To the Monarch (May 2020)

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Who will
carry the end
back to the beginning?
who will remember the lost, re
locate
the disappeared?  Who will fill life
with futures, release those
fragile wings to
the skies?

brown monarch s

I decided to do my May grid and a butterfly cinquain for both the NaPoWriMo Day 30 prompt, “something that returns”, and Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday prompt theme, chosen by Elizabeth from Tea and Paper, “the day after”.

When Nina and I first started blogging at memadtwo, one of my recurring themes was endangered species.  I posted twice (here and here) about the Monarch Butterfly, and wrote in one post:

Most people know that monarchs migrate from the United States and Canada to central Mexico to hibernate in winter. This can mean a trip of nearly 3,000 miles!

Between 2012 and 2013 the amount of butterflies who wintered in the Mexican forest decreased by 40%. The forest habitat itself is disappearing as a result of illegal logging. But the extreme weather conditions of the last few years, due to climate change, have also caused lower hatching rates. Another factor is the loss of milkweed plants, the primary food source for monarchs, killed by agricultural herbicides.

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Perhaps the coronavirus will provide these beautiful creatures with some respite from human destruction.

When looking for music about migration I remembered Steve Earle’s song.  Monarchs remind us that borders are only the lines that we ourselves choose to draw.

Thanks to Maureen Thorson and all the participants in NaPoWriMo 2020 for helping me to travel all over the world and creating bridges that reached far beyond the walls and borders of our politics and our forced isolation.

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summoning

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Who
you seem to be complete
a smile like ripe fruit

What
you are everything
a palace and a simple path

When
reduced to molecules of grey light
sewn with stars

Where
a valley and a clear mountain stream
a tree growing inside a fabulous beast

Why
you are beyond and over
crowding me with vastness

How
newborn and ancient
an omen only just imagined

Withal
you take my hand unlayer
my heart open me and fly

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Being allergic, I am petless to answer the NaPoWriMo Day 29 prompt, but my dreams are full of creatures of all kinds.

Patti Griffin wrote this wonderful song for her dog.

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what it is

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I open my grandmother’s trunk and the smell of cedar recalls my father’s woolen army blankets, faded and frayed.  The inside of the chest had become their home, a refuge from the memories woven into fibers that had crossed the ocean twice.

My father would not talk about the war itself, but he brought home with him both blankets and cots.  We never used the blankets.

On hot summer nights my brothers and I opened the cots to sleep in the basement, unaware of the secrets they could tell us, the images seared into our father’s eyes and carried in his bones.

all those silences–
invisible ink written
on the wings of birds

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Day 28 NaPoWriMo–the prompt is to describe a significant space from your life.

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as you like it

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“All the world’s a stage…”

I was not even born then, and yet I remember it well.  In colorized black and white, that moment—where is it now?  It disappeared while we were somewhere over the rainbow.

Those were the days!—drowning in background music, we listened for cues, trying to follow the footlights through the portal.  We wanted to capture that perfect world, inhabit it, pretend it into now and forever.

How do we measure a time that never was?  We continue as dreams, a montage of cinematic stillness, myth disguised as memory.  A voice calls from behind the curtain—is that me?  Is that you?  We rehearse our scripts of storied pasts, fools exposed by darkness, shadows of artificial light.

searching for signs
we adjust our eyes–
crow in a cherry tree

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For NaPoWriMo Day 27, I’ve used the prompt from Frank at dVerse to write a haibun inspired by either Shakespeare or Basho.

Stephen Sondheim turned 90 this year.  Another master.

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I’ve taken the art from my archives.

the circle game part 2

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Times Square is empty, like the weather—grey now, the colors drained like the empty subway cars, residing hidden in tenements, written in the isolation of morning coffee.  The Sunday newspaper remains undelivered (again) as even that thread of connection frays into feral cats in dark corners and the shadows of crows haunting the hometown I never knew.

All of this is imaginary, of course—flora and fauna are absent from this enclosed space, except as chimera, impoverished by the boredom of my own company, the same jeans and shirt waiting to be worn like the trackless days.  No Significant Other to keep me in, and an invisible barrier blocking me from leaving.  Outside my window a graffiti of exclamation points greets me each day behind the passing cars and on clear evenings I say “Goodnight Moon”, remembering bedtimes with small bodies close and sleepy and warm.

But the lines have been drawn, and as Joni reminds me, the seasons still go round and round.  We’re always captive on the carousel of time.

tomorrow
blue skies
growing new wings

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The NaPoWriMo prompt today was “to fill out, in five minutes or less, the following “Almanac Questionnaire.” Then, use your responses as to basis for a poem.”  You can see the questionnaire here.

 

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the sound of

enso comp

excess is
theft—listen and learn
silence, to
be empty–
awareness opening out
side the cage of you

enso 4s

For the NaPoWriMo prompt Day 25, we were to read and listen to James Schuyler’s “Hymn to Life” and then do a number of suggested exercises after free writing for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes of combined reading and free writing I was unable to go on.  “Hymn to Life” is everything I don’t like in poetry–overwrought, self-indulgent and self-centered, a string of random loosely related observations that pretend to be profound–taking way too long and using way too many words to (maybe–I didn’t finish) say something meaningful.  What point was he making?  You can tell me life is a circle in a lot fewer and more illuminating words.  Had I been his editor, I would have suggested reading Basho.

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Or perhaps he should have listened to John Cage…

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Murmuration Ghazal (After “Murmuration” by Sarah Kotchian)

murmuration a

Each script pulses as air on thousand wings–
again seen and written in sky cloud wings

Waves of dark starlings shape great turns,
exhale in wonder as distance disappears on wings

We say “scientists”, but we too fly in awe and delight–
can we track and keep our shape without wings?

But others catch the shifts in murmuration as dark–
we watch as neighbors turn so each can safeguard against wings

Flock of bird script maintains starling shape,
appears as never before in waves, then turns on wings

Sometimes the sky keeps one thin light track–
it is written on pulses–seven shifts seen again again again again again again again—wings

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Cave Canem posted a prompt in their Week Four Literary Balms that I’ve been thinking about for awhile:

Prompt #11
Take your favorite poem and use it as a word bank to create a new work. It can be a response to the poem, it can be a remix of the poem, it can be made into a prose poem or have couplets, as long as ALL the words are used.
–Contributed by Cave Canem fellow Teri Ellen Cross Davis.

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This morning I read a poem by Sarah Kotchian in Persimmon Tree that resonated, and I made a list of all the words it contained and then started to write.  The ghazal form seemed to work best–I used some of the words more than once, but all and only the words in a poem.  Just making the list was a revelation, to see the kinds of words she didn’t use, as well as the ones she did.  I highly recommend this as an exercise with a poem or poet you like.

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Some new and old art, with a poem off prompt for NaPoWriMo Day 24.

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Nature’s Way (Earth Day 2020)

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“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”—Cree Proverb

I attended the first Earth Day celebration in Washington DC in 1970.  I was 18 years old, full of hope and energy.  It seemed to me then that humans were listening to the Earth’s warnings.  We would clean up the air, the water, the soil, we would consume less, learn to live both sustainably and without the psychic and financial gaps of artificial hierarchy.

Fifty years later, and we lose more species every year.  The ice caps are melting, the violent weather increasing, the extremes of everything becoming the norm.  Seasons are disappearing.  Many of the world’s peoples have no place to call home.

All those things we “need”, all those conveniences we can’t live without, all those changes we are too busy or discouraged to fight for…

new characters but
the same stories—remembered
in the light of now

earth mandala comp

The NaPoWriMo Day 22 prompt is to take a proverb from a culture not your own and use it to inspire your writing.  Many cultures have proverbs that counsel us to be good caretakers of the earth, but the Cree words seemed especially appropriate.

I’ve done posts and earth-inspired art many times over the years, and the art here is taken from some of them.

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Fingers Singing with the Wind (after Hans Verhagen)

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Meet me streaming tides of music held in rings
calling like fingers singing with the wind
nets of foolish tunes
words woven into fish

Open all the lines together untie the knots spin apart swim
through worlds following every round gathering
detours through doorways
to what appears to look not more like ending but moving on

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For NaPoWriMo Day 21: “Find a poem in a language that you don’t know….try to translate the poem simply based on how it sounds”.  I went to the website link for Poetry International, and picked a poem in Dutch, because one side of my mother’s family is Dutch, and it’s dissimilar enough to English that I wouldn’t be able to guess all the words.  How could I resist a poem titled “Praying Mantises on the Wind”?

I “translated” the first two stanzas written by poet Hans Verhagen.  You can read the real translation here.

Met de stroming tegen maar muziek hard in de rug
vallen we als bidsprinkhanen op de wind
naar het lang voorbije terug
waar de wederopstanding begint

Op alle lijnen tegelijk kun je niet van de partij zijn
dus worden volgelingen in het rond gezonden
die voor jou doorgaan;
nu ziet iedereen je ook nog voor je eigen volgeling aan

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Woman and Ghost

woman and ghost s

I have lost the barrier
between me and the world–
tangled in the web it weaves
to keep itself from falling apart

It holds my pieces tight
and yet the space between them
opens and shifts–
I have lost the barrier

What orbit holds my destiny?
edges come and go simultaneously
as the gaps grow wider
between me and the world

Bridges retreat and paths lead
farther away from any idea
of location—fragmented, off-center,
tangled in the web it weaves

Slowly threads expand on tides
of iridescence seen only in certain lights,
raveling random and untraceable connections
to keep itself from falling apart

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An ekphrastic response to “Woman and Ghost”, which was gifted to me by the wonderful Claudia McGill, who has also gifted me with inspiration, support, and friendship.

You can follow her on her blogs:
https://claudiamcgill.wordpress.com/
https://claudiamcgillart.wordpress.com/
https://claudiamcgilladvice.wordpress.com/

For the NaPoWriMo day 20 prompt: “write a poem about a handmade or homemade gift that you have received”.

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The poetic form I used is cascade.