Mixed Messages

The haloed little figure on one shoulder and the little horned figure on the other shoulder, each whispering, is an old trope. Today I feel as if I have various small voice boxes all over me, with all sorts of things to say. Some have birds’ wings, some breathe cigarette smoke, and some are stone. Mixed messages.

How can any decent person think about a blog today, this week, as if it’s important. Creativity, seriously?/How can any decent person not stand up to every type of violence, the empty noise, the knowledge their attention is a product for sale? THIS week, how can anyone not do some human, Creative thing in the face of all this scratching at our skin?

I should have rolled out, not just been awake, before dawn, and taken a walk before I got to my writing. I should heed my priorities because no one else will./I should be gentle and patient with this person who had chaotic, rough dreams and bad sleep, enjoy the quiet time, and not treat my “schedule” like the chariot that needs to pull the sun./I shouldn’t use the word “should” on myself at all, especially when it pushes “need to” out of the way. Why are the “shoulds” so much easier to articulate than the “need tos”? See above: violence, noise, attention as product.

I want to blog./I want to read./I want to look at the yellow leaves out the window sifting the sun, and I want to do all of them all day.

I want to understand the difference between a sense of purpose and a sense of responsibility./There’s no difference./There’s EVERY difference./Isn’t there?

Every poem can be analyzed, played with, followed forever. It’s never done: there will be no sign./Put your poem on your blog and get some more coffee and do the laundry.

 Dreams
  
 Another dream: late to teach, 
 streets stretch, destination
 retreating. My half-run feeds on
 panic never questioned.
 Spaghetti-like stations,
 unfair, shape-shifting
 routes of trains,
 unchallenged because
 the stamina demanded
 I deliver without
 a thought. Finally the door,
 students hanging around
 like a shop full of clocks,
 space used up in clatter,
 time disassembled.
 In some versions, also
 farm animals. Or snow. 
  
 Downstream of chaos, waking
 cramped. Some books rest near
 the weary lamp. Somewhere I read
 that eras ago, the unexhausted
 slept night’s first hours,
 then rose a little while, 
 to rustle embers, sit,
 turn pages, listen to
 the hidden river of the trees.
 Or to love, bodies safe
 from daylight’s flying shards,
 grind-spin of metal on stone.
 Or just to look at whatever
 indoor shapes cast shadows. 
  
 Who first found out that even sleep
 needs pausing, found out it would
 submit? Is there a foxed treatise,
 spell of the old words
 however desired? Or did they
 simply pull chairs closer around
 a remark at table on the moon
 that eased clearly through oak leaves,
 like a shell flown by tides, after
 invisible rain? Didn’t they
 discover what each had
 witnessed alone? Didn’t they
 nod and smile over the hill of rinds,
 the crags of bread, the sea of salty meat?
 Didn’t that moment of empty
 mouths, that pause, become so quiet that,
 before another wave of conversation,
 the candles stood amazed
 to burn that true air, that silence? 


The photo, by me, is of two pieces in the Kindness Rocks Project, seen on The Mall, Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA, on Easter weekend, 2020.

Crypt(ic) Creativity

Picture

Jack-o-lanterns and, um, dismemberment. Winged skulls on gravestones and scones on strings. My October Creativity has been much focused on writing spooky history fun facts and trivia questions for this virtual event.

As sorry as I am that the historic site’s candlelit crypt tours could not happen this year, the first trivia night was a real hoot. Hoot…owl…Halloween…RIGHT? It was so good, I was sorry you all missed it.

The second and final event is tonight. If you’re looking for a new Halloween activity please join us. Play to win, or just enjoy the fun facts and scary stuff in good company. You will be supporting one of the many non-profit cultural institutions knocked hard by this murder hornet of a year. And it’s a piece of Creativity I’m proud of!

http://www.kings-chapel.org/history-events.html

Burn

There are books I read every few years. Do you have such books? I circle slowly back around to them like the orbit of Neptune because I’ve noticed interesting change between the first and second, and subsequent, readings.

Some books, read again, reflected back a new (older) reader with different responses. That helped me know my mind and sense of language better, as well as opening the vista a good piece of Art is.

Sometimes I return to writing of my own with the changed perspective of time. I understand them differently. Even the way I want specific words to communicate has changed

This poem started with a round burn on my hand got not long after noticing a small, dark rose in falling snow; it bloomed late, into a tight knot of petals, ready to face winter. The poem slid around on those two images, sort of a narrative about my own observations.

Buddhism likes to say…well, Buddha said….the world is burning. Our senses are burning. This simple, complex statement has to do with the nature of the world and our attachments to things. It’s a wake-up call about how easily we make ourselves suffer. It’s also now a new layer of the word “burn” for me, and there it is.

So what happens when I go back to this poem? The actual hand burn once got lifted into something higher through the image of the rose. Now my hand provides the poem with the metaphorical Buddhist burning the real rose can’t escape. Once the burn “bloomed” like the rose, and now the rose is burning. (If I’m not careful, I will justify the false impression that exists in the world that Buddhism is a real downer.)

The poem before was imagining connections, and I feel as if now it’s reporting a real connection I finally paid attention to. I have another “thinky” poem that is struggling to go in exactly the opposite direction and soak its reporting in imagination, to revel in imagined connections. My smile at this knowledge of my own tangled Creativity is both wry and satisfied.

 
 Burn
  
 The stove’s sharp blue heat
 invaded the pot handle
 you grasped without attention.
  
 The burn asserts itself
 like the red fist of a rose
 opened late, defying snowfall.
  
 Take note. The earth insists.
 The undulation of your palm
 has always resembled a drift,
  
 snow crept upon by claws
 of sunset, bloody hue under bare branches.
 There have always been things on fire.
  
 The body burns to say it. So
 your same grasping hand sets
 it down, sears white paper darker.
  
  
   

Hello, October

POND WALK
 

Pond blinks,
red-rimmed
under October
cloud-glare,
as landscape begins
to change. Or that
is just eyes
grown used
to gritty air.
 
But here,
freely, widely 
do the encircling,
while water
shines or clears
of sun-leaves,
ripples, swans’ feet.
 
Pass a wine-stained,
blood-stained,
love-stained vine
winding a tree,
a melancholy,
a potion. Yes
 
and no. Leaves
know only
their going,
not the pacing
of minds. Sit
on a stone
embedded
by water. Pick up
driftwood birch
with its dark
inscriptions, but
look elsewhere.
Hear the greens
crackle behind
you. Pond wind
fans bright,
cold coming fire.
 

Bring: a fall poem

Bring

for SD and Pond St.


Some intentional choice
of particular flowers
and hanging containers
of sweet good will
bring hummingbirds.
 
The one that visits
my friend’s deck outlined
in temptation beautifully
lives in flickers,
feeds itself in glimpses.
 
In an abundant garden
I walk past, there hovers
feather-bright metal art,
the hummingbird god itself,
with long-toothed, triumphant
 
wings lifted over its earth,
where summer mauve
coneflowers darken into
their own gold-brown eyes,
and blue hydrangeas crackle.
 
This bird must hold all
my friend’s small gem left
behind in flight, the price
of bearing seasoned witness
from the formal border of time.

I do not know the name of the artist featured throughout this wonderful garden, but I’m a fan.

Creative Nature: Shape and Color I

pink goesholly

Nuances of shape and color when the summer pinks fade are just as beautiful as the variations of  autumn colors arriving. Flow out, flow in. Nature offers changing Creative gifts, and we offer our attention in return.

Photos by Me.

With sincere thanks to the gardeners of Pond Street in Jamaica Plain, MA for the artistry of their abundant gardens and their wish that passersby have pleasure.

Steam Poem (You Heard Me, Punk)

Rain

You know how, when you’re on the first break from work you’ve had in years, and you relax some and refuse to call it unemployment, and you use your brain for nothing, and that’s good, and then you get several ideas for blog posts all at once, and you draft them all instead of finishing one, so you come off your break by ignoring them and posting a poem? Yeah, it’s like that.  Photo by me.

 

Steam

for PC and J O’D

 

The wise write the mind

can know the border

of thoughts, one to the next,

to the next, as eyes

can see when one drop

of water turns to steam.

 

My mind behaves precisely

like an empty urban corner.

Leaves scrapped to dust, and

stained empty paper cups

congeal and scatter, the wind

full of scratching.

 

Rain, whose freedom

the wise suggest

we should lean on,

I watch from home.

Under streetlights, seeding

a parking lot with more

tender shapes.

 

In the wall

over there, a pipe

becomes a vent

and then a slithering

line of steam, supple

ghost becoming dark

damp starlight on the street,

no longer even that.

As it happens,

branches reach toward

my window, close by

and clearly. How is it

the space they cross

evaporates unseen,

as if the distance

held anything at all?

 

 

 

Bird and Fish

Corms

After a six-day heat wave, any thoughts for an essay-like post are bobbing around my head like semi-cooked pasta. But the poetry is enough of a practice to have things to share.

I think these are two parents and their two fledgling cormorants at Jamaica Pond (Boston), and I’m always thankful to have them in my day. This poem was inspired by a beautiful online-gathering talk “at” the Greater Boston Zen Center.

 

Bird and Fish

for Julie

 

The cormorant intent, curved,

sharp, sewing surfaces:

diving that stitches the city

edges, the open spaces, my faithful

circling of water.

It sometimes arises with

a sliver of fish,

silver arc of gasp that cannot

live, but eaten, still shines

in the wide net of bird.

 

One day one dive,

one sudden reappearance, with

this, long body of a trout, caught

with unrealized skill, but now, what, so wildly

not to be swallowed. A fish unaware

it lived in water, too blinded now,

too bitten, too big not to pull

both of them under again. Cormorant

then bathes and flutters back

to quiet floating. Fish will be fish

below, being one of those

too much to enter

the gate of bird. Cormorant will eat

later, even later stand with wet wings

offered open to the air. Fish may

remember when water was something

that could be left behind, that would

release. But it may not.

So, enough about you…

Big D

I take pleasure in sharing Creativity  I encounter. in our brimming-over world. A couple of things about doing so occurred to me recently. One, I have some lovely photos of local gardens I am just too lazy to sort out of my phone albums. Two, Everyone and their neighbor’s second cousin is putting  Creative Work online because we have to, and although the reasons are awful, the results are often wonderful. And three, I’ve never really put my own Creative Work on my own damn blog. Maybe 2020 is the year to let that hesitance fade into the past with a lot of my former way of living.

Actually, I’ve been writing as steady practice, and I’ve been growing. In earlier heydays of my poetry, there was an intellectual quality to the way I handled language and ideas. Buddhist practice has made me want to let go of that type of hard work, to see what happens when I am more embodied and present in the moment as a writer. Yeah, and vulnerable and open, and all that stuff…

The thing is, it’s working, and I like it. I still falter, as I did with a recent poem that originally had a fixed end point and a prettily written lecture to get it there. Turns out it really is a woefully and wildly personal poem , and I’m letting that happen now in the revision, and it’s like riding surf without a boogie board.

So I will share some of my recent work here. Although I have been published in both journals and anthologies, it’s a somewhat big step to put this here without the ringing approval of a poetry editor’s acceptance.

This is a poem I wrote for an artist friend when she shared on social media that her tough feelings about our times were hampering her Creative energy. I hope it brings some uplift. And yeah, I’m going to link you to her work, of course. It is her poem, after all.

 

Bears in Bad Times

for JPH

 

Antique brown bear observes bad times from a shelf,

ears wide, silent, but flourishing its bronze ribbon,

a bohemian tie. Imagine evening, a half-dressed

painter, youthful and intent, the room’s view

a damp canvas, the sky’s blue hour rising.

 

Another artist, red and green in woods

elsewhere, is photographing bears. Her

bird feeders strain and sink beneath mounds

of starved gravity with long tongues

intruding. Every type of refuge now

seems hollow of all but emptiness. Yet

companions appear, right over there—

the bearings we have lost, the kind bearing

of chaos and grief, and creatures,

too, who are constellations.

 

 

Thank you for the inspiration and for your beautiful jewelry, Jen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sticks and Stones: Metal is Stone-Adjacent

Migration

One of the few words I ban in my students’ writing is “amazing” because we often use it vaguely, to say not a lot. Unless, I tell them, you look it up and have been literally amazed, don’t go near it.

The online dictionary says it means “causing…wonder; astonishing”. It isn’t how they feel about most of the stuff I assign them to read, I promise you. But it IS how I feel about this video on the amazing creation of this mask by my friend kest schwartzman.

Sure, I want to promote artists in these precarious times. But I was riveted watching kest work. And not smash their fingers. And work some more. The beauty and Creative drama will carry you happily through, so please enjoy “Forged Copper Mask”.
Seriously, watch the video. So groovy.

Artist kest schwartzman is here!