“More Space” for Poetry Month

Photo by Kristin Vogt on Pexels.com
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.)

Poetry Month First Course

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.

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.

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, Part I: Sticks

Sticks 1For 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.

 

Sticks 2

Winter Trees I

Comm 1Comm 2Tree Lights 1

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.

Word Play and Fungus

 

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.