Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Queen Anne's lace in April


After a winter of nearly
a full alphabet of storms,
from Atlas almost to Zephyr —
            conquering kings, hunters,
            warriors, destroyers —

prostrate stalks and grasses
like sickled wheat
layer the meadow,
unquestioning, submissive,
as if stepped on by gods,

except every few feet
where thin stems stand
stiff, unbent, lace collars
intact, rising like peaceful
purveyors of xenia,
the ancient obligatory gift
of hospitality and protection
to strangers, however
violently they might come.

* * *
Added at 10:08am:

I am excited by a one-on-one "workshopping" from a friend who suggests this edit. I think it is an improved, tightened version, and I appreciate it!


After a winter's alphabet of storms,
from Atlas almost to Zephyr —
            conquering kings, hunters,
            warriors, destroyers —

prostrate stalks and grasses
like sickled wheat
layer the meadow,
submissive,
stepped on by gods

except where thin stems stand
unbent,
lace collars whole,
rising like
purveyors of xenia,
the ancient obligatory gift
of hospitality and protection
to strangers, however
violently they might come.



You can read the list of names given to the storms of 2013-14, including Xenia, the most recent (I think).




25 comments:

  1. upright, strong, almost laughing
    with His glory

    what a picture you painted here

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading, HisFireFly.

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  2. A wonderful poem, Ruth, and I love the way you have used the concept of xenia here.

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    1. Thanks, George. I was astonished that anything withstood that winter of ours.

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  3. How wonderfully you echo the picture from yesterday. So odd what strange little fragments -the ones we thought most delicate - survive.
    I did not know of the custom of xenia - a rather fascinating one.

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth. I wasn't aware of xenia either, until reading through the list of winter storm names.

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  4. A very enjoyable read! I like both versions— the looser and more direct one.

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    1. Thanks for reading them both, Jade, and I'm glad you enjoyed them.

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  5. I had read the first version yesterday, Ruth, and then the second version today (without rereading the first version)...and I must say I do like how you've workshopped it...though the first was good enough. I have such fond memories of your Queen's Lace there in your meadow, so this poem takes on new meaning for me.

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    1. Well thanks for reading both, Boots, and for sharing my fondness for our meadow and the Queen Anne's Lace.

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  6. I love this! And I live in Xenia, Ohio :)

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    1. Thanks, Dana. And I learned about a town in Ohio. I wonder if you knew the meaning of the name before.

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    2. Yes I did - we're that and apparently the bicycle capital of the midwest (& the site of a series of devastating tornadoes in 1974).

      I don't know if you remember the book ...And Ladies of the Club written by Helen Hooven Santmyer. It was set in Xenia. Someone gave me a copy when we moved here but I've never managed to make my way through it.

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  7. ah, the unquestioning and then the submissive. i understand why this needed to slight change:)

    in light of this morning's conversation your poem reads (for me) more telling, more pertinent, as though in the core of each unfurling plant (and with such delicate lace to counter violence!) lies the kernel of our redemption for wars waged in any natural way, environmentally or at the hand of man, for we too are a part of nature no matter how hard we try to move away from it or destroy it in ourselves.

    xo
    erin

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    1. Yes, sweet Erin. These things are ever in my head. I wonder what ways we can be in the stream of nature, and also resist the stream against it.

      Somewhat related to our conversations, I awoke this morning with something like this in my head. How are others in the world waking up, what do they face today. And then I found this book of photographs by James Mollison of children in the world and where they sleep. It was what I saw, in reality.

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  8. Loving the tightened up version and nature's contradictions that it describes so well.

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    1. Thank you, Mary. Elizabeth's tightening was needed.

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  9. Hello! Both versions are wonderful, but I confess to preferring the second, tighter poem because it does give the sense of those people, erect, proud, who continue to offer their gifts to those who perhaps do not deserve them (had never heard of xenia before; thank you for the introduction). Queen Anne's lace--ahhh--so perfect! I have just returned from a place where such hospitality & grace was offered; it is soothing, and humbling…
    Thank you.

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    1. DS, thank you for reading and liking both versions. How good that you have recently received hospitality and grace. If I were to offer this more and expect it less, I think I would be happier. :)

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    2. oh, but you do, you do...

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  10. Even after being pummeled by the conquering hoards, nature's strength looms, humbly grateful and stronger than all.

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    1. Amanda, will we, can we, ever learn all that we can from nature?

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All responses are welcome.