Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Daring To Dream Of The Quintessential Poem

..there I was without a face

and it touched me.

                              Pablo Neruda


The sleep god, himself, appears

and slips the reigns into my hand

nodding -- that  I must go the old way.  Cloaked

on horseback  through the evening  gate.


The roan stays  quiet and still

while Morpheus, appareled in  his peasant's shirt

and vest  (his boots strewn with pollen),

stresses --  the poem must find me,  by scent

and instinct; not what poses in the glass. That writer

wearing  her same, familiar brand.


Like a seamstress the journey

alters our path. Voice and viewpoint change

and the change remains unknown

even to one's self  --until  the song (and if the song)


restless and readied for perfection

pursues its mistress. Much like a cat

searching for a sorceress to serve, or  spirit

seeking a lamp to illume.


The subconscious draws me in

draped in dusk  and smelling of want.

Those white flowers on the archway

soft, poisonous with expectation.

This poem was partially inspired by Pablo Neruda's poem "Poetry" where he declares that he did not pursue poetry, it sought him out and brought him into its fold at a certain age. He begins with the lines
At that age, poetry arrived
in search of me

And so I thought how often as a writer I am always chasing or seeking to write that "quintessential poem"
that embodies all the wise and perfect qualities that will enable me to say I have written something beyond my usual voice/style/capability. And always find myself saying, "If it's not this poem it will be the next". But the more I pursue it the more that "poem" eludes me. So I have come to realize , as much wiser and scholarly poets/artists/ have expressed, the poem cannot be hunted down or written by specific order or deadlines. It must come , on its own, to the writer. Like a spirit, it will find its vessel and as writers we must be patient and wait. We must listen and accept the intervals of silence between the inspiration and the delivery of that inspiration through prose or verse. And the "ultimate poem" for each striving individual might not be a singular thing-- but a few poems that emerge out of many but are spaced months or years apart. The poem will know when its author is of the right age, place in time, circumstance, and open-mindedness to accept the theme or idea. And perhaps, the risk in dreaming of writing this kind of poem is the emotional high and low, the expectation that it will happen no matter what/when ;and then if doesn't materialize within a certain amount of anticipated time, there is the depression. Maybe, the best thing is to simply move with the current or "go with the flow". Let things be and it will happen when and if  it is meant to occur.



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Engraved


Father, soone after yov goe for Englande, we came hither. Onlie misarie  and  warretow yeare.  Above halfe deade ere tow yeere  moore from sickenes.....

                                                                       Eleanore Dare, 1591, The Roanoake Colony

Gold leaves of  the sassafras

shudder along with the shoulders

of a woman recording her name

and plight in stone.


Her hair tendrilled loose

as if to patch, lessen the tear

of a blouse ripped on burrs

while heading toward the river.


The wind breathes cool, smelling of that sweet plant

as her hands crudely carve

a cross and clues into large quartzite. 

There's barely enough time

to finish. And like those other things:


unhung herbs, damp kindling --grief

for a lost husband and child,

they must be left. Something shines

in the distance  She turns around


reaching for a shawl. Her shadow

widens across the rock

like floodwater leaving

its hopelessness in the letters. Its darkness


felt by passing birds. Their  bleak  cry

fallen through clouds

shattering the gray lull; and with them

draped in tufted wool, she takes flight -- vanishing

into the south.


Translation of epigram ( in 16th C. English)

Father, soon after you went to England, we came here. Only misery and a war torn year. About half are dead for two years or more from sickness...

Background notes:

In 1587, one of the first, experimental colonies in the New World inhabited the wild island of Roanoke off the coast of North Carolina. They came with hopes of establishing a productive settlement on The American Coast with a certain amount of autonomy and goals of achieving both personal and mercantile success. However, they were confronted with not only harsh climate factors but disease, hostile Native Americans, and rapidly dwindling supplies. Out of desperation, the governor of the colony, John White, decided to sail back to England and petition his sponsors for more supplies and money. In his absence, the colony began to suffer a number of misfortunes. On the brink of starvation and impending Indian attacks,  something had to be done. And that became the mystery. When Governor White returned to Roanoke after two years, he found the settlement completely dismantled with no trace of anyone or any building foundations. He set out to find his people and came across a series of carved stones along the woodland trail. And these were supposedly carved as clues by his own daughter , Eleanor White Dare, who had been married to another colonist and had given birth to a girl, the first white child to be born of English descent in America. ( According to some  accounts -- including her own on the stone), her husband was slain by Indians and her child lost or  possibly slain as well). The first stone had the longest message and yet briefly described what occurred  and why they left.. The rest of the stones (47 in all with various short clues as to the direction of their whereabouts) were deemed fraudulent by scientists and historians. Yet, the mystery of why and how Eleanor Dare carved these stones lingers. And even greater, the disappearance of an entire colony.

It should also be noted that "sassafras" grew rampantly in the Carolina woods and surrounding territories. It was one of the most coveted plants of the new world -- known for its medicinal properties along with sweet taste and fragrance.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


She was the restlessness,
the rewilding of us;
and so, she pulled us
into a house of woods.
Its walls pillared
with camellia and cedar.
Its floor strewn with leaves
and the mud underneath
damp. Her feet did not
imprint the earth
while ours left traces
of boot  and shoe.
We stopped by a stream
where salmon came to spawn
and cranes flung their white
shawls across the sky
flying south.
Lost in the presence
of birds and fish, she drew
our attention
rubbing together
two stalks of kindling.
We became wood smoke.
Our spirits diffused
to drift and linger,
to pilgrimage
on the forest path
finding near twilight
what needed, (what yearned)
to be retold --
          and  remembered.
Beautiful artwork is by Japanese artist, Enoki Toshiyuki

Snow White's Visitation

The winter air
so clear and cold, it
covers the mountains
like a glass lid
and beneath -- darkness
tumbles along the snow.
The hair of a princess
falling into the folds
of her bridal gown.
She has already
lived her life
in the fairytale, awakening
to a prince
and prosperous fate, but this
is her specter
mounted on the dais
of the high desert terrain.
She looms before that bride
who sleepwalks through the day
dazed by the spell of routine
and deft fingers
indentured to cell or tablet
 the same way her ancestors
were bonded to loom
and spindle. The woman 
who chews an apple, slice after slice
 inducing her mind
to forget the prince, the partner
who needs to perceive
his reflection
in her mirror. Her voice
at coloratura pitch
shattering the ceiling, the keen silence
             with joy.  
 So many times fairytales these days are turned into jaded views of courtship, love and marriage along with a great deal of cynicism. This is sort of my reaction to that; saying Snow white's specter looms on the horizon as a reminder to the wife who is totally absorbed in her career and ambitions, her identity as a self-contained maven , that her partner needs to be recognized as a vital part of her life and that his presence/reflection should also be reflected in her outlook (her mirror). And in doing so, her voice should also inflect that high sense of joy thus shattering the glass barrier of isolation that prevented this relationship from ascending to a higher level of understanding and communication.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Inventor


                          (A country house in France, 1782)


Her chemise hung over the hearth
and her husband watched
its cloth inflate
as the fire glowed
and heat rose
with the scent of cherry wood.
Like a ghost
the flame's breath
stole possession of the garment
shifting  slightly left then right.
The young man having made
his study of the scene,
enough to guess that such  a flame
could launch a large balloon,
exclaimed -- soliloquized;
Oh! woman
despite your shape
shown elsewhere this day,
thou art loosed.
You are here
as shadow, as wood smoke
 lifting from the warmth
that placed a kettle
on the fire
or hot stones in brass
that kept sheets warm
while passion struck
the bare kindling of our limbs.
Oh! Woman, thou art loosed,
flown from that slender form
to make your presence known, lining
 lingerie that stirs
 my blood as well -- or more
than propelling flight
with a basket and bulbous
sack of air.
Its silk painted blue
with the wine god's face -- and golden
fleurs de lis.
Oh! Woman thou art loosed.
The house in light
and you levitating at dusk
makes me sense --
                          I am possessed!

In the latter part of the 18th century, inventors and scientists became obsessed with flight, especially through the use of a giant  balloon, fueled by  flame and carrying its passengers in a basket gondola.  Two brothers in France, Joseph and Jacques Mongolfier, were the first to launch the flight of one of these elaborate contraptions. Inventors and scientists, they spent months stretching into years studying the dynamics of the climate, the air craft itself, and launching sites. The idea to lift the balloon off by fire was discovered, according to legend, by Joseph when he watched his wife's chemise (hanging over the flame) billow  as the heat rose and dried the intimate apparel. Drying laundry inspired a master idea and plan. This poem is not meant to  portray Joseph's character or reaction; but a character derived from that fabled event and how it affected  his relationship/identity with both science and sensual passion.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Storytellers

Sometimes, the storytellers hanging out in the marketplace, the quaint pub/shop the old house or railway station are the objects, themselves. Antiques that offer through artistic detail, inscriptions, place of discovery or some knowledge of their personal lineage, the vestiges of a story. And the rest is either revealed through research or the beholder/owner's imagination. The inanimate trouvère, on one hand hints at its tale in silence, but on the other, inspires the observer to complete or reinvent its history.

To wake things up that are in him..

                                          George Macdonald


There are centuries  of us

silent and heirloomed -- left

in half-timbered shops, temple ruins,

the spider-veiled cellar or eaves. We are given

our song by use or scene.  By those


who shadow the  vase, linens, lamp,

ink well, parchment, or book.

And oh!  yes, that powder horn found

in the barn's loft, abandoned 

with blonde strands of hair

clinging to its strap.  Goshawk wings

sketched along its sallow bone. What woman

shot a firearm and why --

or did she simply fill the thing

to save her husband time?


The tale remains sparse, spoken

through etching, wisp and place.

The rest revealed

by hand and eye that mold

its shape into a chapter.

Whatever scenario

gives the relic a relatable

air,  an intimate ghost.
The artwork is a detail of a larger work by 19th C. illustrator, Arthur Rackham,
from his "Ring of The Nibelung" collection.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Idyll

Twilight fades in
shadowing the roses
like a woman's pale
lavender gown.
The air cool
and a few birds
rustle in the hedge
as if they're words
striving to become
a prayer.
A vesper
blessing the lawn and light,
our garden
in the high desert.