Farewell?

How shall we fare
Well or ill
Or languishing with poetry and headaches
On Elizabeth Barrett’s settee
How shall we move
Ahead or back
Or locked in a tree
Lured by Niviane’s song
How shall we write
Poetry or prose
Or languages unborn
Sung by Tolkien’s peoples
How shall we live
Steadily or anxiously
Or laughing at fate
With lying legendary Malraux
Where is the sweetness in this sour parting?

These questions and more
I am left with
Hungering
Even while satisfied
Mourning April’s passing
Though eager for May’s borning

Oh, wait, there is the sweetness
I found it in the poems.

 

Advertisements

À la Recherche du Temps Perdu

[Rebecca’s challenge today was to play with things lost in translation, in some sense. This poem probably needs some explanation (which might be a bad sign for a poem). The first volume of Marcel Proust’s seven volume (!) novel has a famous incident of the narrator recovering memories of a childhood home when he eats a madleine. The title of this poem is the French title of the novel. The first English translation was titled “Remembrance of Things Past.” A later better translation has the title “In Search of Lost Time.” The correct French of the last line of my poem is si’l vous plait (if you please). I have a personal backstory around the title of the original translation, but I won’t bore you with that.]

When we eat the madeleine how much is memory and how much imagination
That rich sweet taste crumbs clinging to our tongue, gums, palette
That softness traveling down our throat, right through us
Getting mixed up with everything else we have taken in
And coming out quite differently
So we wrinkle our nose and flush it all away
Wipe ourselves clean of any indigestible remnants of that madeleine
Even while the crumbs still remind our mouth of the original sweetness, softness
Crumbly richness delight
At least until we brush our teeth and get on with life
And then what?
Blankness waiting to be filled with misspelled words
Wrong guesses from the infuriatingly vague crossword clues left by our befores
Or right impressions quietly waiting to be relived?

Do we ever truly remember or remember truly things past when we seek to recapture lost times?
Tell me please, Cher Marcel, but in something less than seven volumes,
See vous plait.

In Memoriam

[Rebecca’s challenge was to write a poem using current news as inspiration. James Cone, an African-American theologian, often called the Father of Black Liberation Theology, died on Saturday,  April 28, 2018.]

 

“Christ hung from every lynching tree.”

Emmett Till’s open coffin

revealed Jesus Christ.

“The oppressed are the Christian community.”

Rosa Parks sat next to Jesus.

The scandal is that the gospel means liberation.

Christ died from the bullet that

killed Medgar Evers.

A powerful liberating presence among the poor.”

Jesus Christ’s body was blown

apart by a bomb at the

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

“America has never intended for blacks to be free.”

Jesus, known as

Rev. Bruce Klunder,

died under a bulldozer.

“I have one right: That of demanding human behavior from the other.”

A Mississippi

earthen dam hid

the bodies of Christ

and three young men.

“I have one duty: That of not renouncing my freedom through my choices.”

Viola Liuzzo

died when

a Klansman

shot

Jesus Christ.

“The lynching tree…should have a prominent place in American images of Jesus’ death.”

Alabama

troopers

shot

Jimmie Jackson

and Jesus died.

“Black Power is…an inward affirmation of the essential worth of blackness.”

At South Carolina

State College,

Christ was killed,

demonstrating

against segregation.

“The Christian gospel is more than a transcendent reality.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s

assassin nailed

Jesus Christ

to the cross.

“The acceptance of the gift of freedom transforms…”

Jesus died when

Trayvon Martin

was shot.

“…doubt is not denial but an integral part of faith.”

Christ was found

hanging

in Sandra Bland’s

jail cell.

“The gospel is also an immanent reality.”

When he took Philando Castile’s life,

a Minnesota officer

killed Jesus Christ.

“Before being Christ, he is truth.”

James Cone died today.

napo2018button1

Slipshod Time

Walking with my dad
On a Bourbon St. summer day
1950s
The smell is awful
The sights not much better
Garbage and piss and piles of dog shit
At least you hope it is all dog shit
Dancing thigh-slapping barefoot black boys
(Only we did not say black back then)
“Hey Mistah, I betcha a dollah I kin tell ya whe-ah ya got dem shoes.”
(Always Mistah – no black boy would dare even a look at a Missus)
The smiling white mark takes the bet, eager for the whole aw-THEN-tic Nawlins ‘sperience,
“Ya got dem shoes on you-ah feet and you-ah feet be standing on Bourbon Street.”
Dance laughing away waving the dollah, a mutually satisfying transaction.

My hiking boots stuck to the ground, refusing the next step
1980s
Spring in the Canadian Rockies
Days before, we had crossed a trickling stream
Now, on our way out, snow melt had created a fast moving thigh-high river
I was carrying our youngest
Bob had our two older ones in hand
I was fear stuck, knowing one of us would slip
And be swept away
Then, as if by magic or unthought prayer, two women appeared
Veterans of the first women’s expedition to summit Annapurna
With their ropes and strong arms, their sturdily shod feet
They got us all safely across.

Driving through a Virginia spring
21st century
Foot easing up on the gas
As I drive past Ruth’s grave, next to her mother and grandmother
I remember
A Bourbon St. summer day
A Canadian mountain spring day
Day dawning in a palliative care window
Gordon’s ashes in the columbarium wall
Surrounding the Civil War graveyard on UVA Grounds
I promised him my own would one day rest next to his.

But I don’t want my ashes asleep in an urn in a stone wall
I want my ashes slipped into the wind in a woods traveled only by unshod feet.

Notes on Quotes

[Rebecca’s challenge today: collect snippets of whatever throughout your day and use some in a poem.]

The poem of my day
Moves through random
Wonderful quotes
With a recurring animal theme.

“Good morning, love. I just found a dead mouse in our bedroom”
– My early morning wake-up text to my husband.
“Can Blue and I come take a shower at your house?”
– Asked Ann, whose water was turned off
(Blue is her dog; please don’t ask
If they shower together).
“Charly needs to lick someone”
– Said my mother
Talking about Carol’s dog
Whom we are caring for
While Carol is in Denver
Charly just had surgery
And needs four different pills
On different schedules
And Charly, old not quite toothless dog,
Hates taking pills
So my quotes are best left
Unrecorded.
“The problem is I can’t hear with my glasses on”
– My mother again
No animal involved but
How could I not include
Mom’s explanation to the audiologist
Of how the temples of her eyeglasses
Cause feedback in her hearing aids.

And my personal favorite
My nominee for Best Quote of the Day,
“How the bloody hell do I stop being live?”
– Asked Tina, after posting a duck fight
(Or was it a mating display?)
Live to Facebook.

There are days
Thankfully less now
When I might ask,
“How the bloody hell do I stop being dead?”

Gardening Aside

It takes just a moment to plant
The tiny dill in the soft dark dirt
In front of the garlic
A moment more to glance around
And see
Last year’s curly soft green parsley
Already spreading strong
Among last year’s leeks
Long leaved this soon
By what secret magic did that happen
Solomon’s seal poking up confidently
Under the volunteer magnolia
Erect as any army regular
Lower branches trimmed to make room
Amid Solomon’s variegated pointing seal
For hostas and day lilies
While in the sunlit corner
One clematis has begun its upward climb
Though it looks too fragile to cling
The other, I think, is dust to dust
Earth for our next effort
In this tiny patch of garden

I think of my husband
Moving boulders, digging ponds
Planting trees, shrubs, ferns
Building a foot bridge
And my yoga platform
In our large back garden

I think of Blake
And I am grateful
For this small bit of infinity
Along the side of the house
Next to the deck
That is the most that I
Timid non-gardener
Can hold in the palm of my heart
When my husband is away

Disgust

[Rebecca’s challenge for us today was simple: write about something gross, disgusting or ugly.]

In my childhood disgusting was
Oh gross oh yuck barf pee-yew
Piles of dog shit on the sidewalk
Before dogs were pampered pets
Fed zoned grain free diets
Back when dogs ate left-overs and garbage
Caught birds and squirrels
Nutria and groundhogs
And the smell of their shit burned
Gagged
Made my stomach clench
Filled my mouth with almost vomit

Gross back then was moist
Almost shit-looking clumps of chew
Spit out on the sidewalk
With still a sweetish tobacco smell
Resurrecting memories of my grandfather
From ugliness on the sidewalk

You could never look away
Never pretend it wasn’t there
Because if you looked away
You might step in it
And then there was the worse ugliness
On your shoe
And the even worse ugliness
When your dad found out about it

Still, I wonder,
Maybe it is just the softening
Effects of age and distance
But now that seems less ugly, less fearsome
Than the ugliness of her dementia
Dirty, stringy hair
The smell that makes me feel guilty
As I blow good-bye kisses from across the room
Her “toilet explosions” and doing her laundry
Separately, hot water, bleach and still
Yuck

Now the ugliness I struggle with is
My disgust at my own revulsion
Apparently, obviously, sadly
God did not make me of the same stuff
As Sienna’s Catherine or Calcutta’s Teresa