Sunday, June 19, 2011

a plunging stone

Though I scrubbed my feet
with myrtle and mint,
I did not make it to Chicago.

The caterpillars
of Black Swallowtails
work the rue,
and I,
I watch.

I watch as the day
Coltrane-rolls into afternoon;
Miles in jodhpurs, perhaps,
a white oxford shirt
half untucked,
leaning in on a single bright note—
a gooseneck lamp bent
over a desk of
whiskers and polka-
dots and moonbeams
through years
of eventides.



  1. With Coltrane and Miles, you can watch and listen too. Nobody needs Chicago when there are caterpillars to watch.

  2. Thanks, Rosaria.
    It's strange how the universe works.
    I had planned to go to Chicago to The Art Institute with my Artist Way ladies on Sunday. I haven't been anywhere in ages and this seemed the ideal opportunity to go somewhere and do something. A few days prior, however, I learned that my oldest sister had inoperable/untreatable cancer. Oddly enough, my first trip to The Art Institute was with her and two other sisters by train some 40 years ago. I bought a book--Hiroshige's Tokaido in Prints and Poetry--which I still have.
    I took her grapefruit sorbet and cream puffs on Saturday (by her request). That I could do. I had last seen her at Easter. She had suddenly aged 20 years or more. It was clear that she was dying. But she was still able to smile and talk. "Your poetry is wonderful," is one of the first things she said to me. She read my blog. I saw that she had a Blick catalog near her bed. She was thinking about watercoloring again. I wondered if I could set up a lap desk easel for her. I thought that she might live for a little while longer.
    I went home and got ready to take the train to Chicago. The next morning I woke up early with the Robin's song at 4:13am and felt unwell. I thought fear was holding me back and preventing me from taking this trip. Something told me to stay. So I stayed. I met up with my friends and sent them on their merry way on a somewhat rainy morning. I immediately felt regret as we separated. I came home and wrote this poem. A few hours later I got the news that she had died. I went to our family farm for one last look at her sweet, peaceful face and said, "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you" and goodbye. I was so grateful for all my sister had done for me and so glad that I had stayed to say goodbye.

  3. jane! what comes to mind is the oddest thing through these tears. what comes to mind is, i must celebrate you. is that not strange. and yet. i feel it. celebrate you. and yes, celebrate your sister.

    you are like a fine book of poetry captured 40 years ago but just without the capture part.

    i am so sorry for your sister's passing and yet i am so glad for you both.

    much love

  4. Oh why, why oh why do our faces have to be scrubbed with these tears? How can beauty come through, but it does, it does, it floods me out. Oh Jane. And they are celebrating tears, Erin. That too. I just know we are all old books, waiting to be read and reread. And your sister will be read and reread by you, and we will read her through the book of you.

    I am hugging you all.

  5. First, the loss: so so sorry, friend. Your retelling of it is packed with so much bittersweetness that I grieve and celebrate so full a heart.

    Second, the poem (the art): The best thing about aesthetic imagination is that it doesn't have to take a boat to paradise (or the Art Museum of Chicago) (or to the Vanguard in the Village 40 years ago to catch a set by Miles with Coltrane). Most of what is found there stays in this poem; the rest is train rails disturbing a sleep with contrary rhythm and bad hot dogs.

    So so sorry again, MJ -- its wonderful that she was able to appreciate your gift. Its that part you share that can endure. - Brendan

  6. I read this poem several times, each time thrilling to the images, phrases. Thank you for this, especially the resonating last word, years.