Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice Poem

Prayer in Winter
Luminous paper bags show the way
to parsnips, carrots, beets

summer radiance transformed
for sale at the farm stand.

May this food
shine through me

let my words light the path
for people trying to find

food on a cold night,
nothing but paper in their fists.

The horizon is heavy
the future is leaden

but still we push back
with our little lights.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Poetry Garden Party, or “Forever is composed of Nows...”

If there's poetry in heaven, I think it looks like the garden party I attended a few weeks ago. Walking from the sidewalk into a yard artfully scattered with sculpture, paintings, musicians, and refreshments I thought—I've come to the Elysian Fields. The sun shown gently and the hosts welcomed everyone generously.

The main attractions were three houses from "The Little White House Project: Dwell in Possibility" by Peter Krasznekewicz.

Paintings by Sandy Denis hung on the fence. Good thing it didn't rain that day! This one says, "To tell the Beauty would decrease / To state the spell demean" - Emily Dickinson

Mary Clare and Vi's granddaughter, Lily, made sure that everyone got a "happy happy stone." I snuck a blue one home for Jen, too.

They'd also paired poems by Emily Dickinson with various features in the yard, so poems about flowers stood beside flowers and poems about stones stood beside stones. This one begins, "How happy is the little Stone / That rambles in the Road alone, / And doesn't care about Careers / And Exigencies never fears—"

Here's the poem I wrote from prompts that were available on the table, culled from Emily Dickinson and other poets.

Now’s to Be a New Road 
The grass does not appear afraid
of me. It does not accuse me of anything.
Why are all these stems so generous?
Echinacea, barley, oats and tansy
sing the sun song and rain song each day.
In the gourd birdhouses, no passenger
was ever known to dissemble or dismiss.
The everyday weight and business of life
is one fact by our side.
This summer’s monotony of blooming
is another.

The party is also described in more luxurious detail by Trish Crapo in this Greenfield Recorder article

Thanks to Mary Clare and Violet for a beautiful and inspiring afternoon!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice Poem

I wrote this poem a year ago, and I remembered it today while I picked strawberries at the farm down the street. Today is warm, dry, and sunny — quite the opposite of the damp berry-picking day I wrote about last summer. I don't have a picture of the strawberry patch, so I'm including one of my backyard roses.

Wish You Were Here

in the strawberry patch
under the mountain
on a dewy morning
getting in the last quart
of berries before the rain
just me and the slugs
looking for sweetness

in the downtown millpond
among the cattails
gliding a kayak
past red-winged blackbirds
snapping turtles lurking
somewhere below

in the front yard
near the silver maple
on a wide-open night
asking all the unanswered
questions of the stars
as the moon dips its ladle
into the last house

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Birds Playing Guitars

It's a double April Fool's—I'm posting to the blog for the first time in months, and birds are playing guitars. Actually, both of these are not tricks at all. Here's a piece I wrote in response to an amazing installation that I recently saw in Salem.

Birds playing guitars? That is something to see—and hear. When my friend told me about From Here to Ear at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, I didn’t really believe her. She said, “There are musical instruments, and birds, and they interact somehow.”

It was the “somehow” that perplexed me. How can you play a guitar without hands? I imagined a complicated set-up. Maybe the guitars were attached to something that reacted to the birds’ actions, like a cable or another apparatus. I couldn’t picture the interaction between bird and guitar happening without an intermediary of some kind in the system. But that’s exactly what we saw: birds playing guitars. When it was 10:20 a.m. and the guards let us into the gallery, we saw small, colorful zebra finches going about their normal bird business—eating, preening, flying, perching—and thereby playing guitar.

I’d made a lot of assumptions about what it means to “play” a guitar. The instruments weren’t oriented in a typical, vertical guitar-playing position. Instead, they were mounted horizontally on drum stands so they provided an ideal surface for the tiny birds to perch on. Expensive guitars doubled as tree branches and finch feet became guitar picks. The birds’ tiniest movements became sources of melody, electronic but peaceful. The guitars were tuned in harmony with each other, and there was nothing dissonant in the random, reverberating notes.

The effect was an odd but affecting combination of nature and industry. My friend pointed out how noisy it was in the gallery and that the finches didn’t seem to mind it. They also weren’t bothered by having a group of people gawking at them. They just flew around, ate, perched, and sang their own songs—much as I imagine they would amid ambient sounds in nature, especially if they lived near a particular source of noise, such as a waterfall or a highway.

I wanted to spend the whole day there. I wanted to live in there. I wanted to be tiny and have a finch’s eye view of the world. But soon our 15 minutes were up and we were ushered out of the gallery, birdsong and guitar chords reverberating in our minds.