Amaryllis

Sleeping bulbousness

round-hipped and heavy-lidded

layers of elephantine skin and promise

you are the India of flora

a subcontinent unto yourself

silk-red as a sari.

 

Having chosen a pot as round

and windowless as your soul

the gardener

in the dark basement

of winter

tucks you into pillows of earth

and waits

and watches

the invisible egg

of gestation

nestled in dirt

a singular

self-satisfied womb

taking all the time you need

and more

no questions asked.

 

And then

with the attitude of royalty

you present yourself.

 

How could we not

long for you?

 

Comes the carpet

long, slow, green

five runners firm

and impervious.

 

Each scarlet bell

a new surprise:

that such majesty

would visit this windowsill

that such nectar and velvet

of carmine and sap

would know from black

to answer to its name

and lift,

open its arms

and bow

to the applauding sun.

The Gathering of the Clan

The Gathering of the Clan

The wind quickens.

In the East the sky brightens.

In the West the wings of old loves hover on the horizon.

A moment passes.

It carries the damp of moors they have walked.

Wafts of their talk touch her collarbone,

her fingertips and earlobes.

Through the mists of her ancient eyes

Appears the arriving clan:

Clan not of bone

or breastplate

nor blood

nor shared hearth.

In the land of heart’s desire

Are born these brethren.

Setting out one from the bone-dry desert,

Another from the willow sweep of river,

A third from the gladsome meadows of spring

Blushed of lupine and sweet clover,

They have tread the endless plains,

Bathed in the morning dew of Alchemilla,

And rested in the valley of many stars.

Around the night fire

They have opened the book of unending mystery;

They have sung its songs,

Retold its tales,

Deciphered verse by verse

The language of wolves and herbs,

Woven and unwoven the tales of war and peace.

Then moving on:

Packing their shallow bowls,

Winding the harp strings of first light,

Wrapping with care the blue and silver book of

Their collective soul,

They have followed the paths of remembering

To this forest glade

Where dwells this piece of time.

She opens the door to their verses and cloaks,

Their shawls and shoes and thirst.

Herbs she brews, mats she spreads,

Pillows she plumps for their rest.

She welcomes them home.

They sit on her porch as the evening descends,

They watch as the moon opens its heart

And the sky reveals its treasures.

The wind is still now.

An owl calls from the wood.

Someone plays a flute.

She opens the book of promises forged

And regrets forgotten,

Of jade palaces and purple peacocks,

Of clay bowls and painted portraits,

Of golden hope and silver memories,

Of hay and sand and stone.

She chooses a poem of birth,

She chooses a poem of death.

She reads them together as if they were one

And passes the book to her right.

Thus they spend the night

Reciting each a fragment of this life

‘Til sleep rejoins the shards

And they are made whole again.

By morning they have gone,

Making each their way through landscapes and sunsets,

Oceans and orchards.

On the blank pages of her book

They have written the poem of their journeys

In the language of tansy and violets.

May the regal Angelica guide her voice

As she translates her vision

and her dream.

May Artemisia protect her,

Borago give her strength

To speak the true words,

To know the true names,

To write the story only she can tell.

In the Rainforest

What silent sound

in the gray and green

of the path?

What breath beside

this waiting ear?

Which green dream

of walking palms

wild ginger

fingered ferns

trailing ficus?

Which memory

in the long bone

of this spine

plucked the harp string

of this neck

and, unthinking,

she turned her head

in time

to see.

No, not possible, he said,

maybe a bird.

No, she insists:

four legs, this tall,

white, sleek, elusive.

What does it mean, she wonders,

when someone crosses your path,

emerging from the untrod,

present just long enough

to appear

and melting, then, back

into formless memory?

White jaguar spirit

or pale deer

or trackless puma

of the forest

and its filtered light

its floor of rain-slick mud and crawling roots

its curtains of shadow

its warm wetness—

She walks on,

hopes the mystery remains unsolved,

holds the beast in her heart.

That Unrehearsed Melody

A crow on a branch

of that old Norway maple

and then another

a third alights

and off they fly to the backyard trees.

They are free to go

and return,

as is the lone gull

and the loon who passes

on his daily flight

from lake to bay

and the cardinal couple

always in tandem

and the robins in late winter

nipping at the wrinkled burgundy crab apples.

They range over our plots

and lots and garden fences

our tenderly tended slices

of the village pie.

Perhaps I’ll hang a house and a feeder

to lure these songsters

these blues and yellows, browns and reds

into my domesticity.

But really what I want is

that lift at my shoulder blades

that unfolding of wings

that unrehearsed melody

as I take to the air

through the open window.

Potter’s Morning

First, the smell of red-brown

clay moist of earth

a column

thick so thick

we want no air to penetrate

this heft and dense

no bubble forming

undermining.

Knead, then,

ask this clay elastic

to know your hands

the dough and stone of them

pushing back and together

the palms cradling

the whole hand lifting

and sinking pressing

repeating the song

the bowl of your body

quietly forming.

April in Maine

Sometimes I want nothing

but to stand boot-deep in spring mud,

to poke around the flower beds

in the chill April air,

to listen to

this heaving subterranean

gardener at work

on the seasonal meanings

of seeds and bulbs and roots

and the wordless awakenings

and the perfect beginnings of things.

I cry easily these days,

sleep lightly.

Has life always been this sweet?

Or is it because it is barely spring

and through the cold rain and salt,

in the most improbable

and in some of the desired

places hard green shoots

the tough bulbs of April in Maine

are finding their way back?

I remember, watching them,

the long nights spent waiting,

the despair that comes

from living

where things really die,

where one need not feign surprise

that tender-lipped violets

are resurrected

from the frozen land.

The garden is ragged with

crumpled leaf heaps

and straw mulch pushed aside by

the rubber knights of tulips

the spongey knives of narcissus.

The accumulation of cycles

looks in April like unmeshed gears

and broken bones.

In May it seems to work as if effortlessly,

like things that are never resolved

because they work,

work together,

have never stopped working.

Waves Like Glass

The sea calls out her name.

 

We answer,

trying to repeat the miracle

with a thousand hungry syllables

that scatter

on the pages of the tide

like undigested fish.

 

Again she calls and

a wild breaching

cracks the fragile bone

of the inner ear.

 

We mouth hollow sounds

to fill the dry space

between us.

 

We and the sea.

Relentless and reflective.

 

She is unmoved by our

literal bouts of naming,

yet we cannot stop calling out

while waves like glass

smash on the rocks

and are made whole

again and again.

In the Distance

In the distance

a blue heron

at large in flight

ungainly wing span

neck of necks

enigmatically looped

he lands at the edge

of reeds and mud

king of marshes

royal hunter of fishes

beak like a sword

he sights his prey

lengthens and thrusts

the elegant hose neck

majestic loner

of blue gray proportions.

Knowing full well

I am watching

he ignores me

on one leg

posed

for more important conquests.

As I approach

he fans his wings

lifts

and forgets me.

For a moment

I am lonelier

than I know,

receding,

my spirit unhooked

like a winded kite.

In the amnesia of insight

I write this

as if

you too

were hearing

the wings beat

the salt air

feeling the feathers

circle your throat

as the blue heron

leaves you

with this same unspeakable longing.

I suspect these words

are not enough,

slant and unstable as they are,

sodden with ink and overuse,

to thread my sight

through your eyes

to follow his flight

of hollow bones

and wet feathers.

All the same

I walk home

picking up words

like stones from a beach

placing them

in twos and threes

looking for a pattern

that speaks

this language.

Bones

Bones and bits

of bird flesh

wet feathers

sticking

to a body skeleton

long and leggy.

How unexpected

an encounter

death and a bird

at the turn

on a path

of berry bushes

of old trees

and wild irises.

I should have

walked on,

left dumb death

on the wet sand path

to stare forever

from a lidless round eye.

Instead I bent

and touched the wing tip

like a cat or a priestess

willing a sign.

But no.

The island air

was damp.

The great blue

was crooked and

broken but

perfectly proportioned

still.

Changed forever by a moment,

the body only slowly

catching up.

Nahual

Land I have lost.

Scars on my eyes.

A wounded deer

comes to my door.

The forest of her fate

is private property now.

Her hooves mark the woolly thyme

that edges the garden path,

her breath marks the coming of winter.

I remember, I tell her:

We dug a hole in the ground

we buried our treasures

and promised never to forget

the wordless knowledge

the bond from earth to flesh

the close fragrance of dampening leaves

the countless colors of brown and green

the circle of friends

offering ourselves

to the circle of pines

innocent in our rituals.

And now she comes

wandering wounded.

The rivers of her thirst are dust,

the old paths have been

carelessly renamed,

the pines of our sacred ground

felled.

I make a place for her

in my garden.

I stroke her fur,

look into her almond eyes.

I haven’t forgotten, I tell her:

You stood guard

over our innocence,

my nahual, animal spirit,

but the tables have turned

and now I must fight

for your life.