Though rivers and reservoirs and cisterns already overflow,
this season unleashes more, in a surging, ebbing tide of sound
around us, a kind of accordion of open-wing and easing
so the gutters keep the beat and punctuate the eaves at the corners
with ellipses. Through the night, the roof defines our safety,
taking it, bearing up, shield, shelter, breast, prow,
and the wind clatters the awnings and chairs, launches
our umbrella up over the willow, makes itself a sonic
surf, now mounting, now catching its breath to blow reveille
and awaken flicker, sparrow, chickadee, to quell the frogs
out in the road-rut puddles that have always emptied by spring’s end.
I stopped standing for the pledge
in Elementary school, egged on
by my British friend who also
is source of my “u” in favour
and colour (matters black
and white, now grey).
Learning of the Trail of Tears
nailed any vestige of my nationality
to a cross on the prairie.
When I traveled to Europe,
I tried to be transparent iguana,
when in Rome, though Greek to me;
when asked, I said I was Canadian,
for who would ally with the ugly
American on the train, ousting
a pregnant waif with, “I paid
two hundred and fifty American dollars
for that seat, and that’s a lot
of croissants!” It gets worse.
Do you have the heart for this?
Arrests and activism and anarchy
as more than anthem, geography
and invention, the shaky promise
of an individualism that chimed
in the treetops in accents
of Guthrie, Hill, and Holiday.
With today’s daily horror
and disaffection, my country ‘tis
on the verge of disassembly
and destruction. Now I’m ready
to stand up for that pledge.
In the room where I used to dance so wildly,
the walls are now painted rose
and the lace curtains are drawn back
like wedding veils bellying above us.
The muted trumpet begged the sax
to follow, the drummer, with his shirt open
to the waist, the floor crowded with bodies
in motion. I can no longer just dance along.
In looking was once longing
belonging to such regard,
in longing the often short course to having,
in its young and sudden reward.
I could let any strong chord
pull my hips this way, run through me
from bass to treble, deliver me
to another dancer’s arms,
so the whole room warmed
or could, or did. Now there’s wisteria
framing the open window,
and the band has begun the Beguine
I will dance to this number as his
and he as mine, evergreen and spun.
Captain Shaddock brought seeds from Borneo or Luzon
to plant orchards on the hills beyond Montego Bay
of forbidden fruit, or so they say, who search for source and sin.
He sailed with the East India company for world commodities,
silk, saltpeter, spice, and tea, to break the Dutch monopoly.
When they turned from trade to territory in the 18th century,
and bore human cargo for sugar, Tacky in the jungle
with the maroons led their fierceness to Coromantee.
It's all there in the globes of smaller shaddock,
citrine, canary, like a tangelo, or a pomelo,
with blushing fragrant rind, rounding out my palm,
heavy with locules within liths bursting forth a rebellion
of peppery tang, of sweet juice and a piquance rogue and irrepressible.
(tree image courtesy of Keystone-Mast Collection, UCR/California Museum of Photography, University of California Riverside)
To My Daughter’s Uncertainty (4/1/17)
Listen now to the harmonica’s frayed bridge
between plaintive verse and refrain.
This hour belongs to aching waking wanderers
with the bloom of question at the nucleus,
fog along the riverbank, the halting gait
of a fused knee. When sympathy or uplift
galls, lay your body down on rocks,
see your face in the window crack,
jagged along the profile.
It’s not enough to want, my dear. It’s not
enough to try. There’s not always
a reward for steadfast endeavor in this book
of cheap plots and deals. If you
put your trust in fair treatment, you may
dress your dreams in rue, and how then
to continue, how then to strive?
Against a stack of papers and numbers,
amidst the laughter and chatter, who is
a who distinct, who without the click
of luck tumbling the gears to open?
How to batten the young girl’s fervency
and pursuits? If the shrug takes over,
it may shape the spine to defeat. If you
believe you find your worth in the world’s
account, you become slave to the auction block.
I would have wished you’d learned
this disconnect later, in a season after plenty,
after many, after much, with reasons transparent
and reckoned, and you with a history of confidence
as your deep well, but I am only a mother
not the maker of your world. And you, you’re
launched and a little luckless now, now,
now, not to be ever, though why should you
believe that, smacked sideways, and your notion
of a future punched holey with a pen.
You are you, my darling, and there, true luck
resides. Set loose, untethered, where you go
and what you do is ever more your own.
Oda al Reloj (4/2)
El tiempo, es circulo
¿como la cara de su reputación?
Son negros y blancos, los momentos
de ahora y el pasado? Las líneas
finas son uniformes como si
la experiencia no dura y pasa
¿según la compañía y humor?
Es solo una cosa
con una historia detrás,
completa y inconclusa,
con las manos constantemente haciendo
semáforos de intermedio y aguante.
Creo que creemos en el, esperamos
que nos diga cuando, con un vistazo,
Así que no lleguemos demasiado tarde
Ode to the Clock
And time, is it really a circle
like the face of its reputation?
Are they black and white,
those moments of now and past,
as if experience does not last and pass
according to the company and mood?
It is only a thing
with a story behind it,
complete and inconclusive,
with the hands constantly
making semaphores of interval
and endurance. I believe we believe
in it, we look to it to tell us when,
with a quick glance, we hurry
so we won’t arrive too late.
Between his parents’ house and home, the Valley Ford road often floods
in winter, but the rain had just begun. We and the children and Bucky,
our five breaths’ fog, Miles Davis from the speakers, the steady windshield
wipers sweep. Sunday, coming home with our son and daughter
strapped in carseats and sleeping, the gift of two hours between,
the conversation or between, and the landscape shifting to cowfield,
sheepfield, in the quenched greening. When our daughter Anke woke
to hunger, young as she was, she could only cry. We pulled off onto the bluff
just beyond Two Rock; with the whole unfurling series of hillocks
and ad hoc creeks before us, I took her into the front seat with me,
and unbuttoned my blouse. Doug cracked the window to the sound and steam
of rain so Bucky could snuffle a snoutful of clover and cow pat,
Elijah slept on, and Anke, cradled in my arms, drank from me her fill.
I'm a poet, writer, & teacher living along the river in West County, raising a family, and doing my thing.