Haibun for a Reluctant Spring

The day is grey and I am swept along its ways.  Dense, impenetrable, uncertain.

And yet here is the sparrow tree.  It sings out in tangled branches of song, in a chaotic chorus with no melody but infinite cheer.

The path continues with a chill bleakness.  Robins and starlings bathe in puddles of mud.  A sudden startle of dog and wings open, rise.

The wind is relentless.  I regret dressing as if it were spring, as if winter had actually said its final farewell and relinquished its place on the wheel.  My hands dig deeper into my pockets.

Despite the lack of sun, grackles sparkle in the grass.  They watch me—curious?  wary?  amused?—as I stop to take them in.

I have a destination so I turn and travel east.  Blue jays echo my movements in a stop-and-start carousel of cries.  The moist air clings to my face.

emptying my thoughts
to make leeway for feathers–
invisible, light

Frank at dVerse asked for a haibun including the birdsongs of spring. A perfect time to bring out the birdlings.

Also linking to earthweal, where Brendan asks us to consider what serves as a commons for where we live. I would argue that every street in NYC is a commons, but the parks, especially, serve as a place where human and non-human intersect. My haibun is based on several recent walks through Central Park. Birds are everywhere (even in winter). But of course more of them and louder in spring.

in tandem 1 and 2 (Earth Day 2022)

when you leave yourself behind,
where do you go?–
clouds a shimmering path

blue like a robin’s egg–
this liquid sky, darkening into shadow–
when you leave yourself behind

does the mirror look back
like a lake regarding the sky?
where do you go?

do fish see themselves in the stars?
do birds ride feathered waves?–
clouds a shimmering path

The prompt for NaPoWriMo today was to write a poem that uses repetition. That prompt was made for me. I had been working on and off all week for a poem for Sherry’s prompt at earthweal, to write from that place of holding onto wildness of soul. I thought that today, Earth Day, would be the time to post it.

So I took my ideas and made a cascade, but there were ideas left over, so I did a pantoum too. You can never have too much repetition in my poetry world.

when you leave yourself behind
(clouds a shimmering path)
where do you go?–
windsong the surface

clouds a shimmering path,
the lake regarding the sky–
windsong the surface
displaced by light

the lake regarding the sky–
as it hues the reflection
displaced by light,
does the mirror look back?

as the earth hues reflection,
do fish see themselves in the stars?
does the mirror look back
when birds ride feathered waves?

do fish see themselves in the stars
on the remnants of moontides?
when birds ride feathered waves,
do they flow into calligraphy?

on the remnants of moontides,
where do you go?
will you flow like calligraphy,
leave yourself behind?

As I’ve noted before, I attended the first Earth Day celebration in 1970 in Washington DC. Not too much has changed since then. We can do better.

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.

Ancestors

My ancestors linger in every word I say,
the muted phrases and images that occupy
the dreams in the sequestered corners of my mind,
hesitating between darkness and light of day

My ancestors linger in the prayers left behind,
unexpected melodies, songs upon the wind
opening windows into transformed cloistered spheres,
a fracturing of landscapes, the earth unconfined

My ancestors linger as seas on summer air,
as darkness covering the winter of the year,
as harvests of colors released by autumn’s trees,
as cells that stir when spring awakens, reappears

I wrote this rubaiyat in 2019 for one of Sue Vincent’s photo prompts, above. It’s a year today she is gone. Looking back through all the art and poetry I did in response to her prompts, it’s clearly evident how much her spirit enlarged my work.

In my original post I wrote: I was repeating one of my grandmother’s sayings to myself, which made me think of all the ways I repeat and echo the members of my family. Probably in ways I don’t even realize, and further afield than I will ever understand.

Which flows right into the earthweal prompt, where Brendan has asked us to “write about what we care for and resemble, remembering that everything in the forest is the forest.

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.

verged

she
felt or
dinary–
who was she?—ask
ing questions that never quite knew what they

within my blood swims the first primal sea–
oceans of pre
vious lives
merging
and

e
merging
over and
over, over
over and over again—how can I

sought—trying to exist inside patterns
that contained some
kind of mean
ing, yearn
ing

be
come my
aquatic
body—floating,
following moontides and circles of light

I try to meet the waters and sky, to
let them over
whelm, swallow
me whole
and

to
be re
vealed, seen by
eyes that were not
her own, acknowledged by another mind

unknowing, to tangle me inside the
invisible
nets woven
by the
first

stars,
embraced
by threads that
expand without
limits into what was already there

I’ve been working around this poem all week for the earthweal prompt to “embrace the extra-human wherever it is found, in beast, fish, tree, land- or seascape or star canopy.” Laura at dVerse provided the form, tetractys, that provided some kind of order.

The Distance Traveled

If I had been asked how many minutes I had been there, I could not have said.  Time did not belong to this space;  I could not measure it.

As a child I saw no contradiction in some afternoons expanding joyfully, while others stifled, impossible to escape.  Growing up meant constructing arbitrary boxes to make things fit into the space we were allowed to have.

Ask the butterfly
how it transforms the air.  Ask
the bird how its wings

capture light.  Ask the bees
about the ancient magic

of their dance.  Ask the
trees how it is that roots and
branches contain all

the maps needed to complete
the circle, sustain, abide.

Some days pass by and disappear as if they had never been.  Some days live forever.  Those are the days I seek.

For earthweal, where Sherry has asked about our wild heart.

Also linking to dVerse OLN, hosted by MsJadeLi.

Uncertainty

Night is always approaching,
although now it seems larger,
its embrace wider.

As vision darkens
into a permanent blur,
will your mind follow?

Synapses blocked by too much
time accumulated inside
too many poisoned days.

Entangled in destruction,
each year shortened
by greed and complacency.

So many endings waiting
to repeat the between–
the overlapping of then and now.

Is this the point
where the circle meets,
where return is final?

Your species shadows
your short and fragile life
into a permanent unknown.

Your body is weary–
your mind has already departed–
the path is clear.

You always knew where
you would be going—the after
of the generation before.

And yet enough remains–
seeds still to be planted–
you scatter them while you can,

hoping to fertilize the roots
of that tree growing
from and into the center of time.

Ingrid has asked us at earthweal to visualize our lives in 10 years and choose one word to describe what we see.

My mother’s last remaining sibling just died, and her husband 3 months ago, the last of that generation in my family. My aunt was barely 17 when I was born, and married in her late 30s, so she spent a lot of time with our family when I was a child, teaching me to swim and to knit, as well as serving as an example of a single woman with a full and useful life.

Like my mother before her, she spent her last 10 years consumed by Alzheimer’s, a double death, as the mind preceded the body in severing its connection with the world.

Dementia has always been part of aging, and was once considered both a manifestation of witchcraft and a punishment for human sin. But Alzheimer’s in particular is a modern disease, partially genetic, but also probably triggered by environmental factors, or cultural factors like smoking, alcoholism, over-medication, poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity which are also related to our generally self-destructive lives.

When I think of my life in 10 years, I can’t help but see only uncertainty–will I also succumb to this horrible disease, if I live that long? Longevity is a mixed bag in my family, but I’d rather have my body fail me before my mind does.

The Structure of Night

And if I am also someone else?  Bearing the ship, the fools, the edge of the cliff above the valley, the shadows, the death—acres and acres of endings.  An echo, turning inside out and upside down.

What are my real parameters?  Where is that world located, the one that is opposite, a mirror of this one?  Do I even know anything about navigation, understand what it is?  A moon wrapped in brown paper, perhaps, opening and closing the holes in time.  A compass completely reversed, remattered.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of that other me, a brief flash on the edge of the dark, invisible, yet fully present.  All at once, nowhere, I become the voyage itself, shored with lunemares, sailing without destination, spinning beyond gravity.

Outside my life remains uneasy, breath held, waiting for the whirling center to draw it in, under.

Brendan at earthweal asks: What then is this wild dark?

Carol Ann Duffy replies, via Bjorn at dVerse: It is a moon wrapped in brown paper

Communion

She thinks of summer, the beach.  She remembers the full moon rising above the water and shining a path from horizon to sandy shore, like the deserted backroads of a lonely night.  She wonders if those drives are only memories of dreams, condensed into something far more infinite than the actual roads she may have once traveled.

Her boundaries seem to follow her everywhere.

She remembers sitting on the deck, looking up into all the places she will never visit in this body.  Her mind drifts with the rising and falling of dark waves.

What is never anyway to the ocean that rocks her, the heavens that reach out to her retrospectively from that vista imprinted on her mind?  It spirals her like a galaxy, coiling her longing into stars.

trails of sparkling dust–
secrets of ghost owls echo,
shadowing the moon

For earthweal, where Brendan has written about wild mind, the one that needs no device to set it free.