The NaPoWriMo prompt for Day 3 is intriguing. I already know about Michael McClure’s “Personal Universal Deck” and it’s on a long list of things I’d like to do as I love cards of all kinds. But it needs more than a day to do properly, and I only have an hour on this particular day.
So I stuck with the Oracle’s deck of magnetic words, as I do most Saturdays. She knows these are holy days, as is every day when we pay attention to the wonders of the earth and its seasons. Who will save her?
spring seeds light birds flower air bees following
“The world around us is absolutely mind-blowingly amazing….All you have to do is pay attention. Then the stars come out and they dance with you.”–John Muir Laws
Common you say. Everyday you say. and it’s true: night follows day follows night. Many things form patterns, yet within the patterns are mysterious variations, expressions of one particular momentary intersection of space and time. The moon playing with clouds. Water coming in contact with light. A tree, any tree, in any season. Who can forget an insect’s wing? Pigeons swooping in unison between the roofs of buildings. Common. And yet. But still. It stops me. Looking, listening, wondering. Every day.
The NaPoWriMo prompt today has a link to an animation of the music of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Sun Ra was in tune with the world’s amazingness, but you don’t need psychedelic imagery to notice it.
Brendan at earthweal asks this week: What is the turning point that gets us out of this labyrinth of fated humanity? Who or what must we embrace? How do we find our way into the Totality?
We could start by just paying attention.
For NaPoWriMo this year I will mostly, if not entirely, be using art from the archives. I am in the pre-panic phase of my move–a little over 2 weeks before the movers come. I may not post every day, but I’ll do my best.
You can also see my art this month at the Ekphrastic Challenge at Wombwell Rainbow. Two other artists, and many wonderful poets, including Merril Smith and Jane Dougherty, are participating.
1 Did you know? Was it you who sent Crow? Black wings swallowed by the sky—
2 I had time and seasons rising to meet me like trembling in my bones,
3 like Icarus ascending on beautiful foolish arms.
4 Crow and I are not one– but we are together in this cosmos, on this earth.
5 I do not know myself and yet I know of the intersections of that unknown self with the call to attention that is Crow.
6 My mind is busy with trivial things. The shadow of a cry spills everything out empty waiting for the return of listening, watching.
7 O ragged soul— why do you take flight? Do you not see the trees? They are returning from the dead again and again.
8 I know many words and the images that accompany them. But I know too that Crow lives deeper and wider than what I know.
9 Diving diving diving diving. There is no bottom no top no inside or out.
10 At the sight of Crow resounding the light the layers reveal their chorded songs.
11 I walk these streets in oblivion, trying to escape the fear of the known by making up stories that rearrange my life.
12 I hear my fate turn turn turn— how many crows?
13 Always standing in the doorway like Janus—neither and both– cursed and charmed— Crow laughs—he knows I have a dream to fly.
Brendan at earthweal asks us this week to think about the nature of poetry. I first encountered Wallace Stevens and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” in high school and it remains my poetic touchpoint more than 50 years later. But equally important to my connection with poetry was music–first, traditional folk music, and then the whole crop of singer-songwriters that emerged from the folk revival. I love Joni Mitchell’s “Blue”, but “Hejira” has always resonated with me most of all. The form of this poem is based on Stevens, but the spirit and italicized words are taken from Joni and from my own encounters with Crow, a master shaman.
I have not been posting much, and will probably be mostly absent for the next month or 6 weeks–I’m moving (again). But this is good news! I will have a dedicated work space once again, and a real kitchen. I knew the last 2 moves were temporary, but I thought both moves before that would be the last one–so I’m making no predictions. But I’m planning to be there for awhile.
There is no drama in most moments, but the accumulation becomes a story. One day you wake up, or you think you wake up. But something burns—you can smell it in the air. Ashes of yesterday are falling from the sky. You thought the past was dead, but it has only rearranged itself into today, or is it already tomorrow?
And what happened yesterday anyway?
I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head. I walked and walked and walked until I came to a pool of water, still and deep. I sat beside it, watching my reflection smolder, waiting for something to be revealed. The light scattered on the liquid surface held me and gave me a different life, turned me inside out.
Now I am only flames, or was that yesterday? Which side am I on?
For the dVerse Prosery prompt from Kim, some inspiration from Yeats: ‘I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head’.
The art is from a series of constellation poems I did for Pure Haiku. Freya’s current theme is Unfurling–you can submit until February 28.
memory fails to stop enduring grief daily farewell face death alone
In 2015, when this post originally appeared, the New York Times published a chart explaining some of the ways civilians have died in the Syrian War. A little research online shows that in modern warfare it is estimated that 85-90% of all casualties are civilians (June 2014 American Journal of Public Health). War also wreaks havoc on the environment, leading to more death.
A Hard Rain
has fallen shadowed by endless endings, ghosts both multiplied and lost
Some estimates of civilians killed in recent and ongoing conflicts: Sudan-Darfur 200,000 Iraq 170,000 Syria 200, 000 Congo 60,000 Afghanistan 45,000 Pakistan 35,000 Mexico 50,000 Libya 30,000 Chechnya 100,000 Eritrea-Ethiopia 70,000 Sierra Leone 70,000
These numbers have only increased since 2015.
There are not enough tears to encompass all this sorrow.
Bjorn at dVerse asked us to write poems of war. I decided to repost some of my headline haiku embroideries–I did a number of them from 2015-2017 when war was in the headlines every day. Now we’ve moved on to other things, but lest we forget, civilians and soldiers are still losing both their lives and homes every single day all over the world
Silence weeps and eyes refuse sight. No questions can be posed, nor answers given. Light is erased. Dust and blood.
I thread the needle and spirit passes into matter returning to the center of the (w)hole
I twine the floss around the needle—one two three– casting strands into knots spelling rhythmic patterns
I pause to connect what lies hidden below the coiled surface—roots binding up and down to between
The Kick-About prompt this time was The Ashley Book of Knots, below. It’s been a long time since I did any macrame, but I love to embroider, entranced by everything about it–the floss itself, the color and texture, the rhythmic and repetitive motions that are so like meditation, the gradual revelation of something new.
I’ve done a lot of embroidery on paper, but I couldn’t remember ever trying French Knots, also called Seed Stitch. My mandala papers are fairly sturdy, so I painted one, inspired by Monet, and searched through my embroidery floss boxes for similar colors.
Besides their practical and decorative uses, knots can symbolize many things, from the vows of marriage, to a puzzle to be solved. They are connected to threads of all kinds, and thus the interweavings that form and support all of life.
The French Knot is a simple stitch–wind the floss 3 times around the needle and reinsert it into the hole made by bringing the thread to the surface–but like many simple things, it’s easy to become tangled up if you aren’t paying attention. Something that applies to all creative endeavors involving fibers.
Not only is this totally different from the poem I started to write, but the Oracle took me in a completely unexpected direction. She also led me right to an old piece of art that fit, one whose origin I’ve forgotten. She clearly had a message for me. If I could just decipher it…
we are but thoughts mad gardens of whispering wind soaring on shadows cast by wordstorms
ask how or why and be chanted into the music of timeless dreams
salutes spaced between vehicles– ghostboots march silently in formation—echos caught in mind’s eye–the tears
As with seemingly every celebration in 2020, the Veteran’s Day parade today here in NYC was largely symbolic–“a caravan of 100 vehicles with no spectators”–a shadow of the usual ceremony of 20-30,000 participants.
skulls of saints– the bones of the dead dismantled– spiritual songs
the bones of the dead seeking a form– spiritual songs, grey life
seeking a form– labyrinth, grey life– they are nothing
labyrinth, consumed moon– they are nothing– times chant
consumed moon, intricate relationships– times chant blood
intricate relationships dismantled– blood, skulls of saints
A pantoum mash up of phrases from Samuel Greenberg’s “The Pale Impromptu” for Laura at dVerse, and The Kick-About prompt #13 “Ersilia” from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.
The Kick-About prompt immediately made me want to take actual thread and do something three-dimensional to represent the abandoned city of Ersilia. Cardboard boxes were my starting point. Weaving my embroidery floss with a needle between the supports I cut and folded up, it became obvious how the city inhabitants became tangled in a state of impasse, forcing them to move on.
I decided to do a landscape background–the text spoke of viewing the deserted city from the mountains–and I spent a lot of time laying out possible landscapes on my floor from the collage references I had. I then dismantled and retaped a box to make a sort of diorama and glued the landscape pieces down.
Then I had fun rearranging the threaded bones of the city and photographing it from different viewpoints against the background.
Laura’s prompt, to incorporate phrases from Greenberg’s poem into our own verse, made me think of combining those words with phrases taken from the Calvino excerpt. There seemed to be an affinity between the two.
I read “Invisible Cities” in 2016 and posted a review on Goodreads. At the end I wrote: “Certainly it inspires visions that could be transferred to paper…and perhaps some of them will come to form for me at a future time.” And so they have.