Tuesday’s Poem: Making a Visible Life (a tale for my mother)

Night lingers to greet day.

Swirls of an organza mist

wrap the vista as I stand invisible

at the prow of a tall ship with taut sails;

it carries curiosities, sustenance, shards of hope.

There is no shore; I am on a balcony outside

the warmth of my house, that place where

time is greeted and resisted, cupped in my hands

and released. Out here the view holds surprises,

tosses them like ribbons of silver and green

across my mind, enticements for a restless soul.

An icy spray settles on face and hands

but the grand matron of earth nourishes

its beloveds even (I pray for this daily) me.

Amber leaf, veiny stone, pine cone

and red holly, a blue-black feather-

these are raiment I’d wear if permitted,

a cloak of bits and pieces, a laugh in the midst of things.

If I was brave enough to be visible, with my essence showing–

a woman who gathered pulsing rays and glowed in the dark.

Simple as that. But this is human life

and thus not an angel’s scheme, is that how it is?

Let me seek and discover.

Fog secrets away the mountains so I retreat

indoors, labor awhile. I rest, absorb my books,

their exploratory maps.

They prop me up, lift me over the cliffs of misgiving

and toward gates of wonder.

Such peace!

The words emit scents of cedar and river,

of moss, apple, lavender. Plum, rose, fern, bird bones.

Later I climb the hills, new stories at my heels

like sprites and elves in the brume.

Squirrels fatten up but glance my way as if

sensing my hunger for chicken and dumplings,

my mother stirring the pot,

white waves damp at her forehead,

face pinked with heat and pleasure,

common wisdom added to the stew.

The abundance of it shapes me still.

My throat closes then opens to music

that visits me in solitude,

this one for my mother–

but it is only a desire or a memory,

lyrics and notes drifting like smoke lost to rain.

A finch offers a refrain in consolation;

and it tenders me as I tack and sail

into the heart of woodland, beyond sorrow,

past the shame of all that’s unconquered,

still left undone.

A wintered wind ignores such musings

but my mother’s spirit implores

like a medicine woman:

write write write sing out.

These days it seems a luxury but today

feeling and thought–sharp, sweet, savory–

fill me up as I trudge through murk.

Music, language, how they hoist and shoulder

the weight of my life, fix it, free it.

Sunlight steals through this landscape of haze,

or is it seascape and soon to be moonlight?

The glimmering limns the curve

where I am heading right into

the thicket, the glory of it,

as you, too, may have imagined.

.

Friday’s Poem: Making Things

Beads of glass, yellow, purple, gold, teal, red, silver:

enough or too much to gather into love?

I palm the metal geometrics, crystals,

varigated stones, ceramic spheres, hemp cord

and luminous silky floss.

Later at a fabric store two sharp-eyed saleswomen

prod me: what am I making, and I likely need this, that.

The experts press against the counter, piecing

their ideas deftly from my heap and jumble.

My lovely fat quarters of cloth; I pull them close.

I pick them up, considering the visions

I took from the warp and weft of happy dreams.

Nothing can mar the mental surface tension

beneath which deeper things stir like fishes;

ideas gather momentum, about to break through.

Patience is my way for this creating; I see, gather, wait.

I have no schematics for success.

My craftsy friend who brought me here

smiles indulgently. But I am not making

just any holiday project.

These mounds of colors-textures-shapes

are meant to reflect five hearts, ones that help power my own.

The tiny trinkets and beads rustling in the bag

will be stitched and knotted in praise

of the vivid lives of my children.

Just as when they first arrived as blood and bone–

each tenuous (as it was hard for me to make children)

but charged, triumphant, embraced–

I will consider these bits of beauty, discover more patterns.

I still am learning the ways of each soul. I am guessing as I go.

There will be forms and colors, whatever feels needed

and what might be desired.

My hands will work as the light scents

of cotton and stone, silk and copper calm me.

What my fingers can make–

these aging fingers full of lines, splits, callous–

will be true to what I know, and bright with hope.

If I do not fail to bring inspiration to fruition

there will be five wall hangings, at best unschooled,

even clumsy, madcap–yet strung together as

small collections of care and delight.

And perhaps they will bring them close

then hang them up,

gaze a moment and think,

there it is: love.

.

Friday’sPoem: Learning a Friend

The grass and trees glow beneath generous sky

as we lean at the table and talk.

Someone sits alone, lips of plumminess

that do not smile back at us. We shrug

though I wonder about the what and why of her.

Sunlight flashes on our narrow hands,

a dose of heat that dispells the chill.

Not everyone knows what we know–

your dangerous dawn races, our history of men

who ruin and rescue, the interpretations

of X-rays, snow and Saint Saens,

the terror of repeated infant alarms,

and how to live as if without pain.

But this is good–tender pastry, dark wash of coffee.

Words that crease and smooth the air.

Is it a hint of winter that urges us to

speak of what is not simple?

Of what can be lost, what may be accepted,

what is fought for and against without

ceasing as if we have superior skills?

Perhaps we know something small: even the brave

will rest, reassess, grab onto a hand.

We get up, jackets close as wind thins last heat.

You charge ahead, an adventurer;

my bad knee embarrasses with slowness.

The wind gives up songs kept to myself

with most everything else.

I will practice leaving solitude;

I will keep up when the surgery is done.

And how is it that people find each other?

We head back home.

Friday’s Poem: The Rain and Home

The rain. Blurry cloud-springs of it.

The symphony of it repeated from sky

to ear pressed against the screen.

A permeable canopy covering hillocks of earth

as our slight human lives bulk up

for coming winter. Water so holy in scorched land.

Downpours reflect and shadow the pallid light

as our nests are resettled with comforts,

a ritual of expectancy.

This season is a promise and a kind of partition

before rain sharpens into sleet–

we labor, hunker down, forecast.

I try to separate possible fates of the world from home.

As if they can be so different. Sometimes, still.

Nature weighs in, from all perspectives:

splash drench stir cool carry away trash

***

Yesterday as I opened blinds to let in

a sunnier moment you stated an intention

to fly out to see our parents but

noted a problem: where did they reside now?

I pressed my lips together. Address: cemetery.

Said gentler words as I have before, matter-of-fact.

Your lips form Oh and that brings Mom and Dad

here and now, to your deep heart and mine.

When you ask after the others, I must count

the dead as I’ve done dozens of times

until you know it’s truly so, til next time you forget.

It may be in the next moment.

I swallow, pet your good dog.

I am getting better with this roll call.

Your memories are stolen out from under you

in plain sight. I recall lovely times so

you can borrow mine. I know they won’t keep.

I want to cry out,

take them all so you can return to me, sister.

But you are sitting beside me, yourself.

We color pictures in brilliant palettes,

flashy mandalas of joy.

And sing “Stairway to the Stars”, one verse

that we half-create. As we talk, you

stare at a photo of my twin granchildren

in strange, gorgeous homemade masks,

and this triggers balloons of your laughter.

It obliterates every

single

point of pain.

It is how we do this.

It’s raining again, I say, pleased with it, with us.

Oh, is it? you answer with a dreamy gaze.

***

Meanwhile much later in the dark

the rain pummels and drips.

When I can’t sleep and there is a lull in showers,

I turn on a soundtrack of murmuring Northwest rainforest.

Like outside my windows, it whispers Home.

The banket and quilt are re-shaped, made welcoming.

Into my dreams arrive those who are gone,

then the living burst in and it’s a mad gathering;

we go exquisite places, do impossible things

and make a simple stone house out of ruins.

The rain pulses against shingles, softens thoughts;

it swathes sorrow, reveals wisps of light.

Nature cannot know how much I need this

(or can it?) after a firestormed summer.

Celebration rains are for other creatures,

cracked piney dirt, all that has struggled to live.

But, too, for this woman who in the morning

stands in slow drizzle, hands and face turned up

to sky’s sweet baptismal power.

Twisting leaves in bronze and cinnamon

amaze as they drift and skip to earth,

slick and shining as they pass.

Friday’s Poem: The Call of the Apple

When we reached the spot, I tumbled out of the Chrysler,

body and mind knowing from the start

that everything there was a singular magic

to be breathed, tasted, seen, touched.

Made my own as it settled in the blood.

Merriment gathered parents into small groups

but we children were impatient and reverted to wildness,

whooping and rushing into the span and

fold of the orchard, baskets banging against thighs.

The call of apples: succulent orbs ripe

for our reach, earthen grit rubbed against shirts,

weather-cured skins held to noses,

mouths readied for the tang and sugar.

Teeth to apple, one crunch to luxury,

a meat made of sharp or sweet.

We closed our eyes, tongues dazzled.

Autumn’s juices trickled down chins.

We piled up shapely globes in baskets,

checking for worm holes, leaving behind any

softening flesh that loosed spicey-sour scents,

their beauty soon bygone and laid to rest.

I paused to watch others transfixed by

pleasures of the day, their arms small but strong,

hands grasping, faces pinked with cold and happiness.

Baskets dragged on arms but more to pick,

show off and share. Work was never so good.

Back in the thicket of grownups we claimed

warm cake donuts crowned with cinnamon

and sipped burning cider between bites.

Oh, the hunger of a child magnified by October.

Everything happening spilled into everything,

treetops stirring the northern lake-blue sky,

slices of wind raising goosebumps,

air woven with apple perfume and scattered laughter

that seemed the presence and promise of good fortune,

the thrumming of my heart like a drum of eternity.

Everywhere I looked between the burnished trees

people leaned into and reached for one another

as if no one would be lost or forgotten,

harmed or unforgiven.

No one left without sustenance enough.

In the scratchy wool plaid pocket of my jacket

lay a golden delicious apple, safe and big

as my cupped hand, saved for another day,

a guard against bitter frost and snow to come.