Dandelion

Dandelion

Cumulus clouds drifting dusty seedheads –
as if a yearning ancestor carried them from skeletal beginnings,
they dance on the wind
germinating and growing and weaving chains of childhood memories.

Up close to my nose, the butter-mustard tang of the dandy
reminiscent of crazy salads prepared by Italian aunts,
lion’s greens dressed and tossed at picnics, splashed and anointed with chianti,
spilling from bowls on the oilcloth beneath a summer sky.

Knowing no bias for neighborhoods, they poke from city sidewalks,
cow pastures,
from the cracks of suburban cul-de-sacs.

There is something uncommonly common
about the dandelion.

Ear

When I was an ear I swallowed everything whole:
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was dark maple syrup down my cochlea.
Mother sizzling onions in the frypan was a foot-tapping dance through circular canals.
Sisters slammed doors, quivered bony labyrinths.
The buzz of Father’s knife sharpener sawed at my drums.

When I was an ear, leaves crackle-teased my tympanic membrane on my way to school.

When I was an ear, rosary beads clacked and prayers flapped like bats.
Down the aisle the whoosh-whoosh of the nun’s robe.
The small desk creaked open like the door of a haunted house.
Lessons pulsed The Crusades and Marco Polo.
Horse hooves thumped and water plashed
as Crusaders clashed and Marco Polo sailed to China.

When I was an ear, a squad of lead pencils scratched sums.
I was on alert, something about a test.
The visceral dread – the proverbial fingernails down the blackboard.
The splash of vomit.
I plugged with wax.
Five vomits times four vomits equals twenty vomits.
Feet shuffled in.
The shoosh shoosh of sifted sawdust to mask the puke, then mop it.

When I was an ear, Hope was the bdddddiiiing
of the school bell ending the day,
the joyous rumble of the idling schoolbus shepherding me home.

Rituals

We admired ancient Egyptians.
Painted boxes, families who cared enough to draw birds,
carry cakes and ale to their beloveds.

We did not cremate her.
We buried her like a sacred Egyptian,
tucked in relics:  a lavender heart, garnet ring, Celtic holy card,
the papyrus of her poetry, photos of her Depression childhood.

When the parakeet died she found just the right shoe box.
She folded its blue feathers in with toys and seeds,
painted popsicle sticks green and formed them into a crucifix.

All that winter we waited.

In spring the potato vine blossomed
and stretched over our bird grave.

She believed in rituals — even miracles,
spoke of ancestors clawing sod with bare hands,
turning over blackened spuds.
Their larders bare, nothing to fortify them but prayer.

Waving Goodbye

Moon6

Nightfall and she waves goodbye from her lace-curtained window.
I hold the wave in my sight, round a corner of the city street.
A family custom to gesture from windows.
A sadness at parting, a not-letting-go.

The tinsel draped fir tree, cranberry garlands and bulbs hidden deep.
My fingers comb the nap of her red velvet couch.
The click of my heels and the tock of her Black Forest clock.
Melted, disfigured choir boy candles sputter out their flame.

Her face shows in tatted, round doilies, antique mirrors.

When I am out at night, I wave to her, I wave to the moon.

 

GPS-ing the Heart

Panicked that I’d lost my heart,
I use my GPS device to track its location.
Somewhere between brain and breastbone
I am navigated in a new direction:

“Follow the course of the road from the cerebellum along the pituitary.
Now turn left and then turn right at the atria for three beats.”

Tracking the route, I am delayed at the hippocampus.
With a name like hippocampus how can’t it be a fun place?
Long-term, pleasant memories surface:
the ice pond where I skated as a girl,
my first kiss from a boy,
swigs of Boone’s Farm Apple wine,
kelp smells scenting a faded jeans jacket creased with beach sand.

I want to dwell in the hippocampus.

“Course correction, course correction,” my GPS robotically signals.
“You are living in the past.  You are not in the now.”

What fun is the Now with its reality of creaky knees, aching feet?
I steer towards hoola-hoop days – spry and supple hips and hearts
and am led to my sisters – both no longer girls — masters of the rolls and twirls.

We sisters approach, tentatively now:  thinning hair, a wobbly gait, faulty hearing.
Our impatience and anxiety with each other –
our nervous laughter —
fearing that my tongue will speak the reality of my own truth
and I will offend.

I could be seduced into believing myself and my kinfolk are strangers –
that my heart has disappeared.

 

Not a Truffle

Moth6

She is random she is free and uncontrolled by time and space. The clock shatters when she appears.

She is the Muse, a butterfly offering on-again, off-again glimpses of light to those open to her inspiration.  Try and catch her, but not with the nets of over-thinking. If I take a walk, ride my bike, she might return.

If I try too hard, she disappears. A muse, after all, is not a truffle to be rooted out from the earth by pigs and served up at the dinner table for $200 a pop.

In our time-starved world she is free to visit wherever, whenever and whomever she wants.   Are you a Mother longing for time to write?   Listen for her whispers even though you yourself may feel like a babe alone in the woods. Or you may actually be in the woods, walking a shoreline, standing in line at a subway station, at the check-out buying groceries.

It doesn’t matter where or when or how she shows up.  Maybe you like to write at cafes in the early morning and you are halfway through your double Americano when an image, a sentence creeps in.

She shows up Anytime.  Dawn, noon, dusk, midnight.

Is she fairy, is she mist?

All I know is that if I stay in the Now, silent in my head, hopeful in my heart, I might feel inspired.  I have a notebook handy, a tape recorder.  Whatever I am doing she just might show up.

 

Candle

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(The following poem is by my Mother who died in 2008)

A candle’s but a simple thing —
it starts with just a bit of string.

Yet dipped or molded with patient hand
it gathers wax upon the strand.

Till rainbow-hued or snowy white
it gives at last a lovely light.

Life seems so like that bit of string —
each deed we do a simple thing.

Yet day by day if in life’s strand
we work with patient heart and hand
it gathers joy, makes dark days bright
and gives at last a lovely light.

 

John Quill

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John Quill.  Imagined in a springtime walk
as a flowering 18th century poet
penning works with turkey, goose, and swan feathers,
living in a garret with no flat-screen television
only rough hewn stone, the occasional chirp of a sparrow, a robin.

A lonely but deep man.

For Sythia

forsythia

Your golden flowers.
The hue of distilled sun, and honey, and lemons.

Heralding Spring dalliance,
boughs of promise.

I clip and set you in a vase on the table.

Ode to the Foot

Shod as a girl in sensible Hush Puppies, how did my feet go astray?

Corns – I grow my own crop.
Bunion – should I name mine Paul?

I bemoan clodhoppers but am thankful I have feet,
summon praise for podiatrists who name the fascist Plantar and form my orthotics.

Who are the betrayers of the ball, arch, heel, tendons, fascia, ligaments?

Was it the Loafer, the Pump, the Mary Jane, the Earth, the Espadrille, the Wedge, the Platform, the Wallaby, the Hurache?

I eschewed the Stiletto.  Was that a mistake?  Should I have given them a tango on the dance floor?

And what about DaVinci calling the foot a masterpiece of engineering, a work of art?
Leonardo, do you have a fetish?

These days I look for New Balance, preferably lace-up.

Primordial Life

FrogNisquallySmallWorld

The swamp is gone.  I steer the car to the side of the road and park under the shade of a Dutch Elm.  Crossing the road  (paved,no longer gravel),  I wander to where the marsh was, recall the chorus of crickets and frogs that lulled me to sleep as a child.

No soothing chirrups, no cattails.  Only grass.  My gaze sweeps to the split-level house.

The rev of a lawn mower.  A strange woman rides it, cuts swaths in the grass.  I notice that the chokecherry tree is gone along with the tire swing.

I watch the woman make pivots with the machine.

And the weeping willow?  Vanished also.

Isn’t it poetry the way that tree weeps?  I flinch — realize that I sound  like my Mother.

The woman angles the mower toward the fence at the rear of the property.  It’s then I notice the cornstalks in the distance.  Yes!  The maize waves in the summer breeze, reassures.  The warm, sweet scent of silky corn hair as I played hide and seek with other children.

The woman circles the mower towards an unfamiliar tool shed.  She shuts it off and dismounts like a seasoned cowgirl.  Her hand dips into her shirt pocket and she pulls out a pack of cigarettes.  Tapping one out, she lights it and surveys the work she’s done.  Then her platinum blond head turns in my direction.

“Hello,” I call out, moving towards her.

She flicks ash off her cigarette and the corners of her mouth rise in a smile.  I remove my sunglasses.  Her hazel eyes are warm, friendly; somehow the crow’s feet add to their sparkle. An aroma like freshly baked bread escapes the chambray shirt she wears.

I hold out my hand to clasp hers in greeting.  “I hope you don’t mind my snooping.  I lived here when I was a girl.”

The woman’s name is Barbara and when I tell her my parents last name, she recalls my mother.  In a gravelly voice, she tells of Mother stopping by once to ask for some plantings from the back yard.   How could she refuse such a sweet little widow wanting flowers for her husband’s grave?

Barbara offers to show me the house.  She leads me to an enclosed porch with wicker furniture.

“The patio used to be here.  There were no screens.”

“Mosquitoes,” Barbara answers, “a nuisance out here.”

I don’t recall this being a problem.  What I remember is fireflies glowing and dancing in the distance.

Barbara leads me to the living room.  The picture window is enlarged and there’s a wrap-around view of the grass that replaced the swamp.  I am not disturbed by the changed house but the disappearance of the marsh with its humming, primordial life makes me sad.  It teemed with crickets and frogs and we children dipped into it to catch tadpoles.

As I stand in my old living room with this stranger, I feel how time distorts place.  It is like returning home after travelling long and far away.  How rooms seem as small as those of a doll’s house, how they cramp the humans inside.

The humans who look outward for primordial life.