Friday, April 30, 2004
Carlisle poets celebrate National Poetry Month
The neighbors have gone: drove off sedately
in dark sedans, or with bicycles attached
to their minivans. As the echoes of wheels
are falling away, the Other People come
closer to the houses. Bunnies stop
lurking in the shrubbery, hop out
to take over the weed-trimming.
The Veery leaves his swamp, sends song
like a wire hoop rolling into a cellar
through the interstices of the neighborhood:
the narrow wall of woods between homes.
Suddenly, I'm aware that I'm no longer alone,
listening to birdsong, and waiting
for the Firefly of dusk. The lacing
which binds the world — fastening us together —
tightens around me. Once-distant voices
extend a welcome; nearby in the woods
the Pewee says: "We — You!"
A point of light in the growing dark
awakens a spark that blinks,
hesitates, but does not quit.
The haze of rain
is spread in the feathers
The warblers take up
of miniature leaves.
Grackles give back
the black gloss of
But all sunshine
must be the invention of
White And Gray Against Blue
that cloud looks like a butterfly unfolding its wings
the wind blows it away
that cloud looks like a cow suckling its calf
the wind blows it away
that cloud looks like a peacock displaying its feathers
the wind blows it a way
that cloud a lion chas ing ga zelle
the wiinnnd blowws
that cloud a rose dro pping pet al s
Originally published in the Christian Science Monitor
Winter Landscape Without Ice
I don't speak regularly to a lot of painters
and I am sure none of them will ever ask me what to paint next ...
but do you remember those ice paintings of Hendrick Avercamp
where everyone is either skating or playing hockey
or demonstrating hockey or demonstrating falling?
I am thinking of something a bit like that.
In my vision,
a man is verifying his instructions on a
cell phone before entering a grocery store,
while at the far end of the parking lot a sidewalk preacher
is preaching to a little crowd, using his
cell phone and carrying a white placard high above his head,
on which is printed a phone number and the word Jesus.
In the foreground two lovers are courting
by walking up and down whispering to each other on their
cell phones. Off to the right
two businessmen are impressing each other,
speaking imperiously to invisible persons using their
cell phones. Next to a parked automobile a woman is pushing
every possible protuberance on a closed gray pocket-sized object,
while, at the very bottom of the entire frame, a dog has lifted his leg over a
mysterious oblong device with an antenna sticking out of it.
Far out beyond the last of the parked cars a mother is striding
in large circles, with a finger in her other ear,
and her children are orbiting her,
and their mouths are opening and shutting.
I in my person as the artist appear
at the extreme edge of the entire frame
holding a digital recorder and saying this.
Time was when all the rest of them would have been
watching me suspiciously, but now it's fine.
They respect me for my miniaturization.
They think I am talking to somebody.
Which, writing a poem, maybe I am,
and maybe I'm not.
Three Old Men
It gains on me, quickly, a peripheral force on my left,
felt more than seen. And then it's beside me, a car
carrying three old men down a winter morning.
The one riding shotgun, over 80, is sunken
into his coat, like a suburban Halloween scarecrow
pumpkin head impressing a tidy leaf-bag body.
The driver, a scruffy 65 or so, the son, maybe.
And the one in the backseat, behind the driver,
also an elder, holds a thick, wooden tool handle.
All wear eyeglasses, boxy big-framed things,
half-open shutters balanced on their swollen noses,
and mesh hats with high vaulted crowns, duckbill visors.
We cruise side by side in the middle lanes, indifferent race horses.
In jockey-quick glances I take in half-moon smiles, the body coding
of contained excitement their eyes forever forward. Then the car
surges ahead, crossing the snowless track to hug the inside.
Before it vanishes, I see the make big, silver-metal letters
above the right tail light the word, "Lumina."
A world opens around that word. Alice climbing
up the rabbit hole to the deafening light above. I know
their purpose, can name the thick-handled tool in the backseat.
It is not for ice fishing, my first thought. There will be no
restrained stamping of feet, no soggy cigars, no man-talk:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I'm freezing my tail off here.
They are Cape Cod bound, to the mucky shores of childhood.
The tool is a clam rake. One of them keeps, always, the shellfish license
in his wallet, creased, tucked behind a black-and-white wedding photo.
In the sharp light of near-noon, they will choose the perfect sunny cove,
head for the sharp reedy grasses, dig until the sand turns coal-black, sulfurous.
Three old men. See how they play.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito