October already

I sit  here listening to my own voice these too-short
afternoons. Where has summer gone? The heron
stands reedy and still at the water’s edge. The canoe
is already on its rack beside the shed. Further
than Dickinson’s birds and still hoping for
what? Absurd to expect the seasons to transform us,
and yet each seems to end with the same sense
of loss. I search in rumpled wordbag and find
barely ghosts of breath. Last night’s storm
stripped some of the trees even before
they could find their true colors.

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Reading Jack Gilbert in heat

I have been reading Jack Gilbert all day while.the swealtering heat blankets everything and dampens every attempt to move. Mostly I’ve been reading from Refusing Heaven, a book whose contemplative solitude seems fit for such a motionless day. But it is not simply the heat resonating here, though many of the poems do seem to lift themselves out of a sun-drenched Agean landscape. For me, this day, Gilbert creates a space to fit personal history back into the world.  Here, where I am keenly aware that most of my history is already written and where it would be all too easy to find the world wanting, Gilbert is nothing if not good company.

   –

                “He sits outside on the wall of his vineyard

                as night rises from the parched earth and the sea

                darkens in the distance. Insistent stars and him

                singing in the quiet. Flesh of the spirit and soul

                of the body. The clarity that does so much damage. ” (Résumé)

 

I don’t pretend, of course that this begins to represent Jack Gilbert’s work in any way; I have only just begun to journey through the new Collected Poems and I am keenly aware that my response is entirely my own.  Still, in the midst of this withering swelter, it is true sustenance.

 

                “To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat

                comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth

                all the years of sorrow that are to come.” (A Brief for the Defense)

 

 

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Tonight

Tonight

Once again reading from the book and attempting to find a new path of illumination through it.

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Alice Walker declines request to publish Israeli edition of The Color Purple | Books | guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jun/20/alice-walker-declines-israeli-color-purple?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:%20theguardian/books/rss%20(Books)&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

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Father’s Day

For KDL,  3/19/2010

 

Now in my

mind the shape

of diamond, silk

and wood, perfectly

balanced, high overhead

where he put it.

            But what happens

when I too

am gone? Who then

will hold the kite

aloft?

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Two films worth waiting for?

“When you start with poetry I think you start thinking about the shape of a film in a different way, and it opens up new approaches,”

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118054021

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Mother’s Day

I never really wrote a poem for my mother. In fact I’ve never been much good at occasional poetry–it requires a sort of deliberate intention I can seldom bring to my writing table. But my earliest awareness of the thing called poetry is in her voice. I remember the day she read Eugene Field’s “Little Boy Blue” to me and then spent the next hour searching through One Hundred & One Famous Poems and Harper’s Anthology to assuage my tears.  I must have been all of five. I still have those two books on my shelf.

So this is probably the nearest thing I have to a poem for mother’s day. Barbara Hammond Lewis, if you’re up there listening, this one’s for you:

Pike’s Peak, May 1997

Consider a twenty-four inch cogged wheel,
case-hardened, fifteen deep teeth, slightly
rounded. The whole five inches thick but
formed in two parts as if
split against the axis—one half
rotated twelve degrees—so that,
engaging the split rack
the wheel maintains its grip, one cog
always fully  inserted.

The vibration is not surprising.

High meadow and summit attainable
in nearly direct line. (From my parents’ deck,
seen through binoculars, the cograil path
is nearly invisible.)

So we ascend,
rattling, hauled upward,
held fast to a steel chord.

Always I assumed that one day
I would shoulder a  pack,
and walk up here alone,  was certain, in fact
that I would ultimately be absorbed
into these mountains, travelling light,
living off the land.
I saw myself in a photograph
just above treeline, boots trail-scuffed,
backpack and shoulder, worn
to each other’s shape, permanent sunsquint
under a weatherbeaten hat.

I somehow didn’t understand
that you must surrender at least
the world
to climb alone
to this altitude
where everything
falls away.

Yesterday we brought mother home
with sixty feet of plastic tube,
the definition of her freedom,
coiled in a plastic bag.
Carefully we paced distances,
bed to bathroom
bathroom to closet, closet to kitchen, the stove
the sink, her easy chair,
the television, and at the full extent of hose,
the window’s wide view of mountains.
(She would insist, after all, that the view
is the reason for all of it, that at sea level
she would find sufficient breath.)
We made for her a sort of map,
left side of the couch, right
of kitchen counter, always return
the same way you came, watch
always for kinks.

From Manitou Springs
upward into wood and rock and air and light
we are hauled, knee to knee
with other tourists, staring
into the quick glimpsed spaces of imagined wilderness
until our eyes burn.

The woods fall away now.
We are inside a cloud
that is lined with gravel
and thin spikes of grass.
What happens to space
at this altitude?  Distance
is recalculated — some warp of time or gravity.
Over the brim of this meadow
the lower world
is light years distant.

I no longer believe
I could live on rainwater and stones,
cannot pretend even
that any forseeable future
contains this rarefied wealth of landscape.

At summit house
outside the gift shop
I drop a quarter in a binocular turret
and try to glimpse backward
down the mountain, try to find
the spec that would be
my parent’s house, that window
where I am certain
my mother is standing now
at the full extent of her tether
looking up.

(from This Garden, (c)2011 by Dan Lewis)

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