Friday, April 18, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 18: Sapsucker

The way a crow
shook down on me
the dust of snow
from a hemlock tree
has given my heart
a change of mood
and saved some part
of a day I rued.

     ~Robert Frost, "Dust of Snow"


Half in the car
half out I pause
ignoring the clock
to listen to the birds
sing in the frost
robin, jay,
crow, song sparrow,
that says "fweep"
or maybe "cheeup"
and a tap-tap
I sense a rustle
and glance up
at a sapsucker
perched on my
open door.
I barely register
its yellow belly
before it is gone
rasping from the trees
but I feel a release
in my chest
a lightening of
my heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 17: Waiting to Give Blood

Waiting to Give Blood

The girl sits on the high school gym floor
Converse low-tops in prayer position
Earnest and eager, she clasps her ankles
And leans forward as she talks to her friends.
When a teacher walks in, she tips back
her thick, dark hair and asks him
what he thinks about her taking a gap year
to go to Guatemala, from where she just returned.
He hems. He haws. He gives the
parent-pleasing diplomatic answer
Go to college for a while first.
Take off a semester.
Try to get credit for it.
I want to grab the girl by her shoulders
And shake her awake.
Go! I would shout. Go to Guatemala.
Some day you will have kids and a job
A husband and a mortgage
And you will never be able to go anywhere.
You will never regret the things you do,
I would say, only the things you don't.
So go right now and never look back.
But I remain silent and instead
Shift my legs, crossing the right over
the left and pretend to read my book.

Weekend Things: Slowly but Surely

The weekend brought one day in the seventies.

A balmy day of melting snow,

Rushing river,

And blue blue skies.

C finished making the maple syrup--and the season did not turn out to be the bust he feared.

And we toasted marshmallows in the evaporator stove box.

This picture sums up this time of year perfectly: snow plow on the left, bike and beach chair on the right, boys in t-shirts.

Sunday we had some April showers and M played a mini concert at the pub.

While a few little emissaries of spring popped up in the yard.

Of course, we've had sun and more rain and snow and more sun and 23 degree mornings since the weekend, but the red winged blackbirds are back and the peepers are peeping in the evening (when it's not too too cold). More and more I see spring as not a steady state, but a slow shifting, with a little back-and-forth. Maybe all the seasons are like that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 16: Last Snow

Last Snow

When I woke this morning,
a thin, white pelt of snow covered the earth.
And I remembered how
you went out to play
in the first snow--
even less, a sugar-sanding
over the brittle November earth
that you tracked through and
scraped into grass-furred snowballs.

Today you were content
to stay inside and read.

Firsts hold all the allure:
First breath.
First cry.
First smile.
First letters crooked across a page
of toothy red construction paper.
First day of school.
First loose tooth.

I do not know
if this wet April snow
is the last for the year. By
lunchtime it had yielded,
leaving behind a hint of green
in the winter-brown grass.

It is like this with lasts.
You don't know they are
until later. They fade away,
leaving behind something new.
Footsteps overshadow the last crawl.
Sentences eclipse the last babble.

Even as I drove out
this morning, green spring stirring
beneath a world furred white,
I remembered my skis,
dusty in the barn
never once touched this winter,
and the skates
and the sleds
and the snowshoes.
Had we used them enough?
Did we make the most
of what we had?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 14: April Abundance

In line at the grocery store I listened to
the bagger and checker discuss the weather:

"It just jumped so suddenly.
From the fifties to the seventies."

One said about the first opportunity
we have had to remove our parkas.

"Yeah, we don't even have spring anymore,"
said the other, oblivious, I guess

To the patches of snow lingering in the woods
And the tiny yellow crocus blooming beside

The walkway to my house, and the peepers
each night, growing their chorus of "spring-spring."

The winter was long and dark and cold
it is true. But worse than the weather were

The relentless complaints from people who in
a few months would be moaning about the heat.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 13: A Poem for My Son

A Poem for My Son on the Occasion of his First Rock and Roll Performance in a Bar

I watch you
watching the headliner band
on a couch with the other kids
ginger-ale in your hand
and I remember
taking you to the pool
at the YWCA
when you were
nine months old
your eyes wide
your mouth a line
you held onto me
and did not move
or make a sound
until I concluded
you were not having
a good time
but when I tried to
climb out the pool
stairs you whimpered
and strained for the water.

Now I know your
serious countenance
means concentration
not unhappiness
so as I watch you watch
the lead singer
a tall blond man with a
white sweat band
bang out Talking Heads
and "We Like the Funk"
I do not worry
about your enjoyment.

Only after you
and your best friend
take the stage
shred out Nirvana
The Ramones
shaggy blond hair flying
with every bang of your head
only after you finish your
set and take a seat
on the couch with the other kids
only then do your lips crack
a lopsided smile
half-hidden by the dip
of your head.

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 12: The River

Yesterday I took a poetry field trip, walking all by myself down to the river while the boys all worked on the maple syrup and rode bikes and played two square. I found a nice comfy spot, leaning against a tree, and wrote a fairly dreadful poem about the river.

The exercise was to sit quietly and listen, then write down what you hear and then compare it to something. I'm not a natural-born metaphor-maker and I struggle with metaphor, simile, analogy, and personification. In fact, I gave a graduate presentation on "Figurative Language for the Metaphorically Challenged," with the hopes that I in teaching it I might get better at it, but it's still a challenge for me.

How about you? Are you a born metaphorical genius or do you have a hard time coming up with figurative language? What are your tricks for developing fresh images and avoiding cliches? What would you compare the sound of a river to? (I came up with marching, applause, shouting)
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