Tending the Fire

Here’s another poem from my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:

Tending the Fire

Still I am in the hands of the unknown God; he is breaking me down to his new oblivion…

                                                                             D.H.Lawrence

Don’t you love a good fire?

About every ten minutes,

add a small log.

Keep feeding it.

The heat must be intense enough,

constant enough,

steady enough

to set a husky arm of oak to

 burning from its core.

It’s messy work.

Grit from the twigs on the polished floor,

black soot from the poker

on my hands.

My father told me how to keep a fire burning.

Now he sits in the cold winter sunlight

at the Home,

when the sooty darkness

catches the twigs of day,

I sit before the fire in the dark living room,

on the floor before the fire,

feeding it,

watching it like a TV show about my

still burning, though crumbling love.

The flames orange my face.

Roaring silence

issues from their hunger.

Crop Circles

Here’s another poem from my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky ( Plain View Press 2007):

Crop Circles

“Early in my writing career I came to believe that the stories I wrote were already written in the unconscious by a hand other than my own.” – James Lee Burke

Geometry was my worst subject,

but I love it slicing its way through the cornfield.

Flowers, Mandalas, Pentagrams,

twelve years now, each summer

new theorems.

Snowflakes, insects,

quilt squares,

Who speaks here?

What message whistles

in the high corn?

In the wheat , what coded words

have I been ignoring?

The cure is part of the art,

the unfolding of the origami of pain.

At the approach of the reaper,

sheaves bow down like Joseph’s dream,

not cut,

but bent.

Iceberg

I’m turning away from all the worry and upset and distraction with what is going on in our country, and posting some of my own poems here for a while. Here is one from my book Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky:

Iceberg

An iceberg holds secrets

that nobody knows

but the dead whose ships

have encountered

those frozen mountains

in the sea.

Surely the mouse knows,

with her folded brown body,

who’s wintered with her

small cocoa children

in plastic flowerpots

stacked in the garden shed

stuffed with soft

shredded lawn and leaf bags….

surely her closet-like

palace by the garden in the woods

appears like a corrugated

iceberg to the grass

which slants like waves

around its edge.

Rioters storm the US Capitol

This was a very bad day for the USA. Trump has refused to concede that he lost the election, and he has convinced his followers to go after the senators and congressmen.

Note that the rioters are all White Men. Don’t tell me that there isn’t racism involved.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Protesters interact with Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

An Absolute Patience

Barry Hollywood Winter trees in fog and snow

I certainly do not have an absolute patience, though these months of slowness and isolation have had their fogging effect on my brain.

Anyway, here is a beautiful poem by Denise Levertov:

An Absolute Patience

“An absolute
patience.
Trees stand
up to their knees in
fog. The fog
slowly flows
uphill.
White
cobwebs, the grass
leaning where deer
have looked for apples.
The woods
from brook to where
the top of the hill looks
over the fog, send up
not one bird.
So absolute, it is
no other than
happiness itself, a breathing
too quiet to hear.”


–  Denise Levertov, The Breathing  

the times are nightfall, look, their light grows less

January Twilight photo: David B. Coe

Here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins:

“The times are nightfall, look, their light grows less;
The times are winter, watch, a world undone:
They waste, they wither worse; they as they run
Or bring more or more blazon man’s distress.
And I not help.
Nor word now of success:
All is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one—
Work which to see scarce so much as begun
Makes welcome death, does dear forgetfulness.
Or what is else?
There is your world within.
There rid the dragons, root out there the sin.
Your will is law in that small commonweal…”


–  Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Times Are Nightfall, Look, Their Light Grows Less

Star of the East, the Horizon adorning

art by Andre Pierre

Here’s a song for Epiphany by Reginald Heber, an early nineteenth century poet. I have heard it set to music:

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!2

    Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!3

Star of the East, the horizon adorning,4

    Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.5

Cold on His cradle the dew-drops are shining,6 

   Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;7

Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,8   

 Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!9

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,10 

   Odors of Edom and off’rings divine?11

Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,12

    Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?13

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;14

    Vainly with gold would His favour secure:15

Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,16 

   Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.17

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!18 

   Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!19

Star of the East, the horizon adorning,20 

   Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Painting by Tamas Galambos (Hungarian, 1939–). Oil on canvas.

Happy January!

Here are some hopeful words from Vita Sackville-West:

“The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a
twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.”
–  Vita Sackville-West

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