“Common Living Dirt”

We were all out digging and clearing today.

I come from a family of Polish farmers on my mother’s side. (My father’s side of the family were more educated and tended to be white collar workers in old Poland.)

I love digging in the dirt. It has to be in my genes. And that’s also probably why my son is now part owner of a herd of urban goats and just loves taking care of them.

And that’s why this poem by Marge Piercy is one of my favorites:

The Common Living Dirt
by Marge Piercy

The small ears prick on the bushes,
furry buds, shoots tender and pale.
The swamp maples blow scarlet.
Color teases the corner of the eye,
delicate gold, chartreuse, crimson,
mauve speckled, just dashed on.

The soil stretches naked. All winter
hidden under the down comforter of snow,
delicious now, rich in the hand
as chocolate cake: the fragrant busy
soil the worm passes through her gut
and the beetle swims in like a lake.

As I kneel to put the seeds in,
careful as stitching, I am in love.
You are the bed we all sleep on.
You are the food we eat, the food
we are, the food we will become.
We are walking trees rooted in you.

You can live thousands of years
undressing in the spring your black
body, your red body, your brown body
penetrated by the rain. Here
is the goddess unveiled,
the earth opening her strong thighs.

Yet you grow exhausted with bearing
too much, too soon, too often, just
as a woman wears through like an old rug.
We have contempt for what we spring
from. Dirt, we say, you’re dirt
as if we were not all your children.

We have lost the simplest gratitude.
We lack the knowledge we sowed ten
thousand years past, that you live
a goddess but mortal, that what we take
must be returned; that the poison we drop
In you will stunt our children’s growth.

Tending a plot of your flesh binds
me as nothing ever could to the seasons,
to the will of the plants, clamorous
in their green tenderness. What
calls louder than the cry of a field
of corn ready, or trees of ripe peaches?

I worship on my knees, laying
the seeds in you, that worship rooted
in need, in hunger, in kinship,
flesh of the planet with my own flesh,
a ritual of compost, a litany of manure.
My garden’s a chapel, but a meadow

gone wild in grass and flower
is a cathedral. How you seethe
with little quick ones, vole, field
mouse, shrew and mole in their thousands,
rabbit and woodchuck. In you rest
the jewels of the genes wrapped in seed.

Power warps because it involves joy
in domination; also because it means
forgetting how we too starve, break,
like a corn stalk in the wind, how we
die like the spinach of drought,
how what slays the vole slays us.

Because you can die of overwork, because
you can die of the fire that melts
rock, because you can die of the poison
that kills the beetle and the slug,
we must come again to worship you
on our knees, the common living dirt.

Mag #213

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Mag #213

windpeople
Pieces from a whole,
painted with fantasy,
hide an older history
of blood and scars –
the puzzle of memory.

No mythic glyphs or ruby slippers
no magic of moth or spirit of sage
can ever return
the Kansas Wind People.

Mag #212

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Mag #212

My Bed by Tracey Emin

My Bed by Tracey Emin

Depression

It descends
without warming,
squatting on your chest
like the demon it is,
the weight of its message
holding mind hostage,
the detritus of being
rising like a moat around
the bed where you lay
beleaguered by fear.

Sit, Walk, Write

According to Natalie Goldberg, writer and teacher, the order should be “Sit, Walk, Write,” but, as is my nature, I fudge things to fit my nature. Following directions is not one of my strong suits. I improvise.

When the temperature hit 50 degrees today, I went out for a stroll (again, my nature) under a clear and sunny sky. The cool breeze brought the non-scent. of a waning winter. There is still snow on the ground. Vague puddles cross my path.

I can barely hear my footfalls, although that can be more the effect of my diminished hearing rather than the soft tread of my measured heel-to-toe pace. I doesn’t matter.

Cracks in the asphalt form telling mandalas, and I wish I had brought my camera to capture the symmetries of these unexpected partnerships between man and nature.

A young woman jogs past me and turns up a hill that I always find too strenuous for my strolls. I am not going anywhere. Have no place I have to be. It is that time of my life when strolling is the way to go. (Unless, of course the Amtrak Writers Residency project picks me to “sit, ride, write.”)

The same young woman passes me again, this time going the other way. I wait for her to pass me yet again, because three is a magical number, but she doesn’t. Is there meaning in that?

A young boy, about seven years old, walks past me on the other side of the street. He is pushing what looks like a doll’s carriage; it’s too small for a baby. When he walks toward me later, coming the other way (it seems like everyone is coming and going, but I just keep going), I stop and look through the mesh into the stroller. It’s a big orange cat. He says the cat’s name is Oliver. I look down at the logo on the stroller. It’s a pet carrier. Why not.

When I sit, it’s on the sunny front steps with my daughter and grandson. We sip our teas and chat. I need that kind of company/togetherness, and they provide it. I feel lucky.

In a moment of silence, I wonder how my son’s goats are doing. It is the year of the goat. And of goat therapy. Sometimes magic happens.

The clouds finally drift in from the west, and the breeze picks up.

Now it’s time to write. And I am.

Mag #211

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Mag #211

Feast in the House of Simon, 1610, El Greco

Feast in the House of Simon, 1610, El Greco

It was the custom of Simon the Zealot to invite his friends to feast at his home after the sacrificial piety of every Sabbath. Of course, that meant “men only,” for we women were not allowed to participate in those raucous discussions of politics and providence. As a female in his household, my task was to keep the wine flowing as freely as did the details of their dialogues. Just by being present in that room, I learned much about the workings of men and government – the subtleties of reasoning and ruling, ideas that never insert themselves into the conversations of women. The men rarely noticed my presence; my purpose was to serve and be silent, and I used my role to my advantage.

And so it went, until the day that Simon invited to the table the man who caused a welcome disturbance at his wedding by magically changing barrels of water into barrels of wine. While I was attending to other wedding guests when this supposed miracle took place, I cannot assert that this actually happened. However, I did taste the “miraculous” wine and have to say that I found it quite fragrant.

Now, the day that Jesus joined Simon the Zealot’s table, everything changed. While the debates still agonized over the world’s politics and providence, they became less heated and more thoughtful, as the graceful gestures and soft responses of the man, Jesus, orchestrated a calmer tone. I marveled at the way he could hold the attention of every man there without even raising his voice. And there was something about his eyes, radiating a warmth and acceptance that penetrated to even the most doubtful heart.

It was not long after that Simon the Zealot left his wife and family to follow the man, Jesus – followed him out into the world of politics and provenance, joined others who did the same, all aroused by the man’s gentle promise of a world suffused with peace and harmony, fairness and compassion.

They say that there were some women who followed him, as well, for he welcomed all who welcomed him. I never left the house of Simon the Zealot, although sometimes I would dream of solemn eyes that brushed my soul and hands that graced the rest with a merciful yearning.

Sorting Socks

I have over three dozen pairs of socks. And that’s not counting the ones without mates.

I can’t imagine how I ever accumulated such a stash, but it’s typical of my reluctance to get rid of stuff. Psychological stuff as well as physical stuff. Sometimes it works to my advantage, for example, when my grandson is rooting around for some odd and end for a project he is constructing. I usually have whatever it is he needs. That reminds me of the earlier version of this book that I bought for him when he was a toddler.

But, like my stash of socks, there is stuff I don’t need to carry around with me. The writing workshop I took yesterday brought that fact home with great clarity.

Sorting socks is not the complete answer. But it’s a start.

Now, if I can only get an Amtrak writer’s residency, that might really give me a fresh start.

Starting fresh at age 74. Hmm. I can be Amtrak’s Grandma Moses. Ya think?

[Oh bollocks! I just realized I put the wrong Facebook url in my application. That might knock me out of the running right there. Too soon old; too late smart.]

Magpie Tales #208

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Magpie Tales #208

Poet’s Sleep, 1989, by Chang Houg Ahn

poetsleep

When poets dream,
the earth grows bones.
Stones hurl themselves
through windows
open to the lure of night,
only to return,
filled with shadows
that divine the dawn.

my raging PMS poem

One of the advantages of being post menopausal is that I no longer get the raging PMS that — in retrospect — I think was responsible for messing up my various relationships, including that with my parents.

Back in the 50s and 60s and 70s, PMS was considered a fabricated rationale for plain ol’ female bitchiness. Now, we know better, and I know that what I (and my friends and family) had to suffer through was actually my PMDD.

It’s hard to describe what it felt like to go through those terrible fits of insanity to those who have never experienced it. So, at the time, I wrote this poem — which, I think, pretty much says it all.

Tooth Mother

A sliver of moon
like a sharpened claw
slits the underside of April,
sending clouds as heaving as stones
onto the roiling rim of earth.

It is time for the Tooth Mother’s coming.
She tears through my skin,
talons sharp as the moon,
eyes that slice, breasts like scythes
along my hungry tongue.
She breathes into my mouth
the bold remains of winter,
turning my cries to ice,
my thoughts to stones
that roll like clouds
along my ragged edge of mind.