In the Fullness of Time

still from In the Fullness of Time
This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Pandemic Season

 

Watch on Vimeo.

Six weeks after I planted potatoes, they are finally all up, the latest leaves no bigger than the ears of the mice I was sure had dug up and eaten them, especially after a series of holes appeared in each hill. But it’s been unusually cold this spring, and sprouts were simply taking their time. Our neighbors had urged patience, and they were right.

All this waiting to see what happens with the pandemic would be hard to bear if I didn’t also have something to wait for: a garden growing and changing day by day now, so that time doesn’t merely pass like some lifeless assembly line, but unfolds, ramifies, flourishes, bears fruit.

even as
I pull weeds my beard
keeps on growing

evening garden
a snake has left her skin
beside the lettuce

***

Process notes

Yes, I’ve been shooting videos of my feet propped up on the porch railing since mid-April (the first of the two snowy shots) waiting for an excuse to combine them into a videopoem. I’d love to tell you that I shot them every set number of days, because I’m all organized like that, but actually, I just did it when I thought of it. As followers of my long-running Morning Porch microblog will know, I have a bit of a thing for sitting outside. In fact I sat on the porch while waiting for this video to upload (which took an hour and a half! Ah, country living).

The font I used for the haiku is called Permanent Marker — basically a Comic Sans that doesn’t suck. And it just occurred to me that the most likely reason it struck me as a good fit is because the grid presentation of shots is ultimately derived from the comics — an association very much in the haiku spirit, by the way, given the traditionally high valuation of lightness (karumi).

Someone asked me how long this video haibun series will go on, and honestly I have no idea. The only thing I have in mind to do with them is stitch some or all of them together into a longer film, as I did with the half-hour-long film of videohaiku that I showed at the REELpoetry festival in January, Crossing the Pond (watch it here). The longer this series continues, the more selective I can be when it comes time to make Pandemic Season: The Movie. On the other hand obviously I am fervently hoping for the pandemic to be over as soon as possible, but it looks as if we may be in for the long haul. Good thing I have gardening to distract myself. And there’s a real sense of solidarity with all the other people getting into gardening in a big way this spring — some for the first time, others, like me, with a renewed passion.

***

Here’s a brain fart I posted on Facebook when I shared the previous haibun in this series, for what it’s worth: Ever since Basho came along and turned what had been a parlor game into high art, haiku writers have made a fetish of satori-like moments of awareness. In reality, such moments are rare, even for Zen masters, and a better analogy to what we’re trying to do with haiku is the novice spending days pondering an unsolvable riddle (koan), proposed in this case by the universe. You generally have to discard at least your first half-dozen attempts as too clever and keep going back to the riddle of your original glimpse or inkling. With modern haiku and haibun, the challenge is no different; it’s just that the number of allowable subjects has exploded, and our relationship with nature has changed to acknowledge our complicity in its degradation. (Climate change, for example, is playing hob with traditional seasonal references.) Instead of aha moments I tend to look for WTF moments, and instead of personal insights, I’m more interested in creating a space for the reader/listener to make some connection on their own. Without engaged listening and seeing, there’s no haiku.

Sentenced

Up, and when ready, to the office (my wife rising to send away Barker, according to our resolution last night, and she did do it with more clothes than have cost us 10l., and 20s. in her purse, which I did for the respect I bear Mr. Falconbridge, otherwise she had not deserved half of it, but I am the more willing to do it to be rid of one that made work and trouble in the house, and had not qualities of any honour or pleasure to me or my family, but what is a strange thing did always declare to her mistress and others that she had rather be put to drudgery and to wash the house than to live as she did like a gentlewoman), and there I and Gibson all the morning making an end of my report against Carcasse, which I think will do our business, but it is a horrid shame such a rogue should give me and all of us this trouble. This morning come Sir H. Cholmly to me for a tally or two; and tells me that he hears that we are by agreement to give the King of France Nova Scotia, which he do not like: but I do not know the importance of it. Then abroad with my wife to my Lord Treasurer’s, and she to her tailor’s. I find Sir Philip Warwicke, who I perceive do give over my Lord Treasurer for a man of this world, his pain being grown great again upon him, and all the rest he hath is by narcotiques, and now Sir Philip Warwicke do please himself, like a good man, to tell some of the good ejaculations of my Lord Treasurer concerning the little worth of this world, to buy it with so much pain, and other things fit for a dying man. So finding no business likely to be done here for Tangier, I having a warrant for tallies to be signed, I away to the New Exchange, and there staid a little, and then to a looking-glass shop to consult about covering the wall in my closet over my chimney, which is darkish, with looking-glasses, and then to my wife’s tailor’s, but find her not ready to go home, but got to buy things, and so I away home to look after my business and finish my report of Carcasse, and then did get Sir W. Batten, Sir J. Minnes, and [Sir] W. Pen together, and read it over with all the many papers relating to the business, which they do wonder at, and the trouble I have taken about it, and like the report, so as that they do unanimously resolve to sign it, and stand by it, and after a great deal of discourse of the strange deportment of my Lord Bruncker in this business to withstand the whole board in behalf of such an impudent rogue as this is, I parted, and home to my wife, and supped and talked with her, and then to bed, resolving to rise betimes to-morrow to write fair the report.

what drudgery to live
on such a rogue world

like the ejaculation
of a dying man

like looking in a looking-glass
to find an ape

like resolving to rise tomorrow
to write


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 13 May 1667.

Photosynthesis

Oliver bends over the terra-cotta pot
to address a growing herb: Good morning,
Basil; what did you dream of last night?

He is at the age when it is nothing
but natural to talk to everything
in the world as if it is his best friend.
Shoelaces, pebbles picked up on walks,
a soccer ball, his no-pedal push
bike; twigs and moss his mother
lays out as a path in the fairy garden
they’re building. I’m certain
if a plant could talk it would tell him
stories rich with compost and soil;
it would tell him of that dream
we call photosynthesis, in which
the leaf makes energy out of light
and returns it to the world as breathing.

(For Oliver, of course)

Recluse

(Lord’s day). Up, and to my chamber, to settle some accounts there, and by and by down comes my wife to me in her night-gown, and we begun calmly, that upon having money to lace her gown for second mourning, she would promise to wear white locks no more in my sight, which I, like a severe fool, thinking not enough, begun to except against, and made her fly out to very high terms and cry, and in her heat told me of keeping company with Mrs. Knipp, saying, that if I would promise never to see her more — of whom she hath more reason to suspect than I had heretofore of Pembleton — she would never wear white locks more. This vexed me, but I restrained myself from saying anything, but do think never to see this woman — at least, to have her here more, but by and by I did give her money to buy lace, and she promised to wear no more white locks while I lived, and so all very good friends as ever, and I to my business, and she to dress herself. Against noon we had a coach ready for us, and she and I to White Hall, where I went to see whether Sir G. Carteret was at dinner or no, our design being to make a visit there, and I found them set down, which troubled me, for I would not then go up, but back to the coach to my wife, and she and I homeward again, and in our way bethought ourselves of going alone, she and I, to go to a French house to dinner, and so enquired out Monsieur Robins, my perriwigg-maker, who keeps an ordinary, and in an ugly street in Covent Garden, did find him at the door, and so we in; and in a moment almost had the table covered, and clean glasses, and all in the French manner, and a mess of potage first, and then a couple of pigeons a la esterve, and then a piece of boeuf-a-la-mode, all exceeding well seasoned, and to our great liking; at least it would have been anywhere else but in this bad street, and in a perriwigg-maker’s house; but to see the pleasant and ready attendance that we had, and all things so desirous to please, and ingenious in the people, did take me mightily. Our dinner cost us 6s., and so my wife and I away to Islington, it being a fine day, and thence to Sir G. Whitmore’s house, where we ’light, and walked over the fields to Kingsland, and back again; a walk, I think, I have not taken these twenty years; but puts me in mind of my boy’s time, when I boarded at Kingsland, and used to shoot with my bow and arrows in these fields. A very pretty place it is; and little did any of my friends think I should come to walk in these fields in this condition and state that I am. Then took coach again, and home through Shoreditch; and at home my wife finds Barker to have been abroad, and telling her so many lies about it, that she struck her, and the wench said she would not stay with her: so I examined the wench, and found her in so many lies myself, that I was glad to be rid of her, and so resolved having her go away to-morrow. So my wife and W. Hewer and I to supper, and then he and I to my chamber to begin the draught of the report from this office to the Duke of York in the case of Mr. Carcasse, which I sat up till midnight to do, and then to bed, believing it necessary to have it done, and to do it plainly, for it is not to be endured the trouble that this rascal hath put us to, and the disgrace he hath brought upon this office.

down comes night
like a severe fly

I never see more than the ugly street
and a couple of pigeons all day

light over the fields puts me in mind
of when I used to shoot

and a pretty wife lies with
so many lies

I go up to my chamber till midnight
that grace


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 12 May 1667.

Following the Arrows

At night or in the early hours
before morning, someone must have measured
and marked with neon colored tape, sections
on the grocery store floor or drugstore
or food takeout line. And arrows: for
pointing out in good faith the direction
of all movement, keeping a six
foot distance to make each citizen
a kind of compass point for the next
in queue and all who follow after.
Wouldn't it be if not easier then
at least more bearable, if our movements
were such as they are among planets
and stars? Though they look
closer to the naked eye, the nearest
ones are billions of light years away.
Clouds of particles coughed up
when two or more stars smash into each
other might vaporize as energy; but
no matter what other effect might
result, it's certain that all bodies
are changed forever after collision.



 

White space

Up, and being called on by Mr. Commander, he and I out to the ground behind Sir W. Pen’s, where I am resolved to take a lease of some of it for a stable and coach [house], and so to keep a coach, unless some change come before I can do it, for I do see it is a greater charge to me now in hackneys, and I am a little dishonoured by going in them. We spoke with him that hath the letting it, and I do believe when I can tell how much it will be fit for me to have we shall go near to agree. So home, and there found my door open, which makes me very angry with Nell, and do think to put her away for it, though it do so go against me to part with a servant that it troubles me more than anything in the world. So to the office, where all the morning. At noon home to dinner, where Mr. Goodgroome and Creed, and I have great hopes that my wife will come to sing to my mind. After dinner my wife and Creed and I being entered a hackney coach to go to the other end of the town, we espied The. Turner coming in her coach to see us, which we were surprised at, and so ’light and took her and another young lady home, and there sat and talked with The., she being lately come out of the North after two or three years absence. She is come to put out her sister and brothers to school at Putney. After a little talk, I over Tower Hill with them to a lady’s they go to visit, and so away with my wife, whose being dressed this day in fair hair did make me so mad, that I spoke not one word to her in our going, though I was ready to burst with anger. So to White Hall to the Committee of Tangier, where they were discoursing about laws for the civil government of the place, but so dull and so little to the purpose that I fell to slumber, when the fear of being seen by Sir W. Coventry did trouble me much afterwards, but I hope he did not. After that broke up. Creed and I into the Park, and walked, a most pleasant evening, and so took coach, and took up my wife, and in my way home discovered my trouble to my wife for her white locks,1 swearing by God, several times, which I pray God forgive me for, and bending my fist, that I would not endure it. She, poor wretch, was surprized with it, and made me no answer all the way home; but there we parted, and I to the office late, and then home, and without supper to bed, vexed.

going to the good
end of town
we see a light
dull as a white fist
that would not endure surprise


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 11 May 1667.

Interstice

At night, instead of a prayer, I recite
quietly and mostly to myself all the words
for tomorrow I still remember. 
                               I think about 
how I now dislike the word pivot, but still 
believe in the liquid space between one
moment and the next. 
                     What do you call 
the twin eyes the dressmaker sews atop
and above the zipper, where the wire 
hook waits to finish 
                     the garment's drape 
around and to the back, at the nape? One time,
as a child, I held up a hand
                             mirror in front
of my face to see its surface fog like a lake 
when mist has not yet risen. I liked that 
experiment, and the one 
                        where you lay a needle
gently on water then wait so it points north.
  
 

Call Time

The soul pushes against the sides of the narrow 
chamber whose only purpose is to keep it in, hold 
it in one place, prevent it from leaving its bed
and bursting into the air, then dissolving in the grass 
at your feet. Or it flutters, courting any current 
that would take it away. The air, chilled at evening, touches 
every stray tendril that hasn't yet curled inward
into itself. Unending rehearsal, with no possible
understudy: everyone's absorbed learning their own
lines, their own moves. A heap of discarded costumes 
lies on the floor: rippled silks, rough linens. 
Socks and shoes, scarves to wind against your throat.   


Gambler’s spell

Up and to the office, where a meeting about the Victuallers’ accounts all the morning, and at noon all of us to Kent’s, at the Three Tuns’ Tavern, and there dined well at Mr. Gawden’s charge; and, there the constable of the parish did show us the picklocks and dice that were found in the dead man’s pocket, and but 18d. in money; and a table-book, wherein were entered the names of several places where he was to go; and among others Kent’s house, where he was to dine, and did dine yesterday: and after dinner went into the church, and there saw his corpse with the wound in his left breast; a sad spectacle, and a broad wound, which makes my hand now shake to write of it. His brother intending, it seems, to kill the coachman, who did not please him, this fellow stepped in, and took away his sword; who thereupon took out his knife, which was of the fashion, with a falchion blade, and a little cross at the hilt like a dagger; and with that stabbed him.
So to the office again, very busy, and in the evening to Sir Robert Viner’s, and there took up all my notes and evened our balance to the 7th of this month, and saw it entered in their ledger, and took a receipt for the remainder of my money as the balance of an account then adjusted. Then to my Lord Treasurer’s, but missed Sir Ph. Warwicke, and so back again, and drove hard towards Clerkenwell,1 thinking to have overtaken my Lady Newcastle, whom I saw before us in her coach, with 100 boys and girls running looking upon her but I could not: and so she got home before I could come up to her. But I will get a time to see her. So to the office and did more business, and then home and sang with pleasure with my wife, and to supper and so to bed.

dice found in the dead man’s pocket
which my hand now shake

write out like a dagger
all my red ink


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 10 May 1667.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 21

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. This week included some searing posts on death and illness and several thought-provoking posts about the vocation and political economy of writing. Plus many other wonders.


What’s there to fear
of the old men on Rikers

condemned to die —
not for their crimes

but for living long
enough to pick up

the lethal virus from
their concrete beds.

No visitors allowed.
The men on the island

can’t speak of how
spring pushes up

not daisies not miracle
cures but takes away

their little breath left
the crown of the virus

colonizing their lungs
robbing their hearts

of energy enough
to beat bad odds.

Bio-containment rules
rule out the six feet

of physical distancing
but not the six feet

down where the trench-
diggers go, where

the bodies, their own,
come to rest four deep.

Maureen E. Doallas, Musings in a Time of Crisis XIX

Everyone who knows me knows this story. How does it become more than just another story of someone losing someone they love? Especially now, when there’s a whole new category of how to lose a loved one? Maybe recognizing cycles and honoring them is a story we all need.

Yesterday morning I had a committee meeting of the land trust board I’m on and I did the Zoom call on my porch. Other people on the call could hear the birds in my yard and there were texts about the birds, asking what they were. I know I have robins, sparrows, chickadees, mourning doves, bluebirds, mockingbirds and bob-o-links in the pastures across the street.

But when I was asked what the song was punctuating the call, I didn’t know. I pay attention to the birds in my yard, but I’m not sure I want to be able to name the ones that mark the descent into illness for Eric.

Grace Mattern, Birdsong Yahrzeit

I know what’s coming. At the same time, I have no idea at all. It will be terrible, it will be beautiful, it will not be what I expected. It will live with me every day. It is already living in me.

As we say, the memories ‘come flooding back’. Whoever first said this has a lot to answer for. Sometimes they drip drip drip away at me, in the dark, not a flood at all. Other days (nights) it is a torrent.

The sound of her laughter. The smell of onions frying. Her lack of solemnity. That time the car broke down on the way back from school, the steam, the searing heat that day.

The sheer look of joy on her face in this photo, unguarded, not posed. That’s a rare thing to encounter in this life. And I am grateful.

But still I want her back. And it hasn’t really started yet. This is just the beginning.

Anthony Wilson, On the Edge

Over the weekend, my body finally succumbed to months of stress and I got sick with some sort of illness that had me deliriously wondering why miscreant elves were appearing in my stomach and stabbing me from the inside at unpredictable intervals. Hence the very late post this week. I’m on the mend now—still a bit weak, shaky and wrung out, but climbing out of it. It wasn’t the ‘Rhona. I know because I got tested, which was a weird experience involving people in space suits at multiple confusing checkpoints and about fifteen seconds of deep unpleasantness while an alien tentacle molested my nostril. The world has become a very strange place.

Kristen McHenry, Down for the Count, I Got Tested, Bitchy Reviews

Does it start with that viral Unseen Photos Of Frida Kahlo at the End of Her Life! photo essay?

COVID means the world reduced to Facebook, to what is viral.

She was softened, later. And toughened, too. The strongest leather thong; her face my jess.

I wrote: fire is a praxis of leave-taking.

[…]

Equivalent, the falsehood, the heart rate, the oxygen, the glue. My spine screams. Hypoxia makes it vague, and impossible:

this body:

a false equivalence

between love

and death.

JJS, to shapeshift impossible leave-taking: an essay in embodied quarantine

I shivered when I took them off,
those masks of forty years —
goodgirlgooddaughtergoodstudentgoodwifegoodmothergoodgoodgood.
I stood naked in a new day.
Who was left?
Could I find her?
Would I love her?
Would anyone?
I set out to build a woman
without masks.

Sarah Russell, Unmasked by Sarah Russell (WEARING A MASK Series)

When we believe fate’s deck is stacked against us. When kindness, science, and common sense play a zero-sum game against the government.

When we carry ourselves like a forlorn flower heading to the gallows. When perpetual anthems of inner rain dull our spirit to rust.

When, during these rootless and ruthless days, our calendar minds are stripped of their pages—

may we call upon instinct’s North Star to guide us home.

May we rely upon muscle memory to recall our most cherished embrace.

To say these things, it is not my wish for us to walk on water. Instead, to rise from it should we feel like we’re drowning.

Rich Ferguson, Humming This Song Until I Discover a Better One

While a wild wind blows
and changes the weather like
a light switch: on, off,

on, off, we listen
to mixed tapes dedicated
to teenagers’ dreams.

We remember those
days in our rooms, in ourselves
well now, as we try

to figure out this.

Magda Kapa, Isolation Time – May so far

I write smoking a cigarette 
blindfolded extinct among the scribes 
does my spirit without fleshy gravity 
rise or is this then an angel 
in the stupid theory of angels
we ate thanksgiving in May 
it felt like dying a little
I am an angel arm stretched 
to catch a pink star on a pole
that never stops swinging

Rebecca Loudon, corona 20.

The second blackbird to come was bold. He drank five beaks-full, stretching down to fill his lower beak, then tipping his head back to swallow. All this within two metres of me. Well, within two metres of my head. My feet were considerably closer. […]

Over lunch, I chatted to my son about the meaning of social distance. He pointed out that his head is socially distanced from his feet, unless he’s engaged in yoga. A reason to stop doing yoga, if you were looking for one, I said.

This confusion seems to be widespread – why else would some people veer into hedges or oncoming traffic when another person approaches, and others keep doggedly moving forward, passing by, bringing our heads no more than two feet apart.

The blackbird was at just the right distance from me for me to appreciate his bold glory. We both kept safe. He left after his drink to sit on a nearby branch. His song stretched from there to here, causing soundwaves to vibrate my maleus, incus and stapes – reaching right inside of me.

Liz Lefroy, I Socially Distance

Female bees will also burrow
deep inside the shade of a squash
flower: the closer to the source
of nectar, the warmer and more
quilt-like the air. In the cool
hours of morning, look closely
for the slight but tell-tale
trembling in each flower cup:
there, a body dropped mid-flight,
mid-thought. How we all retreat
behind some folded screen as work
or the world presses in too
soon, too close, too much.

Luisa A. Igloria, Ode to Tired Bumblebees Who Fall Asleep Inside Flowers with Pollen on their Butts

The kids in Finland went back to school on the 14th for about two weeks before the summer and I started subbing yesterday for 4 of the last 7 days. I’m not going to get into the wisdom of that decision as I’m not sure where I stand on it, but regardless, we’re all looking forward to a break from this new normal.  

On the days I’m not working, I have plenty of things to keep me busy with my course, my writing and other things on my To Do List. They’re opening the libraries to pick up reserved books, so that’s something to look forward to. As I’ve said before I’m used to social isolation, it’s the strain of home-schooling 3 kids on my own that’s been getting to me. 

My focus has changed, so I’ve struggled to keep up with this blog. I’m back on my course work, trying to get my allotment sorted before my birch allergy gets so bad I can’t go outside and I’ve finished painting my stairs, so I can focus on the kitchen cabinets next, if I’m not going back to work. I’m still trying to write my poem a day, but usually late at night, so I barely remember what I wrote in the morning and it feels like a new poem. 

Gerry Stewart, Corona Virus: Week Nine: Back to Semi-Normal

It’s the end of the third week of May, and while many states are opening up, my area in Washington State is still mostly in lockdown. This really doesn’t change anything for the likes of me, someone who’s high-risk and immune-compromised, honestly, but I can feel others getting impatient. We still don’t have enough: tests, PPEs, viable treatments. If you feel stressed, remember we’re living through something unfamiliar, unprecedented in either ours or our parents’ time. It’s like the Great Depression plus tuberculosis, with a number of dead in such a short time it rivals a fairly big war. People say, “When are we going back to normal?” and I think to myself, the answer is maybe never. Maybe we won’t go back to crowded concerts or lots of packed-in-sardine-can planes, maybe the sky and water will be cleaner, maybe we won’t shake hands anymore or ever dole out casual hugs to people we don’t know well. Maybe more companies will let their employees work from home and voters will decide universal health is maybe kind of important. Maybe hospitals and retirement homes will be redesigned with more privacy, better ventilation, more sunlight. And we went from “normal” to isolated and scared, dealing with scarcity in all kinds of things (thermometers? vitamin C?) in a matter of days and weeks. We lost 100,000 people, just in America, in about three months. Of course you don’t feel normal, of course you feel scared and stressed. It would be remarkable if you did not. Don’t worry. I’ve got bird and flower pictures, as well as recommended reading for grim times, farther down the post.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A New Poem in Baltimore Review, Field Guide on a Grim Times Reading List, More Pink Typewriters and Birds, and Weathering May Gloom

Has anyone else been struck by how elegant, how almost attractive, some of the images for the coronavirus are on television?

Image Problem

All those flower-like
protrusions as if marketing
designed a logo for it, as if
it were not ugly—and
too small to see.

Are these trumpets signaling
attack, mouths to gobble
the good microbes, suction
cups structured to latch
onto surfaces or cells?

Ellen Roberts Young, Image Problem, In Reverse

There with the native plants, and aggressively overtaking the undergrowth, are amur honeysucke, asiatic rose, barberries, wintercreeper, japanese knotweed, mugwort, ragweed, burdock, thistle, garlic mustard, and whole hosts of plantains and creeper vines. One part of me abhors them. But I admire their tenacity and their ability to adapt to new circumstances. They’ll probably be thriving long after humankind has departed the planet.

As, perhaps, will the whitetail deer–a century ago, become scarce in the wilderness, considered almost “hunted out”–they managed to recover their numbers through adaptation to suburbia, where they are now “pests.” They graze on front lawns, nibble at ornamentals, gobble the leaves and bark of decorative trees, and gather at street-side puddles to drink, leaving heart-shaped prints in the mud and grass. But on my walk yesterday, I observed a doe lying amid the brambles; and she observed me. With the eyes of the wild, darkly liquid, meeting my gaze with her own. I did not move. Nor did she. I made no sound. We watched one another until, with a fluid motion and almost soundlessly, she leapt to her feet, twisted in the air, and fled in an instant. A brief rustle of trampled branches in her wake.

Ann E. Michael, Wild places

It is a rainy Sunday morning, but not the flooding kind of rain. I woke up thinking, is that rain hitting the windows or the tiny feet of a creature in the attic? Hoorah! It was rain.

I spent much of yesterday looking for rain, as threatening clouds came and went and then settled in for the evening. It was sunny early in the day, and we had a great time outside, reading by the pool and then getting in the pool. I hadn’t gone on my walk, so I spent 45 minutes swimming back and forth.

And then, fighter jets appeared out of nowhere, out of the south, flying north. My first thought: I hope they’re ours. My old habits kicked in: listening for explosions, keeping an eye open for a mushroom cloud, wondering if I should go inside to be safe from blast burns or the stuff exploding away from a blast site.

None of that happened, and come to find out, it was an Air Force squadron flying over to say thank you to various hospital workers. I still find it a curious way to say thank you.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, So Normal, So Not

We are defeated. From over the ocean the warplanes return like dragonflies flying over a fishpond. The stars above them hum and whisper in diamond light. The world is a whirlpool of churning thought. We are defeated, indeed, both sides are defeated. No one really wins a war. The graves of the innocent villagers are shallow and hard. The broken arm of the night will not mend, and the soldiers know this. Some of the soldiers sleep in sleek caskets. We should bury them together, two to a grave. One American, one Afghani. They could rest forever in each others arms.

James Lee Jobe, We are defeated.

Into the sudden sunlight
springs the lilac

under an iron sky
sleek as hematite

and the air is a prickling
sharp as cold ashes

blown past velvet houses
where light recedes

into the settled darkness
beyond the earth’s shoulder

Clarissa Aykroyd, Previously unpublished poem: ‘Breath’

The worst part about the current crisis for me personally, other than intense sadness about the loss of life worldwide, has been the loss of making music with others through singing. Added to that is the growing awareness that, because singing is one of the most dangerous activities, it may be a very long time before we can return to it. I was already fearing that I might be getting toward the end of my time as a choir singer, though I waffle back and forth about that. Now, in my worst moments, I wonder if I will ever return to it, after a lifetime of being in church and cathedral choirs.

However, our choir has just produced their first virtual-choir video, and we’re working on two more which I’ll share with you here when they’re completed. It’s a bizarre and quite self-conscious process, where you  record your own part, solo, while listening to a backing track on headphones. The tracks were then assembled by our music director, Jonathan White, and the resulting video recording sounded remarkably like us — the way our own particular voices blend and sound together. This video was played during the cathedral’s Zoom service last Sunday morning, and a number of parishioners told me they were very moved to hear and see the choir again.

Beth Adams, Hermit Diary 24: Remembering Patrick Wedd

It’s been a long time since I’ve put fingers to keyboard in service of creative writing. Too long and I don’t really know what to write here. I write for work, and while challenging, and creative in problem solving and working on teams, it doesn’t really provide an outlet for making something new.

I’ve collected some various prompts and images in the last few years. Kids were born, bought a house. Life continued, which should provide plenty of material to generat-icise new poems.

I even have the start to a chapbook that I haven’t looked at in… at least two years.

One line I have written down is

This poem will piss you off.

I think it’s supposed to be in the voice of the president. But I can’t even see through my own anger to start writing it. I have no distance.

I have pictures of various atrocities. But again, I have no distance.

There is a way in which my jaw has not unclenched in almost four years. Longer than that, I guess.

There’s a need to pull it out of the gut like gutting a fish it should be messy and a little gross and inelegant. Righteous hellfire wrath were faith still important. Though it’s all some people have they’ve swallowed the hook. There is not a pretty way to exorcise that barbed point.

Eric M. R. Webb, Need to write

I’ve been thinking a bit about the speed at which things spin past us wildly. About social media, especially in a world where our attentions are split in 100 different directions. The things I followed once on the regular, blogs, you-tubers, litzines, get lost in the rubble of horrible news articles and general mental scatteredness of living in crazy world where we may have never had control of it, but even the illusion that we did seems to be unraveling. I’ve been thinking about my own writing and art and how I feel like even when I am creating it, I am disconnected from the audience. Or from even the idea of audience that I used to feel. […]

Probably from about 2005-2009, blogs were the center of my online lit community, full of comments and interactions (good and bad) that dwindled once writers began to move to facebook for such things. I joined Facebook in 2009 and that soon became the way you connected with other writers, while the blogs sort of dwindled down to the folks, like me, who still loved long-form content too much to give it up. But probably now and for the past decade, the blog feels like someone playing a record in space. You know it’s making music and broadcasting, but aren’t quite sure if it’s reaching anyone’s ears. And maybe it just feels that way because we’re now trained to expect more interaction when we post things..a like or comment or a heart. Proof that someone at least heard us.

But then again, writing might be a little like this itself. You write a book, you publish a poem, and it blasts off into the universe, and only occasionally an echo comes back. Someone writes a review or says a kind something that makes your heart soar, You click with an editor or a something goes over really well at a reading. For poetry, it stills feels like there is a lot more silence than there is echo. But then of course, how can it be any other way?

Kristy Bowen, space music and paper boats

The other meaning of the word “career” got me thinking about my “career” and my life’s career, and about how much I love double-entendre and the tricksiness of words. So as I careered (derived from horse riding) and careened (derived from ship repair), from one kind of life to another, little remained that looks like a career (derived from wheeled vehicle).

In fact I cleaved from path after path, quitting this, trying and quitting that, cleaving to a desire to be true to myself, whoever she was at any given time.

I buckled up in each trajectory’s car, buckled down to the work, but inevitably buckled from the pressure to sit.

I overlooked clues to what make me satisfied, overly concerned with some imagined authority who overlooked my choices.

Okay, maybe I’ve pushed the game too far. But I love that these are known as “Janus words,” that old two-faced bloke. But truly, I have careered, and cannot claim to have had a career, a definition that includes the notion of durability, of a devotion of time.

And the only thing I can say I have been devoted to across time is words. I have also loved silence. And there we have poetry.

Marilyn McCabe, And you always show up late; or, On Words (and Life) That Go Forward and Backward

I’ve been ashamed for twenty-two years now to be a teacher. This was supposed to be a stepping stone to being able to call myself something else. But it is what I have chosen to do to be able to afford the doing.

The price and the prize. Somewhere between them is the doing. I guess I found the price I couldn’t pay to call myself a writer was not the studying, but the salesmanship – networking, presentations. And what I thought as a kid would be the prize: fame, respect – wasn’t really what I was after.  I thought those things would raise me above the trolls in the world. Ha!

I’m fine fighting my trolls in the dark, anonymous corners…

and sometimes I get a quiet notice that someone read my work – not just my bio with an eye toward networking.

I’m not exactly off grid – but looking for a middle way. And I’m beginning to wonder if teaching isn’t really the oldest – and most indispensable – profession any way?

Ren Powell, What  We Do for a Living

Much of my adult life has been shaped by the literary-academic system. I have both an MFA and a PhD, and I could go on about these things at length. But I want to focus on the more recent events leading up to my decision to self-publish my collection of poems, A Dark Address. It first took shape in 2016 as part of my dissertation. Between then and now, it shed its skin multiple times, many new poems were added, and it is mostly unrecognizable from that earlier draft. Also in the intervening years, I submitted the manuscript to book contests and many of its individual poems to journals. However, going through this submission process in a rigorous way for the first time (I made some very clueless efforts with a previous, jettisoned book around 2008), I soon began to question whether or not I wanted my work to reach the world in the way this system makes possible. All along, the process of submitting felt exploitative and increasingly unrewarding. Fees kept adding up. While I could find exceptions for journal fees without much problem (though it cut down my options by about 50%), avoiding book submission fees severely narrowed my possibilities. Too many books are attached to contests, and these very rarely cost less than $25, with a few bucks tacked on to cover Submittable fees. Even open reading periods at many presses run $25 or more. I explored various very small presses, many of whom I greatly admire, but many of these focused on chapbooks or micro-chapbooks, or they simply did not seem like a good fit for my work. I felt stuck.

The thing is, even my successes felt hollow. I managed to land some “prestigious” acceptances of individual poems from the manuscript, but I had no idea if the poems were even being read. It went like this: finish a poem, submit incessantly, receive acceptance after three or more months (amid multiple rejections and some very long waits, and some submissions just falling off the radar, apparently), and then wait six months to a year or more before it appears in the world to little or no notice (except in the very rare case where a journal had a strong social media presence). Sometimes I got paid, sometimes not. In sum, it all felt a bit hollow. I mean, I wasn’t expecting a parade; I know it takes patience and that one can never really know what their work is doing out there in the world, or what it might do years later (and perhaps only for one individual you will never meet). And I also know that, ideally, this is a form of participation in something larger than I am. And yet it seemed less and less like participation in anything, really, besides paying fees and waiting to read form letters from anonymous readers and editors. Increasingly, I realized I was adhering to a process that I intensely disliked — and which cost a lot of money — all in order to perpetuate…what, exactly? Why was I doing this?

R.M. Haines, Poets Should Be Socialists

I have thought a lot about how to be a writer, a woman writer, over the years. I have spent my entire adult life contriving to find time and energy, the energy! to write. I have looked closely at the lives of women’s writers trying to find the secrets to apply to my own life. I have asked, how can I do the work I want to do, the work I’m able to do, and what is the work I am “allowed” to do, what is the work I will be hindered from, the work I will be given credit for and the work I will be erased from having done, what is the work that I will be thwarted from, and who will thwart me? and given all those variables, how will I refuse to be thwarted, and how will I manage to work in spite of, because of, because of. How will I continue, how will I contrive my own particular set of circumstances so I can say what I want to say, however small?

It’s the strangest thing of all about this Covid-isolation. I have been basically given my dream life on a platter, my hermit writing life, and it turns out it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. (Mainly because of the worry….). But that’s fine. Imagine Jane Austen writing, and having all her worries about where she would next be living, who she would be reliant upon, what obligations she need fulfill.

We just want to work. I in my room, you in yours. I don’t want to be in competition with you, but to send my good wishes to you so that you can send yours to me.

This is what I learned from reading Eavan Boland. How to wonder about you, the importance of that wondering, and to remember that you are wondering about me.

The terrible regret I have is that I might have told her, I might have written her, and did not. And now it is too late, and I hate that. I hate that.

Shawna Lemay, The Hour of Change – Thinking About Eavan Boland

When all this is over, said the phrenologist,
I shall spend my days at Walden Pond
where white rocks line the far shore
like so many discarded skulls.

I will hoe the yellow loam and plant rows of beans,
walk to Concord in my own company
to buy a bag of rye or Indian meal, forget
the rag-stoppered bottle of yeast
spilling in my pocket.

Julie Mellor, P is for …

Reading Ned Balbo’s sixth collection is a powerful and eerie experience right now because of its mix of isolation and intimacy. The Cylburn Touch-Me-Nots, winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize and published in December 2019, takes its title from a poem about plants at the Cylburn Arboretum. A companion shows the speaker how leaves recoil at human touch. After they walk away, he wonders about “green fronds unfolding till/ the surface of their sea is calm again”–as if ease can be restored after an interval of shocked separation. Balbo’s title phrase recurs in a poem called “With Magdalene, near Daybreak,” when a resurrected god tells Magdalene, Touch me not. Balbo wonders why Jesus would return only to “order her away” and how she would have felt: “she who’d grieved already,/ shocked, stopped where she stood,/ the world strange, unsteady// though he was radiant…” This book, written well before the novel coronavirus, is about social distance.

Lesley Wheeler, Virtual Salon #12 with Ned Balbo

Simply put: this is an extraordinary book of leave taking and home coming. 

The lyric poems are collaged into a moving narrative of one family’s journey. And while Bone Road documents the story of Geraldine Mills’ great grandparents leaving the north of Ireland in 1882-84 with assistance of the Tuke Fund, this also can’t help but echo peoples around the globe who are forced to leave home due to famine, war, and poverty. 

The twist in this history is that the family returns to Ireland. The faux gold of New England does not hold the family. They return to Ireland just as impoverished as when they left. What is that pull called home?  Untumble the walls of the house / Uprise its lintel from the overgrowth /…Unbreak the heart. 

Susan Rich, Recommended for Everyone! Bone Road by Geraldine Mills and Asking the Form by Hilary Salick

As a reader and as a writer, I’m fascinated by the way [Rick] Barot pulls together, for example, in “Cascades 501,” an overheard story of heart surgery and the view from the train window of “Punky little woods,” “The bogs that must have been left / by retreating glaciers” (which expands the poem into prehistory), “the summer backyard with the orange soccer ball,” and “the pickup truck / parked askew in the back lot,” noting “Each thing looks new / even when it is old and broken down.” Then the poem moves again, but I’m not going to spoil the ending.

Joannie Stangeland, Saturday Poetry Pick: The Galleons

Raw with shared pain, these are not angry poems. They are cries of hope and compassion, demanding change/not the promise of change/not a panel to study change/not a worthless piece of paper

Full of questions, they do not offer slick answers; how much light asks the poet, does each falling body take with it as it hits the groundhow many days does one have to wake up with less dignity … how many years can you look for the one who is still missing … I want to open every fist they put around your heart/and listen as you tell me again how close liberty is to where you are standing.

Ama Bolton, Letters to Iraq: “listen to the hope and beauty”

it frightens me – sometimes.
how the words seem to come from a spirit
just behind the edge of hindsight,
beyond the dusk at the back of my mind.

is there a hole in space-time leading to where
the poets rail that their words must be heard,
must be still the font of all of their times;
and am i chosen as this conduit?
a vent in the dam of the damned words!

Jim Young, ‘how he wrote the flow of our pouring’

Moments of creative flight can be fleeting. Just as quickly as creativity floats into view, it can drift away again. I’m attempting to seize the moment and engage with the work as much as possible while this spark is present in my life.

As I’m in abundance, I send this blessing out to you, friends. May your creativity spark with new life, may it thrive and grow, may it cultivate and bear fruit. May your art, your words, your craft, your cooking, your endeavors gather and linger in your days and fill you with joy.

Andrea Blythe, The Vibrant Effusive Creative Spark

The earth stretches
into morning mist.

Happiness is not the exact
word, but it’s close.

So says the red-tail hawk.
So says the dove.

Tom Montag, THE EARTH STRETCHES