One day you may drift into darkness (on a small ship on the sea’s slick surface): a poem

I’ve become hesitant to post poems I’m writing, having gained some awareness that once something is published online it’s not generally publishable anywhere else. But writing a lot of things and not sharing any of them makes me feel a little like a bird with clipped wings. I have a lot of questions about what I might want to do next, but also want to keep putting things out into the universe believing more will come. Or maybe I’m just extremely impatient.

I’m heading off on a short backpacking trip with two dear friends early tomorrow morning, and as I get ready I’m thinking about darkness.

I will tell my children:

one day you may drift into

darkness, on a small ship

on the sea’s slick surface, the

moon’s reflected light reflecting

faint hope on the rolling waves.

Don’t fear this starkness,

the lonely vigil,

the shadows cast upon you and

against you, strange fish lapping

at your ship’s sides,

the roaring silence, your soul’s

uncertain state of repair.

You are alone here;

you will always be alone

in your quietest self, in your

night-time wanderings,

beneath the huge sky’s awning,

no more here than in a crowd.

There is no safer harbour, there is no

certainty of life unfolding as you wish it,

as you believed had been granted,

had been gifted.

But you are alive now, luminous watcher,

buoyed by this silent cradle,

high up on the slippery waves,

rocking,

rocking.

Instructions for loving the place you live in

(A guided meditation, a love letter, a poem. Imagine it spoken out loud.)

First, stop, close your eyes, and listen. You may be tempted to open your eyes, but you will hear more that is true if you first keep them closed. Breathe into your heart, your belly, all the way down to your feet. Stand still. Let the waves of sound crash over your head: the hum of traffic, the roar of airplanes thousands of miles above you, the shrieks of laughter, the sirens, your neighbours shouting, sparrows singing, small children’s tears. Keep listening. To love a place you must listen beneath what it pretends to be, listen to what hurts it and what makes it most alive.

Open your eyes slowly. Keep your ears open: to the whispered greeting beneath the noise and bluster, the first sigh of recognition, the soft hello.

To love a place, start walking. You can’t fall in love in a hurry, closed up in steel and glass, shutting out the seasons, blocking out what’s real. Each step is an offering of your presence, a necessary courtship, an invitation to a dance. Under your feet your aliveness meets the streets, it meets the skin underneath the rigid garments, it coaxes and teases and lays down your tracks. This isn’t possession, it’s a rite of celebration, a deep soul connection, a blessing. It’s your way to see and be seen.

To love a place, explore with slow urgency. This is not haste, it’s a courtship of delight. What will you find in the alleyways, between the spreading trees, in the unkempt fields of goldenrod and asters, deep down in the ravines, by the river’s edge? Don’t be afraid to open your senses – what you discover may enchant or alarm you: the rough bark of maples, the smell of the porous earth after a storm, bold green plants pushing through the sidewalk, trees heavy with fruit ripe for your picking, hawks wheeling wide above high-rises, rabbit tracks stretched out beside train tracks, nestlings cast cold to the ground by heavy rain, piles of cigarette butts and indestructible coffee cups, the stench and rot of last week’s compost spilled out by raccoons. It’s all real; it’s all true: both the pain and the beauty. You’re not perfect either.

To love a place, don’t distain, don’t turn up your nose, don’t turn away, don’t let others shame or disparage. You need to keep coming back. Listen to its stories, tend to its wounds, be mindful of its past, be kind. You can be a healer, a caretaker, a lover, a friend.

To love a place, you must keep showing up. You must map your joys and griefs slowly over its surface and its depths; you must weave through its wide and narrow spaces your own bittersweet life. If you are patient, the place you love will one day shake off its shyness. It will look you in the eye and share its secrets. It will pull back its hair, uncover its shoulders, uncross its arms and legs, let you in everywhere.

I tell you, I promise you: the place you love will love you back.

ravine

 

 

Opening (a poem)

The clouds are threadbare today,
like a white shirt worn thin
with many washings. I see
the rumour of blue underneath,
a bright gap, an opening.

I wish I could tear away the edges,
ease them open with my fingers,
pull apart the thin strips of fibers
no longer needed.

I think I could slip the clouds
from your eyes too,
strip off your outworn garments,
unveil the bright clearing of your heart,
if you’d let me.

Pulling out a few more of these daily pieces from the past month-and-a-bit. This one is – no surprise – in response to the word prompt “opening.”

 

 

Weather (a poem)

I said to a friend once:
May is the one month no-one complains about the weather.
I too expected days of sunshine, cherry blossoms,
and eternal spring,
chastising the gods and my heart for not conforming.
When did I learn that I could no more set my soul to a perpetual May
than I could stay the seasons?
Now I give thanks for summer heat, ice-crusted trees, and dark Novembers,
for the wild wind howling, for the cold rains of spring, for snow.
I give thanks for it all,
and too for the clouds that scuttle across my own heart’s skies
and for the fierce heat that burns me, and the night-time tears,
and for those first few warm rays of spring sun upon my face,
and for the silent peace that comes after the storm.

From the word prompt “weather.”  Sticking with the poetry kick.

 

The web (a poem)

I lie awake at night,
spinning webs around people I love.
Each is a delicate construction
that requires all my heart.
I walk around my web in spirals, repair torn bits,
mend threads that have frayed. Many people
are relieved to be caught. Some
are spinning their own webs around me,
and I can rest for a while. Others thrash about,
tear the silk threads, fly away indefinitely.
I have learned that they will usually return
in their own time, once the first threads between us
have been laid.
I have frequently torn the web myself
(sometimes still do),
as I practice my skill as a weaver.
I am learning how to spin the threads
soft enough that they are barely felt,
but strong enough that they last forever.
The art is in making the web
invisible, felt only as a soft tug in the body,
one which gently, firmly, inevitably
pulls us together.

I have a small backlog of short pieces from the past month, a few of which I’d like to post. This is from today’s word in 100 Words: the Beauty of Brevity, “frequently.” I was woken up earlier than usual by a loud blue jay, looked at my phone on the way to the bathroom, saw this day’s prompt, and got back into bed for an hour, starting this poem in my head while half asleep.

Waiting (a poem)

I’ve been thinking about the “work in progress” feel I have towards poetry lately.  I think it’s like this: for a long time poetry and I had a fairly casual relationship. There was an easy companionship between us. The words came easily. Recently,  I think I’ve fallen in love with poetry in a bigger way, and when you fall in love, sometimes a self-consciousness develops. You seem to have too many limbs, and you’re convinced that your words are coming out all wrong, and you start comparing yourself to other people. So there’s that. This summer I’m also writing daily around word prompts instigated by someone else. And thus even more so, everything feels like an experiment: fluid, unfinished, like a puzzle, sometimes awkward, but also exciting. How do I use today’s random word as a jumping off point to understand my own voice? How do I turn this into something I want to write about? How do I unselfconsciously try things out that are new to me? And then there’s the question of whether to share things when they feel so provisional. But the truth is right now I want all poetry all the time. This is from the word “waiting.”

Waiting

The wistfulness of late summer
arrives earlier each year.
This year it came when the spring’s first shoots
rose up above the ground.
Later, you knew, there would be rain and sun,
and the wild riot of blooming,
then flowers fading, grass withering, leaves turning.

What you had waited for each day in winter,
the tightness of your body aching to release its tension,
would barely start before it ended:
you, a spring uncoiled in
summer’s high dive under the approving sky,
the lake’s blue eyes ringed with tall sweeping pines,
smiling at your graceful prowess.

Too soon the lake cloud-lidded,
the sun again turning its face from you,
now basking its love upon the leaves,
inflaming them, and then too, in fickleness,
discarding both you and the leaves,
now older and more over-ripe
with knowing than you once were.

And you retreat.
Sit quiet by your small fire, waiting,
curl back into yourself again, lovelorn,
aching again with a pained hope
– each year aching with your pained hope –
that the sun will turn its fierce and tender gaze to you once more,
next spring.

 

 

Fox-child (a poem)

Vultures stirring the cloud cauldron
Catharsis from the sky
Wheeling over the spot where a month ago
I found a small dead fox at the side of the road
How delicate it was
Rusty and small-pawed, fine colt legs
Maybe a child-fox, fox-child
Only lately slipped out into the world
Stepping the woods in a soft line,
a curved string trail weaving in widening arcs
Marking its passage at the roots of trees
Scent-mementos
The letters of a lost love, crumbled and faded
Or a note on the kitchen table saying, “I’ve gone out for milk.”
But this time I won’t come back.
I went back the next day, quietly stood and spoke a blessing
A shy and awkward protocol tuned to the flies’ humming dirge
Dropped cedar, red clover, yarrow to cover its soft sides
Left it for sky burial.

 

I’m in love with poetry lately, reading it, reading about it, trying to inhabit it, writing it.  It’s an infatuation, a game, a practice of awareness, an awakening commitment.  Something that I currently always want to post with disclaimers (“work in progress”).  Why is that?