Tag Archives: May

The night before the day before my fifty-fourth year begins

Owl_detail

The night before the day before my fifty-fourth year begins

The sky is a long fall up.
The dark earth a menacing swan

daring you to leave,
cursing you for staying.

Upside down May evening,
have you no ears? only

that surprised look
that you are so beautiful?

Outside the owls sit
for their portrait.

When it is done they will
fly into the silence

of spring’s little killings.
Fox at dusk. Pulling

change from a pants pocket.
The finished painting.

 

-detail of painting by Mary Winifred Hood

Dandelion Patch by the Elementary School, Early May, 7:50 a.m.

dmoon1

Dandelion Patch by the Elementary School, Early May, 7:50 a.m.

They pluck them from the ground and smash
Them soundlessly on another’s head or back

What floats off their violence like a helicopter’s
Skeleton? Lighter than an elementary school

Morning. Directionless as a flying fifth grader.
Wish wands are what they call them. Why would you break

A wish on a boy’s stubborn neck as he tries to twist
Away? On the shoulder of the girl who’s too fast

For you to catch? They don’t wait for the fractured
Moon to pop free of its stem. When the field grows

Quiet I look up at the great yellow flower. If I wait
Long enough it will turn white and fragile against

The dark. I’ll meet you at the base of its hollow
Column, or wait till the wind dismisses me.

dmoon2

Praying Mantis and Peony, Late May

mantis1

Praying Mantis and Peony, Late May

After the peony scrolls have been read
And the leaves of the peonies are clustered

Armor, I stand for a while to hear what comes
After the words on the scrolls have washed away

After the rain on the cascading layered leaves
Stills I see one poised on one leaf then grasping

It fully stepping with little effort to its underside then
Another smaller within inches and more

On either side praying mantis and praying mantis
So rare in my childhood I saw only one and now

For the second year they are here roaming
These leaves among the scraps of longing

And the sturdy sky boats of green even
On the porch we have seen them last summer

One the size of my hand climbed
On my daughter’s head and would not come down

The cicada they say is so pure it can live on dew
But the praying mantis who catches the cicada

Is emblematic of courage and perseverance
Here at peace after the rain when everything

That can be read has been read and the mind
Is perfectly balanced on the leaves of days

We stand silently knowing something purer will come
We will have to grasp before it changes yet again

 

mantis2

Stillness in a Low Time

Stillness in a Low Time During the Rainiest Month of May in Half a Century

The cars approach and diminish but the road goes nowhere.

The storm stands across the street and says go.
Panic fans out.

The grass migrating without moving.

One blade bending to talk and the other
to listen … but to some other voice,

arriving from a distance. A voice with the tongue of a shadow
as if all this light traveling ninety million miles amounted

to a message smaller than a grassblade.

How small this poem must be in the field of minds!

I heard some people talking as they walked
across the wide green library yard, laughing

at a study suggesting that plants and trees
communicate. One bent his head toward the other,

whose face, angled away from the sun,
was obscured in the late afternoon shadows.

 

Thoughts in Early May

Thoughts in Early May

I can still outrun my children
but the race has to be very short

or very long. And the middle space
widens every day,

We drove out of town in early spring
to visit a friend of my daughter

whose family makes church organs
among the folded hills of Virginia farmland.

There the metal is boiled and poured
in a long flat trough, so thin it can

be rolled into the pipes that channel
air into faith-appropriate pitch.

The cows leisurely await their doom
in the fields all around.

The sharp shinned hawk flies low

across the field and alights on an old post.
The family’s house is a crossroad of winds–

every stiff breeze in the valley seems to force
its way toward the house, from every direction,

speeding through foothill and gap,
funneled by finely ill-mapped roads,

reaches their yard finally as a constant gale
ripping the voice from trees and shrubs as we stumble

to the side door. My daughter’s friend
is used to it, she shouts from the porch, it never ends.

I think it is all the winds of the world auditioning
for a chance to flow through those pipes

and into the shadows of stillness
and be heard as something straight from God.

At home it is calm as a confessional.
The library across the street is closed.

We always have books to bring back,
and we always find them when the library

is closed. The silver maple next door
is so covered with English ivy it should be dead

but it has bloomed again this year,
enough to make the blue jay invisible.

I recognize his pitched query as others recognize
in the church organ the vowels of God.

I hear, in my own breath as I stand on the porch,
that same fierce longing as those winds

to become somebody else’s voice.