Friday, February 16, 2018

(for erin)

when i ask, where have the redpolls gone,
and why the silence at my seed station

your eyes, unbidden twin candles
startle grace into a response

like that pair of deer on your icy path,
your laughter reminds me of the absurdity

of installing Pele as a leg in my kitchen stool,
and then expecting that to last

Monday, February 12, 2018

both sides now - Joni Mitchell

I have not seen it, I summoned it listening to music.
The instruments play for themselves, in their own eternity.

--Czesław Miłosz

Joni Mitchell singing "Both Sides Now," in 1970.

Was anyone else fascinated by this song, as a child? I was; not because I, too, spied, precisely, ice cream castles in the air, but by virtue of the fact that Joni's voice opened the door to a magical palace of melody for me, and, once there, I found a staircase leading into the imagery of possibility and ambiguity, although I did not yet possess the words to express these thoughts.

Decades later, I return to the song, and smile in recognition, with a nod to the wisdom of her lyrics: who can really claim to know life, love, or a cloud at all?

In our longing to come close to inhabiting the watery places of our imaginings, we humans have dreamed and toiled, have drummed and strummed, and danced and sung our way into ... music. And, once there, is it not nearly impossible to avoid an encounter with poetry: one of music's closest companions?

Saturday, February 03, 2018

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.

--Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

Kanchendzonga, Nicholai Roerich 

when the clouds come in
without any rain
lightning threads of gold sing
the seams

and the clouds stop time
and fill up
a dryad's dancing shoes

waltzing them up the mountain
startling copper woman
at her icy encampment
and overturning her coffeepot

but she nods her head
and reminds the shoes
that when the nereid,
still weeping, asked the lord
what he saw in the garden

he replied, beyond the sunbow
is an aquamarine curtain:
meet me there, behind it,
on the other side of sorrow;

and it is there
and no-where
and no-when
that I will show you

Thursday, February 01, 2018

the piñata

This afternoon, I found myself recalling an incident from the childhood of my three eldest girls, who have since flown the nest.

Back then, the four of us were like a floating island unto ourselves. We ventured out into the world together, took the bus to preschool together, volunteered there together, gathered the crumbs of bounty the generous universe, including the school, and neighbors, left out for us, and then returned to a little basement apartment, to assemble the pieces together into what might be usable. Together, we embodied the antithesis of the saying, "money-rich, time-poor." And what a rich time it was, in many ways.

For my eldest daughter's birthday one year, I spent a couple of months fashioning a piñata in the shape of a bird. Nearly all of the parts of this gift were salvaged from somewhere: the balloon for the body, the newspaper for the paper mâché, and the colored construction paper I cut into small, painstaking strips and glued on piece by piece, until the bird had a fascinating, variegated plumage. I do think that I purchased the candy for the interior of the bird, but otherwise, it was a gift characterized mostly by the investment of time.

The girls must have observed me adding rows of colored paper, centimeter by centimeter. I am not sure what it taught them, but at least - that I am persistent in my efforts. If I recall rightly, my eldest had chosen the shape of the piñata.

The day of celebration arrived. My girls gathered with a couple of neighbor children to ceremoniously clobber the body of the bird, which we had suspended from a string in a garage, to set free the candies hiding inside.

A small boy began hitting the bird enthusiastically and indiscriminately with a borrowed bat.

Coinciding with the first successful hit, an ear-splitting shriek began.  Screams were being emitted by the mouth of my third daughter, a toddler at the time. And what she was witnessing, I then realized, was, to her, not a joyful party, but rather, the killing of a creature I had spent months fashioning. First, its wings would fall off, then its body would be punctured, and and then it would be destroyed entirely.

I rushed over to hold her and comfort her, hid her eyes from the carnage, and ran with her from the room. Oh! perhaps these are the eyes that can see most clearly and wisely, in certain ways: the eyes of a child whose heart cannot bear to see harm done, even to a bird fashioned from paper, flour, water, glue, and someone's leftover balloon.

And for such moments, we have tears, another mystery no one has fully unraveled, as far as I know.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

In the yellow sand of the arroyo
A red cactus flower
threads through the eye of a skull.
La Llorona knows its secrets.
La Loba runs past, sniffing.
Though it's still early in the morning,
Abuela stirs huitlacoche over a fire.
Those who know, will buy it.
She can already see Marisol coming,
bending over in her embroidered blouse,
the flash of her smile
a glint in Abuela's obsidian eyes.

Friday, January 12, 2018

of fluid dynamics and flight

In another dream, Tulugaq, the Raven, flies over the ocean. She, the sea, hungers for Chronos.

A drum is tapping out a rhythm: ta; ta ta ti; ta ta ta. How far is it to Banteay Srei? Under Angkor Wat, the land ripples.

Tulugaq flicks his wing at an angle: a light-burst from the sun.

Have you ever felt the earth and sea undress themselves inside your skin in two directions, pulling you into their undertow, unzipping their garments over your head in ceaseless motion?

And where have you discovered how the compass is ever a rose?

Is it there, where the scorched breath now burns as incense?

Music plays from an unknown distance.
Survivors gather to resume
a dance unfinished
unfurling their fingers
in gestures
once described
as lotus blossoming.

--Sokunthary Svay

Sunday, January 07, 2018

the silk road

rising above the river
raven breathes cloud-lace
and forgets shiny trinkets

(for erin) when i ask, where have the redpolls gone, and why the silence at my seed station your eyes, unbidden twin candles startle ...

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