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Thanksgiving Poem

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Joining in the widespread nostalgia this year for those big extended family gatherings.

Mashed Potatoes

            “ . . . are to give everybody enough.”
                              Ruth Krauss, A Hole Is to Dig

So there must be gravy
and a decision about who’s to make it.
Thanksgiving celebrates acquisitions,
mergers: his family’s sauerkraut,
her neighbor’s homegrown squash
will be replicated for decades.
Four burners heat six pots
when the niece comes in to make
macaroni for the youngest ones
whose urgent hunger cider and celery
cannot satisfy.  A lump in the potatoes
proves they’re real.  The masher
blames distractions, so many
people in the kitchen. The gravy maker
stays focused while other pans
change places, the drawer
at his elbow opens, closes, opens.

First published in The Broken City, thebrokencitymag.org, 2013

There is much to be thankful for, even in 2020.

Another Minor Poem for this Time

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This came from the prompt: what is an inanimate object trying to tell you?

Messages

He says the microwave is talking to him.
What’s she saying, Henry?  She says,
“Noli me tangere.  The last person
may have been exposed.”  She says
it’s time to work from home.

We have no microwave at home;
our toaster oven serves us very well.
“Don’t take me for granted,” toaster
protests, “I can only do what I can.”

Does the second line sound familiar?  It’s a quotation from Finian’s Rainbow.  The boy Henry interprets the message of the mute dancer.  A traveling company performed the musical in my high school auditorium in my youth.  Some things stick for a long time, reappearing when least expected.  That’s one of the deep pleasures of writing.

Prompted

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In April I subscribed to the daily prompts put out by Two Sylvias Press.  I’ve done this before, I always get behind, and I do well if half of the prompts lead to something useful.  A few prompts spark new poems, but more often I produce what I think of as “pomelets” (“pome -lets” sounds better to me than “po-emlets”).

Here’s one, my response to the prompt: write a journal entry for a famous fictional character:

Roadrunner’s Journal

It’s a living, harassing Coyote,
somebody has to do it,
but is it a life?  Wish I could
find a mate, breed chicks,
a next generation, a legacy of sorts,
though I hear offspring can be unreliable,
reject their parents’ values,
go off their own way.  Mine
wouldn’t leave the desert would they?
That golf course, damp and green,
might tempt them to deny their heritage.
I only go to visit, briefly.

Roadrunners have a challenge figuring out how to coexist with the increasing number of humans, and their golf courses, in their territory.  I saw two in a neighbor’s front yard on one of my walks recently and wondered where they make their nest.

Image Problem, In Reverse

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Has anyone else been struck by how elegant, how almost attractive, some of the images for the coronavirus are on television?

Image Problem

All those flower-like
protrusions as if marketing
designed a logo for it, as if
it were not ugly—and
too small to see.

Are these trumpets signaling
attack, mouths to gobble
the good microbes, suction
cups structured to latch
onto surfaces or cells?

What marks the defense
against this enemy?  Where
are their marketers, their
support-our-troops posters?

February Snow Times 2

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Snow is a rare thing here, although we often see it up on the mountain.  Even more unusual, this year we’ve had two snows in two weeks.

P1010199The first made a lovely covering, for the short time it lasted.  Here is the view through my study window.P1010203

The second week’s snow was a heavy wet one, giving a different effect.  It even covered the bonsai that sits at the edge of my patio.P1010205

 

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I wrote this poem for a friend who used snow falling as a symbol of depression.  That seems unlikely in the desert southwest.

February Morning
for John

He tells me snow
is a product of the air’s
despair.  Perhaps

he’s right: seedheads
of the tall grass are weighed
down, shawled in white.

But each twig on the tree
is highlighted, while the earth
sleeps cozy under its blanket

and every thirsty plant
will drink the melt; the birds
can feed again.

 

I think we’ve had our winter.  Spring winds should be here soon.

 

The World of the Unicorn Tapestries

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I am often irritated by radio announcers who talk on about the composers whose works they are about to play, some facts well known, some gathered from the internet and often tangential.

Yet, when I was working with the unicorn tapestries I wanted to know “more, more, more” about the world in which they were made.

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The Unicorn Defends Himself (part)

I discovered two history books from the 1920s.  The Autumn of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga is translated from the Dutch.  The translation I have is from 1996, indicating that the book is still important.

A second, less well-known, history is Lucien Febvre’s Life in Renaissance France.  Both of these authors convey a sense of loss in describing the vitality of the era they describe.

These two books, and the energy of the tapestries themselves, persuaded me.  Pictured here is just part of one of the tapestries from the Hunt of the Unicorn series in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I’ve come to share the two authors’ sense of loss and wish I could know personally these two good writers.

 

Historians

When the world was half a thousand years
younger all events had much sharper
outlines than now.
     Johan Huizinga, Autumn of the Middle Ages (1923)

The unicorn’s realm is beyond our reach.
We cannot leap half a millennium
to dance with the lords and ladies
of the country in which he thrived.

Admiring the vigor of that age,
Lucien Febvre said we are hothouse
flowers.  The past is a mirror too distant
to give us clear sight of ourselves.

Lucien and I and Johan Huizinga
wander along cold, unswept streets,
wanting to crash the splendid parties
we are too late to attend.

Note:  “more, more, more” is a quotation from A Very Special House by Ruth Krauss.  See my post of August 28, 2013.

Poem for Taurus New Moon

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My mother was born in Taurus.  I’m a Scorpio.  We didn’t pay much attention to these signs, so I was not aware until recently that each of these signs has the other as its full moon.  That suggests to me a strong and lasting connection.

This, however, is a poem for the Taurus new moon.  It amazes me to realize that my mother would have been 98 this year.

Sign Language

Taurus is the sign of money.
My mother, born on its cusp,
never had much.
She made it enough.

Taurus is the sign of things.
She cared for her father’s saw,
the table he built when she was young,
her crowded closet and attic.

Taurus is the sign of earth.
She bent her ample body, seeding,
weeding, watering, her small plot
of ground inside a wire fence.

Taurus is the sign of matter.
It matters to me that she’s gone.

Clocks and Time

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The Bridge Outside Paley's Door

The Bridge Outside Paley’s Door

 

 

 

 

In honor of the clock change, here is one of my poems about time and clocks from Made and Remade.

 

The Potentate of Time

As CEO, I cannot allow loss
of minutes dropped by badly
calibrated clocks, seconds

split by timers racing after
ever faster miles, or precious
nanoseconds sliced, spit out

by precision machines: all
the clumsy human attempts
to alter time.

I dispatch work crews to
sweep corners and gutters, sift
bits from curbs and drains,

bring their gathered goods into
my laboratory where skilled
artisans sort, stitch, splice.  My

expanding universe requires
recovery, repair, reuse
of every particle.

The title comes from a line in a hymn “Crown him the Lord of years, the potentate of time.”  It’s a phrase I’ve been fond of for a long time.  In spite of the source I picture this powerful figure as female.  I don’t know if this is because this cleaning up is a kind of woman’s work, or if it is a form of identification between poet and persona.  I intentionally hid my perspective by putting the poem in the first person.  How do you imagine this figure?

Drive carefully on Monday morning.  It’s a high accident time because so many people are thrown off and sleep deprived by the time change

One for Fun

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On the road this past weekend I found myself eating in restaurants and remembered this poem which I wrote several years ago.  It’s all about the word play, and you’ll see by the end, if you don’t recognize it immediately, that it is rapidly becoming dated.  Enjoy!

 

Checkpoint

Checking out the new
restaurant, we place
our order, chat about
that smiling checker at
the grocery store, my
check-up – the doctor’s
clean bill of health.

It’s my turn to pick up
the check.  We recall
when checks we wrote
had stubs, those books
with three to a page
your father used, as if
home were a business.

Waitstaff scurry from
table to computer, which
prints small characters
on short thin strips.
I say, “We’re ready for
the check.”  Our server
calls it a ticket.

 

After Rain

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The ground in my back yard is mostly sand between the bushes.  But then it rains and it becomes clear how many seeds are buried in that sand.   Rain is a good metaphor for all kinds of nurturing.  When the rain doesn’t come for a while, more yellow shows from the ground.  When it comes again, the ground is green.

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Dry skin in winter,
wind burnt in spring, the ground
turns to green fuzz
after rain, grows out ragged
as an adolescent’s beard.

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