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Poems

I found a file of poems I sent to someone once and so I thought I'd paste them in. Enjoy!


After The Ice Storm

The field is a spun glass sea,
the fence, futile,
its barbed wire overcome
by prisms.

(I let ice around a branch-tip bud
touch my lips.
How alive I am under the ice!
I taste tree as the ice melts
and slips to my tongue.)

So cold for such fire,
pretty for such cruelty.
Cows slip and bellow their dismay.
We learn the secret:
(Nothing stays. The earth is a sea:
hard sea moving sea troubled sea.)

Ice breaks and melts under the sun
And all our questions make it no less cold
but somehow, less forbidding.

So we sigh and say how lovely,
how it glistens.






Blizzard in Bedford


Rain followed the biggest snow in memory washing, cleansing the land and then more snow came. It broke bamboo--
the unbroken staves still bow to the pond,
held down by snow gone to ice.

I’ll remember
this storm as so bad young poets wrote
desperate runes for spring; so bad,
a child I know stopped loving snow; so bad,
I forgot how to write: all my poems
were stillborn. So bad, I was frightened for my mother. I thought of the homeless,
the wood-stoveless, the hungry. I became obsessed with wonder, hypnotized,
snow blind. Pray for us,
the storm is not over yet.




DERVISH

Gentle rise
arms stretch out
fingertips gather in
the universe
Each sigh is a
turn, a
day
a lifetime
witnessed. Patched-robe
saint whispers names, secrets
secret names to the wind

Ascension on pulse beats
a step, a step, a step
lighter than a candle flame

the dervish spins
A whirl, a whorl, a world
appears and disappears

inside each breath
the earth dissolves and
in its place, a prayer

resounds
and all this while
no one

everyone

all

move








Clothes


I.
I hesitate to enter
the dead woman’s room
Perhaps because she
is not yet dead.

But, still her husband
is compelling me
to put on her clothes,
appreciate the material
want what she has had.

The hair on my arm rises to the sleeve.

My skin crawls
because the clothes fit.


II.

He looks through the window.
In the bending pines
he sees her dying
and everyone dying.
His hands collect the combs, the scent bottles,
the heaps of clothes that were hers.
The ringing startles him and
he hurries to answer the phone
like a girl or a mother
running to get the momentous news.



III

Careful men
lay her body down among
baskets of flowers.
She stirs,
gazes into the empty closet.
Her eyes open wide and she finds voice to ask:
“Where are my things? Where are my clothes?”



FORT LAUDERDALE


White-on-stark white buildings
shimmer
in the morning sun.
Warm and tender ocean,
gives up damp salt
to the Coppertone breezes
moving over swamp
and coral beach.

Flashy little sister
to the whore Miami,
she laughed
at the asphalt rape,
preferring neon to
moonlight-
change, to peacefulness.

Exhaust fumes rise
with the heat of the pavement
dulling the brilliant skies
while Gulf Stream Mama
throws up shells and
ship excretion
onto the lotion spattered sand.







Gardenia Woman

I watch her dark green buds soften and grow full,
turn brown, and fall off.
I have none of the qualifications
for midwife of gardenia blossoms,
but I could just as easily resist the hope of her fragrance
as coax a hummingbird to my finger and teach it peace.
So, I mix earth and sand, I water, I feed,
I wait,
to see if patience comes
or flowers.



grief



you know that gray-green sea
and the chill of night fog after a day of rain

you know a freshly opened wound;
the shock of a ruined garden.

you are aground in a sea of pitying eyes
fearful glances, whispers

you fall to your knees before
Master Pain.





Reading The Fine Print


I am a tired woman. I mend flannel shirts, wash obvious dishes, hum likewise tunes. I listen to the clock execute possibilities and tick together hours of regret. My mother’s face is not in the mirror but her dreams bleed into mine. Written each night in fine print on my eyes: Today was nothing. Today was nothing. Today was a dust and ashes woman, tired; murderer of time.







Not a Scream

This will not stuff itself into a poem;
it leaks out all the edges and back into our lives;
the horror of this hasn't even begun,
though we practice the gnashing of teeth,
drink soups of tears;
there are no children in Beruit, there are no children in Bagdad, there are no children in Jerusalem, there are no children in Dahran, there are no children in Amman, there are no children in Damascus, have you stopped listening yet? there are no children in Bagdad, Bagdad, Bagdad, Bagdad, no babies in Bagdad, no babies
left;
this is not a scream;
we are jettisoning the euphemisms;
it is stupid to write poems, sing songs, walk long marches, and think we have done something;
now is only to find the beginning of this grief,
to find ways to make it welcome,
a guest for the duration;

now is only to find small comfort in sure things: a coincidence of light, an unexpected smile, a young girl knowing,
knowing;

this is not a scream;
not yet;
so far, a kind of breath holding followed by sighs and futile attempts to grasp this handmine, this anti personnel era;
futile attempts to get under, around, through.

Even then, after sleepless nights and visions of young dead mouths flung open in a last howl, even then you can't begin to stuff this into a poem.






The Way You Say Goodbye


This little kid
with his hippie mom,
visited my friend
two whole days,
then,
leaving,
the child,
turns to me he barely knows
and repeats the words,

"I like...I ah...(voice
goes low;
face, a somber
mask of some man’s frown)
love you very much and
hope
hope I will see you again."

I want to slap mommy's face
hard
not only once
and to ask her stunned eyes

(like deer eyes--like her son's eyes):

Where has this child been?





“I Will Walk Quietly the Beautiful Trail”
--from a Dine` chant


I

I notice that the moss velvets the path,
welcomes my feet
on the days when I am grateful


I Will

I will ignore my fears
on this new moon evening
rely on my feet to find the way
and teach my skin to feel
the sleep of the forest

I Will Walk

I will walk among these friends
pine, oak, poplar, maple, cedar
caress their trunks and branches
and whisper love songs
to their new leaves

I Will Walk Quietly

I will walk quietly tonight
and listen for messages
borne by the wind:
the tree frogs, the owl
the wolf


I Will Walk Quietly the Beautiful

I will walk quietly the beautiful evening
I will bow to the roots of an oak
inhale the pungent predictions of a fertile spring
in the mulch of leaves and earth and worms
the air will promise rain

I Will Walk Quietly the Beautiful Trail

I will walk quietly the beautiful trail
in remembrance of those whose land this is
in reverence for those who breathe the signs
who chant the healing, who re-create the earth



Late Twentieth Century Poetry

You’re naked in the damn things
and shaking;
in too deep with
only a few more minutes
of air,
and there’s a good chance you’ll
get the bends or
think you’re in
playland
when you’re really
swimming among stingrays,
and electric eels.

You can dress up in a voice
or another person’s story
but you’re in there
and everyone who looks, sees.

Sometimes the words come easy
and you soar
like flying in a dream
but the next time,
you’re a desert rat
straining to shit
dry pellets
that have no odor
and will never help anything
to grow.

And so why do you do it?
I swear it’s not masochism,
but will,
and an itch in the blood
to let the vision

peel away your clothes,
to make friends with the sharks,
and to learn to make love
in arid landscapes.




Zinnia

This absurdly pink zinnia
won’t allow me to deny joy.
It stands, almost mocking
(though it is too kind)
my resentment over this cold fall.
It is not alone, either.
Its red, purple, and yellow cohorts
join in the chorus:
Yes! Life! Hope!
Yes! The strain! Why not!
Still I rail against the coming darkness,
and the unkind, selfish, incomplete selves
within me.
I blame ignorance
and the ignorant
who don’t know their stems are cut
who can’t imagine
that the vase announcing their glory
hastens their end.




PAS de DEUX


As he sits on the bus and
from time to time when he walks on the street,
he pulls out a piece of paper,
folded exactly as he received it.

He opens it and reads again what he has memorized.
The paper crackles a little
though it is beginning to wear and darken at the edges
even as meticulous as he is.

All he knows is on this page.
It is a letter.
It is covered with metaphors for passion.
It reveals the depths of her.
It contains all her love for him.

All of it.

He thinks this is just the beginning.




Southern Buddha


Beneath the dogwood bodhi tree Buddha sits waiting for the storm to pass or not waiting I, too, sit under rain in the same but so different place I begin in duality He is a flowing conjunction The storm is my flesh. Head lowered in the rain I fight for life He lets the cold rain trickle into each crevice of his face each fold of his garment without a shudder I break my teeth on bones He sits, smiling, slowly dissolving his own bones He sucks on death like candy And I choke trying to spit it out

The Great Divide

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the college senate (that makes me a senator, I think!). It was my first since my boss asked me to be our rep. I may have missed one other as the email for this one just barely caught my attention and then I remembered I was supposed to go! In any case, I'm hoping it will be my only one since the next will be in January and my hope is to be ensconced in the close-to-home-job by then. (Speaking of which, I haven't heard anything about an interview yet. I will become concerned if I don't here next week sometime.) In any case, the meeting was interesting. They were coming to a final vote on a plagiarism policy. One of the faculty had suggested adding submitting the same paper to two classes without notice, to the list of honor offenses. The students on the committee had spoken to their peers and said that they believed that their work was their own and they had the right to use it as they wished. They felt that under the new rule, they would lose ownership when the paper was submitted to the teacher. The faculty said that things certainly had changed from when they were in school--they never would have considered submitting the same paper twice. College was all about learning new things and increasing the body of knowledge in the world. They opined that the students who tried to do this kind of thing were dishonest and just lazy.

I brought up the possibility that this was an example of the tension between the institutional purpose of education versus giving credentials. The students were just being practical. If one would go for two, that was an opportunity to be taken advantage of. If one is paying $100,000 for an opportunity to get a credential, one doesn't want to gamble on the outcome. Added to that (brought up by the students and others) was that with many of the students working one or two jobs and have family obligations, there isn't the luxury of time for the kind of exploration that constituted a college education in the past.

The kinds of assumptions behind the attitudes of the faculty are disquieting. It would be elitism if it were more conscious, but it seems to be a nostalgia for lost times and an obliviousness to the realities of other people's lives.

On the other hand, it concerns me that the scope of education is getting narrower and narrower in order to continue to try to make our very broken system to work. There are so few opportunities for students in k-12 to figure things out and apply concepts to new material. Then, in college they are expected to do those things without any of the tools. SInce I don't see revolutionizing the whole system anytime soon, I guess working on one teacher at a time is the mode.

I hope this wasn't too boring :-)

Random memories of 26th terrace

It's been way too long again since I posted, so here's some recent thoughts;

Thinking a lot about family -- some random memories: Dad had a copy of The World of Susie Wong, a novel with a racy cover in his nightstand drawer (did i get snooping from Grandfather?). Mom had comedy: Dobie Gillis, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, My Brother was a Only Child and it was on the night table itself. Other books in the house: The Tontine-I think I read it when I was too young to understand it, anyway, all I remember was the title. The Encyclopedia Britannica (very interesting but I would have preferred World Book--nicer pictures). A series of stories from England that were about children and had morals. There was one about a child who walked out an the sand during low tide and then go caught out when the tide came in. I don't remember what happened to him. Then there was one about people driving in a car and being stopped by an angel just before they would have gone off a cliff were the bridge was out.

Dad had made a set of bookshelves with planks of wood and children's building blocks. We kept it in the hall--the place where we stayed during hurricanes. The hall closet was always stuffed with linens and toys and other junk. I remember box games like Monopoly, Sorry, Candyland, and Clue plus Robbie the Robot (that was John's, I think). There was a big metal hobby horse (kept where?)that had been John's first. If you stood on the stirrups, the legs would move and it would travel. There was a sliding door at the end of the hall which we rarely closed. I remember a friend of mine letting the Dodger's pet alligator run a few feet down the hall and then she pulled him back by his tail. The poor little reptile didn't live long.

We were hard on pets. Yurtle the Turtle disappeared after we'd had him a fairly short time and reappeared, months later, petrified in the couch when Mother re-upholstered it. The parakeet flew out one day and was lost for some time (a couple of weeks?). Miraculously, someone found it and we brought it home. We knew it had had interesting adventures because it started laying eggs. It ended up laying 11 of them! One morning I walked into the kitchen and found the Dodger standing next to the stove trying to break one of the eggs into a frying pan! Of course I was horrified.

Cockroaches or palmetto bugs as mother called them were everywhere. Speaking of horrified, once, when I was maybe 5 years old, Mom was spraying one on a curtain in the living room (beige, raw-silk looking) when it flew down and bit her on the face! A few years later, my grandmother slipped and fell and broke her hip trying to step on one. Somewhere in there I lost my love of canned spinach when I found a roach in a can. Still grosses me out to think of it.

Flu-Be- Gone

Lucky for me, everybody up my way is out of flu vaccine; I really don't want to start taking that stuff (not a comment either way on other people's choices :-). But here's excellent prevention advice I'm pasting in from some emails I've received from reliable sources recently:

Prevent Swine Flu - Good Advice

The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it's almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions.

While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps can be practiced

1. Gargle twice a day with warm salt water or Listerine. *H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way, gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive, and powerful preventative method.

2. Blow the nose hard once a day and swab both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water. This is very effective in bringing down viral population.

3. Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamins C and D. If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.

4. Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

This also in: Anise has anti-viral properties so Anise tea is double protection. Here's are a couple of tea recipes:

Anise Tea 1
Ingredients:

* 3 cups water
* 2 teaspoons anise seeds
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
* 2 tablespoon honey
* 2 black tea bags


This one is a little different.


Ingredients:

* 3 cups boiling water
* 2 teaspoons whole anise seeds, or 2 teaspoons dried anise leaves
* 2 tea bags


Preparation:

Boil 1 1/2 cups water with anise seeds.

In another pot, boil 1 1/2 cups water. Add tea bags.

Steep both for 10 minutes. Strain anise water into pot with tea.

Pour into serving cups. Add lemon and honey if desired.

STAY WELL, My Dear Ones

Swine-Flu Bedora

I had fluish symptoms from Tuesday on and so decided to stay home from Wednesday on. The upstairs neighbor (at the apt in Charlottesville) was diagnosed with Swine Flu and when the nurses in the community found out about that last night, they asked me to go get tested as we have quite a number of vulnerable individuals in the community (people recovering from cancer, a newborn with delicate health, etc.) The Dr. couldn't say for sure that I have swine or any flu (though he said I had classic flu symptoms), but he did say no fever and clear lungs would indicate not contagious. So as long as i don't get a cough or start sneezing more than once a day, I'm okay to mingle. It's a bit scary. I don't want to be the one to give someone a life-threatening illness. The truth is, the exposure to my neighbor was miniscule compared with the daily exposure at the community college. I've offered to stay at the apartment until i can get vaccinated. (It will be the 1st time in my life I've gotten a flu shot). We'll see if they take me up on it. I don't want to go nuts with this thing, but I do want to protect my friends....
Listening to my wise nieces, (esp. L no A) I followed up on the job quest by calling the head of HR at the not so local college. I'd connected with him on a previous application--for a position that they decided not to have after all. After a few minutes, he remembered me and told me that they will be advertising for the position in the next couple of weeks. He gave me nice hints about how to spin the cover letter and wished me luck when we ended the conversation. The position could start as early as the beginning of January. If I get it (God willing) I'm definitely (God willing) going to take a Florida vacation over Christmas!

Irony

The job I have been coveting for several years--running the local version of the slightly less local community college is just about to come open. For years I have wished the director would be offered his dream job and move on to bigger and better things. A month ago I found out he had cancer. Today I found out he died last week. This just feels wierd. I feel a bit craven for checking out the want ads and figuring out the appropriate time to visit the interim guy....

Figuring it Out

I've been working with Rita Smilkstein on the application of how learning happens (i.e. the natural process of learning based on how the brain works [I started to say, "how the brain operates" but the close proximity of 'brain' and 'operates' gave me the willies!]) to academic learning, specifically in our current school systems. Part of what we know to be true about this is that the process of learning is the same for all learning so if you can learning one thing you can learn anything. If you are having trouble learning something, then you're being blocked. This week, a student said to me, "I hate math." I asked, "What happened to you? Something has to have happened to you because we are all born loving learning." "She said, "oh, wow, I can't even remember that teacher's name, but yes, something did happen." Then we talked about finding ways to prevent what happened in the past from limiting one's future. But it was a revelation. I then related the story to my orientation class and the students started making connections in themselves and at the end of class, when I asked them what they would do to apply the information we talked about in class, many of them said things like, "taking a course I didn't like in high school."

So now I'm thinking about what school did to my love of learning. I do remember hesitating to take classes in college in subjects I really loved because it might kill it for me... So, what do you think?

Perspective Assistance, Please

One of my goals is to not take things personally. I've worked hard on this and I think today I've lost some ground. Stymied is not one of the mood tags but if it were, I'd be using it today.

Here's what happened: by an amusing fluke, I was invited to participate in a task force for the community college system in my state. No one with my background or POV seems to have entered into their processes before and it took months for them to get what I was talking about--though to their credit, the draft recommendations reflect that they did indeed get it. At the last meeting, we were asked to volunteer to help write up the final report, which I did. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I got an apology message from one of the staff saying the chair had reminded them that I was supposed to be a part of that process and would I want to come to the final editing meeting in Richmond about which details would follow, including a copy of what they are working on. Okay. Then a message last Wednesday (with the meeting coming up on Monday) to the group I am now a member of: we'll all meet at the usual conference room and copies of the latest draft won't be available then. Ahem, I replied, where would that place be? And, by the way is there handicapped parking? Reply, here's the address and we'll get back to you on handicapped parking. This morning:

Laura,

Bad news—see below.

People who come for meetings usually park in honor park lots, 1 1/2 blocks away. I believe $5 for day.

Options:

1. Perhaps you can plan to meet [name] or [name] (people who work at other schools and are barely acquaintances) at building at side entrance, and one of them can drive your car and park it for you.

2. There is street parking around building—meters for 2 hrs. One of us could run down and feed meter for you.

3. You can stay in your office and participate remotely. We can call you and put you on speaker phone in our conference room.

Let me know if there’s anything else we can do to help.

[Staff member]

This is the headquarters in the state capitol of the system of 20 some community colleges. I am flummoxed as to how to respond. There're so many things to object to like the "else" in the last sentence. Really, I feel like I've been hit in the head-- angry and humiliated in equal measure, with the distinct feeling that they would really rather not have me there.

Am I overreacting? Help! What would you do?

Fox Redux

The fox I wrote about in a poem in a recent entry, showed up on my street (about a mile from the location of the initial sighting.) She was trotting down the street with a large mouse, huge mole, or some other small animal in her mouth. I turned out of the driveway and drove slowly in her direction. A car came toward us and she detoured into a yard and then got right back on the road as soon as the car passed. She noticed I was behind her and after an interval apparently designed to show me she wasn't scared of me, she trotted into a yard and I passed by in my car. Amazing!