tanka

tanka--
small songs I sing
to join
my voice to other voices
hidden in the grass

Sunday, December 25, 2011

At the Turtle Hospital

Great maimed beasts swim listing in circles,
weights glued lopsided to shells like rippled sand,
drawing them down toward lost
unreachable depths.

Rescue a turtle drifting at sea
and you earn the right to name it, like Adam,
though its true name be always
unspeakable mystery.

If ever I saved a sea turtle floating,
I’d name it, mother, for you—
and you’d laugh,
you who taught me it’s all mystery, all holy,

fish and the leaping, moonlit illusion of fish,
sea wrack and driftweed,
dark tides and the body
bathed in luminescence,
the least, lost creature drifting toward home.

You, who after the stroke swam listing through time
on half-blind limbs, shut out
of the silted sea cave of memory
until at last you dove alone
into the deep welcoming ocean of home.


 EarthSpeak 7, Spring 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Poetry Plum

I wonder who it is that names the colors—
those six thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine
hues and tints and shades, the possibilities of paint?

Who wraps and ties these splinters of the spectrum
in tidy packages of words—alchemy, nankeen, tassel—

packages that split and spill their rainbow
contents all across the Earth—lacewing, picnic,
charisma, quest.     I want that job.

Can I be paid in colors—impetuous, carefree,
frolic, rain? Colors would lap around my ankles—
rapture, bubble, nautilus—and rise buzzing into air

as clear as gambol gold—bee and butter-up
and nuance vanishing among the trees at dusk,
the deepening shades of oakmoss, refuge, lark. 

Slowly all the syllables of color leave the sky—
moonraker, lantern light, inkwell, stone

and sleep comes murmuring
the full spectrum of imagine—
enigma, daydream, ponder, soar.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Witch Hazel


autumn
a handful of berries
opening
a blue glass bubble
of remembered light

burnishing
the trunks of birches
sorrow
the old crone’s shadow
on the white moth’s wing

dust motes
in a circle of light
the bubble
shrinking to a stone
inside the chest

stone
to build a fire ring
kindling
flame from ashes
before dusk

the scent
of apples—
bubbles rising
each a different mirror
to a changing face

hearthstone ashes
the price of wisdom  paid—
but
can witch hazel bloom
so deep in winter

firelight fades
the old crone follows
the glint
of drifting bubbles
through the dark wood

 Lynx XXVI: 1, February, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Donors




The out-breath of trees
rides through seawater
on the beautiful

biconcavity of cells
traveling in their innocent
round back to my heart

until the needle prick
diverts them into the plastic
bag that dangles at my side

and silently fills
until the lever trips
to interrupt the flow—

which will continue
in the veins of someone
whose name I do not know

but who breathes
the same sweet air as I—
gift of anonymous donors,

the narrow veins,
the tiny silent mouths,
the myriad leaves.

          EarthSpeak 7, June 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Fox



Listen
just outside the window
to the fox
whose single harsh bark
and running feet
connect the shuttered
windows of your house
to her own impenetrable burrow
under the root
in the wood
where she lives
her own incomparable life
knowing
how to travel in darkness
wait in silence
and seize
on tiny mysteries
in the grass.

Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems XIV:3, Spring 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chalice


the cap
of the acorn
empty of seed
the bowl of the hills
where the doe lies down

two hands cupped
for a trickle of water
naked
the face of rain-
hollowed granite

the orioles’ nest
windblown
vessel of  eggs
the rachis of feathers
the hollow of bone

jack-in-the-pulpit
his sermon
the spathe
of the arum
empty of words

chambers
of nautilus
caverns at sea
auricle ventricle
salt pools of the heart

the house of the skull
its cellars of memory
the eye
in its orbit
this chalice of light


Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Songs of the Body Eclectic



1.  Ossicles

Watching the fence swift—how the rough
gray bark of his skin vanishes into the rail
while blue flanks announce his readiness
to make more of his own inestimable kind,

I am gladdened by knowing
that inside the temple of my own ear
lie humming three ancient jawbones
of this small lizard’s kin—

the chain of ossicles, ancient migrants
through the planes and valleys of my skull,
three bones tiny enough to dance
all together on the head of a pin,

and dancing now to the eardrum’s rhythm,
transmitting to my grateful brain this feather of sound—
swift feet scritching on sundrenched cedar,
a message spoken in bone and token of kin.

2.  Limbs

Fish’s fin, hippo’s hoof
and my own hand stroking
the firm gray flesh of flippers
that hide, beneath their streamlined shape,

bone for bone the bones of my open arms—
humerus, ulna, radius, thickened and stout,
finger bones lengthened and cunningly webbed
for fluid flight, spin and sea spume

and the whole curve of Earth enclosed
in the leaping dolphin’s arc, the sea-silvered
song of a mind as different and as kin
to mine as the common curves and linkage of our bones.

3.  Mitochondria
How many of you, I wonder, sluice
down the drain each time I wash my hands—
you old invaders,  now tenderly wrapped

in my own cells’ membranes and powering
my liver, kidney, lungs, the hundred thousand
daily squeezings of my heart? Your nearest kin

are named for Proteus, shape-shifting god of the sea,
slippery prophet. Could he have foreseen, I wonder,
this—panther, cuttlefish, dragonfly, me—

blithe symbiotic satchels of bacteria
at home inside our cells and there empowering
even the cauliflower convolutions of my brain,

and all of us, dear sisters, from the eel-grass to the eel,
made of the same astounding particles of matter—
live dust from ravaged stars—from which flow out

this tenuous thread of thought,
the mad illusion of the separate self,
and the charged, sea-changing pulse of wonder.


Anatomy & Etymology 1:4, November 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Face Painter

So you wake up in the morning
and it’s still raining
and your life is this puddle of gray
concrete and your feet are mired
in it all day long

until you see
waltzing down the street
to his own inner music
this skinny guy with a lopsided
topknot of dreadlocks
and bell-bottoms lettered in yellow paint
Peace Harmony Love Yourself
and he opens his satchel
and takes out a dozen cakes of paint
and a little pointy brush and begins
transforming his own face—
neon pink lines swooping outward
from the corners of his eyes,
a half-moon of silver dots on each cheek,

and somehow
the concrete around your feet
begins melting into a small rainbow—
a modest little rainbow tucked away
in one obscure corner of the cosmos—
but you can dance in its radiance
and suddenly
you want to take off your concrete
mask and paint the insides
of your eyelids with sunlight—
cerulean, lavender, emerald, rose.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sometimes at Night


 
Sometimes at night the words
run through my mind
like sparkling water.

I cannot sleep but do not care
to stop the flow
even if no-one hears

except the trees
whose roots I hope
one day to enter

when my body and my words
are turned to ash and rise
through tiny channels in the wood

to write at last
with sunlight in the book
of many leaves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moss



Inside
the broken bottle’s throat
and the white glass jar
that once held some healing unguent—
moss has grown,
making a green cushion
for the roots of wintergreen
with its tiny red berries;
making
out of dappled light,
a faint rustle of air,
an accidental splash of rain,
and the pulse
of its own invincible cells
living and dying
in their ancient, nearly audible
and undoubtedly musical
rhythm
a thimbleful
of absolutely new
and nourishing
Earth. 

Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poems, XIV: 3, Spring 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Flying Blind


How exactly the wren’s body fits
the palm of my hand.  How smoothly
the fan of the wing opens and shuts,

the windward edge of each gray feather
laddered with brown and gold.
The bird’s head hangs limp,

her neck snapped in the collision
with a wall she never saw—
one eye is missing.  Yesterday

I touched a half-blind goldfinch
at the feeder, feasting on thistle seed
and unafraid. With side-set eyes,

a bird can see at once both crumb
and kestrel; the loss of an eye’s the loss
of half the world.  

Once a girl
sat in a green meadow
with an open book; a one-eyed

sparrow settled on her knee,
and stayed, cocking its head
and preening--and there settled

over the girl a sense of being
as solid, as rooted, and as trusted
as the limb of an oak

and therefore capable in turn
of trusting the unseen
half of things.

Sixty years on,
I see my life’s been less
like a tree

and more
like a half-blind sparrow
blundering through thickets.  

Which is why I gently place
the body of the wren
between the white oak roots,

the soft buff belly-down exposed
and the clenched, reptilian claws
extending toward the sky.

Pinesong: Awards 2011  (North Carolina Poetry Society)