Sunday, January 30, 2011

Favorites of Nature Poems from the Dissertation


This one I’ve never heard
but I remember the old mountain story
about the woman who is tricked
and hands her baby over the fence
to a bear, who she thinks is her husband…
and I have dreams about bears
they change into people and change back
I change into a bear and change back
I sit in a tree and sing to one
until fierceness turns docile
like a puppy
and, god, I miss those mountains
It’s a pain in my throat and the only place
that causes me to cry when I see it and when I don’t.

So we’re all kin and we’ve all married
our kin and we continue to find them,
we continue to look for their twinkling eyes
in the hills of every place.
One may come lumbering out of a cave
give itself shape apart from the trees
and look like me and feel like me
and like the polar bear be the loneliest
--that’s because he hasn’t got any mountains.

Why do I miss it? The thing I’ve never had?
It was a distant backdrop to my childhood dramas
but a visit is a visitation
the place where mist is at dawn
where I fished on the Shenandoah
where morning glories dot even the sun.
Stories of bears reside in my flesh
what is commonplace there
becomes extraordinary elsewhere.

Aunt Hanran may have used a broom
to chase that bear off her back porch,
I’ll invite him in to sit by the fire
dust the snow from his fur
and ask for all the things he knows.
I’ll bid him stay till spring
he may tell me where the treasure is hid
or what enchantment he is in.

I am close in nature and nature
is close inside me. Woods and Mountains
become my house and call me.
If I don’t have you covering me
I dream of bears and an ancient wooden door
and my Daddy calls to tell me mountain lore.

Nature's Dream of Otherworld

for Edwin

Wrap yourself in a blanket
go out on the porch,
to the rocking chair.
The wind has turned cold
gusting through bare woods
tossing purple clouds
into the darkening night.

Rock away,
the yellow cat
peers into your face,
wondering, just wondering
“Is that really you?” he asks.

I know nothing,
I came out here
to let the wind blow through my soul,
to get a taste of purple clouds,
to swing my heart
on the crescent moon,
to glimpse nature's
wintry fresh
dream of Otherworld.

Squeaky Wheels Passing Overhead

Fifty squeaky wheels
roll over my sky-head
sudden dawn at pre-dawn
high above me flying wheels
in pre-wake sleepy
think—Canadian geese!

Why am I awake this moment?
just at this turning over?
in time to be observer?
beholder of the passage?
Holder of sacred portals
their journey and my listening.

I drift again and dream
the geese stop to visit
and stand at the top of stairs
I look up at them
My father, gone five years now,
stands beside me delighting also
--we gaze upward
at our magnificent visitors.

I wake again and see images
of snowy Canada
and the warm coast of Mexico.

Bird in a Tree

A bird singing in a tree
brought to mind
something I’d read
a study on reciprocity,
how bird-song calls
the plants and trees to bloom
and how plants and trees call
the birds to sing their growing song.

The clouds too soak up moisture
from the earth in order to be—
floating around the world
dropping rain at the earth’s request.

So too the sun must need the moon
(because in the night I need to remember)
the moon would be a floating rock
if it weren’t reflecting sun.

I saw a black creek yesterday
reflecting a cloud full of pink light
I needed to see that
for my growing up
It needs me to see it too—
for there is light known
and metaphor is born
when I see the sky
reflected in the earth’s eyes.

Born to the Earth: Newgrange, Ireland and Charlottesville, Virginia

They move all around
glimpsed by feeling
in the greenness of moss
in the otherworld wind
that blows a deep silence
atop an ancient hill.
In the passage to the
womb of the earth
I am being born
this time, as I go in,
not as I come out.
Born to the earth
rather than the air.
This zipping into other
time and space
is easy, yet
I am stunned—
something has just
happened to me.
will I ever fully
grasp what?
The ground sways
back and forth.
it’s not the ground
of the new world.
I will take this
hand-branch of the tree
and what it knows
it will pass onto me—
as the Otherworld wind
blows, the dusk settles
and a farmer and dog
gather in the lambs.
They have been
scattered on the hill of Tara
where ancient kings married
the goddess—the earth—all one.

Writing this in the hills
of Virginia, I look up
and see four little deer
run through the winter woods.

At once, I am here in magic,
and I am there in magic,
as thresholds to
Other worlds
make their appearance
in every place.
Even one tree alongside
a superhighway
can beckon to me,
perhaps this is what
it means to be
born to the earth.

The Eagle and the Snake

Stepping through a thicket
to get a glimpse of the creek
a vision opened
as if it were in
my psyche:

an eagle flies up
to the top of a tall tree
carrying a long snake
in its mouth.

I come to this place
with injury
I leave
knowing all is well
all is available
magic is mine.

Black Angus Memory

Black Angus cattle
stand like gods
amidst the trees
and startle a little person
in their stare
their stance
their breadth.

I’m relieved to be
standing on the back
of this 1939 pick-up truck
with all my brothers.
Holding tight to the cab
we ride over bumpy
unmarked pasture
and there they are.
I tighten my grip.
Nothing could move them.
We’ve come to count you,
but who is counting whom?

My grandfather leans out
the cab window and utters
an uncharacteristic sound
low in the throat:
and I see them coming over the hill
a body of great dark beings.
Not daring to get out of the truck

we start to count them

without knowing why.

In my end is my beginning…

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

This robe of snow and winter stars,
The devil take it, wear it, too.
It might become his hole of blue.

Wallace Stevens, “Snow and Stars”
in Ideas of Order


Leave your name behind
enter here to seek
that which you wish
find that which
you are not looking for
do not think of intentions
or of boundaries
this is not a place
where in the dark
you can find your way
by touch
this is not familiar.

Yet in this forest
it is quiet
the silence in-between things
my breath forms a cloud
the night sky is loud
with stars and trees
stand tall speaking
with only posture
the sky now shiny black
has begun to drop feathers.
I forgot how snow
makes no sound.

Memories float through my
waiting mind:
(what is it I’ve come here for?
but to allow the cold air
to come in a snowflake pattern
through my mind
heavy with fixity)
in the garage
my brothers and I
will wax the toboggan
the sleds, the skates
find the hockey sticks
tomorrow is full of plans
of nothing, but snow.

Indoors is enemy territory
forced to come into
land of temporary Mom
refuge for numb fingers,
then urgently we must
get back outside.

Once my brothers built igloos
from the world of nothing
came a white entrance
into nothing-ness
where only children could go
so many crammed in there
that it became—something
and lost its play.

Now I feel compelled
to build my fire
dry wood is in my pack
I want to see what will happen
when I mix fire and ice.

Though I’ve built fires before
and watched them until
a chemical change
came about in my brain
and time and safety
made a home in me.

Now I want to see
how fire alters this beauty
a landscape outside me.

It is this deep painful desire
for beauty that drives me.

When the flakes hit the fire
they say “ssssss…”
I watch and the night dances
snow, trees, air, stars, fire
they watch my sudden fluidity.

I laugh as I consider
in snow-less Dallas
how stars and snow
also dance here together:

unintentional pearls.

Deep in the forest
is an enchanted princess
each night she sits
by a water-well
she takes off her mask
of ugliness and her beauty
shines forth like the day.
She weeps tears of pearl
and so unintentionally,
by happenstance,
leaves a trail
for her past
and her future
to find her.

This Grove of Trees

There is a wide circle
I am surrounded by it
it is filled with silence.
Each day is a documentary,
I consider what is growing,
how to make my life sweet,
the slant of morning light,
the complaint of crows.

I will slowly turn moments
turning towards a breeze
nothing has changed
but it will.
Love and honor this
for I was born to love
even to disregard blue light
as great engines
slowly, suddenly, pass by
this grove of trees,
shaking the ground,
while I stand still,
knowing, this grove of trees

that I am here knowing
this grove of trees
was once not forgotten.

Mother Moon

Shall I take up this conversation again?
A question from me
that rises to mother moon.
Yet if I cannot believe her
who can I believe?
She speaks of hope
of beauty
of change
in nightly perspective.

“Remember, I reflect,”
she says…
the conversation
doesn’t stop here
it continues
in whoever gazes
who chooses to see
to hope, to reflect…


Snow again

everything must freeze

be white

have dreams

be night

dazzle the world

with crunch

dance in the kitchen

expect nothing

and everything again

float down feathery

and catch on the grass.

“A Local Habitation and a Name”

To sit in the moonlight
wrapped in a blanket
rocking back and forth.

As the dark grows
I hear many walking
in the woods
I see only shadows
in the pale light
as they walk or
scramble through the
fallen leaves
to be close around.

I hear breathing,
some walk slowly
stopping to consider,
others follow each other
in a mad dash,
all the while
the owl hoots
high up in his overview.

Nocturnal comings
and goings,
dreams while awake,
bathing in cold moonlight
all heals an un-named pain.

Beauty, movement, animal
beings, dream sequences,
happen outside me now.

The dark formless
inner stirrings
take shape
and are given
“a local habitation
and a name.”*

* from William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream