Monday, June 25, 2007


Have you bent low to see
ants labor in their daily toil
while we live and work and play with guns?

Their industry is joy.
Each to the whole, they work as one,
particular and necessary.

Ask: is every action
essential, nothing secondary,
as they tunnel through the soil?


As they tunnel through the soil,
essential, nothing secondary -
ask: is every action

particular and necessary?
Each to the whole, they work as one,
their industry is joy.

While we live and work and play with guns,
ants labor in their daily toil.
Have you bent low to see?

This poem was inspired by Natasha Trethewey's incredible Myth, from Native Guard. I was fascinated with the way the lines inverted themselves in the second half of the poem, changing their meaning - like walking a labyrinth. Jessica at 9 to 5 Poet did the same thing with Through the Looking Glass, and I knew I had to try my hand as well. I changed the rhyme scheme to be a little more subtle, and don't think I achieved the same inversion of meaning that Trethewey accomplished... but it is still one of my favorite poems I have written. I'm pleased with it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


We go to the island to see the ducks,
but they are gone today.
The lake-dwellers we find are few:
silvery chub, some indolent water striders,
silky filaments of algae, luminous and green.

You are not disappointed.

The sun drops low in the sky, gravid
and red, limning the ripples and the
baby-blond of your hair. I taste
the thick and humid air, watch you toss
pebbles in the shimmering heat.
The sweat drips down my neck, pooling
between my shoulder blades, and I can
feel it gathering: the otherworldliness,
the here and not here, just beyond
the periphery. I know: if I look slant
into the sun, don’t breathe, and slide
my eyes, I will see what is real.

And yet, I cannot hold the focus. The essence
remains just out of reach, tantalizing:
here and not here, not here,

Not here.

Nerodia sipedon swims towards us,
undulating, serpentine.
My companions back away,
alarmed – but I have nothing
to fear from this dark gift.
Caught in its deep ineluctable gaze,
I am transfixed. Who knows
what truths may rise to greet us?

With a sinewy twist it is gone.
Released, I stumble backwards
into the glow, joyous and humbled
by this surprising, wet grace.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Life Lines

Wow. On Poetry Thursday this week, Dr. Jim posted an interesting project called life lines. The idea is "to recall words, lines, by a poet that stayed with you, that you could not let go for the life of you, and then in a paragraph (or two), describe a moment when these words arose in your life in which they brought you understanding, insight, solace, reconciliation, or comfort" and it has been quite fascinating to see what has been significant for people. Of course, it also got me thinking about what lines have been most meaningful for me.

There are many choices... lots of Mary Oliver, Janet Beeler's exquisite Dowry which I have yet to find online, some HD, some pieces by the great Romantic poets. But, when I think about the very first poem I remember having a strong effect on me, I return again and again to Robinson Jeffers' The Answer.

Here's an excerpt:
Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty
of the universe.

Imagine this: it is the early 1980s. I am a quiet and rather shy high school student. I'm interested in the typical teenage things - music (U2 before they were mainstream!), my after-school job as a waitress, my friends, my school activities, my crush/obsession with Clark Gable (yes, I know he was dead) and all of a sudden, I read this poem.

It absolutely sucker-punched me. It took me completely outside of myself and helped me to understand that teenage angst would pass and that even the broken places in life had a place in the whole. I loved and still love Jeffers' belief that one must look unflinchingly at *all* of the world - both the growing and the dying, the complete and the fragmented - or else you will be disappointed when the perfection you seek does not materialize.

These words are an anchor for my life. Those who know me would say, I think, that I am very stoic. I don't cry over spilled milk. I accept what comes. I *do* try to focus on the positive, but I am interested in the way both sides contribute to the whole. Good and bad. Light and dark. Chiaroscuro. I'm fascinated by the way the threads of loss that intertwine our lives intensify life's sweetness, and I think this is a theme that recurs frequently in my poetry.

So - what lines moved YOU?