Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Spinning Gift for the Turning Moment (from the journal)

Catbird on the hammock.
It’s me that’s caught
her eye.  8-1-13

A gentle pendulum,
hummingbird’s tail
moves across the rosy sharons
as green as the leaves.  8-1-13

No sun to open the sharons,
hummingbird sits on yesterday’s closed flowers
and pokes with her beak.  8-1-13

Irritated wren
moves across the woods
faster than my eye.  8-1-13

Feathered yellow light
holds up two yellow swallowtails
nettled in a swirl.  8-4-13

That red-breasted bird lowers her breast
into last year’s red leaves in the one spot of sun
this cool morning.  Rufous-sided towhee.  8-5-13

That squirrel made the forest move.
Bee makes the sharon move.
The gray air makes nothing move.  8-6-13

Sky clouds moving east.
Earth clouds moving west.
Counterpoint before the rain.  8-20-13

Pye weed’s full pink heads.
Will they wait until I
get back?  8-20-13

I don’t know this bird.
Sounds a little like a rufous-sided towhee.
Let’s call him Morning Bird Who Sings in the Sea Air.  8-22-13

Between me and the pond
down there in the dense thicket,
there’s a cottontail and his kin.  8-23-13

When I go away from this balmy shore,
the sea oats will stay and hold my place.  8-23-13

This day belongs to mourning dove.
Repeating, he says so again.  8-25-13

More cicadas than
myrtle blossoms now.
One vibrates in the ear,
the other in the eye.  8-26-13

Nodding into the ground,
puccoon’s last yellow leaves
lean like sleepy pinwheels.  8-26-13

Above the white pines circling—vulture.
He sees me better than I see him and
he wonders about my pen.  9-3-13

The fading rosy lavendar that thinned out green.
That angle of yellow light.
They are all the end of something
the cool air carries away.  9-4-13

Look, there’s a catbird in the holly,
in a circle of sun.  He speaks softly.
I hear him.  9-4-13

So many days, books and libraries
soak up the hours. What choice?  
No choice.  9-11-13

Four geese overhead make an arm of a V.
They talk about it.  9-11-13

I’m feeling a little like columbine today,
yellowed and browned by the difficult summer.
Still upright on its stems, it is, though.  9-12-13

A round robin
of three families of noisy crows—
a circlet of crows?  9-14-13

Sieboldii’s one pink flower has a friend. 
And it has a mouth.
Well, a flower mouth.  10-31-13

Yellow sassafras and
cinnamon myrtle dance—
dark light, dark light, dark light.  10-31-13

I wrote it.  I sent it.  No surprise.
Let it be real in spite of everything.  11-10-13

Whose oak leaf fell in my hair?
A gift, a spinning gift
for the turning moment.  11-10-13

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Saving the Book

I did write poetry in August, but was also busy trying to save our libraries.  This is a letter I wrote that was published in our local newspaper last week, The Connection.

Dear Editor,

I picked up a book of poetry at Reston Regional Library so I would have something to read my granddaughter at bedtime while we were at the beach last week.  I found The Children’s Own Longfellow.  It’s illustrated with wonderful old, oil paintings.  When I was reading it to my granddaughter, I came across a poem my 6th grade teacher in Salt Lake City required us to memorize.  “Under a spreading chestnut-tree / The village smithy stands; / The smith, a mighty man is he, / With strong and sinewy hands.”   It was one of three poems we were required to memorize that year.  

My teacher, Mr. Boyce, was a WWII veteran and brought home a French wife.   Since he had had to learn French to talk to his wife, he decided we should, too.  Every morning, all year, we conjugated French verbs.  He really loved poetry.  “One ship sails East, / And another West, / By the self-same winds that blow,/ 'Tis the set of the sails / And not the gales, / That tells the way we go.”

Why is poetry important for children?  For one thing, it adds complexity of language they cannot get from contemporary spoken language.  It exposes them to an expanded vocabulary.  Poetry is also at the nexus of cognitive experience and the creation of thought.  It is where we go when we want to think new thoughts, to describe new experiences, to explore, playfully, how language works. 

Poetry is also the only link we have to a pre-literate past from before we began to transmit our culture with the written word.  The Bible, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Iliad and the Odyssey were all memorized and recited before they were finally put down on paper generations after they were first spoken.  Those rhythmic cadences are what we have left from our earliest experiences as human beings. 
Chanting and rhyming repetition is how children learn and remember language.   

Who doesn’t remember, “By the shores of Gitche Gumme, / By the shining Big-Sea-Water, / Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, / Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.”

I found Susan Jeffers’ illustrated Hiawatha at Reston Regional in with the other children’s poetry.  Much of that collection has been culled, sold away, or burned.  Now that my granddaughter knows from reading this edition of Longfellow that there are many more poems in the original Hiawatha, she wants to hear them all.  Luckily, I have a copy of the entire epic poem.

But this little book, the one we read at bedtime last week, I worry about.  When I take it back to the library will some wet-behind-the ears library page pull it for disposal because it’s old?  Inside the book it says it was published in 1908.  Library Director Sam Clay is having library pages pull old books.  Under the Beta Plan, a front-line librarian will not see this book again before it goes to the dumpster. Will the kid know that this is a recent printing?  Will the kid ever have heard of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow?   Will there ever be another child who reads these words from this very book, “Listen my children, and you shall hear / Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.” 

I cannot bring myself to take it back to the library.  The fate of this one book is important to me.  It should be important to you.  We need Fairfax County to understand we will not tolerate any more destruction of our library books.  Write the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.  Write the Library Board of Trustees.  Tell them to cancel the Beta Plan and revisit the Library Strategic Plan which seeks to replace our print books with eBooks.  Do it soon.  Every day more books are culled from the shelves and sent to the dumpster at Chantilly waiting for transport to the incinerator.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Dance of Sisters (from the journal)


Pink fire on the sharon.
Bee feast.  7-2-13

As quiet as a cricket,
baby redbird speaks, quivers
in the crab apple.
Two busy parents.  7-2-13

The gray air moving
through dry leaves is caught
in sharon’s rosy trumpets.  7-4-13

Too hot to breathe.
Cicadas manage,
one or two.  7-6-13

From the far tulip tree—
summer shakers
fill the warm morning.  7-7-13

Hands down
sassafras’ other self 
helps  herself  to myrtle’s
light and shade.  7-7-13 

Lightened and darkened
by last night’s rain,
wood garden warming up.  7-8-13

The ring of pink is complete.
Baby lady redbird
takes her rosy seat.  7-8-13

Folded up like umbrellas,
yesterday’s sharons are
purple whorls meditating
on tomorrow’s seeds.  7-10-13

You only think you know it
until you come out and
sit in it, breathe, feel the air,   
hear blue jay’s noisy call.  7-11-13

An edge to it, it has,
this morning full of
of gray catbirds
talking in the gray air.  7-13-13

That wonderful sound
comes from only one thing—
redbird’s fluttering wings.  7-13-13

Sharon’s lavender cigars
litter the rose colored
flagstones.  7-13-13

Taking the uptake
of summer—
one cicada,
two.  7-18-13

The juniper crater is empty.
Last year it was full to the brim
with pokeweed.  7-21-13

Paler now, wood poppy,
as summer wanes.  7-21-13

Fish crow is telling knock-
knock jokes.
All the catbirds are laughing.  7-21-13

In her web off the blue bubble jug,
the only thing spider has captured
is a withered myrtle leaf.  7-22-13

Waiting for a poem
is better than writing a poem.
Anything can happen in a spot
of telescoped time.  9-23-13

Black and yellow wings open
in a spot that should have
sun this morning.
Swallowtail.  7-24-13

Here and there
shaking summer off,
paced cicadas,
taking it up.  7-27-13

Holding her own in the wind,
swallowtail over the open sharon.  7-27-13

Old Letters (for Rudolf Kiesslinger)

Reading Rudi’s old letters.
He copied my poem and sent it back to me:

            The human face of God
             is nothing to depend on.

             A crow, a stone, the
             touch of silence in the forest—
             these are the anchors.

“We are of one mind,” he writes,
his voice still real after all these years,
“I am myself a revelation.”  7-28-13

The dance of sisters—
karate kicks that don’t connect.
Only one piece of pink chalk
at the playground.  7-31-13