My Friend – 22 April 2018

Echoes chime and ring through her life
Seeing reverberates through time
This garden reminds her of one in Norfolk
Years ago
Hearing resounds each moment by moment
This hymn was a favorite of the former priest
Tastes and scents, touches and feelings
Reflect and repeat, repeat and reflect
This cheese now, remember the gouda from the abbey
Made by the nuns who say their cheeses are blessed by Jesus
This perfume, her mother’s favorite
The blanket’s nap beneath her fingers
Just so her infant son’s favorite blankie
The son who now lives in England for his job
Her trip there to visit him
How like the one she took with her ex back when
She walks through her history
Her past ever in her present
Living with her ghosts
But oh so gently
Echoing, reverberating
The loves she treasures and shares

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Driveway Narcissus – 21 April 2018

One of my favorite pictures
A picture that I see often without looking at the photograph
Is Woody smiling up at me as he kneels in the long dirt
Running beside our driveway
He is planting hundreds of bulbs
Daffodils, the narcissus of the plant world
In the bare dirt along our driveway
Now every spring starts for us with the early daffodils
The simple ones, white, at the front of the driveway
Then come the yellow ones, then the yellow ones with orange hearts
Then the doubles, all nodding, all along the driveway
Until the whole length is full of beautiful Narcissus
With every reason to be pleased with themselves
People driving by have been known to stop and comment
On the beauty of our narcissus
Our gorgeous nodding narcissus
But the picture in my head
The picture I love
Is Woody kneeling in the bare dirt
Not nodding at his own lone beauty
But smiling up at me
With promised years and years for us in his eyes

 

Psalm 148

Praise God! Praise God with my best and highest
Praise God with all Her angels and great cloud of witnesses
Praise God in my light and in my dark, in all my shining possibility
Praise God in my best times, my brightest thoughts
Praise God who created me
Praise God who keeps me forever and ever, secure in Her embrace
Even in the depths and monsters of my depression
Even in the frosts and fury of my doubts
From my high points and my low alleys
With my best gifts and my worst faults
With my wildness and my work
When I am flying high and when I am barely creeping
When I think I am ruling my own life
Now that I am old, as when I was young
Through it all, let me praise God
God of glory, God of wisdom, God above all
May God hold me close, may God keep me faithful. Amen

My Chilhood Place – 20 April 2018

Rebecca’s challenge for us today was to write a poem about a place.]

The place inside me that should be full of home is often scary empty.
Questions about home confuse embarrass me.
“Where are you from?”
Do you want to know where I grew up?
But the me you know,
So little of that me is from the place I grew up.
Do you want to know my childhood home?
But when I say New Orleans
I see in your eyes a different reality than my childhood
My childhood was not the French Quarter
And Mardi Gras and Cajun/Creole food
And the most unique (how I hate that phrase
And not just because something is either unique or not – unique does not admit degrees)
City in the United States as it has been characterized
All of that surrounded my childhood
But none of that was my childhood place
My childhood was not the smells of mom’s cooking
Or my dad whistling as he strode home on his long legs
From the bus stop after getting off work
My childhood was not delivering roasted nuts to vending machines
On weekends, riding in our ’53 Ford enfolded in the
Warmly safe smells of huge bags of fresh roasted nuts in the backseat
My childhood was not standing at the rail of the ferry across the mighty muddy Mississippi
Half thrilled and half scared looking at the flat barges and white banana boats
Squirming around, wanting to return to the car long before it was necessary
Always worried, no matter how often we took the ferry,
That something would go wrong with the docking
My childhood was not the Big House on Allard Boulevard
Just off the bayou
Filled with always old, almost indistinguishable great aunts
Tante Lise, Tante Del, Tante Dele, Tante Ne, Tante Georgine
And my tiny great grandmother, Mere J C, blindly crocheting in her rocking chair
Bonjoour, Mere, co -maun taullay vou?
My childhood was not our Catholic school
With the crowded classrooms, straight rows of straight children of the boomer generation
And the nuns and the uniforms and the clickers
And the lines and the rosaries and standing in the fenced playground
Watching the others play and wondering how they knew the secret
And where I could learn it
My childhood was not summer weeks with my grandparents on Texas Air Force bases
Or daring to pet the small gators that the boys cross street found in the canal round the corner
Or sharing a bedroom with my two sisters and whisper reassuring them that
Despite the noisy fights, our parents would never divorce.
We are Catholic.
My childhood was not the hot summers when we really would,
At least once ever year,
Try to fry an egg on the sidewalk
Or the Christmases at my father’s father’s house
When our cousins always got lots more than we did
Or the tree with the angry cardinal that our neighbor, Mr. Joe, shot
Or Mr. Allen who couldn’t drink tea because it reminded him of his years
Hidden in a French village after his plane was shot down
Or the swing set in the back yard where I put a hole in my head
Or the chain link fence enclosing every yard all down the street
And I ripped my wrist open on ours when my dress caught as I climbed over it
I was over it, I just had to free my dress, carefully without ripping it,
So I didn’t get in trouble but instead I ripped my wrist
My childhood was not the vegetable man who came round every week, Mr. Chris
Or my young uncles who tried to teach me to blow bubble gum bubbles
None of these are the places of my childhood
All of these you might hear about from my mom and sisters
Or from me
But, still, for me, in that place called home
There are only three heres:
Books and church and fear
And I don’t know why.

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Sonnet on Psalms 130 & 131 – 19 April 2018

 

Out of the depths I call to You, my God
Open Your ears to hear my desp’rate cry
Count not my sins, raise not Your fearsome rod
Forgive my doubt, protect me lest I die

I wait, I wait through life’s hard trials and fate
In blindness, loss and dark despair I grope
As watchers seek for dawn’s first light, I wait
Though faith is faint, in God’s sure Word I hope

With eyes downcast and meek heart I endure
No off’rings great nor wonderful have I
On God’s great breast so calm, I rest secure
With love She succors me and stills my cry

With Israel I stand on Love’s bright shore
And put my trust in God forevermore

The Caryatid at the Gates of Hell – 18 April 2018

[Rodin’s great never-completed Gates of Hell fascinates me, both in its entirety and for the renowned individual figures like The Thinker, The Shades, The Old Courtesan and, especially, The Fallen Caryatid. I also liked it for these purposes because Rodin’s sculpture started as a representation of Dante’s Inferno: today’s challenge from Rebecca was to write an ekphrastic poem: a poem about a work of art. So I tried to write a poem based on a sculpture based on a poem.]

Stone, fixed stone above me, squeezing

Me down into stone

Below me

Twisting, writhing

Stone

Men and women, demons and gods

Half-formed, straining, stretching, beseeching, reaching

Children and Shades

Squirming, thrashing

Abandon hope

 

[Where are my steady sisters

Standing so straight

Carrying their weights above their heads

So straight, so strong, so long

Where once I stood]

 

Now fallen I find myself among these struggling fallen

Francesca and her Paolo

Never then crippled

Now they coil forever in hell’s whirlwind

Ugolino and his children at dinner

Not where they eat but where they are eaten

The thinker, poet, sculptor, dreamer

Dying

Unfinished plaster cast in his studio

And my new sister

That shriveled old courtesan, the helmet-maker’s once beautiful wife

Twisted arm, poking ribs, hanging teats

Is this what I have come to? Is this where I must stay?

 

[Once I stood slender and strong

Surrounded by my sisters bearing our impossible loads

Our robes flowed soft in liquid stone

Our hair, thick and long, like Samson

Held our strength]

 

Until collapsing, crumbling, folding

Defeated I crouch forever at his gates of hell

History Beautiful and Terrible

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“When you step on this, you are stepping on history,” Woody said as we left the small screen room he built to one side of their Bremo house. Of course when we sit in the screen room we are sitting within history since Woody built it entirely from reclaimed lumber, some from an 1815 barn. But that stone that we step on outside the entrance? That was part of a lock on Thomas Jefferson’s canal that ran from Richmond to Lynchburg before the railroad filled it in and built the railroad line there.

And I stand on this stone, almost certainly put in its original place by enslaved people, as I leave the room timbered with beams almost certainly put in their original place by enslaved people.