There are so many things to love about this place; so many reasons not to move —
the feel of grass against the back of my legs, the
damp smell of earth, the leaves overhead
silvered wings of butterflies.
My eyes are slivers peering
at the world through a curtain of flowering stalks
whose buds are beginning to bloom.
He climbed trees not for the thrill
of the effort it took, but for the vantage point
Come here and look —
A whisper of wind licked the skin on
his arms and traveled the nape of his neck
as he sat in a notch near the top of the tree
where he could see
past the confines of his small yard,
past his small town,
to the mountains that encircled them.
Beyond that was a world he tried to imagine,
and time on the wings of birds flying past
promising promising promising
plenty more trees out there,
waiting for him to climb.
~~ For Tom, Tommy, Tomas
Begun on May 6, 2018 to mark twenty years. Still a work in progress.
Please accept this poem.
I wrote it with best intentions
a miracle in making, as all things made in earnest are
when thought finds a willing receptacle.
Instead of tidying the house
I spent days searching for words.
Meaningful words that dribbled
or flew above my head
in the manner of teasing birds
whose waggling feathers I snatched
when I could.
(I did not hurt them. I promise.)
I set it before you now
as the welcome mat to my heart,
my wish for your comfort.
Come in. I love you. Let us share in Grace.
First, you will need a lake:
Preferably one in which you once flapped fish-like, laughter lifting in iridescent bubbles from your lips.
Best results are achieved mid-summer, when days feel like new clothes you are trying on.
You will also need:
An infant whose buoyancy is limitless.
A father with a never-ending capacity for love.
A mother who adores them both.
Dip the baby in the lake —
that baptismal font of past generations whose sloughed-off atoms may yet be felt.
The sun will bless you with its warmth.
Swirl the baby through the water; kiss and love him well. Hold him
with tender hands. Do not let go. Dip and swirl until
laughter lifts in iridescent bubbles from his lips.
Memory is made from molecules like this.
Repeat as often as you like.
Calorie count is negligible.
About the ingredients:
This is my personal recipe. Your infant/s can be any number, any gender; likewise parental combination. You can add a village. Water can be an ocean.
Love and Laughter should NOT be omitted under any circumstance.
is still the beach,
still the sand,
and the gulls gliding low,
while a piper darts
along the curled edge of water —
too cold for wading,
too cold for swimming,
but for the stalwart few
enrobed in rubber
who persist in their passion
for riding waves.
After days of rain-slashed sodden skies
the sun lures people like me
desperate for a glimpse
of impending spring.
Mostly we sit in our cars
to avoid the brittle wind
leaving it to the dogs in their
fur coats with the owners
who love them enough
to walk with them, hunch-shouldered,
burrowing into their store-bought coats,
all of us looking ahead,
to warmer days.
Years ago I sighed suddenly.
A quick, unexpected breath that snagged in my throat
like a small bird tangled in a net.
It kept happening after that.
Occasionally, and out of nowhere.
The sighs audible, gasping; a short stuttering note of surprise.
I have searched for a reason
this should happen. Wondering
what I had done to annoy
my own breath that it would sound
so exasperated with me?
I recently discovered that I hold my breath
when I am concentrating
on some inconsequential task.
While someone is drawing their last
breath I unconsciously hold mine.
A child is born and gulps a first breath
then wails from the surprise of it.
Isn’t that the way breath
is meant to be?
Rolling in and out endlessly
like ocean waves taking us ever further out
until at last, we lose sight
of the distant shore.
Spring has well and truly sprung where I live. The sun beams beatifically while a bellicose wind is determined to huff and puff the few remaining days of March. In the background, my husband’s chainsaw gnaws through a pile of downed tree limbs — winter’s detritus.
Today is my husband’s birthday. (Happy birthday, Bob.)
In a couple of days it will be April, which is National Poetry Month. I love poetry as much as I love spring. On spring mornings rife with sun, I often think of Wordsworth. Specifically the following:
My Heart Leaps Up
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
I learned this poem many years ago when I was still the Child. A few years ago, while thinking on Wordsworth, I jotted down a response to My Heart Leaps Up.
My heart despaired when I beheld
A codger in the dell:
So was it that my life began;
Yet here I am without a plan,
Fast closing in on next-to-dead.
Oh, bugger hell!
And I could wish my days to crawl
Before I have to chuck it all.
I must have been in a funky mood when I wrote that ditty. In my defense, the too swift passing of time has been an obsession with me since I was about eight, and the only way around it is to poke fun of myself, which is what I am doing here. (Plus, I do love the word codger.)
She didn’t ask for much. A smile, a touch–a little love and tenderness to shift the close of a dirt and scrabble day.
First year married drifted by on a breeze of hope and expectation. There was work to be done. Hard work, but worth the blisters raised as they dug a life out of rough earth; grew the wheat to make the bread they hoped would sustain them.
Second and third years married passed in a flurry of motion building on the first. More earth to till, more grain, more sweat. An arch of eyebrow, a sigh. No babies planted, but years stretched out ahead of them. There was time yet for that.
The farm grew in acres. Middling trees marked the borders of all they owned. She made curtains from her bridal veil and hung them in the window of the room where a child would one day sleep.
Four years swept by, then five, six, seven. They bought a tractor when she wanted a crib.
The tenth year saw a drought.
It rained through much of the eleventh year. The silo was replaced.
Year fifteen a barren womb dried up and was removed. Hope shriveled to a useless thing.
The seventeenth year she set a potted plant out on the front porch and tried to put her faith in that.
Disappointment etched lines between her brows. She left the curtains hanging in the upstairs room. The lace had come all the way from France.
It would make a fine shroud–all she wished for now.
n.b. Writing prompt by Visual Verse. While my friends were dancing, I sat in a corner and came up with this. Don’t ask me why. Muses don’t have to have a reason.
Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. I love that this is a thing now. I love poems, all manner of them, short, long, rhyming, oblique. Each poem is a wrapped piece of candy I can never get enough of. The idea of NPIYPD is that you carry a poem in your pocket to share with others. I didn’t leave my house today, so I’ll use this post as my pocket.
A Poem in Every Pocket
Imagine a plaza
where some people sit on squat pedestals,
and some people are
but all are carrying this secret:
that their pockets are filled
with poems only they
know all the words to.
— Mary Pierce
That is my little poem. It is also my wish. If you have a poem you are carrying around today I’d love it if you would share it with me.
A stupid place to put it, she says, winding into another rant
about a ceiling fan at the wrong end of the room.
She sits and twists the ring on her finger,
and wonders why she is here.
Because she used to have a house.
Now she has too much furniture,
and a life packed in cardboard boxes,
honey-combed walls wilted by
the heat of how many summers?
Moments flicker and play out
in silent testimony to what came before
this place, this stupid place.
At the window, a curtain lifts like an apparition
in a breeze too flabby to last.
She turns her head and waits for
the next riffle of wind,
for the days that gather and roll
like dust bunnies beneath her bed,
while she sits and twists the ring on her finger
and her mind meanders in a space
too narrow for contentment,
a labyrinth of thoughts
that twists and turns upon itself
crossing the same trail, the same words,
A stupid place to put it, she says. I don’t know why I’m here.
~~ Mary Pierce, 1995
The woman in the photo is my grandmother, Pearl Crawford Pierce. She was seventy when the photo was taken, her hair color still hers and not from a box. She cut her hair herself. My grandfather had been dead for more than twenty years by then. In those years, she had learned to drive a car and shop for herself, two things that my grandfather had always done. She also got a job at the local paper mill, worked for a while, retired, and found a sense of satisfaction selling Avon products because it got her out of her house. She had style and a snazzy Mustang by then.
A few years after this photo was taken she was mugged on her own front porch. She stopped selling Avon and was reluctant to go outside. A couple of years after that, in one of the infrequent times she did leave her house, her car skidded on an icy road and she hit a bank. The kind you keep your money in. She broke her jaw and her hip and cracked some ribs. Eventually, she healed. Physically.
By the time I wrote the poem, she had given up her house to a daughter and moved to a small one-bedroom apartment in a subsidized development. Her short-term memory had moved somewhere else. It clearly was no longer residing with her. I wrote the poem after a visit. That year I made many visits, driving from my home in Rhode Island to her stupid place in northern New York with a six-year-old in tow, trying desperately to find a way to keep her in her apartment and out of a nursing home. Physically, in spite of her run-in with the bank, she was strong and relatively healthy, the one glitch being that she had developed high enough blood pressure to necessitate her taking daily medication. Which, of course, she could never remember to do.
Twenty years and five months after the photo was taken Gram died in a nursing home after she fell out of bed in the middle of the night. Had she known what was happening, she would have laughed at what a ridiculous way to go that was. A few years before that, on one of my visits, she asked me to take her to the area she had been born. We ended up at the cemetery where her parents and her baby brother, Rosco were all buried. It was one of those lovely large cemeteries with mature trees and undulating hills, a place with a good view, she said. We didn’t make it to the Crawford family plot because in our traipsing about, she lost her balance on the spongy ground and rolled down a hill before I could grab her. When I caught up to her, she was unhurt and doubled over in laughter. “Well, if I died here, at least I wouldn’t have far to go,” she managed to choke out. And we both laughed like hell because the whole thing was hilarious, and what else was there to do? Life is hard. Sometimes, we end up in a stupid place.
I chart my grandmother’s journey in words and pictures because that is the best way I know to remember who she was. To me, at any rate. Others may remember someone else. Despite the poem, despite the place she ultimately found herself in, it wasn’t the whole story. I knew her as a woman of passion, of strength and the courage to guide me past a bear. (Yes, a real bear. A story for another time.) But, she was also something more. Scroll back up to that photo and you’ll see what I mean. It’s there in her eyes. Those are the eyes of someone who has always known how to dream. An asset, because dreams will get you where you need to go.