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.
 

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.

Winter Trees II, the Lost Partner

lost little tree alas

Small sidewalk trees on my busy street have it tough. There’s exhaust, the sides of buses, noise, windy storms that stampede up from the harbor, and the occasional drunk college student. I appreciate them and their stamina when I wait for the bus, when buds are appearing, or foliage is saturating a patch of my day. The bare winter branches have their own relationship to varying sky color and the streetlights and also inspire me.

The newest, a little ginkgo with fan-shaped leaves, became a favorite. The fans fluttered a snap-pea green that turned into lemon yellow in autumn. Its knobby branches with their rapier attitude enticed out the phone camera, and made me want to learn calligraphy and ink arts.

Alas. A recent storm’s gusts half-strangled me in my own scarf, and the next trip to the bus stop…alas. Only a thin stump left, looking gnawed. A yoga teacher used to remind us that every pose we do we also undo, that the force that creates also destroys, in its rolling loop. The wind catches words like “Stay” and “Mine” and whips them out of sight.  But there was no such philosophy at the bus stop. Just damp eyes.

It is what it is.  Being attached to a source of creative inspiration equals waiting for it to disappear, or knowing it will be there when you yourself are gone. Trees and I strive on.

The Shadow Knows

Sh1

I look at shadows. Long ones, sharply vivid ones, shadows of ordinary things and unusual things, shadows I never saw before because I’ve never been to that location in that light. From shadows I get the same small charge of pleasure that I get from fireworks:  I look expecting to see them, but still, how wonderful to see what is both real yet only made of light and eyes.

No idea why this is, that I have a passion for shadows. Some friends might suggest it’s because I used to love working backstage at the theater, and I’m just drawn to my natural habitat. Is it a chance to pay attention to the intriguing Buddhist ambiguity of the (non)self? I do love modernist photography, that’s for sure, and those Artists were gods of form and contrast.

Sh2As a poet and reader, I love me a liquid, sparkling, misty, on-fire metaphor. A shadow is a metaphor, equivalent to a Thing but made of something else. Paradoxically, that something else reveals more of the first Thing to us.

My favorite metaphor right now is Jane Hirshfield’s opening heart as boiling artichoke in the poem “My Species”.  An “opening” heart is a metaphor itself, commonplace but fine.

I’ve been looking at a book by Teju Cole, Blind Spot, where he pairs photos with short prose pieces. A striking one (much of the Foreword also dwells beautifully on it) shows a white house behind a tall line of just-greening shrubs, and the sharp, spreading shadow of a still-bare tree that itself does not appear.

Sh4

Cole writes, “Spring…it is not only the leaves that grow. Shadows grow also. Everything grows, both what receives the light, and what is cast by it.”

Some type of image reaching out from its place of origin, existing beyond the edges of its source, visible when its creator is not. Is that a metaphor for Creativity?? I hope so! I hope It and I will grow this spring. I love shadows.

Sh3

Blind Spot by Teju Cole was published by Random House. The photos are by the blogger.

Tree Pose

bc trees

I’ve mentioned my grandmother before. She was an  outdoorsy young person, even though she grew up poor on the Lower East Side. Dealing with life, I think she found her comfort in Nature.  In the pictures I have of her as a young woman, she’s wearing a bathing suit with stockings, or hiking shorts and hat atop a mountain.

A story I consider central to my life is the one she often told of the friend who said to her dismissively, “You see one tree, you’ve seen them all.” And that, Gram would always finish, was the Saddest Thing she had ever heard anybody say. I have a passion  the sight of trees, in all seasons. Because I’ve just never known otherwise; I’m fortunate in that way.

So this week I was listening to the On Being interview with artist Maira Kalman. She and host Krista Tippett had this exchange:

Ms. Tippett: Here’s another line of yours I love: “We see trees. What more do we need?”

Ms. Kalman: That’s really true….And so walking and looking at trees really is one of the glories of the world, and we say, “Rejoice,” when we see these things.

Well, yeah.

But a Buddhist teacher I once read explained that we don’t actually look at a tree. We look at ourselves looking at a tree. I bristled at that statement because, hell, I knew how to Look at Trees. But when I really got that he was right, experienced that as true, and my ego died one more death, I learned a lot.

I take many pictures of trees, even though they are surely still pictures of my own Looking: my sense of, and Need for, the world’s Creativity. That is OK. Trees are patient, and waiting, and I’m taking one human step at a time with the intention to see them.

My image is from Dec 24, 2018, on Boston Common.

“Hope is the thing with feathers”

birds

The Cambridge English Dictionary online defines a metaphor as “an expression that describes a person or object by referring to something that is considered to possess similar characteristics.”

A metaphor points at a connection perceived, one that, for someone, suddenly arose from the interconnectedness of Everything. The path of one raindrop down a pane of glass deserves noticing; there’s a limitless number out there, but this one is right here and now.

I read a metaphor I’d like to share here at the end of 2018. It’s by Buddhist teacher and leader Pema Chodron, from the book Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion, compiled and edited by Emily Hilburn Sell, published in 2003 by Shambhala.

Another image for maitri [loving-kindness] is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young… People sometimes ask, “Who am I in this image—the mother or the chick?” The answer is we’re both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It’s easy to identify with the babies—blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are a poignant mixture of something that isn’t all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. Whether this is our attitude toward ourselves or toward others, it is the key to learning how to love. We stay with ourselves and others when we’re screaming for food and have no feathers and also when we are more grown up and appealing by worldly standards.

Wishing Us Loving-kindness and Steadfastness, to and from each other. Wishing Us Well-Being, Freedom, Peace, and Creativity in 2019. Thank you.