STUMBLING INTO GRACE
“Such a clumsy child,” they said,
especially after that big growth spurt,
when the mapping of my feet and hands
became such a mystery to me.
It was years before I was
at home in my body again,
and only rarely, even then,
did I truly feel graceful.
But, looking back, my life seems to be
one big graceful stumble—
grace-full with a hyphen, that is,
and two l’s.
How else can I explain
just happening to be there
for the two girls twirling on the grass,
or the moon falling across the night?
If I spend the rest of my days
it will never be enough for this,
this stumbling into grace.
MY FATHER SAID
(a modified palindrome, commissioned for a piece by composer Daniel Schmidt)
wintry horizontal light
sky and lake blue-white and chill
wild ducks at winter’s edge
gathering spontaneously, rising
suddenly aloft, knowing together, circling, calling
wings on air
my father said to us, Come,
there is something I must show you
air on wings
calling, circling together, knowing, aloft, suddenly
rising, spontaneously gathering
chill and white-blue lake and sky
light horizontal, wintry
THE DALA HORSE
"Det lyser en aura kring sliten dalahäst som vandrat mellan många barnaskaror, nu unnar vi honom lugn och ro stående på en hylla, blickande ner och minns.
(There is an aura that shines around a worn Dala horse that has wandered among many children’s shoes; now we treat [her] to peace and quiet, standing on a shelf, looking down and remembering.)"
She is not one of those small, shiny new ones.
She stands almost eight inches tall.
Her falu red has faded to orange,
powdery to the touch
and worn by many hands,
revealing smooth whorls of pine
under her belly and around her withers.
Her kurbits painting is still bold,
green, black and white
on a yellow ground:
a flower on her saddle;
ribbons braided into her mane;
and delicate black wishbones
tracing breast and cinch straps.
her ears have lost their tips.
And somewhere along the way,
when she was already well-traveled
and her wood had begun to shrink,
she must have fallen and split
entirely in two, mane to belly.
But long ago she was re-glued,
so she has the look of an ancient vase.
If you put your nose to the deepest crack,
which runs down her right flank,
you can still breathe in
the faint, dark, forest incense
of her heart.
Does she remember
the forest she came from,
the carver who shaped her,
the painter who gave her life?
Does she dream
of the children who loved her,
the grandmothers who entrusted her
to grown daughters and sons?
Does she wish she could tell us
who wrapped her in a shawl
and tucked her in a trunk
for her journey to far-away Amerika?
She was always
a wise and graceful horse,
with her delicate head,
her sturdy body,
and her dainty feet.
Her calm yet spirited eyes
still regard us with kindness.
She has earned
her peace and quiet on the shelf,
her time of looking down
After trying for hours
to climb out of the tub,
slipping again and again
down the cruel curve,
she waits, exhausted and still.
Gently I nudge her tapered feet
with a piece of white tissue,
offering a lifeline. But she panics
and summons the last of her energy
to retreat to a corner.
I leave the paper draped over the rim.
Returning a few minutes later, I don’t see her.
But when I lift the tissue,
there she is,
clinging to the underside.
Slowly I lift the paper,
lay it on the floor,
and give her time to run away.
When I come back again,
she has gone.
She is somewhere in my house,
as it should be.
She and I
will work it out.
THE GIFT THAT WAITS
She sits on the BART train
right next to the doors
on the seats intended for
the elderly or infirm.
She is neither.
But she is clearly done in.
She folds in on herself,
one hand over her eyes,
probably hoping to be spared
another exhausting encounter,
another exchange that will take
more than she has left to give.
But sitting right next to her is
someone dressed as a Christmas tree.
And this is not just any
Christmas tree costume
but a spectacular, head-to-toe
feathery green branches
curving up gracefully
just at their tips,
small, softly colored lights.
Putting up those walls
steals everything from us,
sucks the last drop of spirit,
seals the last crack
in our broken souls
where light might enter in.
I hope that in a moment
she will lift her head,
drop her hand,
open her eyes,
and let in the gift
THE TESSERAE OF HAPPINESS
Sun through my window,
a bowl of yellow asters
on a red tablecloth;
green apples ripening,
the sound of falling water,
three goldfish in the pond;
later, a daughter coming home,
the dog leaping to greet her,
now, a mug of cocoa,
an open laptop,
and a poem growing on the page;
these are the tesserae
of my happiness.
Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
Flutist-turned-poet Deborah Schmidt has self-published three chapbooks. In addition, her work has appeared in The Gathering and Blue Unicorn and has earned awards at the Dancing Poetry Festival, the Poets' Dinner, and the Coolbrith Circle Annual Contest. She also takes pleasure in writing memoir and family history. Welcome to Medusa’s Kitchen, Deborah, and don’t be a stranger!
We are also grateful to Christopher Moon for his photos today, featuring windows for us to open… What secrets lie beyond?
Tonight at 5pm, Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around meets in Placerville at the El Dorado County Library on Fair Lane. Then at 8pm, Thee Word Thing features Bill Gainer plus open mic (sign-ups at 7:30pm) at Shine, 1400 E St., Sacramento. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
—Medusa, celebrating another fine poet sitting down at the big round table in Medusa’s Kitchen!
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