Underweavings

Darwin's Finches
1 
My mother always called it a nest, 
the multi-colored mass harvested

from her six daughters' brushes, 
and handed it to one of us

after she had shaped it, as we sat in front 
of the fire drying our hair.

She said some birds steal anything, a strand 
of spider's web, or horse's mane,

the residue of sheep's wool in the grasses 
near a fold

where every summer of her girlhood 
hundreds nested.

Since then I've seen it for myself, their genius—
how they transform the useless.

I've seen plastics stripped and whittled 
into a brilliant straw,

and newspapers—the dates, the years—
supporting the underweavings.

2 
As tonight in our bed by the window 
you brush my hair to help me sleep, and clean

the brush as my mother did, offering 
the nest to the updraft.

I'd like to think it will be lifted as far 
as the river, and catch in some white sycamore,

or drift, too light to sink, into the shaded inlets, 
the bank-moss, where small fish, frogs, and insects

lay their eggs. 
Would this constitute an afterlife?

The story goes that sailors, moored for weeks 
off islands they called paradise,

stood in the early sunlight 
cutting their hair. And the rare

birds there, nameless, almost extinct, 
came down around them

and cleaned the decks 
and disappeared into the trees above the sea.
Deborah Digges

Bird of Mine

I have a Bird in spring
Which for myself doth sing —
The spring decoys.
And as the summer nears —
And as the Rose appears,
Robin is gone.
Yet do I not repine
Knowing that Bird of mine
Though flown —
Learneth beyond the sea
Melody new for me
And will return.
. . .
Then will I not repine,
Knowing that Bird of mine
Though flown
Shall in a distant tree
Bright melody for me
Return.
– Emily Dickinson

“What you’ve come to.”

My Life’s Calling

My life’s calling, setting fires.
Here in a hearth so huge
I can stand inside and shove
the wood around with my
bare hands while church bells
deal the hours down through
the chimney. No more
woodcutter, creel for the fire
or architect, the five staves
pitched like rifles over stone.
But to be mistro-elemental.
The flute of clay playing
my breath that riles the flames,
the fire risen to such dreaming
sung once from landlords’ attics.
Sung once the broken lyres,
seasoned and green.
Even the few things I might save,
my mother’s letters,
locks of my children’s hair
here handed over like the keys
to a foreclosure, my robes
remanded, and furniture
dragged out into the yard,
my bedsheets hoisted up the pine,
whereby the house sets sail.
And I am standing on a cliff
above the sea, a paper light,
a lantern. No longer mine
to count the wrecks.
Who rode the ships in ringing,
marrying rock the waters
storm to break the door,
looked through the fire, beheld
a clearing there. This is what
you are. What you’ve come to.

digges

Deborah Digges

1950 – 2009

via wood s lot

UPDATE:  Tribute to Digges at NYT with her poem, Seersucker Suit

I Thought I Was Immortal

Embrace Them All

Parc Georges-Brassens, Paris
Most afternoons, I’d run laps through Parc Brassens
where grows the second smallest vineyard

I have ever seen, and where those silver,
pruned-back stalks looked blunt,

strung-out on wires, and mostly dead
all winter. That was how I saw them.

That’s all I expected. Even in the cold,
I’d see a guy my age there, once a week,

playing his guitar. He’d sit next to the bench
where I’d be stretching. He rarely spoke—

just to ask if I’d like a song—
until the week before I left for good.

I was sitting at the top of a hill
about a hundred feet away from where

if you stand tiptoe you can see the Eiffel Tower.
He sat too close to me. We spoke of many things.

Then he suggested we go at it right there,
on the ground, under the sun. This is how

one lives who knows that she will die:
rolling in the arms of anyone when she can—

rolling in the arms of a musician—aware
that no one cares much what we do

in little knolls behind reedy forsythia,
in the middle of a Tuesday, in the middle

of living. And I would know now
how he felt, and the ground against me,

and whether he was rough or sweet.
And what is possible would widen every hour.

Oh, but me, I thought I was immortal.

Katy Didden

From Poetry Magazine Podcast:  The editors discuss a new John Ashbery poem from the March issue. Plus, Seth Abramson, Katy Didden, and Fanny Howe on her memoir The Winter Sun.

Katy Didden at Poets Against War

This Complex, Heartbreak Survival

The Gilded Shadow

The impact is simmering down, as into

a solvent liquid. That I’ll never hear your voice

again, but through a medium like

rain. Or will see you but in a lightning flash.

You are nature’s speech, the young girth

and deadly imprint.

I eagerly wait the date of your rebirth, in

the endless window-sky. Hovering cloud, really a

gilded shadow that lights your face outline. Waters

and land permit no elegy translated.

But a stark villanelle, facts rendered.

An indefinite, glorious seeding,

the element that draws us closest. Nucleus of

a meadow, the grass-tips’ ghost your

being. Bend me to earth, the only hereafter after death.

O shades beneath the sun. Or I don’t understand it —

like embracing a mystery hole in our minds,

this complex, heartbreak survival.

Jane Mayhall

– died March 17, 2009

What Was That Whiteness?

For Once, Then Something

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven, godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths-and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

Robert Frost

Life Contracts

The Death of a Soldier
Life contracts and death is expected,
As in a season of autumn.
The soldier falls.

He does not become a three-days personage,
Imposing his separation,
Calling for pomp.

Death is absolute and without memorial,
As in a season of autumn,
When the wind stops,

When the wind stops and, over the heavens,
The clouds go, nevertheless,
In their direction.  
Wallace Stevens

I Got Lost

Beach Walk

I found a baby shark on the beach.
Seagulls had eaten his eyes. His throat was bleeding.
Lying on shell and sand, he looked smaller than he was.
The ocean had scraped his insides clean.
When I poked his stomach, darkness rose up in him,
like black water. Later, I saw a boy,
aroused and elated, beckoning from a dune.
Like me, he was alone. Something tumbled between us–
not quite emotion. I could see the pink
interior flesh of his eyes. “I got lost. Where am I?”
he asked, like a debt owed to death.
I was pressing my face to its spear-hafts.
We fall, we fell, we are falling. Nothing mitigates it.
The dark embryo bares its teeth and we move on.

Henri Cole

Henri Cole’s Blackbird and Wolf won this year’s Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize recognizing the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States in the previous year.

Henri Cole at poets.org

Henri Cole at poemhunter