More Space Things palpably everywhere seem identical, so snow is sunlight. And rain a thousand maple leaves seen from underneath. The appearance of space around, through, within the fume of fog or a shining glass sky outlines the objects it obscures. Nothing reveals more space than space taken, when emptiness so visibly embodies there being nowhere to go. ADVISE? I perhaps think one or two more concrete images might be wanted. If this brought any images to your mind, will you please comment and share them? Thank you! (Yes, thanks for asking, it IS a big deal for a recovering perfectionist to post Work in Progress and admit it. I'm pretty pleased with me right now.)
Let’s have champagne first: Here are some spring Haiku, small poetic bubbles that they are.
A half-circle of melon dawn disappeared. March snow. Between small hills, dawn stays blue. The bare tree is still its shadow. Storm wind trickles in somewhere. The prism fidgets, glints green-gold.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
For many years I thought I enjoyed and was thankful for Boston’s chain of green spaces, called the Emerald Necklace. I had no real idea what those emotions were. Now those spaces are where I spend the two hours out of 24 that I’m not in my studio apartment. And they have water and woods and birds and turtles and flowers and sky. Yeah.
The parks are Creative acts themselves, mostly by Frederick Law Olmsted, my personal superhero these days. They also contain other people’s Creativity. The Fens, for example, where I took these photos, have small stone buildings by the architect H.H. Richardson, a formal rose garden, a 17th-century Japanese temple bell found by WWII soldiers in a dump and later gifted by Japan to Boston, and the huge community gardens full of veggies, gnomes, goldfish, flowers, trees, pinwheels, etc.
Even in the awfulness of now, the parks folks are clearing brush and keeping things together, as they always do. The Fens has a comfortable, shabby quality: if it were an old stuffed animal, you would call it “well-loved”. It is that, and it is beautiful just as it is, and more so since some recent landscape renovations. It is also carefully tended and refreshed by people whose work I appreciate even more right now. Piles of sticks and branches, especially after storms, bear witness to their work.
Some visitors, and I’ve said Hello to a couple of them at work along the way, are using those piles for this Creativity, a growing structure under one of Olmsted’s great trees. It began as a much smaller hut and has stretched since, with more doorways, longer halls, and extra skylights. I mean, obviously, a lot of skylights! It’s to smile at, crawl into, add to, play with. And the tree that shelters it will soon have its leaves, and those leaves will catch the pinks and yellows of the sunrise, as I feel sure Olmsted knew they eventually would. And we walk on.
Be safe and well. Be kind.
Boston, like many cities, has malls, and in ours, “stuffed lobster” can be either a cuddly red toy or your dinner. Moving on…
It also has The Mall, in the old-fashioned sense of a shady promenade, with benches, statues, and a central path flanked by trees, running up the middle of An Avenue of Note. Those it was originally designed to delight lived in Gilded Age urban mansions and townhouses.
In winter, the two rows of trees are wrapped in white lights, an eye-feast whether you’re looking up into branches or down at block after block of bright shapes. In the late winter twilight, they glow with a windy softness, like a field of fireflies. In the black dark of a clear winter night, they are fierce.
People chose creatively where to drape, what to wrap. There’s a sense of people seeing each tree’s individuality, the result of species, weather, angles of light, and the large, slow patterns of the Universe’s Creativity.
They’ll be shut off soon for the season, and leaves will take over from the lights as a different multitude, and everything will change.
Sometimes, another artist’s work opens up a Creative breathing space in a brimming-over world. Art can be like walking into a wooded place in a city park, or glimpsing the ocean between dunes. I recently read a memoir by poet Maxine Kumin, and one sentence just randomly became that little pool you might come across in a mountain stream, a place to dip your feet and splash. I’m not sure why this sentence, but this sentence about being the mushroom expert at a writers’ retreat:
I know enough to…never pick any mushroom with white gills—the underpart of the cap—for fear of unknowingly gathering the destroying angel…
Her descriptions of fungi and this foraging hike are wonderful, but this sentence woke up great pleasure in ordinary language, and in the complexity of language, as pictures suddenly tumbled around my mind.
Gills. Once I found a plastic bag of fish on the beach. Someone on a boat had let the day’s catch fall into the water and float away. I tore it open to keep the plastic menace away from the gulls and met six pairs of eyes hard as glass and sharp-looking fins. But the gills’ white skin looked vulnerable and helpless in the dry air. That was where death pointed itself out to me, as it did for Kumin, in the gills. Alas. Walk on, though, and let the birds laugh and feast.
Fish have gills, and so do the small fungal shelves and umbrellas on collapsing logs. They appear in the living sea and on decaying parts of the earth, these open fans of gills. It’s only in working through my draft of this post that I remember a poem by Sharon Olds, “The Winter After Your Death.” She uses the image of a closing fan to describe sunset, and a starkly bright fish in a pond to embody many things. I think my own use of “fan” pulled up this poem, the unconscious source of my word choice here. Of course, being obsessed with the 18th century, I’m likely to throw a fan image in wherever possible, so maybe that was it. I don’t know. My feet are just splashing and enjoying the stream.
The word cap turns the mushroom into a little figure wearing one to shade its eyes, and then the circle of gills becomes an old-fashioned neck ruff. It morphs into a bottle of spores with its cap on. How capital! Oh, that satisfying little pop when you decapitate a mushroom by breaking off the stalk. And the aroma of them, cooking in oil on a chilly winter night. Still playing.
If you’ve faithfully watched any British mystery series with a countryside setting, I bet you’ve seen the Murder by Destroying Angel plot. I can remember two without even putting on my thinking…cap. That basket of foraged mushrooms on the table in the inn kitchen that no one thought to guard from interference. Who would notice a couple of extra ones? Sneaky poison that, eh, Inspector?
Despite its being National Literature and Poetry Month (HUZZAH), I won’t even get into Paradise Lost, which is full of angels as violent warriors attacking and defending Heaven. The would-be Destroying Angel is seemingly destroyed, falling and falling. But later, that whole snake and apple thing.
Kumin just used the Words for Things when she had something to say about these simple lives in the woods. She was also writing about a relationship between the body/mind and nature, about Paying Attention in the world, and about harvesting, both as a forager and as an artist. I enjoyed foraging in these words of hers I came upon and hope I used the harvest well.
My copy of Maxine Kumin’s The Pawnbroker’s Daughter was published by Norton in 2015.