Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Before and after all of this, remember that first fall, fat with colors and the swerves in canyon road that your body took for the car, and unafraid as if your mountain-birth meant mountain rights and your body recalled each jig and jag, each rick-rack heartlining the slope with what could only be a steady pulse. Before and after it all, there is just what you lean into or slow down from fear. I could never ski for this reason: body trust and terror, the certainty that speed craved more of itself and the body accelerated is a brittle, blown-glass thing. I did my extreme sports with my soul, catapulting it here, vaulting it there, the long stretches on French heights, the soul pedalling hard and finishing barely and far behind.
When You Return
Ellen Bass

Fallen leaves will climb back into trees.
Shards of the shattered vase will rise
and reassemble on the table.
Plastic raincoats will refold
into their flat envelopes. The egg,
bald yolk and its transparent halo,
slide back in the thin, calcium shell.
Curses will pour back into mouths,
letters un-write themselves, words
siphoned up into the pen. My gray hair
will darken and become the feathers
of a black swan. Bullets will snap
back into their chambers, the powder
tamped tight in brass casings. Borders
will disappear from maps. Rust
revert to oxygen and time. The fire
return to the log, the log to the tree,
the white root curled up
in the un-split seed. Birdsong will fly
into the lark’s lungs, answers
become questions again.
When you return, sweaters will unravel
and wool grow on the sheep.
Rock will go home to mountain, gold
to vein. Wine crushed into the grape,
oil pressed into the olive. Silk reeled in
to the spider’s belly. Night moths
tucked close into cocoons, ink drained
from the indigo tattoo. Diamonds
will be returned to coal, coal
to rotting ferns, rain to clouds, light
to stars sucked back and back
into one timeless point, the way it was
before the world was born,
that fresh, that whole, nothing
broken, nothing torn apart.

Ode to The God of Atheists
Ellen Bass

The god of atheists won’t burn you at the stake
or pry off your fingernails. Nor will it make you
bow or beg, rake your skin with thorns,
or buy gold leaf and stained-glass windows.
It won’t insist you fast or twist
the shape of your sexual hunger.
There are no wars fought for it, no women stoned for it.
You don’t have to veil your face for it
or bloody your knees.
You don’t have to sing.

The plums that bloom extravagantly,
the dolphins that stitch sky to sea,
each pebble and fern, pond and fish
are yours whether or not you believe.

When fog is ripped away
just as a rust red thumb slides across the moon,
the god of atheists isn’t rewarding you
for waking up in the middle of the night
and shivering barefoot in the field.

This god is not moved by the musk
of incense or bowls of oranges,
the mask brushed with cochineal,
polished rib of the lion.
Eat the macerated leaves
of the sacred plant. Dance
till the stars blur to a spangly river.
Rain, if it comes, will come.
This god loves the virus as much as the child.

Wild Strawberries

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter's age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she's a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat—
the one you never really liked—will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours, for a month.
Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you'll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn't plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you'll come home to find your son has emptied
your refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money.
There's a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But there's also a tiger below.
And two mice—one white, one black—scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here's the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you'll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You'll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Ellen Bass

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Days on Water, Babyskin, Grilled Lobster, Mirth Kitchen

Days on water, on air and two if by landed, at last, albeit gently but arrived. Some holidays remind you why you live. Three sisters dancing with one baby boy in a kitchen full of so much warmth and not because the days touched the near hundred mark or the cooking. This what being alive was meant to be I felt as that little babyboy dancing with us and laughed and each of us, for once, had all this plus good love in our lives. It felt like the pay-off for years of work. Three sisters so happy and the husband/brother-in-law all we could wish for in chosen family and my boy: a perfect, beautiful fit and hit with everyone.
For our one beach night, we chose St. Petersburg instead of Treasure Island, and the water bathy and the sand a pristine white and in the mornings there were two ribbons of amazing seashells to be gathered. One so large and intact,rusty-striped, that it looked like I cheated and bought it from one of those seashell shops.

Days in water, the heat so heavy that there was only to submerge: a swimming pool lovely and fountained, an ocean with white sands and clean warm water and so much splashing and laughter that the days could not contain more, though they tried.

Back in Ohio, I keep dreaming Florida. How relaxing and easy it all was. How crazily right my life became all at once and without warning.
Now to teach and then to try packing some things. I don't know what my new address will be yet, but the adventure of that, plus days up in Dublin with a swimming pool and workout area on-site, plus the best garden patio, are things to be savored right now.

My sale-hydrangea is yet-blooming and if it hangs in with me, I will be planting it in the soil of a home I can call my own for a long time. Right now, it hangs on a third floor balcony over a lake loud with Canadian geese and teeming with ducklings and the background of only water and sky. Bliss.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Two Oh Seven A. M. is For

If not looking into the darkness and finding it line-broken, the caesuras and commas most of what life is: waiting rooms. The waiting takes more as the days get shorter and after reading Jackie Osherow's God's Acrostic again, and after considering all she says about how maybe God has hidden things in plain sight, down the vertical margins of our seasons and science and our eyes, dutiful drones, glide left to right while we lose the most pressing part of the message.

It's two a.m. again and I have been up twice since I went down. I sleep too little and fitfully, but there is good in this here insomnia and there are dreams. Just now I am thinking a student's after class conversation about how "whatever it is: fate or God or the universe, I feel like things are floating all around me and just when I need them, some drop down and into place." Never have I been more susceptable to such musings as this year, this everylargethingatonce year. The new babies in my life, the maybe-house-buying, and all the love, in various and unexpected forms but there and with people magical enough to know what it is and to tend to it.

The line breaks give the line another way of meaning, I told my class today. A visual moment of holding a thought and then, like breath, releasing it to the next unit of attention. The line breaks give a poem a way of being art with the strings of beads and the pattern of any given musical line of design, a way to pause for a minute and "hold that thought" while a line of prose would be lost to the paragraph, the line break allows that linger--however momentary and un-slowed in the reading--to give the eye a small trinket as it leaves the one line and serpentines down to begin the next. Only a poem does that, and sometimes, when we're lucky, a day.

In a few days, I hold Evan again and my sisters meet the boy and the beginning of the kind of unity of all that matters to me continues and there will be the sea too, some rented convertable and a stretch of stupidly-clear sky. What clouds find us, find us laughing.

For now, sleep.


She writes with lavender ink on cream vellum. A crow
takes roost in the monkey puzzle, is lost

in its formal bracts. It rains; the rivers rise.
Clouds drifting east swell with the monsoon

flooding Thailand; the woman weeps
as she writes. A cargo liner headed seaward

escapes the tip of a triangle. Fingers of rain
point down. A foghorn declaims the enormity

of ocean, its black fathoms. In a small town
on another coast, a man checks the sky,

puts on his raincoat, opens his mailbox — galvanized steel,
flag for rural delivery — inside, an envelope

that he slices with the knife he folds
and pockets before removing her letter.

He will know the spidery purple, the fine cream,
the strokes that slope left, slightly. See, the ink

on the letter is smudged, I just need to know
you are there, the envelope, rain spotted.

Copyright © 2010 Diane Kirsten Martin All rights reserved
from Conjugated Visits
Dream Horse Press

Thursday, July 08, 2010

How Swiftly Fly the Days These Days

Teaching all summer and gratefully-so but the days are gone before I know it and the things I meant to do gone with them. A special stolen afternoon with dear Les and the laughter from that and her good brain and heart and the wonderful "buddha bowl" of my old north star made an unexpected treat of the afternoon. Sad began it, her worries and devotion over her dearest friend, but the time itself was good I think, and I was grateful for it. Tomorrow I meant to Yellow Springs, to watch a movie in the art theater there but I may just meander here, make some time for the pool, pack some boxes, get my life into a portable mode.

Tonight I am enjoying the few minutes before I turn in and the last few weeks in this place and in my own place, too. We're off to new adventures. My adventure is the "we" of it and the address, and the house or the symbolic commitments to a place, a set of walls, a bunch of what humans do to say "permanence" while the seasons and the gods laugh. But aren't we pretty to think so? And aren't we beautiful in our attempts? In the face of so much that says no, not bloody likely, as my beloved-boy would say, we say, "if you don't mind, I'll try just the same."

I mean, I believe in the goings-ahead and I am thrilled to be up to the task for the first real time in say, nine years. I am excited to have a yard where what I plant grows and what gets buried can be decorated with my homegrown flowers. I am happy for all that has had to change and be grown and buried to make this new now possible.

Echoing Canto of Fixedness

The effort made by stars
to move for us is massive:
from our fixed point

looking up through crevice
or canyon, at the vast and intricate
patterning, appraising

from a cleared or blank space,
is frightening. `Miracle'
of tawny frogmouth,

aesthetic as torn wood
in its belying swoop, distending
mouth swallowing pinpricks

of gnat-light, is nudged
aside, or magnified if waxing
spirits move the display,

intensity of mortality,
to account for fireworks:
intertexts and skyshow.

Copyright © 2010 John Kinsella All rights reserved