This post/poem is in response to the prompt: “some days disappear like…” courtesy of Kathleen Olesky. Also, though it’s presumptuous, Rumi also deserves a credit here.
(Above: writing room as seen in mirror)
Some days disappear like
Some days disappear like snow on an
outstretched tongue, quietly, others
like butter in a hot iron skillet
with a froth and a sizzle.
Some nights land like a stranger
lurking in the bushes, leaving
us shaken and afraid, others
come on us like Magi
to the Christ child, bearing
fragrant and precious
An afternoon can drawl
or contract, lounge
or catapult. Is the rhythm a
function of what we had for breakfast and
the dreams that visited overnight?
Or are they perhaps their own
small kingdoms, with rules external?
My favorite times are mornings
born of rest when the pulled
curtain reveals a lovely
soft wash or a hearty
glare of eastern light. A
new day, no matter what.
Let’s meet there, near the
windowsill and pull it up,
the sash, and lean, together,
and breathe, then shout, “Thank you!”
This post is a prompt response from yesterday. Of five provided images, the one I responded to was of a piebald horse (not unlike the one above). I quote two poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins and Joyce Kilmer and for your enjoyment include the entirety of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, Pied Beauty, at the end.
It helps to know that I am ten years plus into writing a novel in which one of the central characters is Eliza Lucas Pinckney (b. 1722) and that the other three main characters are enslaved Black women.
Rhombuses of Light
The morning light is sectioned
mintons and mullions
through the glass, hitting floor and
wall, bending at baseboard.
She often referred to light
It’s the glow we like
especially when April
breezes seep past sills
and chill. But what about the
bend at the baseboard?
An easy compliance.
“Glory be to God for dappled
things,” said the poet.
Rhombuses of light
are not pied or
dappled, but when created
by a window speak
to the relationship between
solidity and light.
She repeats herself. All
those references to clouds!
It’s time to find and replace.
Thunderclouds with slate
grey bottoms, slants of
rain like an etching against
the horizon. Again, Eliza,
Her friend rode a dappled
grey sixteen hands high. How I had
to look all that up, authority running
to cats and dogs and at a stretch to
the way the interior of a barn
smells and how light catches
dust and particles of hay
drifting below the rafters.
How light and gravity inform
Imagination as authority,
not a popular position
Ripples of clouds above
the marsh, liked ruched
silk. Sunlight on creek
shining like pewter. God
in nature. We get it! Eliza
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Light will slide up the
wall as day goes on.
Sometimes the miraculous has
a predictable element to it.
All those author interviews
and how they make her
shrink. What’s on HER
bedside table? Did she
even read as a child?
The Case of the Hidden Staircase.
But it occurs to her now,
more memory than thought,
that reading Gerard Manley
Hopkins as a teenager
opened a previously
undisclosed chamber in
You can do that with
language? Light can
bend at baseboard
and be celebrated and in
Why does one element
mimicking another thrill
the senses? Light like
water. Sedimentary rock
like ripples of corduroy.
Memory like glass.
As a priest, he told
himself to shut up.
Figures an early hero of
mine would go to such extremes
and for all the wrong
reasons. Virginia Woolf with
rocks in her pockets.
Heroes, heroines, perhaps
best not to have them —
but how else learn how
to write, how not to panic,
how to pick at a scab and
Just once, she’d like the column
to soberly reveal an author
that didn’t read until she
was seventeen or so. Too busy
mucking about in creeks and
negotiating with terror. Why
Music floods the chest.
A good reason for silence,
she thinks, a single window
at a time being enough,
the light passing through
glass from the east,
inching toward the center of the hall.
You mean to tell me
the rhombuses of light float down the wall
and not up as morning progresses?
of observation. What motes?
What barn? Memory like glass.
Eliza’s daughter was about to
turn eleven when he died. Eliza’s
husband. Harriett’s father.
The dates are there for the finding.
July 12, 1758 and August 7, 1758.
What I make of turning
eleven just after the death of
a parent is not what you will
make of the same.
Even Harriett, poor dear,
would have made several
things of a singular devastation.
She had wanted to read
“Pied Beauty” at her father’s
funeral. The altar boy
turned atheist would have
appreciated its point, even
if Longfellow and Poe were
his favored fare.
Her sister overruled the selection.
of bullying that can’t even
be attributed to grief.
“I think that I shall
never see a poem as
lovely as a tree,” he
wrote in my autograph
book — remember those? —
“But with his help, I’ve
made a Dee.”
“He fathers-forth whose
beauty is past change.”
Swapping out an altar
in the Catholic Church for the
Kinderhook Creek doesn’t mean
one has no god.
Trout fishing as sacrament.
Harriett was ten about to turn
eleven. I was 24 or 26 and the fact that I can
never remember without adding age-at-death to
one birth year and then subtracting another
birth year speaks to loss.
Short version — life sucks, but there are pockets of joy.
1) Horse hair lath. Dust of decades. Darkness. I scrabble away. Can anyone hear my frantic efforts?
2) The leg, it is broken. The well, it is dry. I watch the sun fall off the rim of the stone like it’s the end of the world.
3) I cannot see myself in the mirror. He has smudged me out with benign disregard. “Oh,” he says, “I didn’t tell you?”
4) The legs crowd my relief. Chairs, staid and those that rock, ladies feet, socked and shoed. Get me out of here!
5) Twelve at the table. Eating. Pass this. Pass that. Nine people tied for saying nothing.
6) It would’ve been funny if it weren’t tragic. Abominations launched. Lies tolerated and worse. Quick! Change the channel.
7) In the dusty cellar, the ten year old clutches the Bible recently purchased at a flea market for ten cents. Fifty years later she wonders, ‘do fallen Catholics have any protection during tornadoes?’
8) Sandy wore pigtails, ate her boogers, and laughed at all her father’s dumb jokes. ‘Will childhood never end,’ her brother wants to know.
9) Ronnie slobbered because of cerebral palsy. Ronnie leaned in for a fourth grade kiss. Wet. His mother where? Sandy called home. Her mother would not come.
10) At the will signing, Jennifer thought her head would pop off in panic. ‘Was it the business of witnessing,’ her therapist later asked.
11) Brad sat in the corner of the lodge, cold French fries on a plate, his wrist broken. His mother couldn’t be reached.
12) The uncle that declares ugly predictions as if doing a service. “Most don’t live for more than three years,” he opined. Her father’s staples not even out.
13) There’s Robert De Niro acting as if he’s a young thug. Only problem is, he’s got an old body. Is this ever gonna end?
14) Herculean restraint collapses and spite retaliates agains the crazy that is her sister. The silent tolerance never credited.
15) It’s 10:30 am. Her boys have been rocketing around the house since before six. Time is a liar — surely it’s dinner time?
16) She wept by the tomb, her blue robes darkened by tears. Three days is a long time to wait.
17) And behind that rock? Waiting, why exactly? Was God the Father brewing up some special elixir to elevate His Son or was the Holy Ghost off on a distracting mission in Egypt, perhaps, or Mongolia?
18) Even 47 minute masses are too long.
19) Why not give them sacks of grain? The potato blight did not cause catastrophic death and emigration anywhere else in Europe. Genocide, an old game.
20) What was her name — the girl in the well? Now we remember the scuba diver who didn’t make it out trying to save that trapped soccer team.
21) ‘Get me out of here,’ thought every single one of those boys. How polite their desperation!
22) Hamburger grease and twitter thumbs do not go well together. Can no one stop the man?
23) All the saviors fall down. They, too, might as well be trapped in a damp cave in Thailand with a flooded egress. We holler and holler for their help when they are the ones in need of rescue.
24) Can no one stop the man?
25) Traffic on the Bourne Bridge crawled to an absolute halt. There was no way out. An existential crisis. Would Jennifer eventually slide forward past the narrow rails and be reborn. Get it?
26) If I count to ten or a hundred will it go away? If I count to ten or a hundred will I go away? If I count to ten or a hundred and vanish, who will I be after?
27) The Committee chairs bored even themselves. Why keep talking?
28) The partner in the corner office humiliated her with a guffaw at a department lunch. Much later Jennifer will rail out loud: “I’d rather be a decent person than a good lawyer.” Fucking boilerplate!
29) Interminable wait. Wooden benches. Dead, hostile faces at the counter. 84. Oh god, I’m 110.
30). Wait for it. Wait for it. She’s still waiting for it.
31) Her apartment smells rank — a vile combo of garbage and urine. There are so many boxes and piles of crap everywhere, there’s no where to sit. ‘Did I want to watch CSI-Los Angeles reruns?’ she asks as if everything was normal.
32) At some point, we all shed the body.
Finally, well, there is no finally — just strings of intolerable moments punctuated by sweet spring air, a perfect omelet, the well-timed embrace, passionate release, the just-right pocketbook, friendships that endure, a cool glass of bubbly water on the deck in July with a good book, oak trees that rattle all winter, catalpas that litter the ground with orchids in spring, the devotion of dogs, the quirky affection of cats, a difficult catch made, dancing into remembrance, the blues, rock and roll, the sound of pounding surf, the smell of pounding surf, foaming surf on ankles and knees, a dip in the cold Atlantic, his clever wit, my laughter, your beauty, purple shadows on snow, the old dog relaxing in his bed at last.
“That joy you’re experiencing is not only contagious, it’s necessary and urgent and irresistible.”
Wesley Morris talking about Black music / Sept 7 episode of The Daily, a #1619 episode
“The ghosts shudder, but they do not leave.”
“We hold hands and pretend at forgetting.”
“There is soft yellow sunlight and drifting pollen where he was, and me and [Pop] embracing in the grass. The animals are quieting in grunts and snorts and yips. Thank you, they say. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, they sing.
Jesmyn Ward, Sing Unburied Sing
“… All the patience lost with holding on and finding out the cost of being strong.”
Amy Wedge, “Not Enough” — soundtrack to “Keeping Faith” TV program
“Where is the ground we can stand on?”
A friend, about the current state of American affairs
“She slid like a seal out of any old sadness she carried.”
“Why does death catch us so by surprise?”
“The slightest clue can give us away.”
“Dizzy, I eventually found the car…”
Colum McCann, TransAtlantic
“She didn’t tell me anything until we were standing by the river.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the #1619 project speaking on one of The Daily shows
“And that is the way she saw the land, with no difference between the different kinds of yesterday.”
Anne Enright — sorry not sure which novel
“There is no full circle, tidy conclusion, or simple solution to any of this.”
Suki Kim, Land of Darkness, in The Best American Essays, 2018, talking about N. Korea
After reading Maureen Jones’ poem titled “Nuptial” (blessed are the menial chores) and Robin Greene’s poem titled “This Old Dress I Call Jewish,” (Illuminations, Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience) the prompt was simply: write about a dress.
“… in the next age, the forests will prevail, not you humans.”
“… a shard of ice shivered through me. I was aware of a terrible voice.”
“His voice — his beautiful voice — rang high and light.”
Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord These two voice prompts worked well one right after the other.
“Nature has the talent to soften, forgive, and remake, to create something beautiful out of our mistakes, paradoxes, and counterpoints — even when it comes to you invisibly.”
These next seven prompts were given at six minute intervals. I was worried about interrupting the writers’ flow, but it worked marvelously. These are headings from one of the fairy tales in The Complete Fairy Tales of George MacDonald. With each heading I supplied a few words from that section of the fairy tale, to use or not.
1. Where is she? (rose bush, sultry, ethereal, mischief)
2. She laughed too much (awkward, abandoned, consultation, peculiarities)
Fail to do the one or two things that you know make you feel better.
Okay. I’ve tossed out a suck job bic medium point. I’ve walked the dog twice. But the third item above? Let’s talk Daily Pages and keeping up with friends (both here and in the neighborhood).
What’s with all the blank Daily Pages? Day after day, blank. Does it mean anything? There was a time when I would ask that as if there might be something worth knowing about my resistance. Not now. Nope. Just resume!
Same for friends. Tonight is a birthday celebration. We’re going downtown! We’re going to a restaurant that Roxane Gay recently dined at and no, I’m not a stalker, I just read her twitter feed.
So, it’s cold again. Winter cold. The scarves and gloves have been unearthed from the bins in the basement. I may have to make a polar fleece apron for the long down coat of mine because it won’t snap all the way closed (ugh!) While out today, it took a FULL MILE for my head to clear.
Note to self: A walk less than a mile is like a stingy ink pen.
And now for a Not Apology.
When considering a wash of discontent or sleeplessness, there is always the news to blame. But! The news right now is historic, dismaying, compelling, detailed, alarming, and evidencing the highest national stakes since the Civil War. I make no apology for being riveted. Whether I would be happier or more calm or sleep better with less information is not something I care to spend time considering.
As for what ELSE might be making me a little tired? How about — being an adult. K and I are considering end-of-life directives, long term health insurance, retirement funding, and how to sensibly pass assets down to the boys. The bottom line is so much better than I thought, so there’s that! Because the picture is better than I thought, mostly these considerations provoke relief, but not entirely, for obvious reasons.
And then off I went to writing class. Having two classes a week is nice — one to teach, one to attend. I’m noticing how different one is from the other and enjoying the differences.