Return

blood-orange-moon

I always thought I’d return
one day, maybe after I’d finally

gotten things together
and had something to brag about,

some big story to tell—after
I’d made a name for myself and arrived.

Now it’s been 26 years
and of course I’ve nothing

much to show for it. A few
good gardens; the day I watched

a banana spider spin her web
from start to finish; that night

I spent sleepless and saw the moon
so large and orange and pretty

that I cried, wondering at it all;
a few lines of poetry strung out

on the pages of a life
still being written.

And Now, Before Kneeling

Rondelet. A cute, wistful little poetic form, introduced by Tony Maude for dVerse FormForAll. The repetition made me think of the monotony of life, which made me think of growing older, which led me to write this cute, wistful, somewhat religious, strangely humorous piece about getting old. The knees go first! Took some slight liberties with the form–didn’t worry much about syllable count, and used slant rhymes. And left out a word in the last refrain. Tony said I could! 

And Now, Before Kneeling
And now, before kneeling
I think about the strain.
And now, before kneeling
I get that old-time feeling;
I’m not as young as I have been.
What will it take to rise again,

Now before kneeling?

Openings: A Glosa in Honor of Wendell Berry

This is a glosa, a poetry form that Sam Peralta has challenged us to write for dVerse Form For All night. He explains it well–essentially, it’s 4 stanzas, 10 lines each, the 6th, 9th, and 10th lines rhyming. And, most important, each last stanza line is taken from a cabeza, a 4-line heading that is borrowed from a favorite poet one wishes to honor. I’m pretty late getting this out, since I wasn’t sure I would have time today to read and comment. It could have turned out better (I was rushing! something I am opposed to in this poem!!), but it is something I can work with later on. 

Openings
I walk in openings
That when I’m dead will close.
Where the field sparrow sings
Will come the sweet wild rose.
            (Wendell Berry, Sabbath Poems, 1990, IV)
When I was younger
I liked to force my way
Through the woods. The most
Tangled path made me
Feel brave, lording my
Superior wits against Nature, cutting
My way through wildness.
Imagine my surprise, now
That I’m finding
I walk in openings,
Slowly, taking only those steps
Freely offered by the way.
It’s a different kind
Of bravery—non-combative,
Even doubtful. In openings
I am exposed,
Seeing and being seen
By things that live on
The shadow-boundary that’s imposed,
That when I’m dead will close.
And there is a
Hushed joy even in that
Which makes life
A hymn to limitation,
A song of surrender, like
The murmur of wave-rings
Circling out from a thrown stone.
The light rain has begun
To fall in the opening
Where the field sparrow sings
Her single trilled note
To the graying sky.
I am still. A single
Step would feel
Like blasphemy, like breaking
Faith with those
Whose lives are entwined
With mine, soon not to be.
Yet, after we all die and decompose

Will come the sweet wild rose.

It Is Enough

Anna got me thinking about willing, wishing, answering the call in her great post on dVerse Meeting the Bar. I put a few lines together, but nothing seemed to fit the prompt as well as this older poem, slightly reworked. My apologies to the few who may have already read this one. 

It Is Enough
I heard my share
of sermons, serving
time on straight-backed
pews, begrudging each
moment lost
                     to eternity.
My elders sat willingly           
in expectation
of heavenly reward, glad
to leave all worldly affairs,
glad to rest weary bones
if only for a moment.
They meant well.
I see that now, now
that my own bones
need rest, now that
I hope beyond all hope
to be free in the divine.
But we will never
decipher the mystery, try
as we might. Will we?
All we have from him
we already know,
written bold:
do not kill,
do not steal,
do unto others.
We stumble over what
we do not have: the
in-between-the-lines,
shrouded, incomprehensible,
written in sand, faint
markings that lead us
to belief or despair. I believe
it is enough to want
to believe. It is enough.

I Come to Her Room

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words drab, pulsate, tendril. Also submitted for dVerse OpenLinkNight. I know I’m running a little behind for both submissions, but I’ll try to play catch up on commenting this week.

I Come to Her Room
I come to her room once
a week, there in the old
folks’ home, sitting with her
in the windowless
drab room as she tries
to remember me. She stares
at old photographs,
seeing strangers’ faces, her
memory dim as the pulsating
florescent bulb over her
narrow bed. With stiff fingers
she pushes a gray tendril of hair
behind her ear, and I
think of the time she
waved those hands witch-like
around my face, repeating
Sing and dance for joy,
life goes on despite the pain.

Last Hunt

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words brisk, detached, miserable.

Last Hunt
We tugged and pushed Mr. Floyd,
sweating at our work
in the brisk January air.
Finally lifted fifteen feet
into a longleaf pine,
he sat on an old upturned bucket
atop an assortment
of splintered planks.
We left him leaning there
against the weathered trunk.
Seventy seasons
he’d hunted here, as his father
and grandfather before.
Many deer had passed
beneath the pine—
some too quick,
some too young,
some missed chances
lamented at evening camp.
Still he came every year,
and waited at winter’s pace.
We returned to the stand
when sunlight slanted
through the trees
in promise of the night.
He nodded, grinning
as he detached himself
from his bucket. “Boys,
I reckon I got her broke in.
Someone else can ride her now.”
The end of spring, twenty-six years
after, I wind my way
through tangled palmettos
and vines in the thick
Osceola woods, braving
miserable mosquitoes to find
the deep-lined pine and climb,
fifteen feet up. The bucket is gone.
A few rotten boards,
the only thing to show
that anyone was ever here.

Distances

For Three Word Wednesday, prompt words banter, duty, element. Inspired by memories of my Papaw (brought on by my parents’ recent visit) and Neil Armstrong’s passing.

Distances

We laughed at him, shuffling
his feet down the hall, squinting
age-dimmed eyes as if surprised
by the tenacity of life.
His old-timer pace
just would not do
for children of the Space Age,
living in a world made fast
by spark and fuel. He never
walked too far: from bed
to john, to corduroy reclining
chair where he would sit
like a duty fulfilled,
looking at his mangled hands
and marveling at the work
they had once accomplished.
In fine weather he would ride
with us to Lake Tohopekaliga,
choosing the nearest bench
as an observatory. The expanse
of elements and circling flight
of bantering gulls seemed
to satisfy a need for distances—
for though we couldn’t imagine
it he hadn’t always been limited.
We didn’t see him as a boy, striding
tall in the dark furrow,
guiding the team with
gee and haw in Uncle Lanta’s
field; or later, fearful but
resolute, heading to the Reisden’s
to ask Bessie to the dance. Nor
could our little minds
calculate what it took to walk
deep into the earth for
forty years, finding coal
and breathing the dust that
finally laid him down.
We saw only a slow old
man, so earth-rooted
that he was sure the lunar
landing was a stunt;
but in the sum
of his small steps I
reckon he traveled
broad distances, each step

one giant leap.