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.

Friday’s Poem: If You Ask Me (if feeling doubtful)


If you ask me,

find a place you care to hide or pretend to and

emerge as if you had not seen rugged earth, sea of sky,

that face that shines with delight as it did for years before,

as if this moment you found what you were looking for

and air streaming between all points flows true and bright.

If you ask me,

awaken and feel that life charge of signals and

note their migration from toes to heart to head

as if you are on a journey you’d prayed could happen

and flush of day claims consciousness as you rise.

If you ask me,

settle into your hands the fine bulk of another hand

like the soft body of a small being, tenderly and firmly

as if the warmth pressing into yours is meant to be honored

and little matters more than your touch saying so.

If you ask me,

explore don’t sulk, lift don’t push, embrace don’t crush

for we stay alive for the simplest reasons and they are paramount

for a happiness we are meant to know and meant to give away

and a single moment can change the whole.

If you ask me,

love even when it falters or hurts or bewilders,

even when it fails to get where you planned it to land

in the scheme of all, for you don’t know when time is up-

if we are honest we see how tenuous the line that tethers us.

Live like your relentless heart,

your wrestling soul is sacred,

a chalice full of all the good you are

if you ask me

Friday’s Poem: Gathering Life

It is useful to surrender enough to what lifts or perplexes us,

yes even what hurts, just give in to the depth

and breadth of it, let one’s bones resonate

with a screech of hawk who dives for the kill,

and accept to the lips a soft tartness of cider or sour salt of tears,

and lean a hard heartbeat into that of another.

It is instructive, can tip a balance. Wake us.

Everywhere we look, the dark bleeds light,

then light bleeds the darkness, and we love it or

forget who we are, what is counted as treasure.

I, for one, note every signal and track as a rambler must.

Yet being struck still or pressed forward

brings me to the same end: in the middle of nowhere

I will sense where I am, and soon recognize

the music of creature breaths and the tapestries of skies.

They mingle with breaths and visions that came before.

There is a trail left by every humble or magesterial thing.

It is easy to stumble, jagged rock beneath knees

and sun then rain blinding, skewing the whole.

We think: perhaps it is a failure to lose bearings;

we forgot to be attentive or do what is best

in a world where much is garrish with grievous ego.

I sometimes walk the river with friends, then lag behind

to be transported by autumn water as it carves the banks

with its wilding life and carries its loads.

This silky-sinuous passageway in time

asks me to again succumb to wonder.

To allow the nerves of living to spark and flare.

Even standing in green black shadows

a potent light flees the water and then is gathered,

it parts the leaves and limbs–

turns my face into something stunned and bright,

and tells me

nay, never alone on this winding way,

follow heart lines, follow spirit drum.

Friday’s Offering: Forecasts

(Photo by Cynthia Guenther Richardson)

The river hastens without desire or regret,

carries remnants of gleaming heat with

a forecast of chill whipped and stirred.

Rains huddle at the horizon in silver-bunched blueness.

Splashes of warmth do not keep up with

night’s drama, a cape thick with crickets,

their songs wrapped about me.

I close my eyes to hear and feel.

Leaves whisper and fall, kiss feet and face.

Within these months has come

a stutter of healing, invisible, slow.

At the edge of wounds are signs of strength:

sleep still and deeper, bursts of laughter,

the sound of your confusion no longer

so raw to my heart, if still startling.

I accept that you wander, surprised,

in a vaporous land with fewer borders.

You fumble and shrug, embarrassed-

for a lifetime you designed and wielded time.

We still understand one another.

But sometimes I wish you would stride

down all the paths with me,

your hand in the crook of my elbow,

mine in yours, no words needing excavation,

with nods of encouragement for the redhead

who sits alone looking for happiness.

We already have carried it between us, sister,

and hoarded its beauty for all that lay in wait.

I was more expert at preparing for poverty.

But who ever expected such hungering now?

Who could have imagined this wilderness lay ahead?

I make my way toward you, arms opening,

and you hand me a mother of pearl hummingbird

with a tender smile:

“You still love these birds, don’t you? You can have mine.”

(For those with dementia and those who love them.)