The song of the katydids always takes me back to previous Augusts… and in August 2005, when I was 39, I began a prolonged backward look with a series of poems in response to the searing and painfully honest poetry of Paul Zweig. At the same time, I was looking forward: getting ready to launch a new webzine, qarrtsiluni, with a small group of blogger-friends. I took a rare trip through the Via Negativa archives just now and found a few lines that still resonate, six years later. It’s sad to read scattered references to comments that are now lost (curse you, Haloscan and Blogger!). But at least the posts remain in all their sincerity, awkwardness, wince-worthy moments and occasionally graceful turns of phrase.
I watch water flowing around a large rock, its translucent body a net of shadows as it folds back against itself. After ten minutes or so, I think I might understand something fundamental about water, its impetus to condense, to fall, to plumb the depths. But then I glance just a few feet to the left & am completely flummoxed by a large drift of foam. I had forgotten about tannins.
Two ways at once
Strip. Lay down your overburden, bare your black seam of heat where the shovels can reach it. Let rains tease your acids from the rock.
Strip, stripe of concrete between gas stations & inconvenience stores, chain restaurants, big box stores, motels, each marooned on its own island of tarmac. We are all strangers here, even the natives.
Strip: supposedly comic, unmoving pictures starring the same faces, day after day. We grimace at the punchlines: Neighborhood Grill and Bar, says the Applebee’s sign. Oh, do let’s take a stroll ’round the Village Square!
Blogging from the ninth circle
Late summer of my 40th year, I catch
an echo of my childhood in the nightly
chorus of katydids, their camouflaged
leaf-bodies falling out of & back into unison
like a concert audience that continues its rhythmic
clapping during a break in the music.
The pure distance
Ten-thirty in the small reception area at Scotty’s Discount Tire and Muffler in downtown Summersville, West Virginia (population 3,900). I return from a walk with my umbrella in the on-again, off-again drizzle and find my brother reading a history of India as he waits for news about the car. A small, white-haired lady in the next seat over is singing about Jesus.
They call it Stormy Monday
In the meantime, I have settled
into my body like a stone
at the bottom of a pond.
Written by the vanquished
I dreamed I drove a sprayer truck
slowly along the berm of a road
in prayerful silence.
Sky-blue petals in
the wet grass. I crouch down,
my mind blank as a cloud.
Back home, I look it up, chagrined:
That great invention
Since I stopped following the news,
my dreams supply all the missing details
of earthquake, torture, & mass starvation.
Ask me anything.
Advancing into sleepless woods
I have planted myself here like
a yellow birch sapling on top of a hemlock stump
that rots away even as the birch encircles it
with an apron of roots, & a hundred
years later it still preserves, unseen,
the hollow shape of the corpse
that gave it life.