Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Train and the Station

The train goes
and the train stops.
I don’t know what I’d do
with either
without the other.
People must get somewhere
else, and so
we move together.
It is civilization heavy
but at the right speed. Then
just when it feels to have gone on
too fast too far
a station appears, its light
distant, a pinprick. But
by now we know
that a small light in darkness
can slow even a heavy train.
You feel it, don’t you?
The weight like the core of the earth
all around your little body,
by some power invisible to you
slowing. The noise of friction grating
and digging its heels
against the tracks. Lurch
full stop. Sigh.
Please get out, even
if it’s not your destination.
Lights are on telling you
through the windows:
Here is a place.
It is someone’s place.
Walk around. Sit on a bench.
Buy a coffee. See
how different it tastes
than it would have on the train.
Watch the ones who call this
home, their faces simultaneously
going and arriving.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I have reopened my small blog after two years. I have missed posting photos, something I did at my last blog, synch-ro-ni-zing. It seems important to keep this washed stones space for words, and that space for one photo a day of something small. All these things are just fingers pointing at the moon anyway.

Sorry I'm feeling quiet about responding to comments at the moment. But my heart is full of you.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Windy lake

The weather changes in a flash. One afternoon winter sunlight low in the sky is magnified too brightly and beams directly into the glass porch off the lake. The next the temperature drops thirty degrees, wind chimes dong coppery, and everything is gray—gray sky, gray water, gray trees, gray cottages, gray geese flying and honking—everything that is except the white caps on top of shuffling waves and foam rickracking across the surface.

It was November like this the first weekend we spent at the cottage with oaks on the hill black-striping the view down to the lake. I was seven and it was 1963. Grandpa had bought the house for Mom and us kids so we would have a place in case something happened to Dad. We owned no home as the parsonage belonged to the church.

There was no TV here that first weekend, but there was a radio, and from it we learned that President Kennedy had been shot. After that Dad decided to take us all home early so we could watch things unfold on the black and white TV.

Of course something eventually did also happen to Dad, and to Mom, Grandpa, our brother, uncles, aunts and our one cousin from Virginia who visited the lake with us in 1966. We euphemistically held their deaths at arm’s length of some future day: Something will happen. Now their frozen faces smile at us from photographs on the fridge, knotty pine walls and shelves.

This Thanksgiving weekend I read letters from the dead in the white scraps of waves. They keep coming and coming from the other side. I couldn’t keep them from coming if I tried. There is comfort in these letters that seem to say over and over, “It’s really all right that something has happened” as they slap and dissolve against our shore wall. Geese fly, honking, in the opposite direction, and the wind chimes are blown every which way imitating their flight, their sound, their life.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bells and Crosses

This poem is merely a vehicle. Though I have come away from Christianity, I mean no slight or offense to that religion here. Or to any religion. But for me, it was and is not sufficient. For some, the forms of religion are resplendent with meaning and beauty. 

I do feel deeply that religion is manmade, though most followers of it would decry such a declaration. I have always, even as a young child, been most interested in what lies underneath, inside, behind the forms of any particular creed, though there were times when high churches blew me away with their sober sacred spaces. I am even bold enough to believe that Jesus himself would wish symbols away that become over-burdened with import. He who did not own a home or carry much with him. Yes, he carried a cross, once. And then he left it there.

This speaks also of other realities, not only religion. Everywhere I turn this week I am hearing messages of form — foreground, background, and what we pay attention to.

Bells and Crosses

Hung with darkness
or rung with excitement,
crosses and bells
would otherwise be ciphers
empty and clear of meaning.
Forms alone, yet they
have been strung with cloves
that line my nostrils,
gaping like sepulchers. 
How gladly chimes
the clapper on Sunday morning
against the walls of the bell.
“Come to the warm table”
it seems to sing and vibrate,
laid white under the cross
with wafers, wine, and “be redeemed.”
I remember the joy of this banner,
when wine was imagined
as blood and bells' cups
rang their truth upside down. 
But these forms no longer
interest me, dissolving
into other matter
in the background.
Just another tree in the woods,
and another manmade
iron contraption in the city.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Madame Heart

I dreamt a scene. A woman’s head floating in a blue sky above a landscape arid with rocks and scattered manmade metal. Or was she above the sea with ships moored in the harbor of her neck? It was a Dali painting. Next day I strolled through the Dali museum into this room and that with melting clocks, stilts and butterfly sails, turned a corner and there she was floating on the wall. Exactly, though I had never seen the scene before except in my dream. I have not been able to find the painting anywhere since, and the museum is too far to go see again, to know it is real.

But what is real?

The dream? Dali? His vision? Surreal, it is called. Sir Real. For what is reality except what each of us sees, feels, perceives? Hello, Sir Real, nice to meet you, Madame Real.

Of course she was me, that head. Some version of my reality. Existing in me before Dali created her. Mind disconnected from heart, in control until the reverse happened through years and landscapes, each small keys that upended the house, doors broken open releasing the heart to graze above the world, wild, free.

But it becomes too much, Madame Heart. The butterfly sails cannot be sequestered in the harbor, nor can streetcars of progress stay on the tracks grown over with poisoned weeds, like jittery men getting somewhere they are not, everywhere there is virgin space, looking for somewhere to die.

Empty blue sky. The one place a heart can watch from, uncluttered.

~ with thanks to Erin

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November honors, a lullaby

It is black and white again, spotlights and confetti,
honors and regrets, winter. It is for this I live.
I sing to the stuttering TV of November 1963,
a girl my age, and her younger brother saluting the death parade.
One dies. Another will be reborn. The house is surrounded
by leafless trees. But o how the light in winter shines.

Note: I am relieved at the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, with some hope restored. But like most joys, it is mixed with shadows, and I feel melancholy. This is not a bad thing. "Sorrow wears, grief tears, melancholy soothes." I keep saying to myself, "Be the change you want to see ..." It's up to me, you see.

Monday, November 5, 2012

There will be lacerations

In the big world of wounds, a tiny laceration of thin skin breaks my heart. I had come for two weeks to help my daughter and son-in-law get through the waking agonies of a baby in teething torment. When a person is sleep deprived reality gets warped and minor scenes such as the pile of dishes akimbo in the sink or the laundry’s soft but menacing hill become unconquerable mountains. So, we three, the baby’s mama, daddy and grammy, triple-teamed and walked, rocked, cuddled, soothed, washed, straightened, folded, slept a little and tried to find the balance of sanity. How we long for his teeth to cut through the skin of his upper gums where four teeth hover shyly, their faces pressed against the translucent glass! (When I contemplate teething babies who suffer like this, I question the existence of God.)

Just before I left them to return to the farm, work and routines, James was cruising toward his daddy’s Macbook, so I quickly shut it. The timing was synchronized with his sudden reach. The closing laptop pinched the tiny middle finger of his right hand. Then it began to bleed, he wailed and we blubbered (mama and I) while we raced and washed and examined it for depth and seriousness (quick spurts of energy from nowhere!), while she nursed him, and daddy helped me prepare a Band-aid (his first!) — the very skin I wish to be permeable so that I might get inside and love him more completely than I do. But not like this. The blood that flows between us must be kept hidden in its treasure box, in the magic passages where a flying carpet would be humdrum.

There can be no thing that possibly comes close in worth to that thin translucent finger the size of a worm in its ill-fitting bandage. He sucked on it, seeming to understand this.

There will be lacerations. They are openings to the next tiny death swimming toward us, and to all the big ones. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A different kind of storm

While my intent in the last post was to write feelings from my own experiences of storms, I now feel that I was insensitive to post it when others have had, and now have, such catastrophic encounters with storms of a far greater magnitude. Please forgive me for not thinking it through well enough to protect my dear friends who have been so bruised by storms of a different kind. I am leaving that post, though I would dearly love to take it down. I feel it's an important lesson for me. The steps of this process matter.

I love you all.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Wind

Sounds like wing feathers
brushing screens and eaves,
and then a single cello note
spidering through the casement

on this gray dress of a day, full skirted,
embroidered with blowing leaves,
crisp-crinolined with dry corn stalks.

I love a storm, I love a storm, I love a storm.
But not for the grief torn through a far-off house—
       violent, stubborn, deranged.

I love it when I forget—seduced
by a smoking, rolled up sky,
black leather trees bending
in whispers and cracks,

humming suggestions just bass enough
to believe that another poor soul
might be abused by this power,
but not me, surely not me. Not today.