(poem fragments from an unpublished manuscript)
I wish the chair next to mine
were special-ordered from Appalachian hardwood
and made at Berea, and it were a nice fit
for Thomas Merton to sit with me
and peer into the morning mists
with his hot chocolate
and bless my hermitage
and on days he couldn’t come—
perhaps Moses or Elijah
with a mug of his own
ready for explaining Transfiguration.
I had an agate in my pocket.
It was there a week ago.
Having it was sweeter for its seeming stolen—
I had never had a birthright,
but I couldn’t own it undeserving
so now it’s gone.
So here I sit, sharpening my words
putting steel teeth in them to grip the page as gravity
slides them off.
And they try to cling, nails screeching like squirrel toenails
before they sigh and hit the floor—
plop like raindrops
or Jell-O off a spoon
oozing with wiggle.
Morning belongs to poetry;
night to analysis, interpretation
Typing stops a poem…dries it up…so I open
my cache of pens with permanent inks from fluent
poetic days. Dried up!!
I shake them. Spit on them, douse their nibs
with water. Their dry scratching
kills my words.
I scribble and slowly timid whispers tickle the paper’s surface.
With no place to go but to therapy
Under my bed
is a box of books…
I keep my paintings under my bed
and my pains too…
Under my bed
are the hopes and dreams
of a thousand winters
past the Reformation…
I keep my masks under my bed
and this is my pantomime,
illuminated in gold-leaf ink.
I keep it all under my bed
waiting and hoping
for the performance of a lifetime
where Birkenstocks are ballet shoes
and I am whatever comes.
Joe had forgotten
the color of things—so she sang for her sister.
She sang a ballad of the Blue Ridge.
The sax glistened, liquid wails.
Am I the servant of the dishes?
Washing, of course. Or throwing out
the paper ones “like poor white trash.”
Of course the Haviland and the Wedgewood
if we had them but here are the Woolworth’s
dishes and the Corning Ware
and I might…what if I stained the dishes
with blueberries too many blueberries
or chipped a cup making water tea?
Salvia and violets
dew on glass…
the vintage bottle blooms from
dusty sill—the one in the kitchen
where you look out over the Maine coast.
Today’s fog, pregnant with mystery
is more opaque than a lobster man’s coat.
I never knew a place
beyond my house and some grandparents.
I never knew a place that went all the way back
to the war with England, to before the revolution,
living, marrying, begetting and dying in the glades
and I walk this ridge like Eustacia on the heath
Hardy’s heroine on the moor. By reflected light of sun
in the restless breath of night.
I found the source, found it in desolate
howling beauty, silent and watchful. And I am always in that place.
Some of these fragments (as complete poems) have been previously published by the following: Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel (“A Place to Make a Poem”); Kentucky State Poetry Society (“Birthright”); The Psychoanalytic Experience: Analysands Speak (“Safekeepings”); Pegasus Journal (“Shallow Wind”); and The Healing Woman (“The Box from Santa Rosa”).