Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vacation in poetry land

Having a wonderful time at Pendle Hill. Wish you were here. I'm taking a class on poetry with Paul Lacy, retired prof of English from Earlham College--a lover of poetry and a friend of poets--and one of the wisest, funniest, most compassionate teachers I've ever known. His easygoing style makes sharing poetry a joy, like a vacation in a place you've always wanted to visit, and when you finally get there, it's even better than what you imagined. The class is full of delightful poetry lovers, mostly moms with college-age kids who have lots of interesting life experiences and poetry experiences to share. We are reading William Stafford, Donald Hall, and Jane Kenyon--three poets who speak to my condition as a Friend.

What I did on my vacation (it's a lie)

For Paul Lacy
whose life work is a vacation in poetry land
(and who gave the assigment: "what I did on my vacation... you must lie about it....")

I went on vacation to a land
where only poetry is spoken
where every voice hovers on the edge of song
where trips down memory lane are always filled with surprises:
a field of dead horses like bulbs ready to sprout into amazing flowers
or the nagging, heart-rending questioning of a child who asks and asks:
why did Daddy have to cut this tree?
Why, grandma, why?
and every story has a point,
though not necessarily a sharp one
where young men and women are not afraid to show passion
where old men and women are not ashamed to show tears
and there is no need to escape from the mundane or the eternal
there is no check in or check out time
in fact, no time at all
whatever the weather is, we find it beautiful
clear skies, snowstorms, tornadoes, squalls,
and the hot, sultry summer days that never end
the ever-changing weather of the soul
is always interesting, always worth a poem
something we can bring home as a souvenir
and share with friends, even the ones who hate poetry,
and they will say, “Wow!”

What kind of poem is this?

Some poems fly off the page
and light on your shoulder like lorakeets
and demand your attention

others perch on the side of cliffs
unreachable, mysterious

some soar in the sky far out to sea,
like an albatross

some appear in familiar places,

like sparrows,abundantly alive

others require that you travel great distances
after painstaking preparation, so that you can catch a glimpse
a flash of breathtaking plumage
what kind of poem is this?
It isn't a poem, it's an egg
what it becomes
depends on you

the chaplain and the tell-tale heart

(for lizzy beasley)

when she walked into the room
she saw to her horror it was too late
the pale, waxen face, the stiff, unmoving body
was not what filled her with terror
it was the cadence of his heart beating
thumpity thumpity thump
she could feel it in her feet, her whole body shook
with the sound of it
and she saw it—a red, throbbing heart,
hooked to a vast and complicated machine
next to his bedand she thought of his family and shuddered
and felt deep sadness
and her heart began to beat more rapidly
uncontrollably and she almost panicked
then words came, words she knew by heart:
“so that now to still the beating of his heart
he stood repeating,tis some late night visitor entreating
entrance at his chamber door
that it is and nothing more....”
she smiled, relaxed: "that it is and nothing more.
nothing more."

From your window in ICU

(for kathleen)

From your window in ICU
you could see only the dry river bed
but you joyfully imagined
where it led towards the blue mountains
and the rocky paths where you loved to walk
qmidst the pale green chapparal
What a celebration it was
when those who were reborn
as stem cell survivors gathered
joyously at the City of Hope
Thousands of them, with their loved ones
caregivers, doctors, nurses--some of them dancing
some simply standing up or sitting down
miraculously, self-consciously alive
with buttons proclaiming their age:
one year, five years, twenty years old.
My button said, “One day….”
On the day you had your transplant
I brought you a balloon
to celebrate our re-birthday
our new life about to begin
And now in my mind I release that balloon
once again
and let it float away
dancing in the air with a kind of wild joy
towards those blue mountains
where you yearned to go

closing circle at pendle hill

at close of day, just before bedtime,
a circle of Friends sits and reflects
on a bowl of autumn leaves
so vibrantly colored they don't seem real,
and listens to poems we have known for years
read by an aging English couple
slowly, deeply like the echoes in a well
the mournful choir of gnats....the wild swans of Coole....
familiar words, yet able to surprise us still
to charm into stillness with their old magic
but then a deeper magic
surprisingly appears
amidst these gray heads and fallen leaves
i think with gratitude
of You, a flower
unfolding its pale pink petals
against the endless blue
horizon of your eyes
in the warm, throbbing
springtime of my astonished heart

No comments:

Post a Comment