A SENSE OF STARLINGS
Turning the corner, a flurry of starlings
blackens the dead field,
pecking at what must be
something of concern to them.
No time to count them—or why.
It’s just that there are
so busily pecking, lifting, and circling.
If I might rewrite this :
Turning the corner—the starlings,
a startled word—musical—rising and
lingering on the word.
But history abhors starlings. I wonder why.
Driving around the corner, I find the
surprise of starlings—sudden and black—
and busy of movement.
I try to count them
but they've flown . . . .
Turning a corner,
I wish to always find starlings—
blent—and small—and beautiful—and
so equally important to themselves.
It is as brief as that:
the sudden ascent
of a thought-thing—
a mystic bird,
right off the page
of this night—
and into the morning.
I am free of
this thought—let it
go—it does not
When the dawn begins to pale the sky—whatever its hour,
winter and summer—daylight or daylight savings time, and
I hear the old rooster crowing, and crowing, and crowing from
some loneliness, and the winter thermostat clicks on to heat
the rooms as if the day wants to begin itself, and I must choose
whether to turn back to my book or watch the sky with a duty-
look, feeling that I should get up, but grow suddenly sleepy and
want to turn out the light and drift back down, and another
rooster answers the first one, and the heater clicks off, and the
hens begin to cluck, and other sounds begin, and I must decide—for the sky’s full light is catching up.
(The Canada Notebooks, 1984)
Today the sky is heavy with wet gray; the
dim trees shiver and all the roofs etch softly
on the air; the sky moves under its stillness;
the dense air rounds and takes on subtle
shapes of color. There should be a sound to go
with all this slow, dark moving—and then—
a weight of blue that settles in a single bird
cuts through with sharply-climbing wing—
with its loud slash of movement that lets the
suddenness of sunshine in the opened places.
DREAM OF RUNNING
There is the boat lapping at the shore
softly bumping and thumping against the sand,
the small wooden boat we need to escape in.
We are running toward it as fast as we can
but the dream is heavy
and tangled with jungle vines and
there is breathing behind us, close as our ear.
And we are afraid we have lost the way,
but at once we see the beach, soft in the moonlight
suddenly before us, lying cool and deep,
with silvery light upon it, waiting for our footprint
and we know we can make it.
And there is the small boat rocking like a cradle.
We want to be in it pushing out over the water
snuggling against its round sides in the moonlight
looking up at the stars
feeling the cool night on our flushed faces
easing down into gentle breathing while we ride.
And now we are running across the sand
but so terribly slowly
a force is pushing against our chests
our arms make swimming motions through air
pulling distance toward us, pulling our bodies forward
and the small boat is patiently rocking.
(first pub. in Voices International, 1992)
THE OLD FAMILIARS
Haunting the dying light, an old shape
hunkers—turns away—bends its face
to its hands. Another stares. A third one
reels off into an old oblivion. Thus
does the swarming night advance itself.
When you go there prepare to be met
with whisperers; when you go there
prepare to be absorbed by the very
darknesses you fear, where eyes open
and follow, where something grabs
at your feet or brushes at your hair
or stops suddenly in front of you.
How will you know which one to love?
They all have a claim on you. They all
touch your face with tear-stained fingers.
SOLVING THE CIRCLES
You step through the circles where the dark begins,
turn back toward the sealed expression on some face,
pause to absorb the spinning light, and linger just
long enough to make a pose—electric and obscure,
as if not sure that you exist. You lift an edge
and bend to fit the opening that wavers and expands,
as though a breath—an inhalation—or a gasp—
or just another puzzle to resist, or solve. You know
the way the chances come and go around you like a list.
The circles spiral and diminish. The dark exaggerates,
becomes a box. The chiming circles hum and spin,
and—of a sudden—take you in.
(first pub. in Hidden Oak, 2006)
This is a poem of explanations. Easy to know.
Nothing to forgive. Nothing profound for you
to ponder. Nothing obscure so you have to think.
This is a poem, this is a poem, unlovely . . .
it travels time to its own distance, which is here.
Now let us consider the page—upon which
these words—upon which these meanings,
do not mean, and do not say. I have lied to you,
true—but you deserve the lie—you who are so
deserving. Whenever you greet me in sorrow,
sorrow is what you get in return. I am fair.
I mirror you, you with your vain look.
I am here without you.
I am writing a poem for you, which you will
correct and correct. I am your flaw.
Now I am at a riverbank. It is winter.
Swans drift up, hungry perhaps, or curious.
A gray wind ripples the day and
the swans move away, discouraged.
I regret myself, my small arriving
to so lovely a place. I know I must walk back,
but first I must walk out to the end
of that small pier and stand on the texture
of that solid water. I have juxtaposed
backwards—you do not yet exist for me,
still I talk to you about this moment,
which is captured like an impression of
a wet leaf in a book. You insist
on bringing me back—I leave it all suddenly:
the dear white swans with their glossy eyes,
forgetting me and the page that is struggling.
that you insist on being part of.
I cannot please you. I will please myself.
Once more I hear them—
tonight the wind-chimes tremble
in a sudden breeze
that brings them back to sorrow—
they clang together, broken.
(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)
A big thank-you to Joyce Odam for her musings about our Seed of the Week: Suddenly. Joyce is just getting over three weeks of illness; fortunately, she is now recovering. For more about the lovely Tanka form, go to www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/tanka.html/.
Our new Seed of the Week is Did Curiosity Kill the Cat? Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. 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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