loaned to others out of necessity.
Why do we keep giving sorrow
as a gift—as though what is envious
has such need?
THE LIGHT AS GIFT
“flowers were dressed in nothing but light.”
as if the light
gave itself away to
(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)
Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s poems and original artwork on our Seed of the Week, Unwanted Gifts. Her “The Light As Gift” is an Adelaide Crapsey Cinquain (Syllabic: 2, 4, 6, 8, 2).
Our new Seed of the Week is Expedition. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to firstname.lastname@example.org. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
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then click on the X in the top right corner to come back