In Response to Liu Xia’s poem “Twilight”

I too like the places
where categories are neither
and both—indistinct forms
replace the sharp edges and play
with what is no longer there.

Past and future give way
to presence, and dissolve
who I am—nothing
has yet been decided.

There is no need
to consult time, to hasten
the turning of the wheel–

life pauses–

the landscape seems different,
unattached to words
or specific actions as it
gathers me in, murmuring
my pulse with invisible
currents.

Crow calls to my soul–
a shadow casting deeper
than darkness or light.

The NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to write a poem that responds, in some way, to another. Liu Xia is a Chinese artist, activist and poet. “Twilight” is one of the poems in her book Empty Chairs. Although that particular poem is not available online, you can read some of her other poems here.

On Rambling/City Streets

Under concrete still lies the earth.
Am I bridged?  Do I travel on or over?
The air takes my thoughts and plays with them,
embroiders them, suspends them between.

Am I bridged?  do I travel on or over?
My fingers want to hold the windwhispers–
embroider them, suspend them between
the bare branches of the trees.

My fingers want to hold the windwhispers
that touch the moon on her journey
through the bare branches of the trees
into the fullness of the reflected light.

I want to touch the moon on her journey.
My own face is shadowed with uncertainty,
backlit by the fullness of reflected light.
My own hands are empty, unthreaded.

My own face is shadowed with uncertainty,
a landscape I too often inhabit.
My own hands are empty, unthreaded.
I keep trying to rearrange what isn’t there–

a landscape I too often inhabit.
I look for birds.  I want to ask them their secrets.
I keep trying to rearrange what isn’t there–
how to be someone that is also everything.

I look for birds.  I want to ask them their secrets.
How to dance across the invisible threads.
How to be someone that is also everything,
crisscrossing land sea sky stars.

How to dance across the invisible threads
that hold both concrete and earth,
crosscrossing land sea sky stars–
(the air takes my thoughts and plays with them)

This pantoum is definitely a work in progress. For NaPoWriMo day 15, and the earthweal weekly challenge: Toward an Ecopoetry.

Also linking to dVerse OLN, hosted by Sanaa.

masses of green

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

walk with green spirits
on earth as it is

Linking to earthweal Open Link Weekend.

Familiar

“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.

Seed Stitches

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.

I’ve used the Badger’s Hexastitch form for my poem.

Veterans Day NYC 2020

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.

For Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday where the words are imagine and gratitude, and Peter Frankis’ prompt at dVerse, where the task is to write about something from the local news (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-york/articles/2020-11-11/car-caravan-replaces-parade-at-nyc-veterans-day-observance)

passing

In the mirror I
am only a face–
a fleeting facade,
disembodied,
always incomplete.

I recognize it, but I
do not feel attached–
I dislike the lines,
the dark circles,
the sagging jowls.

Our interactions are
conditional, brief.
My face is
interesting in the way
of all faces,

but not memorable or
distinct—brown hair
brown eyes behind glasses–
averagely past its prime–
I could be anyone.

I see the years in
my hands and I
celebrate them.
Why is my aging
face a source of shame?

Our bodies are merely
ephemera—transitory,
waiting to be
discarded—waiting to release
our spirits to the wind.

This is some more old work I never posted because I was moving. It was inspired by two prompts: The Kick-About prompt of Joseph Cornell’s “Romantic Museum”, which was part of an exhibition dedicated to portraits of women, and the dVerse prompt from Sarah asking for self-portraits. As I said to Phil when I submitted my response to the Kick-About: what woman do I know better than myself?

The hand holding a needle in Cornell’s work, above immediately attracted my attention. I wanted to do something on newspaper, but I couldn’t collage (my first choice) as my glue was packed.  My needles and floss were not, however, and this also seemed appropriate to Cornell’s work.

I was pleased to find a newspaper page with a photo of hands.  I drew my own, and also my face, and stitched and wrote my reflections based on the drawings.  It’s not quite finished, but maybe that’s the correct response too.

linking to dVerse Open Link Night, hosted by Grace

mercy 4 (after M.L. Smoker)

one morning you wake up and
the reasons for everything
are gone

the sky has already fallen
and the wind changes direction
continuously—the trees
wave wildly as they try
to keep their roots
grounded, hold tight to their
branches and seeds and leaves

the birds have long ago
disappeared into
the expanse of nowhere
that used to be a horizon
not even a line anymore
but bottomed out
down and far beyond away

you appeal to all spirits
any spirit listening
asking for some small
sign that things will return
to a state of understanding

slow down at least and give
you time to adjust—to what?
what is left of any
configuration? will it be
improved by changing
the velocity?

nothing is sensible or even
nonsensical

you yourself appear
only dimly in the mirror–
perhaps even your bones
have taken leave and only
your thoughts remain

invisible
mad
beside themselves
alone

In July and August I wrote a series of poems inspired by M.L. Smoker’s poem “Mercy”. As I’ve been having trouble writing anything new, I decided to revisit them, and I’ve been worrying this one, #4, all week. I’m not exactly sure it fits the Earthweal challenge this week of a haunted wilderness, but it’s in the spirit.

“Everybody’s crying mercy when they don’t know the meaning of the word.”
–Mose Allison

“Mercy” is not available online, but you can read about M.L. Smoker, and read some of her other works, here.