Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Big Sky Country

This week's Poetry Thursday prompt is Blue...

Packing for Montana, I try to be ruthless,
stripping down. Just the essentials:
warm sweater
new toothbrush
three pairs of socks.
When my rucksack is full, I coil my rope on top.

I made this rope.
Selected the fibers, twisted and twisted
until they kinked and smoothed
into a cohesive whole.
Hemp for the base, simple and strong,
the feather a blue jay left on the porch
clippings from your latest haircut
threads from the hem of my old jeans
and wool sheared from the sheep down the road.
Long enough to tie to a fencepost and
wrap three times around my waist.
I'll anchor myself with the pieces of our life.

Big sky country:
I know what will happen.
Ensnared by the wild and dangerous song in my heart,
forgotten by gravity,
I'll cease to hug the earth
and fall into the great oasis of the endless azure sky.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

You May Be Hungry Soon

I'm going to delve into Sunday Scribblings. This week's prompt is Fortune Cookie....

You may be hungry soon. Buy some takeout now.

This is unexpected. I'm a voracious consumer of Chinese food, a fortune cookie veteran. I know the drill: I get the inane fortune, the one written in fractured English, the Jack Handy version: Great things awaits you. My partner gets the philosophical one: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We read them aloud, adding the obligatory in bed, amused. Toss them aside, untouched by the words.

But what to make of this? A tongue-in-cheek advertisement, slipped in by some entrepreneurial soul? A message from the cosmos? A harbinger of famine ahead? In bed doesn't work with this fortune. It is strangely unsettling. I make a joke, cover my unease with laughter - but surreptitiously, I slip the paper into my pocket.

Later on, I take it out. The paper is slightly crumpled and I smooth it with my thumb, the heat from my body fleeing it into the chill air. Plan ahead! Be ready! The voice of this unseen sage contrasts with another in my mind: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)

Treasures in heaven. So far, so distant, so untouchable. I do plan ahead; my pantry is full. Tinned beans, batteries, extra toilet paper. You never know when the wolf will be at the door. So how can I not store up treasures on earth? How can I not gather memories and joys, clutching them desperately close, building them up in the larder of my heart?


Landbound, I dream of the coast:
The kiss of salt on my lips, the bite of sun on my cheeks,
Roiling surf seducing me, caressing me,
depositing one perfect whelk at my feet.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh promised me a gift from the sea.

So we go.

The beaches are quieter, early in the morning,
before the crest of the heat and the swell of the crowds.
We share the shoreline with a large Amish family.
Incongruous: the girl-children dance in the waves
in their blue and purple dresses.

No whelks or sand-dollars are to be found;
Nothing glamorous and fine.
Only mussels, black and glistening,
a few broken quahogs,
irregular oysters,
and the occasional shattered slipper.

I gather them anyway.
Rinsing off the sand,
turning them in my hands,
laying them gently in an orange pail.
Each of these was created by God
and lived out its life with dignity.
May the same be said for me.