White Lady

This entry is part 27 of 36 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

 

Page 27 of Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

My familiars are growing too familiar. Under what cushion have I left my wing of bat? Let all members remember their proper places: I conjure you, you conjure me. The most enduring fictions emerge from consensus—and we’re a family. Talk to me, my long-lost caricature! The armrest has claimed my right hand, as well it should. And my viper has appointed himself to the search committee for a new rat.

muggy night the shadows under a sheet

Outside-in

This entry is part 25 of 36 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

 

Page 25 of Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

At a certain level of complexity, the wild and the civilized may appear to merge. Both seethe; neither is a shadow of the other. Call it cohabitat.

rag rug uncoiling a python

Lonesome Holler

Sometimes I think the loneliness would be unbearable if I weren’t surrounded by ghosts. But seeing fireflies this early in May gives me an eerie feeling. The crescent moon is nearly alone in the sky, glimmering through a scrim of clouds. The aurora got rained out, and now the night is loud with all the voices of water as it runs off a mountain.

It occurred to me recently that in hilly country, those who are afraid of heights like me might often end up on mountaintops, because going straight up a steep hillside usually feels safest. Going sideways is scary, and downhill too perilous to contemplate. So onward means upward simply to avoid the abyss.

making the stars quake mountaintop peeper

Out with the Old

Barely noticed below the riot of spring wildflowers, last year’s leaves are breaking down into a common duff. Towhees aren’t as noisy now as they rummage for roughage.

deer skull and spine
on the old skid road
stretching my legs

Even the once-waxy oak leaves have worn thin, though the tailoring is still sharp—a close fit to the planet, which I see caricatured in a freshly fallen oak apple gall, green and glistening, the remains of its hacked leaf sticking out like a hitchhiker’s thumb.

standing water—
a birch tree perches
atop each stump

It’s humid. As the air warms, a cloud of gnats gathers around my hat.

snap
of a flycatcher’s beak—
winter’s gone

Roommates

I remember a roommate who was afraid of moths, and would chase them around the room with a tennis racket yelling Ga! Ga! (moth in Japanese).

I remember a roommate who played his guitar every evening to accompany the passionate cries of a woman we never saw, who lived on the other side of a thin wall. Sometimes we caught a glimpse of a man going out to work the graveyard shift.

I remember a roommate who found a half-empty can of paint remover in the cellar and sat down at the kitchen table with it, leaning in to take deep breaths and talking all the while, until his words became completely unsentenced and precipitated randomly out of the fog.

I remember a roommate from a landlocked country in West Africa who saved every scrap of printed paper, because you couldn’t simply throw the written word away! It required some kind of ceremony which none of us knew. And so the local newspaper came to stay—a tower in the corner that kept its aging headlines to itself while the rest of us shouted at the game.

white-footed mouse—
my house has an entrance
i’ve never seen

Respite

At the rest pit I blogged my life out, one oodle per screen. It worked until it didn’t. Until the cows came home, because of course they do, and you toggle on poetry mode thinking to escape into some timeless present. With a present like this, who needs birthdays, amiright? The nerds have learned how to summon demons, and put them straight to work in the search engines that drive our data-mind economy. The demons will be parsing everything I’ve ever written. I write for them now. Though they possess neither organic life nor the capacity to feel, they are my most attentive readers.

flycatcher
in a snow squall
sitting it out

Lookout

You have to drive quite a ways to escape the sound of traffic. In the end, though, there’s no getting around it: you have to get out and walk. I follow an almost vanished trail to a high point called Penn Lookout where the scenic vista long since grew in. I have the former picnic area all to myself. It’s too far from the road. When I snap a photo of the low light through the trees, the camera shutter startles in the silence.

fall colors
a yellowjacket’s
unsteady flight

Stargaze

Never having believed in happiness, it occurs to me, might have had something to do with why i never actively pursued it. If it showed up regardless, well and good, but in general, day-to-day contentment seemed enough. And you know, maybe it is. For far too many around the world, it’s an unattainable dream.

But what about love, Dave?

And you call yourself a poet!

Pleiades
syncopating
crickets

Lonesome Water Revisited

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

homage to Roy Helton

All the while i sat watching the rocks, a spider was right behind me mending her web, knowing i offered protection from the birds. You’re never as alone as you think. I hear water trickling underground, remember that fateful drink and grin. It’s not so lonesome i could cry. And when i do, it’s just to talk back to coyotes, or that family of barred owls who hoot like chimpanzees. When the sun goes down, the hollow turns strange. Jumping mice dance in the moonlight. A whippoorwill clears his throat three times before he launches into his diatribe. Corpses of trees glow with foxfire and flying squirrels whistle high and thin like ghosts—whose ghosts, one can never be sure. Once i found a green stone that had been worked, given an edge that could still scrape a hide. It fit so easily into my hand. It took all my willpower to put it back into its hole. The original owner might not be done with it yet.

three-toed root—
they’re saying my name
in Raven

Star attraction

If I ran a movie review site, nothing would get more than one star. Movies would compete for fractions of a star.

Times are lean. We could run out of stars.

No one could afford to live under such a dark sky. They’d go mad with loneliness.

I saw another fireball the other night. Spend time under the stars and you see things: fish, a bull, a hunter, you name it. It’s so liberating to realize thanks to modern astronomy that the universe isn’t about us.

That said, there is a gas giant in my guest bedroom. My older brother can’t help his stature or intestinal difficulties. In his religion, everyone gets their own universe someday—a classic Ponzi scheme if you ask me. But what if it’s true?

I think the opposite is more likely the case: everything is drifting farther and farther apart, into an ever emptier void. You can already see it happening. People have that distance in their eyes.

the high inhuman
shriek of a dying rabbit
4th quarter moon

(via Twitter)

***

Finally got a good look at the pair of red-breasted nuthatches who’ve been hanging out in the spruce grove all year, according to my younger brother, and presumably nesting. Like the red squirrel i got a good look at yesterday, they were right near Dad’s grave. The spot is beginning to feel a bit magical, I have to say. Currently there’s a bit of fresh rain-water in the reflecting rock. I’m sitting on the bench listening to the stuttering calls of Linne’s cicadas, “a steady pulsating rattle sounding like a saltshaker” as the Songs of Insects website puts it. They outnumber dog-day cicadas now, of which I’m hearing just two—that buzz-saw whine. I’m also hearing what sound like falling acorns, a very hopeful sign.

***

In my poetry i want to write about nature without breathlessness. Don’t know whether i always succeed. Sharing new poetry on social media is an essential part of my probably Quixotic quest to normalize talking about wildflower sightings and wildlife encounters in the same way people post about the latest books or movies they’ve consumed.

I suppose in time I’ll end up creating a personal iconography of favourite species and other natural phenomena, licensed by the ubiquity of the smart phone and modern search engines—hardly any reference is too obscure anymore. For all that the internet has diminished attention spans, it does still expand access to layers of context that previously would’ve escaped all but the most knowledgeable of readers.

***

Successful ideologies are those that promise more than they can deliver. That way their adherents are never forced to answer for their beliefs. Evangelical conservatism may soon be dead as a political force because its adherents actually achieved one of their main goals, and everyone else is horrified.

***

Somewhere in the world right now a 90-pound weakling is sitting beside a hotel pool writing an epic novel and a 300-pound man in a tiny basement apartment is sweating over a haiku.