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Archive for August, 2012

Aware

by Denise Levertov

When I opened the door

I found the vine leaves
speaking among themselves in abundant
whispers.
My presence made them
hush their green breath,
embarrassed, the way
humans stand up, buttoning their jackets,
acting as if they were leaving anyway, as if
the conversation had ended
just before you arrived.
I liked
the glimpse I had, though,
of their obscure
gestures. I liked the sound
of such private voices. Next time
I’ll move like cautious sunlight, open
the door by fractions, eavesdrop
peacefully.

“Aware” by Denise Levertov, from This Great Unknowing. © New Directions Publishing, 1999. Reprinted with permission.

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Reminds me of the ideas in Anne of Green Gables and the Raggedy Anne books – that things we think are inanimate or insentient have a life they hide when we are there.  It’s an intriguing idea and I am never sure if I’d like it to be true or not.

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Brilliant, this day—a young virtuoso of a day.
Morning shadows cut by sharpest scissors,
deft hands. And every prodigy of green—
whether it’s ferns or lichen or needles
or impatient points of bud on spindly bushes—
greener than ever before.
And the way the conifers
hold new cones to the light for blessing,
a festive rite, and sing the oceanic chant the wind
transcribes for them!
A day that shines in the cold
like a first-prize brass band swinging along the street
of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds
with the claims of reasonable gloom.

“Celebration” by Denise Levertov, from This Great Unknowing. © New Directions Publishing, 1999. Reprinted with permission.

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I love the picture of this — but the best part is the last bit.  Losing the summer weather and feeling the cold creep in is always depressing for me, but the gorgeous autumn weather, the cold and blue skies with the leaves of green and orange, yellow and red, help this season change with joy.  It’s easier to be happy in September or October, but when I really need to remember this is in November, when the days come darker and there is no snow yet to brighten everything.  I need to forget the “reasonable gloom” and find the part of each day that shines for me, even on a cold and rainy day.

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Year after year after year
I have come to love slowly

how old houses hold themselves—

before November’s drizzled rain
or the refreshing light of June—

as if they have all come to agree
that, in time, the days are no longer
a matter of suffering or rejoicing.

I have come to love
how they take on the color of rain or sun
as they go on keeping their vigil

without need of a sign, awaiting nothing

more than the birds that sing from the eaves,
the seizing cold that sounds the rafters.

“Old Houses” by Robert Cording, from Walking with Ruskin. © CavanKerry Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

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I love the character of historic houses – sometimes I think I would like to live in one.  It seems wonderful — the memories in the walls, the things people have seen and done, the years that have happened and been lived in it.  The character of the woodwork and the craftmanship of old architecture.  I know that floors squeak, water pipes might not be up to it, outlets might be scarce, but someday I would love to live in a beautiful old house.

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My father’s farm is an apple blossomer.
He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet
and weaves a lane of lilacs between the rose
and the jack-in-the-pulpits.
His sleek cows ripple in the pastures.
The dog and purple iris
keep watch at the garden’s end.

His farm is rolling thunder,
a lightning bolt on the horizon.
His crops suck rain from the sky
and swallow the smoldering sun.
His fields are oceans of heat,
where waves of gold
beat the burning shore.

A red fox
pauses under the birch trees,
a shadow is in the river’s bend.
When the hawk circles the land,
my father’s grainfields whirl beneath it.
Owls gather together to sing in his woods,
and the deer run his golden meadow.

My father’s farm is an icicle,
a hillside of white powder.
He parts the snowy sea,
and smooths away the valleys.
He cultivates his rows of starlight
and drags the crescent moon
through dark unfurrowed fields.

“The Farm” by Joyce Sutphen, from Straight Out of View. © Beacon Press, 1995. Reprinted with permission.

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I want to write like this when I grow up…I love poems about the country and the seasons, and this is lovely and evocative.  It reminds me a little bit about what I like about the book Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood — the beauty of the changing seasons and the poignancy of passing time.

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Sometimes, out of nowhere, it comes back,
that night when, driving home from the city,
having left the nearest streetlight miles behind us,

we lost our way on the back country roads
and found, when we slowed down to read a road sign,
a field alive with the blinking of fireflies,

and we got out and stood there in the darkness,
amazed at their numbers, their scattered sparks
igniting silently in a randomness

that somehow added up to a marvel
both earthly and celestial, the sky
brought down to earth, and brought to life,

a sublunar starscape whose shifting constellations
were a small gift of unexpected astonishment,
luminous signalings leading us away

from thoughts of where we were going
or coming from, the cares that often drive us
relentlessly onward and blind us

to such flickering intervals when moments
are released from their rigid sequence
and burn like airborne embers, floating free.

“Interval” by Jeffrey Harrison, from Feeding the Fire. © Sarabande Books, 2001. Reprinted with permission.

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Happy summer evenings — why do we forget to look at small things when we get older?  I think when we get too old to appreciate the world around us — we have “seen it all” — that’s when we truly get old.

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A Boat

by Margaret Atwood

Evening comes on and the hills thicken;

red and yellow bleaching out of the leaves.
The chill pines grow their shadows.

Below them the water stills itself,
a sunset shivering in it.
One more going down to join the others.

Now the lake expands
and closes in, both.

The blackness that keeps itself
under the surface in daytime
emerges from it like mist
or as mist.

Distance vanishes, the absence
of distance pushes against the eyes.

There is no seeing the lake,
only the outlines of the hills
which are almost identical,

familiar to me as sleep,
shores unfolding upon shores
in their contours of slowed breathing.

It is touch I go by,
the boat like a hand feeling
through shoals and among
dead trees, over the boulders
lifting unseen, layer
on layer of drowned time falling away.

This is how I learned to steer
through darkness by no stars.

To be lost is only a failure of memory.

“A Boat” by Margaret Atwood, from Selected Poems II: 1976-1986. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987. Reprinted with permission.

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No great comments, just like the mental picture and the idea of the darkening lake.

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