For Cee’s FOTD.
For Cee’s FOTD.
I love this dark and quiet night
far from the loud and glaring light.
Solitary in the dark,
no mewling cat or warning bark.
The whole world in conspiracy
hides and holds and cushions me.
I move through water, side to side.
Through liquid currents, I freely slide.
Palms backlit by an opal moon
that’s dulled by clouds too soon, too soon.
The silence sliced by mosquito’s whine
mars a night no more divine.
Invader of my private night,
I fear its subtle stinger’s bite.
It moves in circles through the air
from shoulder to my neck and hair.
I swat at where it was until
it, alas, has had its fill.
Then it is off, leaving me
the pleasure of my company
devoid of interloper’s claim.
I wipe out memory of my name,
my age, my talents and my ills.
Suddenly, the pool fills
with the spreading whole of me
becoming part of all I see
and touch and smell and feel and dream.
I am, at last, all that I seem.
I float toward light, then climb the stairs,
free of worry and of cares.
If I can only fall to dreams
before old niggling prods and screams
invade my memory to call
me up against the judgment wall,
my whole intent will be fulfilled.
I’ll have achieved just what I willed.
Such are the charms of veiled nights
that cover over daylight’s frights
and lull us to our sleep and dreams
convincing us life’s what it seems.
At four in the morning, the old cat begins her morning crabby high-pitched “wahhhhrrr.” The wind picks up and I go to pee. Open my laptop and with its very first light, a tiny beetle flies to the screen to wander back and forth, in search of what? Company or bugs even more miniscule? And where has it been in the interim? In what obscure corner of my world has it been waiting for light, like the old cat, barely able to restrain itself , seeking my company at my first sign of stirring?
Does the rest of the world wait for me like this, or is it death lurking in the shadows, waiting for its time? Has life slowed down to this one long communal waiting? My sick friend has left but leaves behind her some of her dejection. I cannot shake it. Return to it after each short departure into the world. I feel an eternity of the ills of the world around me. Optimist rebel in an enemy camp all my life, I now feel myself sinking into the ordinary world. My mood refuses to shift with the sunrise. Even the old cat, still unfed, leaves me alone to my dark mood.
I fear the power of sleep, not wanting to return to that half-remembered dream I woke from. Fear this new self I seem to be becoming. Suddenly, I fear eternity—feel it not my friend.
The Art Lesson
I look at Carolyn.
The teacher hovers over her bright shoulder.
We are sisters, bright and dark.
I stuff a bird’s nest into the hollow of the soft stone I have carved.
My mother will not like it.
She will only recognize the beauty
of the smooth hand
Carolyn has carved from alabaster,
That night, I stuff a snarl of Carolyn’s hair into
soft dung from the horse pasture.
I shape the Mimi spirit from the dung
and place it under the register in our room to dry.
When the cold snap hits,
the room takes on a feculent odor
and she wonders what is causing it.
For three days the Mimi spirit fills the room.
I reach under the register
and its outside surface crumbles in my hand.
I scrape its powder into a small pile.
The figure that is left I put in my pocket.
It is hard-baked.
The hand that held it smells like dead grass.
Some of the powder I sprinkle in a fine line
on the top of the frame around her vanity mirror.
The rest I save in my handkerchief.
The Mimi spirit I take back to class
to put in the nest.
My stone is a stone––
with natural holes pockmarking it.
When no one is looking, I cut my finger with an Exacto knife
and collect my blood.
I unball my handkerchief.
I sprinkle the powder into my blood
to make a paste.
I take a fine brush from the cupboard,
paint the Mimi spirit.
They are all in front of me.
The teacher is in front of me.
No one notices.
I hear her laugh.
I pull a loose thread from my skirt
and wind it tight around my finger
until it turns white.
I take moss I’ve gathered from the oak trees
and I make hair.
I take the ankh-shaped clay tool
and scrape a hollow in the stomach of the Mimi doll.
I go to stand beside my sister,
taking the very small sharp paper-cutting scissors.
They are all watching her,
but no one watches the part of her closest to me.
She laughs, creating the diversion I need.
I quickly cut the very small piece
from inside a fold of her full skirt.
Later, she will blame it on moths.
I have told her about cotton-eating moths,
and she is a sister who always believes me.
I go back to my table at the back.
Still, not one has noticed me.
I trim material away from the part of the pattern I seek.
I cut out the very small figure of a child.
I roll the material I have cut away from around the child
into a tight wad
that I stuff into the new womb of the Mimi doll.
I roll the child into a ball
that I chew and chew
I put the Mimi doll back into the nest in the stone.
Tomorrow I will pack it in a box.
Tomorrow I will wrap it in paper and ribbon.
Tomorrow I will give it as a gift to my mother.
Carolyn will give my mother the hand
and she will put it on her dresser
to display her bracelets and rings.
My stone will lie in its box
in my mother’s bottom drawer.
Next week I will steal into my mother’s room.
I will put the box under my sister’s bed for three nights.
I’ve already dug the hole beneath the willow tree—
in the soft soil where my father used to dig and dig.
Years from now, my mother will wonder where that box went.
Carolyn will have gone away before this, but not me.
I’ll say, “I don’t know, maybe Carolyn took it.”
My mother will slide her gold rings from the fingers
of the hand my sister carved for her.
She will love to stroke the cool hand.
But Carolyn will just keep going and never come back.
This is a poem I have written and rewritten over the past thirty years but which I’ve never published. It’s a dark poem and perhaps that is why I’ve never published it. I can’t remember what prompted it. Certainly, nothing from my own life, but I recently found a folder of very old poems and decided to try to rework some of them. “The Art Lesson” is one of them.
for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.
Steady days and vagrant nights pull this way and that.
By day a busy beaver, midnights a roving cat
haunting every low-life bar, spending bucks and time,
trying to find that side of life apart from the sublime.
Dipping into shadows. Edging around the slime
of the seamier pleasures. Contemplating crime.
Eying dangerous companions but staying self-contained.
All dangerous encounters simply mimed and feigned.
Flirting with the dark side, but reined in by the light,
only skirting stealthily the pleasures of the night.
(Photo for illustrative purposes only. In no way is the poem really about the person pictured!) The prompt words today were vagrant, range, slime and haunting.
Click on any photo to enlarge all. Some may take a few seconds to come into focus.
Shadows of leaves stipple the ground
in swirling patterns, all around,
like footsteps left by tiny feet
dancing to the wind’s wild beat.
They lessen as the sun goes down
and the forest floor turns brown.
The sunlight that all day has made
each leaf stand out as dappled shade
sinks into some other sky,
but soon enough, the moon comes by
with shadows of its own to cast.
With wind died down, their patterns last,
sure and steady, through the night,
each ringed by the moon’s soft light.
Staunch resident of the heavens, the moon—
your constancy our guide and boon—
the pathway that your light lays down
brings my lover from the town
to stand beneath my bedroom pane,
handsome, gentle and urbane,
to nightly plead my hand and troth.
Soft call of bird and wing of moth
likewise beat against the glass,
supporting what will come to pass.
Our passion, soon to come to light,
was birthed in shadows of the night
whereas the light that without fail
will fall upon my wedding veil
will be the dappled light of sun,
revealing what the moon has won.