Monday, October 6, 2014

Arranging stones: poems and quilts

A tiny airliner
crosses the sky,
without sound.

I type one
more word
on the page
and the seam closes.

Indian muslin
sewn to
French toile
means that pale young boys
play with a dog
in a beautiful garden
of dark-leafed paisley.

We pry
stones apart
just wide enough
to let another thing

and with all
that is in our power
sew them

this scar
that is

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer clouds

With no apparent ferocity in their wildness,
shapes of white ash and beam

roll above and past the old house and barn,
which sag under them in rumpled pleats.

Bent peaks and gables finger the buoyant clouds
but seem too weak to hook, release

and catch them: armloads of damp laundry,
which through summer centuries stay daily fresh.

When I was a girl in a small town, one
summer night I dreamt that the moon came

close enough to touch. Clouds hover today,
almost brushing my head,

until something shakes them out.
Heavily they fall. For a while I stand.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon — the unimaginable universe.
Jorge Luis Borges 

My grandson and I are out for a walk around his apartment complex of buildings. Along the edge of the asphalt, in the many cracks left by the creaks and heaves of winter, are anthills. Spring is turning to summer, truly, if the ants are rebuilding.

He is two and a half and the world belongs to him to do with as he pleases. When we play hide-and-seek around the big maples on the hill, he strips a sapling branch of its leaves before I can stop him. Now, as we walk the road, he swipes an anthill low, and in one small moment of horror I cry “no!” wanting him to obey and not run ahead and swipe as he does. “They took a long time to build the entrance to their home,” I say, but he is bent on swipe-swipe-swiping, though I grab his hand firmly against it.

I have just read about two-year-olds and the determination to do what it is they want to do until distracted. It does no good simply to fight, and there will be no spanking as there was of me, to break my will, to shape it into something not my own.

It will take time to build this boy, with the deliberateness of ants. In spite of my momentary horror, I whisk him up in feigned joy to play a new game. It works, and he is distracted from destruction.

But it was he who carried worms last summer off the asphalt into the grass to save them from cars, he who kissed ladybugs on the tree trunk and let them play along his small palms and shoulders. He who stared at the lake fly on the blue beach chair five minutes before it flew away. Were anthills an abstraction because he saw no ants, even from his small stature?

Someone taught me not to step on anthills by bending low to watch a worker cross the sidewalk carrying a single bit of earth in his mandibles. Close enough to see his mandibles! I transcended his ugliness (monster-like if movies are to be believed). I thought, how beautiful to have such mechanisms for industrious use.

In this memory I am relieved, seeing that I am not the teacher.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day off to sew the week of Mother’s Day

I wake up to the quiet alarm
of distant thunder, rain — Spring
offering diplomacy after a lethal winter.

It is a day to sew maternal gifts,
but it is for pleasure
that I stitch and miter
fabric the colors of robin’s eggs
and lilac leaves just starred.
It is for my pleasure the cotton
steams fragrant from under the iron
spread out open and flat
in the furrows I sew.

If only Spring found pleasure
wielding her power
like this, fingers flying
in grassy compassionate treaties
along the far passes of the blue planet.

I think pleasure would be enough
for her to mete out comfort equally.

* * *
I heard about the devastating landslide in Afghanistan, burying a village after days of rain. It was when I saw photographs here that something strange and wonderful happened. Aren't we constantly presented with wide-ranging emotions? I discovered the beautiful simplicity of this village only after it was partially destroyed. I did not know such places existed, never imagining the neat prettiness there nestled in the mountains of a part of the world decimated by war. Please go see those images and perhaps you will feel the connection I feel. There are no graphic images of people dead, only a village with part of it buried. (There is a photo of a dead donkey.) To imagine what these villagers are experiencing now, one boy losing his whole family. If only Nature could heal all our sins. Well perhaps she will, long after we're gone.