Sunday, January 29, 2017

old trails fresh snow: embedded poetry

The river flows rich dark brown dark and rising
fooled by a semblance of spring
a wide foreboding and welcoming spring
that vanished
and josie and i tumble along the river
following an old path renewed
in the softening
that i realized held dangers
but josie insisted
more fleet-foot than i
so i gave in as much as i could
while retaining my wisdom
and yesterday in snowshoes
caught up in branches
in that tricky spot downslope
and the branches they congregate
there at the bottom
and once in a while
trip me up
so i went kerplunk and forward
face down in the snow heading downbank
with a belly flop
and snowshoes flying up behind me
making a cross
and i’m pretty sure it was all cartoon-like
so i must be ok and got up
and josie, ahead, stopped, looked back, and
i pretended he was concerned / i waved and shouted
“i’m ok! i am okay!” and so traveled on, trailing behind,
like always, like always, thinking about the poem
Ode to Solitude
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

Happy the man, whose wish and care
   A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
                            In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
   Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
                            In winter fire.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find
   Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
                            Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
   Together mixed; sweet recreation;
And innocence, which most does please,
                            With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
   Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
                            Tell where I lie.

as it is the poem my mother said could be read
at a memorial service
if there were a memorial service
and that was ok with her that there be a service and maybe,
if we wanted,
we could sing something like “summertime” and read
“ode to solitude”
and the poem kind of surprised me that this
is what my mother said was ok and not, say,
   the owl and the pussycat went to sea
   in a beautiful pea-green boat

which i’ve heard is the last poem
she responded to, gave a cackle at,
not long before she died.
Not a bad way to go.

Now temperature reclaims its wintry rights and
crust of snow withstands average weight of 150
pounds or more per square foot (or thereabouts)
josie, weighing 18, zigs and zags, curlicues, backtracks,
surges ahead at will at
behest of scent, mind, whim, fiddle-faddle.

The sun shines. For a moment.

I mince along the icy terrain with no such freedom
following his tracks, as always, as always,
his tracks like japanese etchings in a quarter-inch of
snow, fresh, whitewashing the old impressions of
sunken hooves, piles of scat, as if whitewashing
the crust of days, as if this were a different day
and one could erase
sail away
try again.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

landscape of gratitude

Thank you to the women who walk. Thank you to all those who march and run and strut and stroll and hobble along for the rights and dignity of women, all women, all people, everywhere.

I missed the signs, the cues, you see, so I was not there, I should have been there, walking, one place or another, with you, saying, Hey, don’t you dare minimize me or my sisters our mothers our daughters our husbands our brothers our wives our people our families. Don’t you dare twist my arm and ridicule me, say you speak for me. You may drown out our voices, you may mock us, ignore us, but you can never silence us because we speak from our hearts and it is heartening to know there are so many different voices still out there that speak loudly, speak softly, speak to me—voices measured with intelligence, voices deep with experience, voices strong with conviction reaching out with compassion believing America, that people, can aspire to something much greater than what you have offered.

You see, a woman started talking to me about knitting a hat. I had just entered the library wearing a hat I had knitted, it was blue, but I was in my own world, have been in my own world, safe there because sometimes it feels not so safe elsewhere, and then it was a pink hat she was hoping to make, a pink hat with ears, and then this was about the march, the protest, oh no, she said, the “demonstration,” we have to call it a “demonstration,” and I said heck, let’s call it what it is: a protest. I protest. You protest. We all protest. Right? She agreed. And there was a bit more, lots of buses from here going, but I wanted nothing more, was just looking for a book for my mind to sink into.

Thank you to all those who walk for human dignity, for respect, for freedom of choice and freedom of movement. Thank you to those who stand up not only for themselves but for all.

I shirked my responsibility.

And how I’ve wanted to walk these past few days, maybe that was a clue, just get out and walk up or down street after street taking random turns at random corners, no plan, no destination, just walk, like I sometimes used to walk in the city, but here there are not the streets for that nor the intersections, the choices, so many choices, so Josie and I we wandered into the woods in the rain, and the rain fell on the snow.

I found the book I needed, a perfect one it seemed, and maybe even it was a clue: Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Living with a Wild God.” – I have known people who are duller than trees, as well as individual trees that surpass most people in complexity and character. –

I tuned out the world readily, gladly.

I am grateful for those who stay tuned in, those who face the world and walk in protest.

Guess it’s time to get some pink yarn, knit a new hat.

Looking at these photos, my favorite sign for right now shows up in Salem, Oregon.

The Marquette, Michigan walk.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

procrastination prattle

Thought I might start with a poem but decided to skip it.

What’s that? I’m no poet!

Over the course of last year, I did less and less writing by hand, noticing it late in the year but thinking nothing more about it other than a slightly curious and rhetorical “why?”. Then one recent day as I sat at my desk—the desk that is all fairly newly put together and just organized—ready to embark on a legitimate tome—oh yes! Legitimacy! A Tome!—I knew not where to begin—of course, it’s already begun, a piece here a bit there, photos on the wall, photos of all those people whose lives inspire, encourage, mock—so I took out one of my new pens and an old, mostly used-up pad of yellow legal paper, and I began a letter to a friend. Once it was finished, folded, put aside to await its envelope, address, and stamp, I lingered, hands and thoughts in mid-air. How I wished to have another person to write to, by hand.

So much writing is procrastination.

The thousand and one things that get done and thought about, even written about, while preparing to write, but not writing—not writing that one thing you want to write, anyway, or at least think you want to write. Feel you must write.

Ancestors whisper from the wall.

Because it’s destiny.

The friend I wrote to is the kind of person who uses the word “prattle.” What a great word! As I was prattling along in my letter to him, I became increasingly distracted by the piles of photos on my desk. I thought a great title for something or other might be: Prattle & Old Photos. Now, doesn’t sound so good. Maybe: Old Photos & Prattle. Or: Prattle & Letters & Old Photos. Or just: Prattle. (The Prattle of Pea Pickle Farm.) If it were a song: Shake, Prattle, and Roll.

Prattle & Tea
Just You & Me
The Shade of a Tree

Prattle on, merry folk!

So much of writing is procrastination.
presidential prattle
On the fence — it’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it. We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year-and-a-half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait. Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin. I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We’re going to start building. Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment — probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen. So, remember this, OK? I would say we are going to build a wall and people would go crazy. I would then say, who is going to pay for the wall? And people would all scream out — 25,000, 30,000 people, because nobody has ever had crowds like Trump has had. You know that. You don’t like to report that, but that’s OK. OK, now he agrees. Finally, he agrees. But I say who is going to pay for the wall? And they will scream out, “Mexico.” Now, reports went out last week — oh, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall because of a reimbursement. What’s the difference? I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year-and-a-half until I make my deal with Mexico. And we probably will have a deal sooner than that. And by the way, Mexico has been so nice, so nice. I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico. I have many people from Mexico working for me. They’re phenomenal people. The government of Mexico is terrific. I don’t blame them for what’s happened. I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I don’t blame the representatives and various presidents, et cetera, of Mexico. What I say is we shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. It’s not going to happen anymore. So, in order to get the wall started, Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed. OK?

donald trump
Now wait a minute — Is this guy on drugs or what? We don’t need no hopped up on speed & ego prattle here! No mind-bending self-serving nation-destroying prattle, please!

If I taught a course in writing, Lesson One would be: Procrastination: Embracing the Prattle.

But we’d never get there.

Or: Kill the Prattle!

Or maybe: Survive the Prattle.
Someday you will learn, my children: seventy-five percent of life is prattle. Though recent studies indicate that percentage is rising at an alarming rate, some going so far as to warn of a pending prattle plague in which life as we know it will be reduced to nothing but prattle within six days.
I lean back, stare at this wall of photos, my ancestors whispering: this too shall pass.* My mind expands. I feel momentarily at ease.

We’ll get to it.

* The idea of ancestors whispering this too shall pass is lifted from an India.Arie song—“This Too Shall Pass.” Here is her latest—“Breathe.”

Sunday, January 8, 2017

send help

Very cold and snow snow snow. Plus, sleep. Sleep is solid. Dreams, interesting. The night before last, one week anniversary of Mom’s passing, I dreamt I was sleeping on a bench in a train station. I was on my stomach. I woke up to find a baby on my back. A black baby swaddled in blue. I was surprised. Delighted but concerned. I managed to get up while holding the baby. The baby was wet, a soiled diaper soiled all the way through, dripping. I went next door, through a door, to find a social worker. I thought how wonderful it was that there were social workers right next door. A pale young woman with short black hair, all dressed up for New Year’s Eve, about to leave, stopped to help me, stopped to help the baby. As she bustled about she made pleasant, efficient noises like OK, time to do the job. I was holding the baby—the blue of the blanket, the wet of the blanket—and suddenly the baby dropped to the floor, almost as if thrown. A momentary feeling of panic. But the baby, flat on its back, seemed to be all right. Stared up at me as I knelt down, came close, looked into the big round eyes, eyes which seemed slightly alarmed, maybe just questioning, dark brown eyes in a big round face, the beautiful brownish black skin, the deep blue blanket.