And the Next

The evening after I’d talked to Sharon Olds about getting together to write poetry, there was a meeting of my poetry group, the Yogurt Poets, or YoPos.  Only Nancy and I were there and so had plenty of time to chat.  I told her about the poetry gathering I was planning and asked if she could join us, as Sharon had invited me to invite someone.  Nancy couldn’t make it, but I told her I’d let her know about it.

A week ago, I sent her the link to the Poetry Play post and she used the list of words to generate her own poem, before reading my poem.

Done Waiting

when released
like a pumpjack
my head rocks
into place
on the back
of my neck
and my sun visor
naturally lifted
no longer blocks
my view
of one blueberry
a gibbous orb
who’s own
tenuous existence
provokes a closer
as I step from dry
cobble to cobble
through marshy land
at the low end
of this oblong field
and pick and eat
am satisfied.
— Nancy Stewart

“Isn’t it remarkable how different our use of the word-list is?” she wrote, after reading my poem, after writing hers.  Yes, indeed.

PS The blog formatting isn’t taking the indentation of every other line that Nancy did in her poem.  Sorry — it really adds something to the poem, so you’ll just have to imagine it.


Next Poem

Two weekends ago Sam, Marianna, Adrienne, Matt, Emilio, and David’s brother Doug were all here for the weekend.  When David and I got up on Saturday morning, Sam and Marianna were up with Emilio, letting Adrienne and Matt get some extra morning sleep. David and I were both still under the spell of the poetry play we’d done the day before, and asked Sam and Marianna to help us generate a list of words to serve as writing prompts for the day.  The list:  green, lush, blue, constitutional monarchy (that’s Sam), stare, oar, amble.  I was too busy cooking and playing with Emilio and being in the middle of day full of family to write a poem, but David did, and here it is.

The Laws of Nature

There are equations for the road’s convergence,
edges crossing the height of land to have
the last word before leaving the scene.
Those rules of perspective were worked out long ago
when people could still stare at things without moving.
Once there was one world,
a ruler came straight from the sun
and measurement was by the monarch’s foot.
Now lush governance has overgrown the arch.
The seen is changed by being seen.
No thing is any one thing and time has no place.
The wind sweeps oars through the grasses,
their bending reeds,
the light greening gold
then bruising the shadows blue,
darting for the bait beneath
the arc of a shallow sun.
A turkey can fly,
but tonight it falls out of the tree.

David hadn’t yet sent his poem from the morning with Sharon Olds to the others who were there, and when he did send that poem, he included this one.  Bill wrote back to David, with the following comments on this poem.

I really like The Laws of Nature. You’ve captured something essential about what feels to me like the shift from the Newtonian universe to the relativistic world that came with Einstein and Heldelberg and modern physics and art.

What I find even more intriguing is that last part, with the imagery of the grasses and the shadows, because for me it opens a door to a third possibility–the world that indigenous people knew, before abstract language, where there was one world but a much different kind of physics, much more fluid and connected. I’ve come across some work in the shamanic traditions that tries to convey what that world was like, and how to revive it in some ways for putting our broken world together again.

So your piece has invited me to look deeper in that third realm. I’ll let you know what I find there.

I love what Bill says about David’s poem and take it as confirmation of what I’ve thought about David as a poet since I met him.  He’s a natural.  He’s spent very little of his adult life writing poetry, yet he has a true ear and great sense of detail, movement and how to make surprising shifts and turns. What fun for me.

More Poetry Play

First, today has been a total 10 on a 1 – 10 scale of perfection.  The sun is clear, hot and sparkling on the water of the bay, the air is cool with a light breeze, and I’m in a waterfront house with only a tiny bit of work to do.  And there was an earthquake today! Sitting on the deck eating lunch, I felt everything start to move back and forth.  For a minute, I thought there was something wrong with me, some inner balance suddenly gone so that the world was now a shifting quiver.  I looked up at David in the kitchen and said, “Is there an earthquake going on?”  “I think so,” he answered, and then the quaking stopped.  Thankfully, it appears to have done little damage, even near the epicenter.

So, here is the poem David wrote almost two weeks ago, during our morning of poetry play.  The word prompts were the same that gave me the poem I posted two days ago: ruffle, marshy, sun visor, visible, tenuous, waiting, cobble, gibbous, orb, oblong. Tomorrow will be another poem from David, using words we had our family generate following day.  Lots of poetry in my life right now, which is a very good thing.

Sargent and the Four Daughters

There must have been a gibbous moon unmasked
the feathering of the Earth
softening the chill edge into that curtain
drawn deep across the shadows of the painting.
One is barely visible in the darker folds,
her sister more forward in the brushed light
before the bright one in ruffles
who draws the eye naturally.
I cannot see the fourth I know is there
somewhere else
searching for words in the road.


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I know I said today I’d post David’s poem from our morning of poetry play, but I’m going to do that the next tomorrow.  Today we went to Wildwood, the next town south from Stone Harbor, and outside of being another beach town, about as different as it could be.  Wildwood has an enormous boardwalk, three piers of amusement park rides, water parks, motels that looked completely unchanged since the 50’s, scads of people, monster truck rides, and a complete lack of the kind of intellectual preoccupations David and I often spend our days slipping around in.

For example, this morning on our walk along the beach, David did his book report style recounting of the concepts about human evolution and the development of the cooperative brain through trade and specialization of skill from Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist.  Earlier, I’d shown him the latest draft of one of the three poems I’m working on right now, and he helped me edit out a few more words, generally a good move in any poem.

But this afternoon we went to Wildwood and lost ourselves in the sights and sounds and sun.  This slide show doesn’t do the experience justice, because you can’t hear all the amplified voices telling you “We have barbecued chicken, we have fried flounder, come eat here,” and “Two for the price of one, two for the price of one, come in and buy.”  We walked and looked and listened until we were thirsty and hungry and tired, went to have dinner at a Mexican restaurant run by a family David’s second cousin in St. John knows (it’s such a small world), came back to the house and watched a royally brilliant sunset.  There’s a tiny bit of pink left in the quickly darkening sky, and the first star is out.  Time for a wish.

Poetry Play

Last week we came home from swimming and there was a message on the answering machine.  “Hi, Grace,” a cheery voice said.  “This is (too blurry to understand) and I have an idea.  Give me a call,” and the voice left a number.  I was about to play the message again when David came in the room and said, “That was Sharon Olds.”

Sharon Olds is a poet David and I have both greatly admired for years.  She’s now a neighbor of mine, living with Carl, a farmer I’ve known for decades (our children went to Temple School together), who owns an old camp on Wild Goose Pond and has turned a few of the cabins into lovely, rural retreats.  Carl is deeply involved with land conservation and local implementation of the “land ethic” first described by Aldo Leopold, a pioneer of conservation.  David and I have crossed paths with Sharon and Carl numerous times in the last year or more — at poetry readings, at a screening of Green Fire, a movie about Aldo Leopold, at Yom Kippur services — and have talked about getting together.

I called Sharon back.  “I have an idea,” Sharon said, and went on to describe her recent week at the Squaw Valley Poetry Workshop.  The intent is to generate new work using word prompts, and with a guest at one of the Graylag cabins who writes poetry, Sharon wondered if David and I would like to be part of a morning poetry gathering.  Oh yes, we certainly would!

Bill, the Graylag guest, his friend Sharon (yes, two Sharons), David, Sharon Olds and I met at 9:00 a.m. in the community cabin at Graylag.  Sharon Olds’ deep connection with art and poetry creation was evident.  She talked about making space for poetry, about inviting in the spirit of others, such as Aldo Leopold, and then asked us each to contribute two or three words to serve as prompts for our writing.  Our words:  ruffle, marshy, sun visor, visible, tenuous, waiting, cobble, gibbous, orb, oblong.  We then all went outside and picked up an object that spoke to us in some way.  When we gathered again in the cabin, we passed our objects to the person on our right.  Then we went off for a half hour to write.

We came back a bit later than a half hour and took turns reading our poems.  Sharon asked us to “share what is most alive to us,” in each poem.  “We’re too new together to offer critiques,” she said.  We talked about the poems, about poetry, about the spell we each worked under with an awareness of our chosen woods and objects from the piney woods and pondside.  “We are a tribe of five, and this is our language,” Sharon said.  Here is the poem I wrote, with no editing yet.  Tomorrow, David’s poem.


The fallen branch becomes complex
in her hands, white orbs of fungus
sucking the bark, trapping old brown
ash leaves, the plucked vine of fresh green
shot with white veins passed
to the next person in the circle.

Last night we discussed the origins
of gibbous, loving the moon
for just how it wavered, tenuous
chill coming into the evening,
the corner of another season unmasked,
visible in the one read leaf

I find floating no matter how summer
the day. This wild pond wears
its marshy crown of reeds and lilies
without desire for fealty, tiny wind
ruffles painting the water black
and blue that hurries into each flicker,

the cliché of sparkle. Oblong
passion rests in our words,
the trees and tumble of forest
reminding us that today is today
the unvisored sun before us
as we sit beside each other.

Droid Post

I’m back in Stone Harbor, on vacation. Yes real vacation. No gardening (though cooking all the garden vegetables I brought with me), no cleaning out the storage pod in the driveway and reorganizing the barn (David’s new studio in the barn is done), no cleaning out the decades of accumulated stuff in David’s parents’ house in Lancaster (which is what I did for the last two days until I was bone-achey and as dirty as I ever get). We have 5 more days here and Adrienne, Matt and Emilio are here until tomorrow night.

Today we sat on the dock with Emilio at high tide, when the water rises over the walkway a few inches, and introduced him to salt water. He loved it and happily splapped the water and sucked our salty legs.  Tomorrow I want to plop him in a pool of water at the beach.

Then days of reading, writing, sleeping, thinking. The one major drawback is the lack of reliable internet. So I just downloaded a WordPress app. Thus, my first post via my Droid. Workable but tedious. One finger typing is way slow as you all know.

Emilio and Eric

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Adrienne and I have thought for a while that Emilio sees Eric.  I’ve heard that babies up to about age 2 often can see people from different dimensions, and since everyone in our family has experienced Eric’s presence in different ways, I’m certainly ready to believe Emilio would experience his presence too, and maybe in very direct ways he can’t articulate yet.

When Emilio was tiny, Adrienne came out of the shower one day and he was on his back in his bassinette, smiling up at something above him.  “Daddy,” Adrienne thought.  I’ve also seen him looking at what appears to be blank space, smiling and cooing as if he’s locking eyes with someone.  And yesterday morning when I came downstairs, Marianna who had gotten up with Emilio said, “He’s been talking to Eric.  He keeps looking over into that corner smiling and chattering as if someone is there.”

Maybe he was particularly attuned to Eric because he visited the grave for the first time the day before.  He looked like he knew where he was, and was comfortable being with his grandfather in whatever dimension that’s possible.

On the Porch

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There are ten people on the porch this morning.  David is reviewing the hike up Mt. Isolation, and Anne is here to help convince him it’s doable, fun and scenic.  At 13.3 miles, David isn’t convinced it’s a hike he wants to do with the limited hiking conditioning we’ve had this year, though hike convincing isn’t why Anne came over — she’d never met Marianna and is here to see her, as well as Emilio, the attraction for Alison and John to be here.  Or a Sunday morning hanging on the porch is attractive in itself.  David’s brother Doug is here.  With a meeting in Boston later this week, a couple of days visiting in NH made sense, and I’m glad to have him here when it’s warm and there’s power.  His last visit was during a major ice storm and resulting power outage, and we spent the night at the house feeding the old wood stove to keep the pipes from freezing.  It was dark, dirty and cold, and we had to get water out of the half-frozen stream in a five gallon bucket to flush the toilet.  Hanging on a porch full of friends and family drinking coffee is a much better way to experience this house.

What makes me particularly happy is that I’ve been home long enough to keep my flower pots out on the steps and they look fabulous.  Flowers + family + friends = happy me.