Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On these black roads, in the dark hours


On these black roads, in the dark hours

as we try to reach home the wild

animals are there again, with their caught

eyes & their fur not yet touched

& I think this life after all has been

a series of rough collisions

all startled fur, all muscle

stretched for a last great bounding leap

& I think this life after all has been

ringed by so many witnesses

the great eyes staring

& this transparent wing, grief

like a question, that slammed meat

against the wind

shield, oh this damaged clarity

reaching toward us, not quite breaking through

Saturday, July 28, 2007

in answer to a challenge


Dark nights. When you moved beyond the last

rings of stars & oceans, there were no letters.

Even the fir trees lift their arms to dance

when the wind spins messages, these feathered letters

Write to me, I said. I don’t have your touch.

Everything is gone, this alphabet of nerve, these letters.

Yes, those were good times, the sunlight crossing

our bed, the bright windows, spring’s love letters.

Only the past hurts, that amputated limb

the failed transplant, the flesh stapled like your letters.

Goodbye. You had, you said, enough of this

alphabet of pain & longing, this world in 26 letters.

You can’t keep things in cages. They escape. And so

the best prayers I have for you fly out: just letters.

Don’t you think I cried enough? So many years

walking dazed with lust, with your name’s few letters.

All night the cat plays with the mice. They run

& toss, reminding me of us, love, this life’s smeared letters.

Dirt on my hands. Another lettuce row, more flowers.

You liked the dahlias best & the foxglove’s curious letters.

Okay. The lilacs never bloomed. The children left.

You won’t remember me, having burnt my letters.

It’s no one’s fault, the way the soul jerks out.

I learned to love like this, shaping the letters.

Before, all was the word, I’ve read, inscribed

on flesh & leaf & stone. Do you believe god lives in letters?

I try to praise it, this breaking life. Someday

this body too will find earth’s envelope: dead letters.

I wrote this poem some years ago when challenged by the poet friend for whom the Reading the Files poem was written. Technically it isn't a ghazal; I later learned more about the requirements of that verse form. But at the time the deal was "write a poem in two line segments, each line ending with the same word, each segment complete in itself, yet connected to the whole" or something along those lines. It was fun, of a heady sort.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

the poem strays into the light



Bloom breaks again all

along the greening

branches, bitter plum, apple

the fuzzed quince we can’t eat

without long fire & stilled


The blue pulse

keeps its sharp time.

I turn again in the long garden

book fallen from my hands


Spring’s great wheel

will turn without me

bright hurtling world


Love it for me then


In the rivered days we talked of water

My lips were still dry

When the rains came down

I left the doors open

If I hung mirrors

it was to find you

passing in the moving air

Where my child lay buried

I watched those small flowers

white violets eyelids of waking


I learned to hold the pieces

I learned to throw them away

It doesn’t take much time, my life

When I go down in the orchard

stunned with the breaking flowers

I look to see you clear light

my eyes blind with your sun

(I have been fascinated by the edges of things all my life, and the transitions between things. Where one thing turns to another. This is a poem that has lived in my notebooks a long while--my paper notebooks, that is. Time to let it come to the light for a bit.)

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Friday, July 06, 2007

a poem after diagnosis...


Say it several ways: a cloud

small, in the distance, across the bruised hills

or the intimate smudge on this negative

fusing a scanned secret. White masses

blind us. Laboratory files

refuse grief. Say the stars are forming

at a centered galaxy. Say love has a shape

you’d know, beautiful & wounded.

Now the pain

is distant, let’s talk, say, of your gardens

the white valerian, the arch of ivy

Say there is a place the soul comes to

Say death takes our senses

takes your breath away, that beauty

the woman in her red dress. Say

it makes a certain sense, the lines

of white birches, the blasted lesions

like fireworks exploding

through the brain. They’re pretty.

They could be a row of daisies.

This could be the storm breaking

This could be the falling tower

Your hands tremble

Your nerves are naked

Poetry is the last resort.

I read this poem at a local college, upon request, a few years back. One of the other folks turning out to have been asked to read a poem (oddly, about my bookstore, though I hadn't met him previously) gave me a ride to the rehearsals...and turned out to be an off duty highway patrol officer. "yeah, in my job I have a lot of time driving, and when an idea hits I just pull over..."

The poem came from an inadvertent breach of confidentiality when I was sorting mail for a local health center and a report, complete with x ray, fell out of a package. As I picked it up I saw the name of one of my dearest local friends, a poet. And the diagnosis.

She is still living, and managing her condition okay, with the help of poetry and her dear husband.

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