April was A POEM A DAY month and this was one I pounded out like bread dough.

Unrecorded

Once she wrote
with the sharp edges of her being.

Strands of her stories were used to make nests
and her words were footprints
that could lead you home.

Then
The Fire
The Famine
The Pestilence
The Wars
left her only with
seven names for herself and all her sisters.
Sentenced as the cause
her story was reduced
to being just a man’s rib.

She was worn as smooth and small as a pebble.
She curled like an apostrophe
in a sentence
describing
history.

The only proof she was ever an author
woven into nests and buried
in unmarked graves.

vasearms

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What the Creative Process is.

The Creative process is:
• Like an ear worm but it plays a song in your head no one else has heard.
• Like the best story you ever heard that you wish someone would write so you could read it again.
• Madness, insanity.
• Devotion, inspiration.
• Why many people live in basements, though there are other reasons too and you may never know for sure which ones are the most compelling.
• The Muse. She will kill you if you follow her and she tells you this repeatedly, and if you want to live well and happy into old age, you’ll spend your life trying to ignore her. Because following her, you will forget to eat, pay bills, have friends; you will cry alone, you will laugh alone. If you share your madness, you risk seeing her dissolve like a dream upon waking. And when she leaves (and she will leave you often) you’ll wander around looking for losers to hang out with only to drop them when she returns.
• The smallest part of writing anything.

Shame

I don’t want to think about it,
manage mostly to forget and,
besides,
nobody else knows.
I look good enough, I smile and I’m fine.
You know I always prefer clothes with pockets and
when i get nervous, well,
I hide my hands.
And there it is,
my fingers slip around it
dried to a hard stone
and soon I’m dissolving in shame
enough to rehydrate a desert.
But you say
that’s just me being dramatic.
You’re fine too.
This was never your heart.

Aberration, a poem

Winter, the air was as dry as unbuttered toast.
Ice formed from any moisture and hung onto any thread.
Children were bundled so if they fell
it would be face up
so they wouldn’t suffocate,
their identities unknowable behind scarves and hats pulled low.
Until a Chinook
when they threw off their stiff winter clothes
and ran in their socks and shirt sleeves
in yards of mud,
no, not ran, but hopped
like new little toads with tails abandoned,
this way and that,
with the randomness of joy.
And when it was over
they came home dressed in other children’s clothes.

I joined the Rusty Cast-Iron April Poetry Club, a closed club on Facebook for the month of April. I tried to write a poem every day. Some days I pulled old poems out of the moth balls and re-worked them. Honestly, it was really hard and time consuming. Whole mornings were taken up with my punching and kneading the raw dough! But it was an honest effort. I am going to post some of the ones I am happy with. NOT ONE A DAY, but maybe one once in a while. Thank you dear reader for you indulgence.

This was Day Five, I think the prompt was to write about a micro climate, which this is not, but it is about a climate aberration… We did experience something like this the first winter in Ottawa.

 

About Oliver Schroer and Music as Inspiration

I started trying to write a poem previously called “Coasting” after watching a science program that showed the link between mankind’s developmental leaps and areas of great tectonic instability, (what would become lakes and coasts) the whole science of metallurgy literally bubbling out of the ground. The soil was often richer too as a result and so agriculture thrived and then communities formed. Trade and commerce followed as we pursed the ingredients needed to make metals and so required the development of new skills, boat building and new ways of living developed.

So the idea of LIFE being a coastline came to mind; Shorelines become places of departure and change but also our homes. Historically venturing out into the unknown was terrifying and exciting, the things of legends and ballads; Fear of Death at the heart of all our stories about the sea.

In Oliver’s own words:

“At the moment we pass through that portal, things rearrange themselves so thoroughly it cannot make any sense to us now. I have the feeling that, at the moment that I slip across, it will make ultimate sense. And I’m not going to look back.”

Listening to Field of Stars everything fell into place.

The greatest departure we can ever make is from life itself. But as we are of the earth, we still see the stars as we once saw the ocean, our next unknown, our next destination. Listening to him play “Field of Stars” I realized this was really what the poem was leading to, and how I would finish it with the tone I had wanted to convey. I never felt it was about the futility of life even though, “eccentric and wild-eyed”  I have cried in frustration at times.

When I read more about Oliver it felt like finding this piece of music was one of those events when a missing piece falls into place.

This is written by someone who saw his last concert:

“The first week I moved to Toronto I went alone to a random benefit concert for Oliver Schroer, a fiddler I had never heard of. He was dying of leukemia and needed money for an experimental treatment. His former students had flown in from the corners of Canada and put together an amazing impromptu show in a desperate effort to save his life. The place was packed.

Oliver was supposed to be at the hospital that night, but he snuck in toward the end of the eve, a frail sallow man in vibrant striped pjs, with a powerful frame, cheerful hands, and hulking Mongolian boots, such a striking visual contradiction. He was in the building for all of 15 minutes attended by a wild interweave of medical equipment and one very concerned-looking doctor, yet he managed to play a single song and see his friends before being rushed back. The doctor insisted that no one touch him. I remember thinking that must be hard.

This piece was played 3 feet in front of me by a man who had dedicated his whole life to music and knew it was likely he would never play another song; yet he had the fortune to play for his most desired and intimate audience. I felt so incredibly lucky to be witness to that. It was undoubtedly one of the most profoundly beautiful experiences of my life.”

He died a few days later.

I bought the album, Camino and learned that the music had been composed during his 1,000 km walk along the Camino de Santiago, an ancient trail between France and Spain. With a portable recording studio, violin, and sleeping bag in his backpack he stopped in the churches to record what you hear.”

Finally, though it seems a bit of a conceit, the poem. But it says something I thought I couldn’t say and now I’m just excited to say it. (Thank you for your indulgence). You can accuse me of defaulting to a sort of religious or spiritual delusion to answer the unknown. My punk youth would argue it is  a cop-out, but my old lady blues would admit she just doesn’t know and that makes room for everything we can imagine.

Beneath a field of Stars
There were the beaches of your youth
where you marked impossible feats in the cool
sand
that you tossed up in cartwheels,
piled up in castles
and burrowed under.
You built and destroyed and built again.
You shone with the dust of eons on your skin.
You
collected tales of seafaring folk,
like polished stones
that you shifted
in your pockets and carried home
Older, you watched the sky for storms.
You got a dog that barked at sea foam.
You never stayed long
then older still,
eccentric and wild-eyed
you climbed to the top of the cliffs,
and you cried:
“I lost everything here. Life was so hard.”
THE COAST with its cliffs jagged and worn
and rivers that spilled and mixed with the brine,
forests old before prophets were born,
all your kin, all your life, all your time,
all those who would have called you back
are gone and you’re
adrift
like a tiny raft lost in the ocean’s sway
alone beneath
a field of stars
a field of stars to light your way.

Poem

Possibilities

by Wislawa Szymborska

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the river.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the colour green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cypher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

From “Nothing Twice“, 1997
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh