Friday’s Poem: Once, Michigan

The visiting lovers have left the long shores,

carrying sweetness in palms of their hands,

promises of return wrapped about them

in a bright scarf of loose knots,

memories planted in their hearts.

Their words are conspiratorial whispers

as they look back, then move toward ordinary life.

Birds are flocking, straying less often;

once the berries are over they will go, too.

The leaves have begun to rattle, pine needles to flee and fall.

The air is spiked with foretelling scents.

Sitting cross-legged in fields

no longer summered green, my sight

fills with that rocky shore, fresh water

churning chilled depths that will turn

my fingers blue if I linger until first snow.

But here is true north, a lifetime from

mountains where I now live, and farther from the sea.

In September light, jewel blue and amber,

the world is seasoned and richer.

My hair whips about, shrouds my eyes.

I know that leaves still cascade

down my shoulders, grazing my face,

but those constant waves raking the stones–

that once stayed my cries,

called forth my singing–

and those steadfast trees afire in northern palettes–

these will follow me into the rain-laced nights

Friday’s Poem: Sing, Darkness, Bring the Fall

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In the old neighborhood while autumn crept into

the fading simmer of summer, I awaited chirps.

Crickets were soon found among houses

that carried history in their seams, and

behind tree giants that rose above all.

A walk into saturated dark, which can

flash glimpses of life behind beaming windows,

was a puzzle of hide and seek sounds.

I traced their repeat to unseen stages as

evening became a chorale thick with

a divine sense of composition,

that tranquil pulsing like stars.

I stood, eyes closed to capture

a thrill of insect song offered in unison,

their interweaving of meters and tones.

Year after year I followed their chirrups,

seeking the most distant, jaywalking

toward sentinel bushes lining lawns,

cocking my ear in alleys with underbrush.

Holding my breath.

*

They have come again as leaves are crumpling,

berry-reddening and tarnishing to brassy hues.

But here on the small mountain it is a different event,

the gathering and listening easy–not better or worse.

Now I need go nowhere, just slip out my balcony door.

Steep land below cradles them in ivy,

pine needles, grasses, wind sheared branches.

They begin at once, for we who have

long waited and those who have not.

With invisible constancy, crickets never forget,

do not disappoint.

And later, in the dense, torn nights in my bed,

their universal call and response carries on,

as if an angelic force behind the scenes

holds fast to everything, each voice kept true.

And keeps me in place, rooted in calm.

I feel that humming in heart and bones;

it removes the world from my rest,

and me from my troubles.

***********************************

Below is my reading of the poem, if you wish to hear it shared aloud.

Friday’s Poem: Archaeological Notes

Time will tell. It always does.

It makes things happen as named

and unknown elemental powers

and vagaries of life etch, mar, shape,

anoint, dissolve, rebuild those in its sway.

Residual clues on canyon walls or

a woman’s body make earth’s

metronomic spell go deeper, mysterious

as it presses layer upon layer sediment

of all that came, gave, removed, then

completed, leaving all behind.

We, too, are an archeological field

primal as barbaric and elegant wilds,

surrendering and resisting events

pressed upon us, stories soon permanent

as tattoos, our bodies holding

a drift of veil, weight of armor,

blood of thorn, dew of snapdragon.

Beyond skin, bravery and recriminations,

birthings and dirges.

And, too, footprints of strange giants, and

bite of beak, whisper of wing.

We carry it all, as do river beds.

It leaves its mark, time and its associates,

and speaks without remorse or uncertainty.

This forested cliff, this webby cave and steeple of stone

shelter an unruly, glorious design.

So, too, our bodies, every inch a blueprint,

a slow reveal of legacies passed down:

missteps, sacrifice, a holiness of charity.

Yet when we flee these tender husks

what is left are recollections of

confoundment of human life,

a history of havoc and hallelujahs,

and the stunning release from time.

No matter; earth’s secrets outlive all.

Friday’s Poem: House Dreaming

I am dreaming of houses again.

Last night another maze of rooms led me to

each of you occupying lives shining, meticulous or

in stages of brave disarray, voices streaming

with passion in opalescent air:

you quivered with life, it’s many purposes.

I was like a ghost or an essence of motherhood

that oversees but is unseen slipping about,

with tender sighs and wide open eyes,

with hands and spirit readied.

It was not a sad dream

but dream houses are never

what is expected or imagined,

ceilings unfinished with endless floors above,

doors opened to odd places I still must wander

(if there are doors, at all),

and then sometimes a stranger

takes ownership or tells me:

It was never empty and not for sale.

I have searched (more than I care to think)

for a house that can attend well to us all,

one that is made of peace and old wood,

surprising, fecund gardens and music,

forgiveness and effervescence,

and windows that open to everything,

even aquamarine drape of sky.

But now you have your own homes.

I have mine. And it is some days not tall,

or deep or wide enough to fully wrap around

this festival of family with its lightning strikes of loss,

pulling closer then separating, each needing

respite from the blood deep sweetness and

searing pain of love that does not end.

But we call out and answer with a chorus

of true voices, as before, never mind the house.

Friday’s Poem: Recall

This is a place where

the chickens gave them aid

the cows quenched thirst,

the pigs sacrificed lives,

and shy rabbits proliferated

until the wild dogs came.

This is where she rode

the rope from hayloft to dirt

and a horse named Nance

kicked and felled her as she turned her back.

Her hand went to the pain daily,

failing to erase the memory

the years after she left the farm.

It is where they all endured her father’s wrath

after their farm was taken,

where she scrubbed clothes for fifteen

on the wash board until her knuckles bled,

where she swapped tales with her mother

who had a heart that was tough until it opened.

But every night I hear other stories–

of the golden wheat swaying,

and the cats leaping over hay bales

like furry dancers,

and laughter around the scarred table

and a dawn sky gleaming, watching like God

observing, even blessing it all.

You make me gasp and giggle

and when your hands tuck me in,

I adore again their strength and virtuosity

despite how worn and rough beneath the

Jergen’s lotion that scents my coverlet,

the Evening in Paris you spritz on

your brocade gown before

running downstairs to meet father

for the opera and afterparty.

How all this carries me

toward a future of blossoms and fire,

storms and mountains,

grief and redemption is not a mystery.