Dead Ends

My memories of my childhood, the years between ages five and eleven, are good ones.  We had moved from the city of Cleveland to the suburbs, from a 2-bedroom house where my brothers and I shared a room, to a 3-bedroom house where I had my own, if tiny, space.

But this was the 1950s suburbs—there were still fields and vacant and wooded lots.  The houses and yards were small.  The trees had not been cut down to build the houses.  Each was different.  Landscapers were not called in—yards were maintained in a casual manner.  No one owned a leaf blower or a snowblower.  We raked and shoveled and played in the leaves and snow while doing it.

Families had one car and people rotated carpooling or took Rapid Transit trains to work.  There was little traffic on our dead end street, and we often played there.  Railroad tracks stood at the dead end—we spent hours just watching the trains, counting the cars and waiting to wave at the caboose, climbing the fence and playing in the woods, fields, and streams “across the tracks”.  We walked or rode our bikes to school, to friends’ houses, to the candy store.

I recently looked at that house on Google Maps, shocked to see a bare front yard—all the oak trees had been removed.  What was once a dead end had been connected to the next street.  Gone was the Beck’s house on the hill, and Beck’s field where we played baseball in summer and ice skated in winter.  Gone was the Fleming’s double lot with its beehives, rabbit hutches, sheds, and hiding places perfect for kick-the-can.  Worst of all, “across the tracks” was now populated by warehouses, not fields and trees and the creatures that lived there.

My entire childhood had been erased.

screens the new playgrounds–
no more cloud-watching, fresh picked
berries, forts of shoveled snow—

finding a four-leaf clover
in the middle of your lawn

For earthweal, where Brendan asks us to witness the magnitude of the changes in our environments.

Beyond All Knowing

They wished to be passengers on a river of stars,
but the road they followed fell below the horizon,

a road that insisted on following darker paths.
Suddenly they found themselves accompanied by wolves.

The wolves ran through an expanding tunnel–
its walls were spattered with the past,

a past too scattered to contain or understand.
No door appeared within, no window,

no exit from the accumulations of bad intent,
the gods and humans that demanded obedience.

The wolves made no demands, but extended an invitation
to join them as they became transparent—

to join them in sheering the mind’s self-imposed limits.
They wished to be passengers on a river of stars.

A duplex sonnet for NaPoWriMo Day 27.

Serpent’s Tale

The serpent grew wings–
emerging from the cosmic egg,
it became a bird.

Embracing the tree of life
and all of spirit’s progeny,
the serpent grew wings.

Beginning as a vast secret
of stars and swirling light
emerging from the cosmic egg

The serpent shed its skin
and imagined miracles.
It became a bird.

The NaPoWriMo prompt today was to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual . My response is not exactly on prompt–I took a mythical creature but I reimagined it into hope instead of despair. As Brendan at earthweal says: let’s celebrate radical hope — that hope whose only basis is our faith in the wonder of life and our capacity to embrace it.

The form I used for the poem is the Cascade, one of Muri’s April scavenger hunt poetic prompts. I’d forgotten how much I like it–thanks Muri!

I did not have to look far into my Redon-inspired collages for a mythological subject. The stitched mandala is from my constellation series–this is the Phoenix, first published on Pure Haiku.

Your ashes illume,
cradled beyond day and night – 
great is the unknown.

Threads and Circles

1
to be a thread held
on the wings of birds soaring
through vast light-filled air

2
layers merge
separate become
something else

3
stilness waits
to expand beyond
what is here

4
particles of light
that remain uncaught—a song
you can almost hear

5
tethered to itself
or maybe nothing at all–
just an idea

The last Kick-About prompt was Naum Gabo’s sculpture, linear construction #2, above. It brought to mind some small shibori swatches I had that I wanted to embroider on. I meant to do a few of them, but only had time for one. But the others are waiting.

NaPoWriMo begins tomorrow, and I also wanted to post the 5 Japanese-style poems I wrote to accompany my stitching in anticipation of a month of poeming–I have not been writing many new things lately.

The first year I participated was 2016, so this will be my seventh year. As in recent past years, I’ve tried to accumulate a month’s worth of new art to use with the writing. This year, a lot of my inspiration has come from the art of Redon.

Come In (she said)

What do we remember of the womb, the world of mother-child, when we were one?  Do we remember gentle waves,  rocking on a seabed of safety, embraced by its self-contained shores?  Do our cells forever feel the pull of oceans?—longing to find once more the lost liminal—floating free, water and earth overlapping in an intertidal dance?

Is shelter the same as home?

If we carry our belonging on our back like snails.  If we build temporary abodes like caterpillars, waiting for transformation, a future entirely reconfigured, a momentary ephemeral flight.

Is there an either/or, or is it always both/and?  The leaving, the long road back, the journey the same but different, a vast and endless circle, each step verged, again and again.

I stand impermanently on a threshold of sand, looking for solidity, a resting place.  Where is the first mother, starborne, moonshadowed?  What existed before the beginning, the original dreaming?

mystery
of return—how to
meet yourself

Sometimes I feel like I keep recomposing the same poem over and over. This meditation on shelter, for earthweal, is just the most current version of my repetitive state of mind.

barren

I can’t dispute the Oracle’s words.

black blows the skywind–
raw shadowships raining
the bitter storm language of lies
into the bare breasts
of dead mothers

you ask for spring
and the music of love
when the sun is swimming
through seas of boiling blood—

what can grow here?

“There is no glory in battle worth the blood it costs.”
–General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Since Nina and I started blogging in 2014 I’ve posted far too much art about war.

Coiling

My sojourns repeat themselves, going
after relics that never existed, recapturing
the memories of ghosts.  You may ask
why I continue to tolerate a hopeless
cause, finding solace in circles—

I do not know how to define existence,
or the way to measure its boundaries.
I am lost and confused by an absence
that seems to be devouring what
might have become the future.

What can I do but shelter the things
I can’t yet see inside an identity
I do not yet possess?  Soon there will be
nothing left but the letting go. Until
what isn’t there becomes all that remains.

Here is the place I must abide.

For earthweal, where Brendan asks: Working for the best present, this shifting, dysynchronous, pre-apocalyptic now: That is your challenge this week. What does the landscape of this look like where you live and celebrate your being?

Confluence

1
The music of birds gathers
in the minglings of sky and trees.

2
Voices weave separate paths that cross
each other and echo into themselves.

3
Who arranges the sequences
into song, the patterns into stories?

4
Who maps the contingent journey
of roots and branches?

5
Who casts the landscape into wings
that lift spirit into light?

I’ve been wanting to try a cadralor, and Bjorn at dVerse gave me a push by suggesting the form in his prompt. I’ve also been worrying a poem for earthweal, where Sherry asked us to look for “moments of collateral beauty“. Having a specific form to work with helped me to organize my thoughts.

I know: birds again. Yes.

The stitching was inspired by the art of Joan Mitchell, as was all the art I did for NaPoWriMo 18. It seems a lifetime ago now.