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.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Earth Your Dancing Place

Beneath heaven's vault
remember always walking
through halls of cloud
down aisles of sunlight
or through high hedges
of the green rain
walk in the world
highheeled with swirl of cape
hand at the swordhilt
of your pride
Keep a tall throat
Remain aghast at life

Enter each day
as upon a stage
lighted and waiting
for your step
Crave upward as flame
have keenness in the nostril
Give your eyes
to agony or rapture

Train your hands
as birds to be
brooding or nimble
Move your body
as the horses
sweeping on slender hooves
over crag and prairie
with fleeing manes
and aloofness of their limbs

Take earth for your own large room
and the floor of earth
carpeted with sunlight
and hung round with silver wind
for your dancing place

--May Swenson

Reflections on Childhood Days at the Avon Allen Home

As read at Grandma Clara’s memorial service, June 15, 2013

“You can let go now Mom”:
my uncle to my grandmother.
And she of strong Norwegian stock
did, passing quietly on a still June evening. 

The next day, alone in my bedroom, I spiral up from a nap
and think of long days spent at Grandma’s,
years before the containment of adolescence. 
The whir we generated, my brother and me, 
in the yellow-green of midsummer—
whispers in dusty carport corners,
peels and shouts from apple tree boughs,
our fists small blurs still so careful with caterpillars.
We propellered in and out of years-soft towels
and fine lavender nightgowns bobbing on the clothesline, 
and when we grew tired we dropped to the grass 
and caught fat minutes of rest—
buzz of bugs and distant mowers filling,
fueling us with unnamed longing—
before starting up again. It was all so absolute,
we were practically see-through. 

And later, my grandma—soft and creased and kind—
at the kitchen counter prepping dinner, 
humming a song from another world as my brother and I, 
grubby and happy, sat at the table 
under the spell of cottage cheese with pears 
canned in sweetest syrup. 

My thoughts are still back there when my husband enters softly,
kissing the top of my head 
and lowering our eight-week-old baby into my arms. 
And in the wake of weeks grayed 
with the anxiety I’d come to associate with breastfeeding, 
“You can let go now Mom”—
these words reach me. And I do,
my whole body untensing, relaxing against the sheet.
And praise Light: my new son latches easily, 
feeds sweetly, melts into me. 

--me

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

From "Don't Let Me Be Lonely"

There was a time I could say no one I knew well had died. This is not to suggest no one died. When I was eight my mother became pregnant. She went to the hospital to give birth and returned without the baby. Where's the baby? we asked. Did she shrug? She was the kind of woman who liked to shrug; deep within her was an everlasting shrug. That didn't seem like a death. The years went by and people only died on television—if they weren't Black, they were wearing black or were terminally ill. Then I returned home from school one day and saw my father sitting on the steps of our home. He had a look that was unfamiliar; it was flooded, so leaking. I climbed the steps as far away from him as I could get. He was breaking or broken. Or, to be more precise, he looked to me like someone understanding his aloneness. Loneliness. His mother was dead. I'd never met her. It meant a trip back home for him. When he returned he spoke neither about the airplane nor the funeral. 

--Claudia Rankine

String of empty tin cans rattling

Yes. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Iowa City to Boulder

I take most of the drive by night.
It's cool and in the dark my lapsed
inspection can't be seen.
I sing and make myself promises.

By dawn on the high plains
I'm driving tired and cagey.
Red-winged blackbirds
on the mileposts, like candle flames,
flare their wings for balance
in the blasts of truck wakes.

The dust of not sleeping
drifts in my mouth, and five or six
miles slur by uncounted.
I say I hate long-distance

drives but I love them.
The flat light stains the foothills
pale and I speed up the canyon
to sleep until the little lull
the insects take at dusk before
they say their names all night in the loud field.

--William Matthews

Flying

Treetops are not so high
Nor I so low
That I don't instinctively know
How it would be to fly

Through gaps that the wind makes, when
The leaves arouse
And there is a lifting of boughs
That settle and lift again.

Whatever my kind may be,
It is not absurd
To confuse myself with a bird
For the space of a reverie:

My species never flew,
But I somehow know
It is something that long ago
I almost adapted to.

--Richard Wilbur

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Variation on a Theme

Thank you my life long afternoon
late in this spring that has no age
my window above the river
for the woman you led me to
when it was time at last the words
coming to me out of mid-air
that carried me through the clear day
and come even now to find me
for old friends and echoes of them
those mistakes only I could make
homesickness that guides the plovers
from somewhere they had loved before
they knew they loved it to somewhere
they had loved before they saw it
thank you good body hand and eye
and the places and moments known
only to me revisiting
once more complete just as they are
and the morning stars I have seen
and the dogs who are guiding me

--W. S. Merwin