My grandmother sings the blues to my mother in
heaven. Lullabies. Hymns. Toneless and beautiful.
How did they find each other?
This is how long it is between stories never told.
Who makes the rules for memory? Soft, folding
things that make up patterns.
Once there was a riddle. Its name was love. It
carried a long distance, like faith and loneliness.
A riddle solved is a disappointment.
Sometimes I carry a tune for years, remember it
differently—think I composed it. My grandmother
holds my infant mother and asks about me.
She is almost complete now and I feel a ravel begin,
a slow sensation. I tie another knot and move more
My mother used to teach me embroidery: “This is a
French Knot,” she would tell me, “for the centers of
flowers, and this is a Satin Stitch for their leaves.”
And we would sit in my childhood for hours, making
arm rests, and head-rests, pillow cases
and pretty dresser scarves.
THE CHARCOAL SKETCH
After Child on Horse by William M. Duff
like a primitive mural
on a gray wall:
a thin-legged, feisty horse,
rounding its back—
Watch Me arms
TREMOLO FOR A VIOLIN
This exalting music—its power—
to be moved beyond listening,
to merge into and become
what it is—find my soul—
weep for the healing
I trust to find
in this sad
The Dying Note
Listening still to music’s echo
fill the long-empty theatre
where the old violinist—
in his last performance,
holds the bow just a
Raucous music, holding its noise still,
like a metronome at a loss,
before the measuring of
the echo—the silence
that rings in the room
The Still Air
All the driven winds have done their worst,
wind chimes have quit their clamoring,
the air no longer trembles,
tiny breezes steal in,
two unbroken chimes
touch each other—
In Loving Memory
Do you remember how the old bell
of the tiny church would echo
to all the listening dead
and those who did not stay,
how the church tower
can still echo
its heart out
THE SIGN-OFF HYMN ON TV
late at night
in each other’s arms
for a reason
why I wept, and I wept the harder…
Fragmentary. This old light out of older light. Repetitions.
Believe in it. Let it lead you into its farther self. You can
go as deep as you dare. Its name is night. It has many stars.
Count them. Take forever. A child sits watching you, blow-
ing soap bubbles into planets. Wings without angels fly
everywhere. Oh, this is such a night. Go with joy, that old
foe of sorrow. Tell the child not to cry. The child does not
listen. The child rubs an old tear into its eye, watching you
for pity. You are both lost and at home in this night-city
which has opened up its wing for you. Do not try to under-
stand this—you are not here. The child has dreamed you.
Hold the child until you die.
(first pub. in Blue Violin, 1999)
The music that haunts the most
is always blue, the kind of blue
that merges into black and gray,
that comes from every ragged hurt
there is to share and what the
inarticulate will ever try to say;
some city-street-musician plays it
every day—wailing inward like a
winter soul, long-beaten down and
long-removed from hymn or lullaby,
though, here, the lost still try to
pray—too poor for more than what
they have become, scavenging at
emptiness with hungry hands, being
everything the street blues say.
It is only a thought away—and reachable—this
horizon. There is enough strength and enough
breath. There is the path, already traveled. Oh,
how many, and how many more. I dig into
memory. Have I passed here before—is there
a valley beyond—another mountain?
what singing sound
what silence to fill
for then is now
time for the celebration
someone has told the bells
and they ring
who will come
from where do they come
—all this echoing—
silence now . . . .
MY SHOES FILL WITH FLOWERS
My feet are bare—
it is another winter.
but where am I—
I am on a far hill
that moo at me—
but I love them —
the soft grass of distance
the strange maneuver
of my winter mind.
Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her bells and music on this Christmas Day, 2018! Joyce says the tremolo form is “a gradation form of nine lines in descending order of 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 syllables with subject matter that evokes a tension of human emotion as can be felt in response to music (such as a perfectly-executed ‘tremolo’ of a violin).
Our new Seed of the Week is for New Year’s: Starting Fresh. 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.
. . . and let there be peace.
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