In the quiet lulls between my son’s vomiting,
when he sleeps, the sweet relief of oblivion,
my mind wanders through impressions vast
and heavy-laden with possibilities,
and I write the first pages of a new work
that bloomed in the petri dish of influenza.
The world melts around me
as the sun caresses
the contours of my city.
A robin addresses
blue sky studded by
clouds hurrying past —
Don’t linger here! Fly! Fly! —
Do I spy a blade of grass?
Or is this mere flirtation?
A sly come hither glance?
Who cares? On this temptation
I’ll blithely take a chance.
A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here
A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.
It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.
Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:
A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.
This past week I was pleased to open an email from the nice folks in charge of the East Lansing Poetry Attack that read in part, “Your poem Alison’s Poem is destined for a tree in East Lansing.” Readers of my old blog may have seen this before, but I couldn’t find it anywhere here at A Beautiful Fiction, so I’ll share it now. I wrote “Alison’s Poem” on the morning of my sister Alison’s March 24th birthday a few years back. Older than me by less than two years, Alison is the firstborn of the family, but not the first conceived. I was thinking about how my mother must have felt to see her after a miscarriage during her first pregnancy, and so I wrote this…
Clear dawn over the snow-dusted lawn
Deep gray gives way to a subtle ray
Then bright and vibrant hues chase the night
Sweet pink, then yellow—orange—green, I think
So fades cold evening to the next day
So things of winter melt into spring
The poem will be displayed this Sunday, April 26th, at 1-4 PM in the trees in front of the East Lansing Public Library as part of the 3rd Annual East Lansing Poetry Attack. Some of the poems will later be moved to city hall and displayed during the East Lansing Art Fair, May 16-18. More details on their Facebook page.
These are the first lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, a poem in nine books which was particularly beloved of Emily Dickinson. I’m just diving in to my copy, an 1884 printing of the 1859 text. This quote strikes me, a professional copywriter who is ever writing for others, as a lovely, selfish thought. That is what my fiction is–writing for me, for my better self.
Spring is a time for poetry. And so I share with you what I wrote this morning.
One Morning in March
It is March,
and the white sky
seeks to remind us of it,
hunching low over the bare treetops
like a fog.
Yet this day we recall
that we did not
settle upon a glacier
or the icy moon Europa,
but upon earth.
brown and bored,
peeks from beneath
the serrated grimaces of soiled snowbanks,
so reluctant to give any ground
Traffic lanes and parking spots
we had forgotten
grow at the margins of this white world
like the black beaches of some volcanic island
of the ice storm emerges
like an ancient ruined metropolis.
Oh, yes, we say,
I remember that storm.
Only the snow made me forget.
I pick up the keys
I dropped in the driveway—
the first dirt
to work its way under my fingernails
the dog’s muddy prints
on the kitchen floor
don’t raise my ire.
I don’t sigh and say, “Sasha!”
as I might have.
We shake ourselves awake
at the birds.
That’s right, we say
There are birds.
When I was a child with elastic skin
I sat in the bathroom
and wondered at my mother’s eyelids
stretched into narrow fissures of flesh
by a finger at the corner
then traced with a brown pencil.
Now my son builds imaginary worlds
in the other room
unaware that I am looking in a mirror
stretching my eyelids into fissures of flesh
with a finger at the corner
and tracing them with a brown pencil.
Oh, March. You fickle month. You bringer of sunshine and rain, then ice and snow. You can’t decide whether to reveal the toll the winter has taken on the earth or to cover it all back up again. The birds sing, the red-winged blackbirds and robins and turkey vultures have returned, the very first crocuses have bloomed and frozen. The sap and the rivers are running, but I am sitting inside with my coffee wondering just how much longer until I can get out in the gardens and start cleaning up your mess.
Here’s a poem about March I wrote in 2007 and have been modifying ever since. I think I may have it how I want it now.
Month of crows
Driven rain in slush-filled gutters
All the flotsam of winter’s rage—
Empty bags whipped in wheezing wind
Parking lot valleys in the shadows of
Mountains formed from filth and snow and abandoned shopping carts
The frail sun pretends to shine
A sudden squall and all is beaten down again
comes the green
comes the green
The sun shines stronger
the days grow longer
and all my fondest hopes of spring
see fulfillment in one blossoming