Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Sorry to borrow the title for this post from you, Cynthia, but it was exactly the right word.

I do apologize for obsessing about the Poem A Day thing, but I have truly been obsessed with it for this entire month.  It has been a mental challenge, and a good one.  I think that by doing it I have worked through some things: my feelings of regret and sorrow over this move - the anger with myself that I have had for the past four years since we did it, grief over the deaths and losses that have happened during this time.  The way I have hated being here, refused to open myself up to the good things about this place and our life here.  Days spent mostly in the yard cleaning up gardens, welcoming spring, planning what I'll do in the gardens once this cataract surgery business is over and I can see clearly, work freely - these have been days spent thinking poetry all the time.  I write in my head for the most part, no words get processed or put on paper until they have flowed through my mind for quite a while, been discarded, rearranged, reimagined.  So the birds, trees, flowers, dirt, weeds, and compost have been my companions and inspiration for most of the month. I could only wish that it had been possible to take a beach walk now and then.  But walks along the river have substituted pretty well.

Right now I'm hoping to be able to do the last two prompts, for days 29 and 30.  Twenty nine, tomorrow, should still be possible - but as I'll have the first (left eye) cataract surgery on Friday, a poem for the thirtieth may have to wait a few days.  The doctor's office can't seem to tell me (they say they won't know until the first checkup, on Saturday morning) whether I'll be able to read and write well enough to use the computer.  The final part of this is choosing my five best efforts to send in to Robert Lee Brewer before May 5th.  I've been working on trying to make this choice - and it's not easy.  There are clearly quite a few that I won't choose, but the truth is that there are more than five that I feel pretty good about.  Anyone who'd like to help with this choice is welcome to go to Poetic License and leave your opinion. It would be doing me a big favor. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Home For My Poetry Challenge Efforts.

I thank with brief thanksgiving whatever gods may be that this month is almost over.  Thirty poems in thirty days.  And we're only on number 26 right now.  Moving these poems around from place to place has been almost as exhausting as writing them in the first place.  Finally what I have done is create a whole new blog for them, it's called Poetic License and it's here.

Unfortunately it starts with Day 1 and goes on chronologically to the current effort.  But, if you know where you stopped reading them, you can just look in the sidebar and find your place.  This is the very last fooling around with this I'm going to do, and I want to thank the faithful few who have been reading my attempts at this Challenge.  And welcome any newcomers. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Defense Of Looking Back

The Poem A Day Challenge rages on, and there's still a week to go.  I have been keeping up, though not publicly posting my efforts.  There is one prompt I haven't been able to write from - though I am still working on it. After agonizing for the first couple of weeks, I realized that thirty poems couldn't all be torn from my heart, and I might as well have some fun now and then. So, I had fun with yesterday's prompt, which was either "Looking Back" or "Not Looking Back."  I got very maudlin with a couple of attempts, personally and regretfully looking back, but then as I was pruning the big Russian Sage out front, one of story-telling's most famous lookers-back popped into my mind.  And this is the result:

In Defense of Looking Back

Don’t look at me like that.
I know you think me cowardly,
Call me slow and weak.
If you had ever loved this way
You would have done the same.

Half mad with grief and loss
All I wanted was to touch her,
Look at her once more.
I thought I’d saved her from the Underworld.
I didn’t know the fury of the gods.
How could I not look back?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On Vision

I was browsing through my old private AOL Journal (exported to Blogger  - or should that be imported? - when AOL Journals closed) yesterday, and happily came across this poem by Lisel Mueller that I had included in a post there.  I'm not sure why I included it then, except that I loved it, and had seen an exhibit of Monet's paintings from his old age in New Orleans some years ago - the poem helped me understand the paintings, made me love Monet even more. I'm not sure how historically based the poem may be - much of what I've read tells me he struggled against the growing blurriness of vision and loss of color perception caused by his cataracts.  In any case, I know I'm certainly struggling with mine. As a visual artist Monet was dependent on his vision, but he used even his aberrant perception in his waning years to put his impressions on canvas.  It was his loss of color more than loss of the sharp outlines that distressed him; But I'm finding it very hard to live without those edges.  My opthamologist tells me I probably won't have to wear glasses for distance vision after the operations, and perhaps only nonprescription reading glasses.  It all seems much too amazing to believe, for someone who's worn glasses for almost sixty years - since she was seven years old, and now wears bifocals. It's interesting to note that Claude Monet did have The Operation, in 1923, three years before his death.

Monet Refuses The Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Eyes Will Have It

I don't know if spring has been the death of blogging for me, or if I should blame it on Facebook.  Or the Poem A Day Challenge.  Whatever the cause, my impetus to blog has been in serious death throes for a while now.  The end of the term is of course another likely culprit.  Facebook has been a real entertainment, but it's beginning to wane.  Spring calls me out of the house every day until the day gets too hot, to get things cleaned up, weeded, cut back, planted, ad infinitum.  It is so utterly spring here now, the fresh green leaves of the big cottonwood outside the kitchen window greet me every morning and make me smile even before I get the coffee going. The redbud and the lilacs are glorious right now, irises blooming a rich deep purple.  I just cut the remainder of my winter greens, some chard and spinach, for a stirfry tonight.

I won't be able to do much in the garden, at least of the bending, stooping, lifting sort (and what other sort is there?) for a while soon, as the next milestone on my life journey is coming up in two weeks.  I've been procrastinating about an eye doctor visit much too long, but very aware how blurry my vision was becoming.  I thought I just needed new glasses.  But no, I need new eyes. And so, I'm having cataract surgery, both eyes, one eye at a time, the first one on the thirtieth of this month.  Everyone tells me I'll be so happy once it's over, that it's like a miracle, and other exuberant forms of propaganda, but I'm fairly freaked out about it nonetheless.  Blog readers who have already been through this - I'd love to hear your experiences.  One of my sisters has had one eye done, and she is in the "it's like a miracle" camp, and she doesn't suffer medical procedures lightly.  I dreamed last night that I found an old pair of glasses in some stuff I was going through, and they were perfect, I could see absolutely clearly and was so happy because it meant I wouldn't need to have the cataracts removed.  Perhaps the glasses stand for the lenses I'll have IN my eyes once it's all over, or perhaps it's just about how nervous I am.   (Cross-posted to Women On)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Now We Wait And See

So, today it finally happens - the hummingbird feeders go up.  Or at least a couple of them.  I'll wait until I see some hummers actually on the first feeders before I put all of them up.  The black-chins are first, and have already been observed in the area.  It's still so cold at night and in the mornings that if they're here they really need the supplemental nutrition of feeders in order to survive. The plants that offer up their usual source of nectar are not yet blooming, or certainly not here in my yard; so really for these early birds the feeders people hang will be the only source of energy for a while.  And boy, do these little guys need energy. This site is really your best source of information for all things hummingbird.  I find I refer to it constantly throughout the summer as questions occur to me.  Just took this photo of my feeder and my darling redbud tree.

Later the same day:  Thinking of the hummers must have been an inspiration.  I've been struggling with Day 8 of the Poem A Day Challenge since yesterday morning.  Knew where I was going, but couldn't figure out just how to get there. I think I've got it now, this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Vuelo De Las Brujas, by Franciso de Goya Y Lucientes PAD #6

Although I wasn't going to post any more of these on this actual blog, I can't help but share this one here.  The prompt at first made me say "OK, this is the day I give up."  Here it is:
"For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem. (It would be helpful for you to mention which art you picked.)"
  1. Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz
  2. Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya     
Could any two pictures be more different?  Egad.  But clearly, Goya is the one to write about, if writing there will be. Once I started it became surprisingly easy. Even fun.

The Witches Entertainment

There is no moon tonight
and cloudcast hides the stars.
Put on your hats, my beauties,
soon we ride
across the  darkling Spanish plain,                     
seeking louts who wander
from the taverns in the town
wanting only
the warmth of their own beds,
fire on the hearth,
a sodden night of sleep
too drunk for dreams.

We shall remake them
fly them,
dumb creatures of the earth,
to ecstasy and terror in our arms.
By hidden light of dark day stars
cross tossing stormy seas
to visit cannibals
eaters of human hearts.
Then drop them
bloody, riven, gnawed
through forest leaves.

They will hear music
played by monsters
around a ring of fire
deep within the midnight trees
dance with us
strange sisters,
then sleep
abandoning despair.
From unreasoning sleep awakening
 they will not remember.
Will not care

Monday, April 05, 2010

In The Garden

Damn this Poem A Day Challenge, it's kept me in the house for far too long.  So, I spent this morning in the yard, and going right back out there while I can. I've been watering everything; the back is done but I need to get out into the front before the winds start blowing.  We are under a wind advisory for the afternoon, and it is supposed to be almost eighty. Not weather to encourage shy young sprouts. The redbud tree is starting to blossom, and the irises we freeloaded when a neighbor thinned hers out two years ago are finally going to bloom.  I think there are things that didn't make it through the winter, but I'm waiting a while longer to be sure. I don't know if it's too cold here for the salvia leucantha, but none of them seem to be showing signs of life.

I was surprised when we moved out here in spring of 2006 to see the profusion of lilacs blooming everywhere in ABQ and Santa Fe.  There was one small and stunted lilac in our backyard, which has only had a few blooms in the intervening years.  This year it is entirely covered with buds, covered, I tell you, and it, along with the irises, is giving me a reason to live a while longer. Okay, and also I saw my first tiger swallowtail in the front yard yesterday afternoon.  Black-chinned hummers have been sighted in the Bosque, so I have to look out my feeders, get some filled and hung on the patio.  Too busy to go to work, it looks like - spring has sprung.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Re The Poetry Page - Updated

 April 22 Update.  I've taken down the Poetry Page, and am putting my Poem A Day Challenge poems in my private blog.  If you're interested in reading them, please leave me a comment and I'll invite you to that blog.  It was too messy to try to put them all on one Page. 

Now that I've come entirely out of the Poetry Closet, and you know the secret vice I have practiced in that closet from the time I first learned to write, I will disclose that in my list of Pages in the sidebar to this blog there is a page called "Poetry."  I posted some of my previous poetry on it, but then didn't have the nerve to show it in the Pages list.  Now I have decided to use it for however many of these Poem A Day challenge prompts I can write something for.  Days 1 and 2 have gone there, with some revisions; and Day 3 is also there.  Day 3's prompt goes like this: "take the phrase "Partly (blank)," replace the blank with a word or phrase, make that the title of your poem, and then write the poem. For instance, your poem might be titled "Partly Cloudy," "Partly Crazy," "Partly Out of Touch," or whatever,"  Or whatever indeed. It was hard for me until I looked around my house with a open inner eye - and then it simply wrote itself. 

Poem A Day Challenge, Day 2

It's pretty unlikely that I'll be able to keep up with this challenge as the month proceeds.  Right now I'm Home Alone on a long holiday weekend, with nothing much else to do but keep the home fires burning, read, noodle around on the internet....and write poetry. Real Life will return with a vengeance all too soon. So I'm taking advantage of this time to do this writing.  And already I'm a day behind!!  Yesterday's prompt was "water," something that I think about a lot here in this dry land.  I've written several responses to this prompt, but this is the one I think I'll keep.  The subject of this poem, BTW, is a real place.  See it here.

Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve

It hasn’t rained for months.
The Santa Ana winds
Are blowing dust and grit
Into every pore and cranny
of furniture and skin.
The mountains
have been invisible for days,
cloaked in wind and dust.
My lettuce seedlings in the backyard struggle,
 need water twice a day.

Yet I know, not far away
there is a miracle,
a place for rehydration of my
dried out desert soul.
Pocket wetland,  eye of water,
waving cattails, lily pads.
rushes, reeds and ferns.
All the thirsty green things
find home and shelter here.
Even in the hottest days of summer
 the air is damp and green,
 alive with forbs and flowers, nodding willows,
butterflies and birds.
Bullfrogs wallow in the shallows
at the edges of the pond,
bask on rafts of rotted vegetation,
under hovering damselflies.
High desert miracle of hidden wetland,
 watercress and cactus side by side.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Still About The Poetry

So yes, National Poetry Month.  Several of my friends in this virtual world are poets, and quite good ones at that. I had been planning to post about the Poem a Day challenge that is part of celebrating the month, but didn't get to it fast enough, and some of these blogging friends have already leapt into the fray. The challenge is on the Poetic Asides group at Writer's Digest. Robert Lee Brewer has the Guidelines, the prompts and his own daily attempts. Yesterday's prompt was "Lonely" and here is my shot at this topic:

Still in my pajamas on Good Friday afternoon,
Under the portal,
watching white-winged doves
 blown across the powerlines on Santa Ana winds,
helpless as leaves or straw.
 Two thousand miles of mountain chains and prairies
Away from everyone I love,
Sorting through the morning mail,
listening to the wind,
Waiting for the phone to ring.

Two others who are writing for this Challenge are Theresa of the blog Theresa Williams Author, Exile Edition, who has posted her first day's poem, and Cynthia of Sorting the Pieces with this lovely essence of "lonely" Haiku. We are already on the second day now, and the prompt is "Water."  I will be following Theresa and Cynthia as they write their way through the month.  If you join in this poetic fun, please leave a comment and let us know so we can follow you as well.

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month:  "a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated."

At the Academy website there are many different ways you can participate in the enjoyment and propagation of poetry in this country, from signing up to receive a poem a day from Poets.org, to finding coming events honoring the poets and poetry of your own state on the National Poetry Map.  For instance, when I clicked on New Mexico, I found this perfect poem by a poet whom I do not know at all, John Balaban:

Passing Through Albuquerque    

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing "The Mississippi Sawyer" inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.

This poem evokes an Albuquerque of years gone by, although I know for a fact that this version of it still exists in the Hispanic enclaves of the south Valley. So, who is this guy? I asked myself after I read the poem. A little searching brought me a lot of information about Balaban, and now I am embarking on a search for more of his work.  He's an amazing human being, as well as a fine poet, as this interview from TriQuarterly makes clear. So, there you are.  One brief visit to the National Poetry Month site, and I'm off on a new poetic adventure. With a reason to crawl used bookshops' poetry sections, one of my favorite occupations.