Friday’s Poem on Saturday: Poetica, Again

Sometimes there is no poem within reach.

You look for bounty and see dust;

despite splashes of color and light

there surfaces a rock hard notion

that the billions of places where people rise up

and lie down meet each bone and spirit

with denial and pain, prayers as ash on the tongue.

Leftover dreams are torn into dark ribbons,

and time is not a deep enough well to bury regret.

One cannot wear dark ribbons a whole life;

one cannot have bones that cry out

and a spirit that goes mute forever.

Wells overflow, time is curtailed–then what?

It is so much to ask.

So it is that a vagabond poem pauses

in its evolutions and locates

a heap of sorrows and it roots around,

finds a fissure, the loose seam,

an unlocked trap door

and makes itself at home.

It opens curtains and windows

so the sky can parade its splendor

and birds dive in and slip out trilling.

It shuffles debris and braids

a quilt of discarded pieces

as if they were shining silk or clean wool

and then carries its bulk to a resting spot. Lays it out.

The poem knows ways to make a hollow habitable

for the soul rubbed down to almost nothing,

and apply balm to a voice abraded by life’s grime.

Such souls lean on the back doorstep until

a small radiance of invisible words

flares, and poetica in motu welcomes in

the worn one so doom is chased off,

the quilt of stitched dreams tucked about it just so.

As with any rescue, this poem has work to do.

Because a poem is a miracle maker,

even when simple minded,

even if barely noted and put on a shelf,

forgotten in another dawn.

It will stay on, anyway, and

if no longer needed and tossed out,

it will again find a lost one or old traveler,

the terrified or bravado-driven,

the besotted or unloved.

The dust, it seems, is more than dust,

and poetry rises from what is left over,

often mistaken for little of note.

Friday’s Passing Fancy/Poem: Soul Sailing

Yachats trip, last day 092
Photos of Tillamook River rest area, Tillamook, OR. by Cynthia Guenther Richardson

That light is captured by treetops again.
It shakes free its magic and onto me.
I slide into a leafy river afternoon;
earth refines its song, music for living.
What is this tugging
at the corners of my soul?

It becomes a broad sail shining so I go,
passing by smallest creatures that
know me by my name and I, theirs.
This is easy falling in love,
sun riding wind caressing earth,
more sparks from the universe.
Everything is in this balance.
Whatever has been, shall be sacred,
revealed in cathedrals of earth.

So tell me: why do we hurt each other?
Do the skies wound mountains,
or mountains defy their forests,
rivers bleed cradling lands or
lands shun bits of stones hidden deep?
We claim the same privilege of life;
it seeks not to rend, never to ruin us.

Forget not the Giver who loves,
hold back no small act of honor.
Find the root and its branches;
they anchor us, one to another.
This I recall by glossy waters,
by the greenness of things.

There, light is captured by treetops again.
It shakes free its magic, onto me.
I slide, reach inside a bloom of sun
sheltering a summer sky, soul gliding
like hope to truth, heart to heart.

Yachats trip, last day 081

The Heart Chronicles #13: Regarding the Strange Music of a Heart

After I met with a writer friend today, I thought (as I often have) there are times that all that needs to be said fits best in a poem. This can seem true to me even when dealing with heart specialists, who truly (reasonably so) love their own esoteric language. But I can get frustrated sitting in examination rooms, searching for the right words. It is challenging to articulate emotional nuances, sensory experiences, and random thoughts that accompany pain or sudden discomfort. Dizziness or breathlessness. A sense of suspension of time. Flashes of intuition that come from deep within–and how they can be an accurate alert system.  How can I tell Dr. P what it really is so he can better help?

Sitting on the table, the stethoscope against my back and chest, I often suspect that what my cardiologist hears is something other than what I hear within. Because I do hear my heart in my inner ear as well as feel its beating. Dr. P early on informed me that most people do not; some of us do. I had complained that it was annoying, sometimes distressing, but he reassured me that I was fortunate, as then I could quickly inform him when something seemed unusual, wrong. Reluctantly, I agreed, but how to translate it all?

Then came an appointment that built a bridge of communication with Dr. P. It was after the second stent implant 18 months following the first. My heart seemed confused and angry since the last invasions, even though relatively small ones–a fouth angiogram and the tiny stent implant. Despite it being successful, I had worse arrhythmias than ever. They distracted and interrupted my life. They hurt and alarmed. They reminded me, even when I felt  pretty well, that I had coronary artery disease. My heart chided me.

“If you were a musician I might be able to explain them better because they have distinctive patterns of rhythm,” I told him in exasperation.

He grinned. “It so happens I was a musician. I played trumpet in high school. So try me.”

“Good. Well, it’s like a run of sixteenth notes followed by a half-measure of rests, then maybe six or eight more sixteenth notes, then a rest that goes on so long I feel like I am going to pass out. Then a full note and it kicks back in hard with plain old four beats to the measure. And I’m back to normal. But sometimes it’s like acid jazz–free-form, you know? And it feels like it could actually kill me. ”

“So,” he said, “that’s great–I mean, this musical thing. I understand better.” He shook his head. “That’s sure a new way to interpret and explain.”

It was a relief that music had come to my rescue again. But that discovery also gave rise to musings about heart disease, music as central to my being and just how my life had been changed. And as I wrote, confoundment, a sort of awe and anger all came to the fore. So here is that poem–never given to Dr. P. One day, maybe. But it helped me.

Memo to a Cardiologist re: palpitations

I have told you what I know, how there are
hidden notes beneath the bursts of pain but
it is not like the songs of my childhood,
gentle and guileless,
nor the songs that I stole into the night to hear
when I thought I was old enough
to know some things, the music all bombastic and tricky.
This is more like jazz, all icicles and firecrackers,
split time and beyond time but
unable to quit, moon-dazzled and
howling but cool as can be.

Or it might be something else
all the notes and sounds that were forgotten
or shown the back door in a lifetime of concerts
now gathered and tossed onto taut drum skins,
sizzling, renegade rhythms,
speaking out of turn but not committed to anything,
damaging each other in their greed for recompense.

And then there are nights of errant dancers,
when they burst out of my ribs
and tap and stomp and slide across my chest,
their steps wild like bats in darkness,
pushing me from bed and into
the thick of it,
now a possessed woman, drinking air.

And all this time I think I need to write it down
for you, the quarter notes, sixteenths and dotted halves,
the peculiar rests amid the trills and fortes, decrescendos,
notes tripping over each other,
one long life/line of syncopated simpatico,
the rhythms daring me to do something, anything
when the beats heave themselves over a distant waterfall 
and are gone. Floating in rivers somewhere exotic.

Someone has called for intermission
and I am left with the wild taste of starlight and
hot blood, salt and the sharp reminder
that this is where I have been left and will have to resume,
my midnight manuscript in hand, pen poised,
the symphonic possibilities of Antarctica or Amazonia
still unheard by anyone but me,
this sudden incremental music
a foreshadowing of what is yet to come.

And it always comes, the second or third or fourth part
of this ordeal/song/ride to unknown destinations.
From here it seems dangerous and entrancing as
a white panther caught in a wildfire — I imagine her now
as I lay back–her feet scorched but poised for
a death-defying leap across the chasms.
This heart is beating like a thousand captive birds with
each tiny wing pushing against the wind,
all the way into heaven’s celestial soundings
and, perhaps, back home again.

copyright 20011 Cynthia Guenther Richardson