Sunday, November 25, 2007

all of my children wanted to fly


Garth in the slanted rain

says arms bend at the rainbow.

3 years growing: his own spectrum.

Take off my feet, he yells.

Bird need wings.

Take out the stars. Give me some.

In the wet grass

he marks constellations:

maple leaf, mushroom, twig.

Footprint, he says: Rain

walk here. Where rain home?

Questions easy as water

& already I can’t answer

We fast forward a few years here. This one was also a Christian Science Monitor poem (and bought the kid in question some new sneakers). Entering fully into the world of my children was always a great delight and a great challenge. This past Thanksgiving, which we spent at this son's house overlooking the mountains and the river valley, I reflected a lot on my blessing in having my three, each one a challenge and a delight in his or her own way.

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and another of the baby poems


The simplest of nouns

feed you now, a world

of yellow sun & blue sky.

You are my primary


I carry you, find you

to balance at

one bucket of seed, gold

wheat bag, an armload of fire

wood in wet weather

Under the plum trees

you will learn walking

& the snails bring their houses

for visits, & the sparrows all be

royalty, with bright crowns

We will have waltzes in the garden

& the river bring red sand

& blue feathers: soft feet

the wind will teach you polkas

while you sleep.

yes, another one. This one came out in George Hitchcock's kayak. The last line in the first stanza originally read primary/easy rainbow and I think I like the rhythm of that better, but George liked color best and for once--usually I fiercely resisted and resist editorial advice--I agreed. I go back and forth. I was so struck, with my first child, by those soft, soft feet that had never touched ground.

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then poetry and babies mixed themselves together.


Overnight the leaves have turned.

Yellow birds, brown, the thrush, the gold

crowned sparrows, chipping sparrows, wren

have gathered in their light & flown.

Being part bird you hold them

still in your dancer’s hands, light

boned with the star’s geometry

& all the fine wind come resting

after long labor, all

bright sky in this foxed autumn

leaf fire, storm candle

my loud October sun.

It's a poem that is...30 years old now, as is my firstborn. It was published in...let me think..yes, it was the Christian Science Monitor that for a while supplied little checks that went towards baby necessities and cut flowers in return for poems like this one. My baby poems are not my best; it is hard to pull out of sentimentality when the adored infant is drooling on you, and in this particular one I'm not sure about that last pun. But the poems I wrote the autumn and winter of my first child's birth felt like triumphs. So many stupid people said to me "how nice that you will have a baby to take care of--then you won't need to write". Since pregnancy was not a good time for poetry--my listening mind went inward too far with each of my pregnancies, and while I could write fiction and newspaper columns, poetry seemed impossible--I was terrified that they might be right, that I might perhaps have to trade the gift of my child for the gift of the muse, or vice versa. Any poem that came to me in that time was gratefully and humbly received.

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Monday, November 12, 2007


There is a silence now, beyond the fields

behind the boundary of firs

where the river shudders & smoothes

passed over by herons, troubled by fish

I thought I called your name

with each hard breath

I thought your steps, though you stumbled

would bring you home at last

The woods fill with shadows.

In town I can’t see the stars.

Is there something here still

something forgotten

what bright thing guides us

here where the world keeps ending

Got a report back from the recent WS Merwin (and Robert Haas) reading down south a bit; seems Merwin was asked to limit his reading to poems about land and such. I ask you. My informant said he seemed annoyed, but read with full intensity, particularly the latest poems. I am envious; would have loved to have been there.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


In the woods the summer birds

learn to fly, testing the air

& careful through sun & leaf the quick

fawn steps & stands

lured by roses & ripened plums

What we desire we cannot have

I know this; all my life

comes to this still moment. Between rocks

water wells up: call it spring

or miracle you say

smiling into the sun

on this hilltop where the hawks cry out

& the children paint

with stems of dried grass & wildflowers

making hearts & their names

on white cloth

your darkhaired daughter laughing

All my life the summer birds

have put on feathers & flown away

If I were

to touch your wet skin

to drink your clear water

dear my life, what could my hands

hold to

an old, old poem. It was printed in Prairie Schooner--oh, it must be more than 10 years ago now. Sometimes the road not taken does haunt one. The person this was written for will be in town this weekend with one of the children of his latest marriage. Wistfulness arises.

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