Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Poem in The Coe Review

My poem "Sonnet on a Line from Elizabeth Bishop" is on p. 43 of the Fall 09 print edition of The Coe Review. I can't find it online, so here it is:

If you taste tears too often, inquisitive tongue,
you'll crave more salt on everything you eat,
taste blandness even in the rarest meat.
Tears tear, obscure the vision of the young.
too many elders leave their loss unsung,
often deny the pain they daily meet.
Inquisitive neighbors murmur and entreat;
tongue locks the secret grief away among
long stored up packets far back in the deep freeze.
Avoid the frequent tongue touch to your grief;
instead, taste food whose sweetness pain will ease
if you would seek a gossamer relief.
The tongue will savor sweetness more than salt;
with icing more than cheese your pain will halt.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Hymn to Longwood Gardens

I grew up visiting Longwood Gardens, which was a ten minute drive from my home.

Here is a poem I wrote last year about the place:

Hymn to Longwood Gardens

How is it that I was born five miles from you,
born to walk your three hundred acres for twelve years?

Now, thirty years later,
in the satiny iced lawns of February,
I dream of your sumptuous beds
of lavender
glowing numinous in summer twilight,
your solitary fountain
stumbled upon in deep shade,
of thrush revealing her speckled breast in the mulch
behind the Italian water gardens.

I dream of my first love
plucking my hand into his,
a young, thin, fine, freckled hand,
the first holding of hands
as we entered the garden
for a fountain display
on a starlit July evening.

In those days, you were free.
Now, you have flourished,
and your entrance fee is costly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thinking of West Chester PA

I was going to drive to my hometown, West Chester PA, today, but changed my mind.
It snowed again last night, and show showers and bitter cold winds dominate the day.
I'll go tomorrow. But travelling to West Chester always makes me think of my parents,in the summer days when we went to Longwood Gardens, and the winter nights
in the kitchen at supper. I wrote a poem about that a number of years ago:

Four Thousand Suppers

At the kitchen table
at six o'clock.
Dark winter evenings
with my father in his winter underwear,
quilted like an astronaut.
Blue summer evenings
after my mother called my name
on the lilting breeze
which reached me
at far corners of the neighborhood,
her voice known
among all the others.

We ate four thousand suppers
in that small room together.
What did we discuss?
Linoleum and carpet, casement windows,
the wild McElroys,
the loud Mrs. Supportas,
scenes from the fifth grade,
my problems with bushels and pecks.

Four thousand suppers -
oceans of tea.
The man and woman at the table
grow grey.
I grow up -
feet finally
reach the floor.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Book Thief

Over our semester break, I read this novel and loved it. I read it with a mind to assigning books for the MOD CIV class I'm teaching this semester, but this book will stay with me long after that course concludes.

The writing is loaded with figures of speech and images. I think the writing is superb. The narrator is Death - though not in any mordant or obnoxious way:
" I would introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away. At that moment, you will be lying there ( I rarely find people standing up) You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps. The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying?" (4)

Death tells the story of a young German girl in a small German town during WWII.
It's the most gripping story I've read in recent memory.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Blustery January Saturday

This photo came from Google images, from a blog called "Spike's Backyard" - but it looks like the scene at my window these days. A Carolina Wren comes regularly, along with a host of Chickdees, Nuthatches, Downies, Finches, etc.

On another subject... I'm writing again; first poems since the summer. Here is a draft of one I worked on yesterday. The end of the year, end of the decade has preoccupied me this past week. Re-reading my journals, I realize what a rough and momenous decade it has been in my life. This is very self-focused; I realize that the tragedies and losses this country has experienced, and the world! are so much larger. But anyway:

Spending down the Decade

Say the years like rosary beads:

Year of cobweb cancer cut from my nose,
Frankenstein scar from repairing graft,
Year of Alzheimer’s Father,
AWOL from the old folk’s home
In his soon to be confiscated car,
Driving hours in the snow
To the home town,
Chatty with the state police,
Surprised to see me there
To retrieve him.

Glory be

Year of Planes flying into tall buildings,
Melting the steel beams like licorice sticks,
Flames and people jumping,
Straight down collapse

Glory be

Year of spending down my parents’ money
To qualify for Medicaid.
None left for me.
Year to shun the fantasies
Of wealth and escape.
Year of Susan’s death,
Breast cancer chewing her liver.

Glory be

Year of the hole in retina,
curtain of detachment
but still, the central vision gone.

Glory be

Year of Paris, Lourdes,
green Mediterranean heaving
On the rocks below Quercinella

Glory be

Year of the wide paintbrush of burning
Inside forearms and palms,
Heart Attack,
Recalling me to life,
Numb, relieved to
Flee from bombastic boss.

Glory be

Year of the Amish –
My newfound family tree,
Familiar faces in the farmformal dress,
Of the Nickel Mines massacre,
My cousin’s shattered mouth
Repaired, speaking to me.

Glory be

Year of my Father’s drowning
departure during his afternoon nap,
The sudden absence,
The rabbit’s comforting kiss.
Year of Scattered Showers

Glory be

Year of collapsing convent,
crumbling stock rock, shrinking savings,
lost fortunes.
Year of Pick it up and Read

Glory be

Year of Cervical Cancer,
terrible mating with radium,
flushed colon,
blurred vision,
months marooned,
recalled to life.
Year when lilacs were never so dear
Year of Bob’s Brain Cancer,
death by brain fever.
Year of How the Hand Behaves

Glory be

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ring out the old, ring in the new...

I love this... heard it on NPR years ago. It's an old Welsh carol found and set to music by Benjamin Britten:

Here we bring new water from the well so clear,
For to worship God with, this happy new year;
Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine,
With seven bright gold wires, and bugles that do shine;

Sing reign of fair maid, with gold upon her toe;
Open you the west door and turn the old year go;
Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine,
With seven bright gold wires, and bugles that do shine;

Sing reign of fair maid, with gold upon her chin.
Open you the east door and let the new year in!
Sing levy dew, sing levy dew, the water and the wine,
With seven bright gold wires, and bugles that do shine.