April is the cruelest month, but also, ironically?, poetry month. In any case every night this week has a poetry event I’m attending.
So far the highlight has been a spectacular reading at the North Berkeley Library by B.H. Fairchild. Fairchild has crafted narrative poems from his childhood in Texas and Kansas. He is the son of a machine shop owner, and the poems manage to capture and elevate the smoke and dust motes into light like grails of milk.
You missed the reading, but can hear a sample here. It’s a long poem; sit back and make yourself comfortable, it’s worth it! Such a treat. Continue reading
I really can’t resist them, so when my Silkie hen began sitting on eggs, I isolated her and let her think she was hatching them. Three weeks later I went to the feed store and bought six baby chicks. That night I slipped out the eggs and slipped in the chicks. I brushed a little butter on the chicks’ feathers to absorb the mother hen’s smell.
The next morning, the Silkie adopted the babies (who were several days older than newborn), and the babies bonded with the hen (even though they’d been born in a hatchery). It all worked just as if they had hatched right here.
I kept them completely caged for a few days, then let them out for a bit. The first thing the Silkie did was leave the chicks and take a prolonged dust bath, as if to say, “I’ve been cooped up for weeks–I have to take a shower!”
After about ten minutes of dust bath, she rejoined the chicks and herded them around, teaching them what to eat and where to look for it. She makes the sweetest little clucks when she finds something interesting, and all the chicks gather round. Of course, it also trains me to bring them treats.
If you don’t get enough poetry here, you can sign up with the Academy ofAmerican Poets (www.poets.org) and get a poem every day in your email. This is one that arrived a couple of weeks ago, for all those who knit and wear the pink pussy hats, for all of us, really.
As to Why We Will Not Stop (Making the Hats)
This time it does not begin with the beaver
Instead only halfway up the mountain
Where the sheep we keep each year come through
Winter enough to answer us, enough
For us to shear, deft before the coming storm,
To take away from the body what it did not know
It grew and then astonished each spring to feel
The quickening of the lamb, the heft of
Sudden weight crossing one more patch
Of snow. All with an eye out
For the cougar or some such animal
Of which the DNA is no longer
What it might have been, the coyote now
As part dog part wolf
Already commonplace. We have come to know the truth Continue reading
I have been working in the garden. The labyrinth is gone, replaced by a fountain and lots of herbs and flowers. It should all grow in and be easy to keep free of weeds–at least so I hope.
In back, we’ve been eating lettuce, fennel, green onions, chard and spinach for weeks, with snap peas just starting.
Posted in Garden
A poem as relevant today as it was in 1999. It seems we are always bombing something.
during the bombing of Kosovo
Hevel may be translated vanity
or mist or vapor
the name of the first man
whose brother was not his keeper
It is evening it is morning one day
like mist from ten thousand feet
above the hills bombs fall
like vapor the thin air
is full of them
roads crawl with tanks soldiers
like mist tens of thousands
of refugees cross the border
like vapor from morning to dusk
like mist women in slippers
children in bare feet Continue reading
I’ve been traveling and seen fields of daffodils to the horizon, horses munching the greenest grass, trees in all phases of blossom. Spring everywhere. It made me think of this poem by James Wright:
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Here’s to him! A huge force, if only for City Lights Books.
Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)
Constantly risking absurdity
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
and sleight-of-foot tricks
and other high theatrics
and all without mistaking
for what it may not be
For he’s the super realist
who must perforce perceive
before the taking of each stance or step
in his supposed advance
toward that still higher perch
where Beauty stands and waits
to start her death-defying leap
a little charleychaplin man
who may or may not catch
her fair eternal form
spreadeagled in the empty air
This weekend, all the seedlings went into the ground and today it rained. More rain tomorrow. Occasionally things work out. I felt like a Stafford poem today, and here is one, about practical necessity and what it costs us.
B. H. Fairchild, a wonderful poet, will be reading at the North Berkeley Library on April 18th at 6 pm. Here is a long poem of his that I love. The image of Donatello’s David is mentioned in the poem, so you might as well look at it first.:
xxxxxxTheir sons grow suicidally beautiful. . .
xxxxxxxxxxxx-James Wright, “Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio
We are at the Bargello in Florence, and she says,
what are you thinking? and I say, beauty, thinking
of how very far we are now from the machine shop
and the dry fields of Kansas, the treeless horizons
of slate skies and the muted passions of roughnecks
and scrabble farmers drunk and romantic enough
to weep more or less silently at the darkened end
of the bar out of, what else, loneliness, meaning
the ache of thwarted desire, of, in a word, beauty,
or rather its absence, and it occurs to me again
that no male member of my family has ever used
this word in my hearing or anyone else’s except
in reference, perhaps, to a new pickup or dead deer. Continue reading
I just finished The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasam. I can’t say I read the whole book–a painful though extraordinary tour de force that covers one day through the eyes and voice of a young man in a refugee camp in an unnamed country. I had to skim certain parts, despite the excellent writing.
This paragraph seems so true to me, so beautifully thought through!
“Conversation was a fragile thing after all, like a plant that grows only in rich, warm, nourishing soil. Just as the cells of the human body couldn’t survive above and below certain temperatures, just as human eyes couldn’t see above and below certain wavelengths of radiation, and human ears couldn’t hear above and below certain thresholds of frequency, perhaps there existed only a narrow range of conditions under which human conversation could flourish. It wasn’t that people in the camps didn’t want to talk, for human beings would always talk, if they had the opportunity. Continue reading