Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Jack-o-lantern

An outline is cut with a thin sharp knife
by an aching wrist of an old farm wife

Orange and bright, sweet and thick
the flesh is hard and doesn’t slice quick

The top with its stem will make a good lid
so she sets it aside like an impatient kid

Out of the dark scrapes slimy seeds—
pearls for snacking as salty beads

Pierces two eyes, filets a nose
carves a mouth to scoff at foes

Leaves three teeth to fend off ghouls
and the Banshee’s requiem in keens and mewls

Digs out a hole for a candle stub
carries to the porch like a laundry tub

Looks at her head with its bone-white light
windowed and shining toward winter’s night

It’s a charm she casts at this borderland
between light that’s been and the dark at hand

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Doe's Sanctuary

While I pass in my car
she emerges to remind me.
Feeling my vibration she safely tiptoes
backward from the road into
the cathedral of oaks—russet, and wound
in wild grapes. A glimpse of leaves
stained in memory.
What if I left the speed of my car
and followed her quietly in,
covered my head and lit a fragile flame?
Would she show me when to kneel
in the nave and when to shuffle
through the cloisters? I was not raised
in a church like this. I feel lost.
But this is an old church in an even
older world. I start to see
its roots in the shapes of my toes.
I’m sure I can remember the liturgy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Passionate Transitory, a poetry magazine

My friend Robert has walked hundreds, maybe thousands of miles across England and France. He writes delicious Fermoresque (Patrick Leigh Fermor) prose about those adventures and juicy poems that wander through countryside both physical and spiritual. He may be The Solitary Walker, but he has nicely gathered fine poets from hither and yon to begin a new poetry community. I am excited to be in on the ground floor of The Passionate Transitory partly because Robert is so widely read that he makes a far finer editor of such a magazine than almost anyone I know. The other reason is that the poems are quite wonderful, and I am honored to read the work of new-to-me poets and be included in this issue with them.

Check out Robert's walking adventures at The Solitary Walker.

Read the current (first) issue of The Passionate Transitory, including Robert's delightful editorial.

Read my quick interview, including who I write for here.

And here are the three poems of mine Robert included in this issue. You may have seen them before.

If you are a poet, please do submit your work to Robert for the winter issue here! Here are Robert's own words:

The scope of this journal will be broad, just as the concerns of poetry are as diverse as life itself. However, we are particularly interested in poetry as discovery, revelation, epiphany and praise; poetry as a magical conduit to the unconscious; poetry as a creative, meaningful and subtle process of marking stages in the real and metaphorical journeys we are all embarked upon — whether these be pilgrimages of the mind, the body or the soul. But before we lose ourselves in the abstract, let's remember the words of William Carlos Williamsno ideas but in things. It's the tangible things of the world that are the true stuff of poems, poems which are imaginary gardens with real toads in them as Marianne Moore so famously put it.

The only downside to Robert editing this journal is that out of proper protocol, his own poems do not appear.

Monday, October 15, 2012

At the altar

Between his dimpled fingers poke supple stems and points of maple leaves—gold, wine, russet. We sit on the floor close to the deck door screen on a warm autumn day, me Indian style, he nestled between my torso and legs. It is a day when wind dips the trees the way I dipped him earlier when we danced and he laughed. My hair blows against his cheek, and he sedately rakes fingers through it. It is a day when it doesn’t matter if you sweep or rake; the plentiful leaves that remain on trees across these farms keep being blown off and must be abandoned. They blow against windows and doors and catch in the five inches of space between the glass and screen when someone goes in or out. So now we sit at the screen as at an altar with a row of moist leaves within reach before us. He plucks two and squeezes them in each baby fist, then turns and rotates them elegantly like Martha Graham as if to remind them that they were once attached to trees. He swipes ruffles of leaves puckering out from his fingers across his mouth, which is open just enough for his tongue-tip to form a soft bud with his lips. I pick up and show him another leaf; he takes it after releasing one from his fist. The earth has given them to us and said Take, eat, this is my body broken for you. We thank her in the ceremony of the leaves.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This particular loneliness

No one understands
this particular loneliness—

The crow
hopping aside
when traffic comes
then hopping back
to what is dead or

A chair
at the window
where one ever
looks out at the many or

Power lines
like single black notes
connected at electric nodes—
everyone is linked but

Are ghosts to each other
in these houses, guests
on a common field
with occasional attempts

at translation
in this air where
every tongue is foreign
about what electrifies the heart

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Followup on Ben

My student Ben is clean. I called just now, and his surgery went fine, his tumor was benign, and like a stone it was carefully unearthed and laid in the wall and mortar of his life, which I hope will be very long.

The original post about Ben was from about a month ago: May we cleanse ourselves mindfully.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Opryland, Tennessee

I need GPS just walking out the door of the hotel room to navigate my way to the first conference session, given the complexities of the convention resort with its regions: The Magnolia, the Delta, the Garden Conservatory and the Cascades with color coded carpet, keys, and maps.

One million square feet, 3,000 guest rooms, 16 restaurants with chardonnay and merlot, a river with riverboat, an island, waterfalls, palm trees and orchids under one glass dome (so like The Truman Show). A world for conventions and conferences, and even some people's ideal vacation. Climate controlled “outdoor” cafés. “Nature” in rivers, streams, an island, tropical gardens, waterfalls streaming over Tennessee rock formations harvested and transplanted into this giant terrarium. It doesn’t matter that palm trees don’t grow on these stones in the wild, or that orchids do not hang from their beautiful striated layers. No alumroot, bluestem or loblolly pine anywhere here.

A gardener tidies dirt with a broom around perfectly spaced and blooming echeveria. I see a wheeled cart full of replacement plants for those that have stopped blooming. Standing, mouth open, inside this attempt to sweep and contain an environment to resemble the [disorderly] miracle of nature, I ask, Is it alive? Is it anything but a Hallmark illustration, a facsimile of light and life, like a painting by Thomas Kincade?

Too bad I can't navigate to a hillbilly porch, where the Grand Ole Opry is streaming on a transistor radio, the Smoky Mountains awaking through light slowly burning off the mist. A jug of moonshine. An old woman whistling through her tooth-gap, both of us rocking on our blooming rheumatiz. Now that would be a conference.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Driving country roads

My eyes take snapshots in fast motion, but this is my slow, silent time with farms and seasons. Straight country roads with snug box houses and farms with barns out of which horses step. The greatness of the flat land and its spiky grains, sifted into silos and cribs. Wind chasing tails, tassels and stalks, dry and lisping. Trees standing alone in the corn, trees laced at the arms united as one against the next field. Sky over all hilled with clouds. I drive and ponder what all this represents, and what the paved road changed after the dirt road of 100 years past. How the corn is raised for cows or fuel, and the cows for milk and meat. How even this simple commerce is not simple or easy (many remain hungry, genetically modified seeds cause havoc) but is contentious, complicated and passes like clouds along the sky in various shapes and speeds.

At evening a farmer in a huge, heavy combine cuts soybeans, dust fountained and illuminated. The great earth bends to his will.

Some wind blows and we fall along with it or plow against it. Every inch of terrain is chosen. Progress or regress. We do not stand still. We never stand still. Even in silence, we choose.

But Rumi says,

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, Language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.