Sunday, June 17, 2012

Iridium Nib

I’m watching the Mulberry, waiting for the Oriole’s quick, graceful flash: 
Each season, the last to arrive, the first to leave.
The Grackles mob in, the Robins squawk at each other, their fledglings,
A pale Viceroy flutters by the daylilies, then a Monarch. 

I had a small, neat stack of your letters; standard white business envelopes,
tri-folded eight by elevens inside, filled with your harried scratch.
I can almost see your fingers lankly flicking that fast tattoo
of black twisted lace across each silken page.
A short stack like pancakes, creamy blintzes. 
I wonder what you had meant to say to me,
in those notes from the coast.
I wanted to ask if you had ever smelled oranges,
or almonds in bloom, or heard the ocean’s shush.
But those letters I had kept tight in a crush of blue rubber bands;
they frayed, they flew away.

Last night I was thinking:
You, oh, you.
Like a comfort, as though your shoulder was a pillow for my sorrows.
But when I rested my head there,
the warmth of your torso blazed up like a furnace
and I felt the sudden fragility of your pulse
through the thin print of your shirt,
the unease of the machinery,
and shuddering.

There, there he is . . .
but no sweet slurring whistle here.
He quickly picks the darkest berries
then flies away to the high trees by the creek,
the Cottonwoods, the White Elms
where the woven nests sway,
only there does he un-ply his shiny bill
and sing.


  1. oh, i don't know about the question you asked my way, jane. your language and your imagery hold me in sway. each time you lead me further and further into the forest of your making. i go willingly.


    1. Thank you so much, erin. Inspired by John Keats here--Ode to a Nightingale (see my next post)--more from the feeding of the obsession. I'm no John Keats, but I have birds and butterflies and the coming of the evening and distant is the beloved . . . So, I gave it a shot. Melodious plot, indeed.

  2. I've tried to figure in my head (briefly, not to worry) what your craft entails, and how you press me open from stanza to stanza. It is a gift to move this way, from a butterfly to a stack of letters. Maybe one day I will get past just praising your craft and care more about what you are writing about. But as with any good film, I don't often care what the subject or plot is, it's the film making I care about. I have never been a story person, have had low comprehension reading books. I usually have to read anything twice. But the ability of the artist to lead me into this delectable place is all I know of at this moment.

    And I don't want to parse it out, though it would be worthy of that and would be an enjoyable task.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Ruth. I was so aware of the crafting of this, of the artifice. I realized how I was NOT John Keats, I don't have his language or rhythm, but took his work as a jumping off point.
      It was a very hot afternoon, and I put my head down on my desk like a school girl and listened to "Ode to a Nightingale." How vibrant the lines became, how brilliantly they sparkled. And how lovely to be read to again. I thought of my oldest sister, who passed away last year, reading "The Hobbit" to me and I felt so much joy at remembering that time, how she would try to do different voices for the characters and how she would laugh.

      Your comment means a lot to me. So interesting to think of you not being a story person and I'm seeing myself telling a story here, (much more directly than Keats) but chafing at it a bit because I see the machinations, the devices, the levers and wondering how "true" it is. What is the way I want to write? How do I want to do this show and tell?

    2. Some poet said it's damn hard to make poetry sound this easy and natural. In some way it is unfortunate that the poet has to see and know the craft from the inside. But I think once we know and accept it, that all artists face this, it becomes easier to accept. I grew up loving Norman Rockwell because my parents had a huge coffee table book of his illustrations. Still, now, when I write a poem that draws inspiration from others (often!) I see his self portrait at the canvas with clipped and famous artist's self portraits (Rembrandt, van Gogh) on the edges. That means a lot to me.

      What a beautiful memory of your dear sister reading to you. Oh, MJ. Tears.