Under a bright blue winter sky we told stories, burned some coca leaf, and poured wine into the parched desert soil. As it soaked in, I thought of all of those named and unnamed whose time had come and gone, and whose souls were now scattered across the years.
After watching some of these Poems in Motion, I’ve been playing around with animating poems. Here’s yet another attempt, this time using that poem of my experience in a graveyard outside Caspana.
Been thinking about those things that separate us, one from the other, and the imaginative leaps that connect us. And fish.
Bait Shop (Minnesota, 1970)
a whole mess of them in a tight bundle
unravel and flutter, searching
for a meal under the cold water
that fills a handmade concrete basin.
In a wooden box,
worms lie in rich darkness
under mouldering newspaper,
beneath a fluorescent light
that hangs from a chain.
Even at 10, I had begun to see that
while I lived most of my life
on the familiar side, in the sun and the wind,
there was much that lived
in the unseen and barely imagined;
that even a small garage
along a dirt road in northern Minnesota
hid secret knowledge
of what happens beneath;
that like the old fisherman who shuffled
from his house to the shop
when I opened the door,
a guy could spend a lifetime
learning to see
beneath the surface.
The last few days I’ve been visiting the family cabin in the north woods. A small place with an outdoor privy, it was built from local tamarack and spruce logs in the late 1940s. While it isn’t fancy, it is filled with all sorts of memories of my extended family. Here’s a poem about my grandfather that tries to be about more than a can of old nails.
To Make the Crooked Straight
On a rusty metal shelf
that stood on the dirt floor
of the shed behind the house:
three rusted Arco cans
filled with bent nails
pulled from a thousand used boards,
and, also, with hope —
to save the unsavory
to make the crooked straight