a fawn dancing
with deer flies
Alaskan poet Erin Coughlin Hollowell posted a Joanna Klink poem to Instagram and I immediately went and dug out my copy of Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy, whence it came. The bookmark was only a third of the way in, but in my defense it had been my second Klink book in a row, and she is not a poet to read quickly.
But my impression from April is soon reaffirmed: she is a poet of unquestionable genius, one of our best. Terrance Hayes uses the term “Rilkean elegies” in his blurb and that’s not hyperbole. In fact Rilke does rather well by the comparison, I think. Here for example is a section of the poem “Novenary”, where my bookmark was parked:
between the doe’s teeth
thorns and all
the robin revisits
his dawn repertoire
so many memories
smell like the earth
If I am only hull to what happens,
let me at least feel more deeply that flitting,
the dead light of stars over my hands,
into my throat. Oar of my body.
Things that were sensed but not known.
That’s how “Novenary” ends. And I am reminded that typing out another’s poem prompts a deep reading when you type as painstakingly as I do, with one clumsy finger, on my phone, as if with “the dead light of stars” indeed.
They’re still forecasting a high of 90 this afternoon—32C—but at the moment it’s 56F/13C and I am fighting the urge to put long johns on. “Rain stopping in 19 minutes.” That’s global weirding for you.
This morning’s earworm is from Blackwater Park, a masterpiece of an album by the progressive metal band Opeth, which I had on in the car last Tuesday. So much great music about serial killers! Bartok’s Lord Bluebeard’s Castle comes to mind.
A cheerful thing to hum while fixing breakfast.
One of the great climbing trees of my childhood finally gave up the ghost this spring. Red maples don’t live long but they also don’t die easily.
Enjoy the climb, Virginia creeper! You can’t help that your name makes you sound like a sex offender and an outsider. Hell, I was born in Virginia myself.
Stopping to write down a thought, I see that I left another thought unfinished and expand on that instead, forgetting what I had intended to write. As so often in life one redirects energy from one thing to another. Would I have been a more productive poet if I’d had a career, related or otherwise? Undoubtedly. But I always prioritized happiness in the moment.
the coins I keep forgetting
in my pocket
blowing my nose
a maple leaf’s dry
Half-way down the hollow, the sun comes out. And so, I’m afraid, do the midges. Black flies, I suppose we should call him, a call-back to the North Woods of my early childhood. But the white supremacy embedded in that common name makes me more than a little uncomfortable. As does this cloud of midges. Global weirding—what can you do? My nose begins to itch, a psychosomatic reaction as old as my earliest memories of being engulfed by small biting insects.
A small hole in the middle of the gravel driveway which I always thought was the entrance to a chipmunk bureau has filled with water. What an unexpected thing! (The dictation app heard burrow as bureau, and it’s just too perfect to change.)
I decide to head straight up the mountainside to escape the midges. I forget just how many spring wildflowers hide out on the steep slopes where no one ever goes. They’re past blooming now, of course, but it’s good to know they’re here. And I say no one, but in fact I did meet another climber on the way:
between twin oaks
rain-soaked ghost pipes
This crook-handled umbrella is the best: a cane when I need it climbing a hillside, or a stick to shake rain off vegetation before I walk through it. I was pleased to see, walking with my mother recently, that she uses her folded umbrella to deftly toss fallen sticks off the road just as I do.
sweating through the longest
day of the year
I’m seeing lots of evidence that this year’s much smaller cohort of spongy moth caterpillars has almost entirely succumbed to its main natural control, a fungus. Fingers crossed that oaks won’t be as stressed again as they were in 2020 for a long time—I’m convinced that’s what allowed the caterpillars to build up in sufficient numbers to cause last year’s widespread defoliation, because trees busy fighting drought, after a late hard frost had required them to re-leaf, would’ve had very little energy left over to produce their usual insecticides. Two years later, there are as many dead trees from that frost as there are from last year’s outbreak, though they’re not concentrated on the ridgetops like the latter, but here and there throughout the woods. In either case, just the sort of small openings that are great for overall biodiversity, as long as they don’t presage a new disturbance regime that will turn forest to savanna, as seems to be happening on Plummer’s Hollow’s southeast-facing slopes without oak-hickory cover, where things are kept at a weedy stage of succession—a kind of arrested development—by increasingly harsh ice storms in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer.
If/when sudden oak death aka Phytophthora ramorum arrives here, I may need to be put on suicide watch.
However, it has not escaped my attention that Disturbance Regime would be a great title for something. Or as we GenXers invariably like to joke: if you were ever in need of a rockin’ name for a garage band…
At 12:42 the midges find me on top of the ridge. It’s getting hot. The lucky coins are still in my pocket. My feet are damp but the rest of me feels pretty damn good.
The world is always ending somewhere. Today, so far, it’s not ending here and for that I am grateful. North America as a whole might get through the current economic state-change relatively ok, given our economic, natural and demographic advantages. But I fear for friends in other parts of the world. And for wildness and biodiversity dwindling everywhere.
A shadow of a red-tailed hawk passed over me as I was writing that.
(I love augury right up to the point where it stops being about the birds and starts being about us. How dull.)
When I got home, I found a stowaway on my sleeve:
An immature northern true katydid, if I’m not mistaken.
For the second day in a row I actually manage a mid-afternoon nap, which is great this time of year when the nights are so short but also so enchanting—and keep in mind that Shakespeare etc. never saw fireflies, which are such a feature of June nights here.
After supper, sitting on the porch to begin editing this post, a fringe of grasses at the edge of my weedy front yard, illuminated by the low sun, caught my eye:
When I knelt to shoot the video, I looked around to make sure there wasn’t any poison ivy. Instead, I was delighted to discover a baby tulip tree! I had been looking all over for seedlings to transplant a couple weeks ago, because they’re such excellent yard trees—grow straight and tall, are lovely in bloom, and can live for hundreds of years—but couldn’t find a one. So when I’m not looking, one appears. And in a very good spot, too.
I lost no time making a deer cage for it. Blog posts can wait!