Friday’s Poem: Visit from the Firebird (for Valentine’s Day)

Wind is directing a waltz of swaying firs;

I hear the forest chorus, how they breathe

and moan, shush and shout. I know

they are dancing while singing, it is their natural state.

I am indoors, mixing love with color and form,

dab, swipe, smile: like that, paint comes alive.

But I am drawn to winter wind acting like its spring.

If I stood outside, my hair would be a flag

of white on auburn; pines would share their breath.

Is it the scarlet filling my brush, or remembrance

of that once-glinting hair: Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite”

brings in an orchestra and gifts euphoria to my brain.

With my cello I played it often under my father’s

elegant baton (and others’) and adored every note.

Still, it was my dance offered up to folk tale

magic that demands my attention now.

Entering stage right, at age nine

ready to be beguiled, and so sure-footed.

Swirling red chiffon plumes of my skirt

rose and shone as I circled,

leapt, reached and dove: Stravinsky

led me to my own small firebird.

Miraculous to the child I still somehow was,

I felt freed by bravery and joy; we were

twinned spirits as music with movement drew

me whole into a vortex of transformation.

Metamorphosis of a girl, an introduction.

Afterwards, that applause. It was a deeper

knowing of mystery that kept me aloft for months.

What pulls a child to the Firebird’s dance?

But children, especially, need saving graces.

In this moment sunlight sweetens

the clean pebbly paper. Bouquets of blue-greens

multiply beneath my careful hand.

The wind will romp through trees

while Stravinsky embraces, inspires me–

to make love strong and everlasting: more courage

and all is well, even for the true

and beautiful, fearsome firebird.

May she rise up for all who admire her,

and let one more crimson feather drift to me,

landing gently on a limb of a waltzing tree.

Friday’s Poem: Breathing the Breath of Winter

(Photo by Cynthia Guenther Richardson 2021)

The breath of winter is flung upon all

and the walk is scented with promise of frost that

may visit or transmute, warmed, into rain.

I am hoping for rain but planning for frost,

even ice, prepared for what comes.

Or I want to think so. I grew up in a land

of dense, deep snow; even birds and branches

were bitten by its ache, shaken by zero dregrees.

The beauty held me. I thought I was lucky.

Being alive was spectacular,

eyes watering, cheeks crisped, mouth puffing breaths

that floated, friendly clouds, in air that stung.

Today I am not afraid of much at all,

knowing I have lived through things like

water pipes freezing, the fire going out

so burning furniture to keep us warm,

cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner,

being thought a nuisance or failure

so later harmed and forgotten.

Suffering threaded through my passion for living.

Now I suffer with those who have shared such troubles,

and those who know danger and brilliance of snow,

the wonder of slow warmth after sheen of ice.

It is not easy learning to navigate

the wind’s vagaries.

But today I am lucky, still. I know where

I am going, to the broad river and home.

And this wind may carry a long, low moan

but it releases a ribbon of song in between–

and that is what I listen for, and that is what I hear.

Saturday’s Poem: Interludes Intrinsic to the Whole

Light then comes forth, rises as it is wont to do,

leaves traces within caves and tents of scattered shadow

and all the peculiar, keening and unseen things

and, when you do not even search,

sparks life within life as all

appears relentless, darker and beyond

even grand imagination’s scope.

It stirs amid the wreckage with magnetic power

a miniscule breath, a lilt of song.

Embrace, look up with the spirit of welcome

even as–because–beating wings of fear,

of sorrow will hover and circle once more

and all the while, you will have one ancient key

to acceptance, and hope’s illustrious guidance

Friday’s Poem: Life of a Poem

To some poetry can seem a crime,

secrets disrobed, unmasked souls

paraded in a staged accounting of heresies

and heroics. There is little that is modest,

mannerly or regrettable about words that speak

for or against a reality possessed

by a poet with will made fearless by a pen.

It’s a poem; it arises, takes hold and lives.

The offerings can seem a crystal ball cupped in hand

or jewel trembling through the tawdriness,

or trails of dreams sketching maps to

other worlds before mysteries erode.

It can be a signal for revolution

or like bread for the hungry; a poem morphs.

But neither crime nor prophecy,

not even prayers clothed as verse

are enough to wake dazed sleepers or

the bitter turned away from life,

a poem like a useless feather drifting by.

Still, it takes but one to sense the cadence of

telling language, to hold it close

to ear or eye then heart.

Either way, the poet doesn’t mind;

the lines given move to another

or fall like a curtain dropped

to once more cloak life’s wizardry.

There are other words and visions,

other visiting spells for living in full color

or fading into seep of grey that

runs to darkness, shelters

a passel of shadows and lights.

And by sunrise these may render clues

to a meditation or fledgling poem–

another human declaration,

a forlorn sigh, rageful crying out,

a kiss on hands too tired to move,

a bliss that frees a smile,

a truth that finds the wound, then heals,

another human hope that will not be silenced

and somehow finds its way.

Friday’s Poem: Light Reveals

What have you heard?

That the gift of light fades at end of sunset?

That it recedes in metered rush

from sea and prairies, mountains, piney spires;

across the smudge of dazed cities

or the huddle of villages bent inward?

It is alive, the light, and shows off truth.

It stretches, seeps, spreads thin–

but does not fade like a frayed blue skirt

or dimming eyesight of an old woman.

No, it laps at my bare feet, scrolls across daunting skies.

It plies swamp, desert hollow, drifting ice with its glory,

then eases up with barest strokes,

each a bright exhalation upon earth. A sweetening of light.

I was struck dumb by light as a child

while hidden in the maple, gazing inward,

skating over frozen water, rising from muddy lakes:

there, see that light casting itself,

holding all close and letting go, floating

as if made of feathers, as if whispering powerful secrets.

I wanted to be opened, remade by this.

To be on intimate terms with sun and lightning,

stars and moon. More. And since it is easy

to surrender to beauty, so have I been.

I find it. Or it finds me. Us.

What do you believe? That it leaves us?

Light does not vanish, it pauses then arcs,

saturates what we cannot see; ruffles the soul,

agitates this veil of skin as it leads us into

more shifting and shining in those hard places

we lay our heads, plant our feet, keep on.

This house of magic is where we weep and rejoice.

Where life ignites, scatters, glimmers, alters,

its prismatic colors a vision that turns

inside out notions of every single thing.

Light can then transfuse the heart, these

veins and arteries all lit up like pathways

to a surprise party where love awaits.