Dutchman’s Breeches

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 11 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Dutchman's Breeches by Jennifer Schlick
Dutchman's Breeches by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Dicentra cucullaria

These are no knickers, Dutch or otherwise,
but a yellowed tooth the bumblebee drills for nectar
with her long strong tongue.

Where some see underwear, others —
judging from the common names — see hats,
white hearts or earrings, even butterfly collections.

It’s useful to know what you’re looking at.
Some wasps have learned how to steal nectar
by chewing a hole at the top,
where the Dutchman’s foot would go
into the breech.

I once spotted a white crab spider
hanging from the end of the line
like one more flower,
waiting for an undiscriminating drinker,
the trap of its legs set.

The Menominee used to use it as a love charm,
lie in wait for their crushes & try to hit them
with a well-aimed white heart.

Staggerweed, the old-time farmers called it,
for what the lacy gray-green leaves
could do to a cow.

Landscape, with Small Flakes and Far-off Bandoneón

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 42 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11

 

“Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.”
—W. B. Yeats, “The Wild Swans at Coole”

In today’s paper, an obituary for a scholar
who’d once taught in our midst— he died
Sunday, nearly two weeks to the day his wife
passed, just a few days after the new year. I knew
who they were but didn’t really know them:
might have seen them at the local coffee shop,
reading the news and eating toasted bagels; or
walking past the laundromat, melting into
the crowd of couples out for brunch. I’d never
thought too much about what it might be like to grow
old alone, or lonely; had more than once declared
that travel solo might be the better way to go—
no expectations, no one to have to pick up for
or after, no epics to endure and survive for dubious
reward (roots like mangroves’ anchored
in marshy soil… ) But even when the narrative’s over,
when the loggers have loaded up the rig and rolled
out of town (inaudible hush, low clouds
suspended above the highway), something in the air
will shimmer, something will always catch.
I stick an arm out, and white motes dot my sleeve.
I lean my forehead on the windowpane and feel my
bindings loosen. I want to hear the air puffed out
the sides of a bandoneon, to master the tangled
slide of paired legs across a polished floor.

Luisa A. Igloria
01.25.2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Early Meadow-Rue

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 10 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Early Meadow-rue by Jennifer Schlick
Early Meadow-rue by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Thalictrum dioicum

Dioicum: separate houses.
Here the male
& there the female.

Clouds rise from the male plant
& dangle yellow weather.
From the female plant,
ten-fingered hands stretch
in all directions.

Without scent or nectar,
what flying thing will be
their go-between?
There’s only the wind.

But this meadow-rue
has abandoned the meadow,
so it must flower early or
the canopy will close
& the wind
will retire to the treetops.

Quicksilver-weed.
The leaves aren’t even
open all the way,
& already the male flowers
are vanishing

into the fertile household
of the earth.

One Day, That Room

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 41 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11

 

Consider the sun today, which sparkles more
like a wheel of tin instead of burnished bronze—

Consider the burdock which, though squat
and uncomely, casts a thin and graceful shadow—

Consider the brittle branches whose pencilled forms
yet bring to mind the musk of summer magnolias—

One day, syllables snagged so long in the throat
will marry bright crystals of salt—

One day a mouth will press against another like the curve
of the moon on a hillside, like a homecoming—

One day the world will be that room,
and that room only.

Luisa A. Igloria
01.24.2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

False Solomon’s Seal

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 9 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

False Solomon's Seal by Jennifer Schlick
False Solomon's Seal by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Maianthemum racemosum (A.K.A. Smilacina racemosa)

False lily-of-the-valley,
false spikenard,
false Solomon’s seal —
well, what the hell
is it, then?
Fleshy rhizome
used despite the lack
of Solomonic imprimatur
to treat insanity, rheumatoid
arthritis, tapeworms,
snakebite, backache,
the common cold
& even conception
if taken the morning after.
Plant whose stalk tacks
back & forth from
leaf to ribbed leaf,
whose immature flowers
take their good green time.
Branched bloom,
white spray where all
the beetles wallow.
Hypogynous flower
with six inconspicuous tepals.
Ovary: superior.
Style: short.
Stigma: obscure.

Intention

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 40 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11

 

“There is a silence in which there is nothing, a silence in which there is something; and finally, there is the silence of no-self, and the silence of God.”
—Bernadette Rogers,
The Experience of No-Self

Absence of proof is not proof of absence,
said Carl Sagan on the possibility of intelligent
life— a line quoted in an opinion piece about these
latest rampant shootings, about how easily one
could walk into a supermarket to buy bullets
just as if they might be cans of tuna or bottles
of shampoo. The writer reminds that guns,
not knives or garrotes or poisoned arrows,
were used in some of the most famous
assassinations of our time: Martin Luther King,
John and Robert Kennedy, John Lennon,
Benigno Aquino; and that people like you
and me loaded ammunition into the chamber,
pointed, clicked, fired. It may be more
comforting to think, as Sagan might,
that if there are aliens out there in the far
reaches of space, they’re not necessarily
checking their crosshair sights every day,
getting ready to nuke us— because they have
intelligence and therefore (or so we want
to assume) the empathy required to see
how we would really much rather stay alive,
despite our pains and miseries…
Who really wants to hear of another
suicide bombing, another body sailing off
a bridge, another random group of friends
and strangers perished at a food court
or mall? This morning the cold, unscripted snow
is my newspaper too: in the bitter night,
a white-footed mouse bounded unerringly
from the corner of the wall to a hole 20 feet away.

Luisa A. Igloria
01.23.2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry and an article at Inquirer.net, “The state of the state of Arizona,” by Luis H. Francia. The epigraph comes from a comment at The Morning Porch by Bob BrueckL.

* * *

Additional comment by Luisa:

All of this makes me think about the gleaning and gathering process that goes into the writing of poems— whether or not they’re ostensibly collaborative projects, whether or not they’re part of any desire to rise to any mandates to write poetry on a daily or other regular basis. Just speaking for myself, I try to bring as many levels of experience as possible to the process of creative germination and writing— they range from whatever I am physically doing (or not doing, since memory very much is part of the process) at the moment I sit down and begin to compose, whatever I am reading or have just read or seen, what I hear, what I smell, taste, touch… There are poems that people call “found poems” in that they’re like collages snipped and pasted, bricolaged, whatever you call it— into some arrangement pleasing and/or meaningful to the one who’s playing with these pieces. I like to do those too, because like a magpie I’m drawn to shiny stuff, language winking at me. I’m inclined to think that this is really the area where we work hardest to mine that “originality” that is so highly prized. All this of course has something to do with notions of appropriation, and can often lead to the question of how comfortable writers might feel in “taking” or “taking over” lines, words, language priorly or in some other form used by others. Someone famous was once reputed to have said, “Good writers imitate; great writers steal.” It’s a tough job because all our cultural and other conversations are so rife with intersubjectivities and intertextualities. I think I much prefer what happens to my writing when an interesting bit of information, an arresting line or image that I’ve found, triggers the desire for a deeper kind of poetic engagement and I find some entry point, some latitude to invent and explore its complexities further.

Foamflower

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 8 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems

 

Foamflower by Jennifer Schlick
Foamflower by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Tiarella cordifolia

An island in a mountain stream
covered with foamflower
is scoured down to the rocks
by a hundred-year flood.
But some piece of root
or stolon must persist, for
within three years the rocks
are hidden once again by a crowd
of maple-shaped leaves,
paired like open palms around
the tall flower stalks—
a gesture of acceptance
or of letting go. And these
their offerings are nothing less
than galaxies. White stars
storm in the heat of sex—
long male streamers,
a sharp-tipped female flare—
& pull wandering bees
into their orbit. Creation
& destruction follow each other
like night & day: even as
the oldest florets begin to collapse,
anticipating the inward turn
& the dry rattle, pubescent buds
at the top of the cluster
are brimming with the light
of imminent dawns.

Landscape, with Cardinal and Earring

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 39 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11

 

The man walking his dog notices that under the bridal
wreath bush, a cardinal flickers like a pilot light.

The woman at her window sees the moon not yet
completely faded in the sky, half a pair of pearl earrings

she still keeps in her drawer though the other
has long gone missing. What parts do we need

to complete each other? Sometimes the day
wobbles like a cart with one wheel.

Sometimes it arrows like a train through
the countryside, even though we don’t see it.

We hear its rush onward, its insistent
push toward the distance. The cold

is intense today, and hard to withstand
alone, out in the open. The man gestures

to his dog and retraces his steps.
The woman turns away from the window.

In the bushes, a tiny red brushstroke
wavering in the cross-hatched branches.

Luisa A. Igloria
01.22.2011 (via Blackberry)

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Ghazal of the Dark Water

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 38 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11

 

Tell me again that story of the woman by the well,
and of the wanderer who asked to drink from the dark water.

On the banks, river stones gleam like cut topaz, like milky agate or
ovals of smooth amber— such contrast against the dark water.

In the kitchen above the shed, the stove comes to life and a kettle
whistles. Tea or coffee grounds swirl, darkening the water.

Squares of paper hang like laundry on an indoor clothesline.
Someone is waiting for prints to batten in trays of dark water.

Small birds migrating from sleep cluster near the windows—
Don’t eat the merest kindness, like bread thrown upon dark water.

Juncos fill the lilac, nearest cover to the stream’s unfrozen section.
Five or six at a time, they flutter down to drink from the dark water.

Who keeps filling this earthen pitcher? Once and for good
I’d like to break it on the hearth and pour out all the dark water.

Luisa A. Igloria
01.21.2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Your Government at Work

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

An actual letter from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development official in Pennsylvania to the loan officer for a proposed limestone quarry, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Juniata Valley Audubon Society (names withheld to protect the guilty)

Z___, sorry for not getting back to you. The Senior Environmental Officer had several questions and we had a conference call with _____, _____, _____ (engineer) and _____. It was a good meeting and we satisfied the SEO on several issues. I believe we’re 98% there. All ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funds went away at 5 PM 6/30 (yesterday). We asked the Secretary’s office to hold these funds and we heard from one of the Washington weenies that they would hold the funds for us. I am not in panic mode yet, not even close. Thing is, I have 50 hours in six days on this Environmental Assessment alone and I’m really getting tired of it. This is the most difficult its been with bats, arthripods [sic], plants, wetlands, streams, old structures, neighbors who complaining [sic] and some tree hugging group out of Vermont who has questions. And all this before the Finding of No Significant Impact has been published. That’ll really bring them out of the woodwork. Problem is there’s a walking trail within yards of the quarry and the Township is rumbling already. More fun… can’t wait. I’m leaving in a couple of hours and playing golf this afternoon. I want to retire again! M___

*

Note: We have indeed come out of the woodwork. See “Quarry plan angers local green groups” in Voices of Central Pennsylvania, and our letter to the state Environmental Hearing Board [PDF]. In response, the USDA’s State Director, Tom Williams, ordered a revised environmental assessment. The “tree hugging group out of Vermont” is the Center for Biological Diversity, which has joined Juniata Valley Audubon in a lawsuit to try and stop the quarry.