Darkness Darkness

The Fashion Institute of Technology had only one dorm, reserved for out-of-town students, so I felt lucky to have been granted a room, even if I knew it was only for the first year of my two-year program.  My roommate had sisters in the city, but had grown up upstate, in a Catholic group home, really an orphanage with all its attendant horrors.  Nothing has changed about that since the time of Dickens.

Her mother died when she was very young.  A family friend wanted to adopt her, but the Catholic Church refused to separated her from her two older sisters—the friend could not manage three more children.  Her sisters married as soon as they aged out of the system, and now lived again in the city where they had been born.  My roommate was a talented artist, and her high school art teacher encouraged her to prepare a portfolio and apply to FIT.  She wanted to be a textile designer.

Her father had abandoned the family when her mother became pregnant with a fourth child.  Unable to imagine being able to support three children, let alone four, on her own, the mother sought an abortion.  It killed her.

Her daughters had no choice but to accept the fact that both parents were permanently lost to them.  But there was a simmering anger in my roommate, a wound of loss and grief, that remained. 

I lost touch with her—we both moved around a lot after getting our associate degrees, and the internet was not even a blip on our consciousness in 1973—but I thought of her again when the decision overturning Roe v Wade was leaked to the press.

Now, as then in the 1950s, our government blames the poor for their poverty, penalizing most of all the living mothers and their living children, abandoned by fathers, or forced to flee abusive husbands and partners, condemning them to hunger and homelessness as a punishment for not being born lucky, for not having friends and family who have enough wealth and stability to pick up the pieces when they need a helping hand.

another grey sky–
spring comes late this year—crow calls
inside the graveyard

For dVerse, where Lisa asks us to consider the topic of grief.

How can we learn to sing when we have no voice?

The shifting mirrors contain contradictory and ethereal messages, as if hidden in the center of a missing source of light.  Where are the currents located?  The rays seems to come from an absolute stillness embedded in the fraying edges of circles that no longer move.

Once we were seekers, following the contours of the channels that held rivers and oceans, sailing the shorelines, harvesting in abundance the rewards of departure followed by return.

Now we have only illusions sinking into the periphery of fading dreams, scattered like the ancient remnants of empyrean spirals, the movements of mythical stars, the mysteries of a consciousness that once made its home inside a biological form.

bare silence–
human remains lost,
fossilized

Off prompt for NaPoWriMo Day 29. I wanted to do something for this Redon collage.

The world remains heavy.

Yea, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it
But we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance
Dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
–Mary Gauthier

Also linking to dVerse OLN, hosted by Grace.

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.

Gone Straight

The day feels as limber as a body carved in stone, and yet time remains elastic.  A Möbius strip to which I cling, never certain if I’m inside or outside or whether, in fact, I’m located anywhere upon the twist of fate at all. 

Dylan sang it simple, but simplicity in his mind means traveling on a roller coaster through an arcade of hallucinatory smoke and funhouse mirrors blindfolded and bound by myriad inexpressible desires.  “A little confused”? That statement is not only under, but buried so deep beneath layers of denial that the concept of clarity no longer exists.

We are all born too late, really, searching over and over for the lost eternal beginning, the still center, not the unmappable edge we cleave to, against all reason, with the desperation of an addict looking for a permanent fix.

So which way does this finite world turn?  Does the Universe have its own compass, or is it, too, like humanity, lost in space?

plus, minus—neither
more nor less than tomorrow,
yesterday, today

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to write a poem in which you describe something with a hard-boiled simile. I’ve also used Muri’s Scavenger Hunt words, limber and elastic.

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.

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.

The Gravity of Home

They’re sending out bird machines pasted to the sky over a smoke-filled collage of clouds and burning buildings. In the silence of departure, on a pathway of storms, I turn away from the life I’ve known towards the unforeseen, tangled in bare branches, winter, all of it retreating from a world that contains no escape.

Between the above and the below, floating uneasily, ghostly silhouettes shadow my footsteps as I head blind into a collision with the invisible horizon, held captive by a threshold that seems to extend forever.

No shelter appears here on this road of leaving.

Clinging to tattered
wings, sparrow searches for some
anywhere to land.

Merril at dVerse has given us some wind-tossed paintings to use as inspiration for Ekphrastic verse. I chose the painting below, by Joseph Farquharson, ‘Cauld Blaws the Wind Frae East to West’

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.

Correspondences

Looking at the photo Butterfly on Asters by Lisa Smith Nelson, I’m immediately reminded of a story in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s “Braiding Sweetgrass”.  Kimmerer is asked by her college advisor why she wants to study botany.  She tells him she is hoping to learn “about why asters and goldenrod looked so beautiful together”.  Her advisor is appalled.  To him, the beauty of a field of flowers has no place in science.

I could have told her, as her artist friends later did, about complementary colors.  But I did not know, as she learned in her further studies, that the eyes of bees, like those of humans, are naturally attracted to complementary colors.  I looked up butterflies and their vision, too, is similarly color sensitive.  When asters and goldenrod grow together, they complement each other in more than color—they attract more pollinators.  Plants need pollinators to reproduce. 

The combination of purple and yellow is part of the ecosystem.

It seems that beauty is indeed a necessity for life.

which came first–
the delicate wings
or the seed?

Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompt this week was a photo chosen and taken by Lisa Smith Nelson, above.

Children of the Night

“Listen to them, the children of the night, what music they make.”
–Bram Stoker

There’s a dark path in the forest that reaches not only to the horizon but far up into the stars in the sky.  The contours float, infused inside and out by an endless melody that sings chaos into shimmering pattern.

Where does the story end?  Perhaps it leads to dreams that have been hidden away, to possibilities invisible in the light of day.  To once upon a time that becomes here and now.

If you listen–still, silent, boundaried by the night–it’s possible to catch a glimpse of these distant voices.  But only a child can find the entrance to this liminal landscape of matter, spirit, and sound.

wonder shines
silvered, transcendent–
opening

The Kick-About prompt this week was the quote from Dracula, above. These monoprint paintings were a response to that.

The road from Samhain to vampire costumes for Halloween travels through the pop culturization of every holiday we celebrate for commercial purposes. But that does not completely disguise its real roots in the transition from fall to winter and the crossing over that occurs between the worlds of the living and the dead.

It’s fitting that we have turned Samhain into a children’s festival–we can join in for their sake, hidden behind masks, remaining rational adults while keeping a thread tied to our ancient rites of passage.

Children are our conduit to what we are ashamed to acknowledge. They remain close to the Other Worlds–they still believe completely in magic.

For earthweal, where Sarah has asked us to think about Samhain and celebrate the places that lie between.