This poem came to me this summer as I was in northern Minnesota. A sudden wind came up, one that didn’t bring in a storm or anything dramatic, just a more than momentary breeze that brought with it across the water a sense that this big ol’ world is a living being that, like the trees, experiences life on a different scale than me.
I’ve been playing with this poem since the summer, which seems like a long time ago now that the late January cold has settled in.
On a shore in Minnesota a wind begins to blow;
it rises across the water, then moves on
through the woods in no hurry, but also,
without a pause. Impossible to grasp,
even by the branches of the pine that line the shore,
or by waves, which don’t crash or spray diamonds
across the sky. Nothing dramatic.
Just now. On this shore.
Like the aspen leaves that quake will yellow
this autumn, replaced in the spring by fresh green.
Much change happens quietly, and bit by bit.
Erode. Accrete. Erode.
Like that face you see in the mirror has
a few more lines than you remember;
and that heart? A bit more wary.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve been writing some tanka (or at least five-line, short poem-lets) as a semi-daily meditation practice. It’s an attempt to grow more gratitude inside me. Lord knows politics — which has consumed me — in both the nation and, especially, Iowa have generated much more anger than gratitude.
I’ve had to make it a goal to look for those shiny grains of sand amidst all the other stuff.
In late November, I grabbed my fly rod and headed to the river. No fish on the line, but a nice image in the notebook.
sweeping oak reflected
in the icy water…
a stoic trout
in the bare branches
This bubbled up during a Christmas Day hike.
even on these
shortest of days
under the ice
An in-town walk by the river on a cold, spitting-snow day yielded an actual man playing an actual wooden flute to actual geese. Not even metaphoric, at least intentionally.
the river freezes
under a gray sky –
a man plays
his wooden flute
for the geese
And this one for a dear friend.
the chemo is
a full moon
over the valley
Both the woodpecker and me, looking for bits of sustenance where ever we can.
knows the grub
goldenrod gall –
I am full
I came across this poem the other day and it made me realize just how long I’ve struggled with SAD. When I say struggle, it’s not even that I mind the dive downward. Though it’s tough, I also sort of like the slowness. The toughest part is being up and chipper and outgoing around other people when the soul-lights dim. This poem from a few years ago described something I did, oh, about 30 years ago when I lived in south Minneapolis and rented the upper floor of an old four-square. I didn’t know what to call my yearly dive then, but, looking back, I can see that I learned to cope in creative ways.
The old house had a long hallway with a window at one end, facing west. A few weeks after the spring equinox, when the Sun had passed far enough north to shine in that window, the rays hit a radiator on the other side of the living room. I painted that radiator to greet the Sun each year, and to hold its glow deep inside when the Sun was gone.
My own little Stonehenge.
Sitting on a Radiator in South Minneapolis
A radiator squats at the far end
of a narrow hall. One fall,
I painted the outside
quick December dusk
and slow Coltrane blue.
Deep inside the fins:
tangerines, fresh carrots,
and a summer Saturday morning.
All winter the radiator
clanked and hissed.
In early April
the afternoon sun slid
through the hall window,
and for six days,
as it continued its trek
across the sky,
the sun struck
a match to the radiator:
it glowed with the warmth
of new light.
For a moment
each sunlit day
I climbed atop and crouched
like a turkey vulture
in the spring sun,
trying to understand
how something so
each year could arrive
so out of the blue.
We were writing odes in class the other day. This is one I wrote while the kids were writing theirs.
Our odes were silly. And over the top.
Just the way we like them. #WriteBesideThem
Ode to my Old Work Boots
I honor you, boots,
you sturdy guardians
of my tender feet,
your ancient leather scarred
and torn by brambles,
by tree branches.
Rocks, sharp as
are no match for
your steely strength.
You are a tank in battle,
my toes are the soldiers inside.
When you were new
my feet bunched inside you
like briny olives in a jar,
like puppies, crated all day,
burst out, ready to romp!
Your unyielding walls
raised blisters on my heels.
Now, your age has
relaxed your tawny hide.
You are soft as
a dog’s ears, as a
You are my solace, my shelter
from the storms that rage,
a safe harbor for my feet.
This was inspired by Seamus Heaney’s, Postscript. I’ve been working outside a lot this summer (as usual). It’s been hot and humid. Another world entirely from spring and fall.
Reading Heaney’s poem caused me to think about how even though summer in Iowa is so much different than fall in Ireland there is a presence to it, too.
After Seamus Heaney’s, Postscript
And sometime take the time to walk up the hill, beyond
the still oaks that look over the valley. Go on farther,
into the old field now filled with goldenrod and Indian grass.
Do this in June or July when the sun is high, as the
last drenching rains are drawn up by the green and
exhaled into the air; when even the dragonflies pause
to rest on glistening stems of grass. Not a breath of wind
up here. The sun and the humid air press you into the ground
until your legs no longer move. Stand still, then, that’s all
that remains. Draw a breath and feel the steamy air enter
your lungs, feel your feet planted on the earth, and
the sweat trickle down your back. Know that all around you,
all that moves stands still, waiting, and all that stands still
stretches upward toward the heavy sun. And for a moment,
you might feel the convenient lines that separate plant
from animal, animate from inanimate, the quick from the dead
shimmer and blur.