Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Valley

We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay
of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard
when suddenly the wind cools and for a moment
you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost
believe something is waiting beyond the Pacheco Pass,
something massive, irrational, and so powerful even
the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I'm nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you're thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn't your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

--Philip Levine, here

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Daily Life

A parrot of irritation sits
on my shoulder, pecks
at my head, ruffling his feathers
in my ear. He repeats
everything I say, like a child
trying to irritate the parent.
Too much to do today: the dracena
that's outgrown its pot, a mountain
of bills to pay and nothing in the house
to eat. Too many clothes need washing
and the dog needs his shots.
It just goes on and on, I say
to myself, no one around, and catch
myself saying it, a ball hit so straight
to your glove you'd have to be
blind not to catch it. And of course
I hope it does go on and on
forever, the little pain,
the little pleasure, the sun
a blood orange in the sky, the sky
parrot blue and the day
unfolding like a bird slowly
spreading its wings, though I know,
saying it, that it won't.

--Susan Wood

Friday, June 17, 2011

Recalling Tread

I had few years under my belt,
few years anywhere on me really,
though it’s my feet I’m going into here.

Small and supple, untrudged,
they were light on ground,
skimming even when bounding,
laying track in relationship
with my childhood-home turf
as talking heads shoulders above
worried over the budget,
the dinner menu.

First out the front door
they’d meet a slate gray porch,
level perfect, cheek smooth,
lulling as a seashell to put an ear to,
or a foot.

There were deep eaves overhead,
casting shadow, shade; chilling comfort
into a kind of concrete dessert
made especially for feet.
Hurtling across that porch
brought such pleasure,
equivalent of explosions.

Next, a paved path
that wound round the house,
several mismatched seams
precluding a flush finish
and spurring a delightful rash of moss—
velveteen, springform—
with a fixed role as underfoot accomplice
in the mission of circling one’s house
in pursuit of “clues.”

Beyond, the street—
millions of tiny rocks trapped, set—
the occasional soda can tab,
cigarette butt, and DayGlo candy shard
some kid had sucked from start to boredom
littering what felt to feet
like a field of crushed teeth.

This spread, low on ease,
got play anyway, by virtue of expanse;
that is, until six o’clock
when tired young feet were called in
for supper and linoleum.

--me

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Theater as Therapy

Deeply moved on the train this morning, reading a Sun mag story (excerpt) about one Hector Aristizabal. More words w/ this lovely soul here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlXFofXtyic. And some favorite bits from the Sun story:

Sometimes I sit at the computer and type my clients' stories as they dictate them. Then I reflect their stories back to them in a mythical framework so they can see their strengths, so they can see themselves as heroes. I read back what they've written, and I ask them, "Would you watch this movie?" And they say yes, and I say, "That's you! You crossed the Rio Grande when you were seven months pregnant. You didn't know how to swim, and you saw two people drown in front of you, but you kept going. And you got to the desert, and you didn't have water for three days, and you didn't know where you were going, but you kept walking. Isn't that a hero?"

Later, I'll read the story to her kid, who'll say, "My mom did that when she was pregnant with me?"

"Yeah," I'll say. "You were the kid in her belly. You helped her float across the river and make it to the other side."

For me, the American Dream belongs to the people who are crossing the border as we speak. I don't see a lot of people who were born here who still honor the dream. There's so much unhappiness along with all the comforts. The inner wilderness, where we live in anguish because our connections are broken, comes in many forms. For many Americans, maybe it's the isolation chamber of privilege, the emptiness we try to fill by buying things.

--

It would be easy for me to hate [America], but also very useless. Who cares? The entire world hates this place. I'm tired of hating Bush. I have realized there's no point in simply acting in opposition to others. I have to live my own desires instead of just opposing theirs. This is what we all have to do: find our own style of living and working and making love, and do it, I hope, with some beauty and grace.

--

Lefer: You like to say that we need imagination, not fantasy. What's the difference?

Aristizabal: Imagination connects to the deep self, which we can compare to the spirit, the psyche, the unconscious. It is that which moves you, the reason you get up every day. Fantasy connects to the ego. I see most kids today spending their time with fantasy: video games, television--images on a screen that don't connect to anything. When people consume these products that do not connect to life, they consume themselves. When my son does a theater improvisation or is trying to learn his lines and discover a character, he's connected to something. When he's playing Gameboy, he can be absorbed for hours, and all I see afterward is an exhausted child with nothing to give back.

Via The Sun Magazine, Yet Again

"The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Joy, happiness ... we do not question. They are beyond question, maybe. A matter of being. But pain forces us to think, and to make connections, ... to discover what has been happening to cause it. And, curiously enough, pain draws us to other human beings in a significant way, whereas joy or happiness, to some extent, isolates." --May Sarton

"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment." --Henry David Thoreau

"I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am." --Sylvia Plath

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Two Trees

1. Wintering Beech

Tabernacle of green light green shade, summer space
of beechen green and shadows numberless,
that's now but a bony show of itself, all its
ornaments and nest-hiding glad rags
wind-torn and let go where silence opens
its stony arms. Heart without a prayer, voiceless
at the edge of what ails it; a raw illumination
in the near-dark this bleak midwinter weather's
making. But what a life might be going on
and on in there, inside such deep-seated, great-rooted,
passing wonder. And isn't it hard not to feel
a small heart-flutter in chill this morning,
when a wren sings its story from that seasoned, hopeful
hideaway within: something
about the past, as if all happened only yesterday?


2. Ancient Birch

The great white birch in our neighbor's garden--
once a robust, bird-thronged young one, then
middle-aging through seasons of elemental fire and ice--
is now the old-age image of a desolate, defeated, still
upright warrior: breastplate battered to bits, arms broken,
a torso that, antique as it is, wouldn't so much say
You must change your life, as offer a little homily
on the text, This is what it comes down to, all flesh
being grass, yes, but being a tree, too, as it loses
itself piece by solid piece to time and weather, all
the seasonal vicissitudes it's shone through
for decades, year after quickened year composing
a summer home for finch and cardinal, where robins
flashed, and flickering chickadees loved to hide,
that's a barren being now with only the one future
looming: that unblossomed whole body slowly leaving.

--Eamon Grennan, here

Business

"[It's the poet’s business] to make poetry out of the unexplored resources of the unpoetical." --T.S. Eliot

Duplicates

Roll after roll of tape.
Multiples of gloss-gray duct,
dun-colored masking, double-sided
for crafting. So much tape!
Miles more than what’s needed
to attach things that ask it.

Which brings me to batteries.
Every diameter’s here.
Slide fingers through drawer’s cache,
charged-candy clack,
potential to power the devices
of the entire apartment floor.

Still going: stores of Q-tips
and cotton balls, off-brand
sanitary napkins, vanilla lotions
and hair products to thicken,
the disposable Daisies, their pink
faded to skin tone several years out.

What is it about these items
that fills me with sadness?
Maybe it’s the ease with which
they slip the mind, so innocuous
as to compel repeat purchase,
copies common as air.

Then there’s the issue of volume.
That so much of something
can mean so little; subtract
even. Yet still I hold on
to these needling reminders,
their earthly weight.

Which brings me to you,
the memory of your hand
casual on my hip this morning,
how good that felt. Plus all
the other memories: drawers filled,
sweet hold, single source.

--me

This Morning

Midmorning, damp
with dream of farthest reach
(let go! let love!)
and alone
in your apartment,
I struggle to funnel
into anything
porous. Later,
standing over
your coffee maker,
your image is
behind my eyes,
sense of you
swimming through,
place without bottom.
Not my usual
careless self,
I lift the plastic filter
from its holder
and dump the grounds
for the first time in a while,
dumping grounds
with hardest thwacks,
my whole heart
grateful, absorbent.

--me

First Time

Terrifying.

Soul Theories

"A true friend is one soul in two bodies." --Aristotle