Water Wheels

Did you see the old gypsy woman?  Did you hear her kindly greeting?

She spoke in hushed tones of a winding path,

and she winked at your bones by the village bath

where our skins grow dark beneath my Lord, the Sun -

where we’re bound together, where we join to be One

with the wheels of the water, the moon and stars.

There shall never ring laughter so bold, such as ours.

A Handful of Daylight

A tremor in the foundation, the end of things as we know them – we dare not speak of rising water, just quietly build the levee.

Strange to view a conclusion so absolute through a lens of knowing turned back on itself, from the vantage point of Here and Now. Still, old predictable resistance can be folded small and dropped into one’s pocket, or cast away among shards of breaking morning.

Winter solstice glides up to meet us, you can smell its breath. Wind has stripped the trees and paid them nothing for it. The trees are just trees, the wind, only wind. If we relinquished our ownership of all things it would be no easier to part with what little light remains. It’s just enough to see by, just enough to make out the transparency of all that appears solid.

Yet once the first drops of light splash the pool of night’s ending, the needle of our compass twitches – illuminated, restless, urging us on. We see ourselves rising from the bed, drawing back curtains to throw open windows, but we can’t always do it. Sometimes there is no movement and we watch the world with an outsider’s eyes.

Sometimes we see ourselves in a circle of standing stones, making a fire where we might set flame to all things. The ring of stone is a place where we might plant something new, once the cinders have cooled and been used to smudge our faces.

A place where triumph and tragedy might coexist, where our praises and lamentations might live together in peace beneath a frost of stars.

Privileged

My eyes are always pulling me into the visible, constantly bringing me back to the exterior. And there are these lines drawn in my mind, lines that divide, names that label. There are clocks and calendars and maps and guidelines and rules and laws, all trying to tell me where I am, when I am, what I am, who I am, what is right, what is wrong. I didn’t put them there, the world I’m a part of put them there.

So it is no surprise that as I lay there with eyes closed, perfectly still, in absolute silence, it came to me: everything is a privilege. And many of the things that appear to be a burden, or problem, are just as much a privilege as anything else.

It would be my privilege to witness this pain, this fear, this worry that has come to me, and then to not be spun out of control by it, to watch myself be flexible with it, see myself move beyond it. As if it were a rock and I was a watery current, flowing forward with gentle insistence.

I am glad to remember the invisible, to be persistent in my acknowledgement of the interior, because what is real is so much more than what our eyes can see.

 

Yuletide

The dawn sky wore Maxfield Parrish blue.  Crescent moon and her north star companion faded clean out of sight like St. Nick in the old rhyming story.  A pair of crows cawed, shifting to the next fir treetop.  The cat and I observed this from the upper deck railing, as we also observed fresh buck tracks in the snow.  We waited for the sun, and when it came it was everything you imagine it to be.

At Yuletide, we want to give the whole world a plate of food and a mug of hot coffee, a homemade pastry and a gleaming new belt-buckle.  It’s the morning when wee ones wake in wee hours and scuttle from their beds.

Sing to me of hearts broken open, lighted windows and trimmed hearths.  Sing to me of high spirits and rare form, of hands made warm, bellies filled, thirst quenched, people lifted from cold back alleys and laid down in warm feather beds.  Sing of bright colored lights and pomander balls, old-fashioned postcards hanging on walls, voices ringing with bells and chimes, songs of peace from Christmas times, until another Christmas – come at last – becomes another Christmas past.

 

Birth of a Poem

Eavesdropping on your observations with transcendental accuracy, the gleam of something half-buried catches your eye.

You investigate it as if it were a valuable relic, bring more of it into the light where you can see it, turn it over with a delicate hand.

Working carefully, you begin to chisel fragments of it away with your lead, your ink, your blinking cursor, until its true shape is revealed.

 

 

Cat’s Last Days

He was smart, for a cat – something people tirelessly admire in their pets. And in terms of being a cat, there was little his eyes didn’t see. Now he’s a crippled old man, no longer a threat to mice, chipmunks or birds. Now he himself is hunted by time and gravity, threatened by the failure of his own body.

He will not last the winter, sitting to look out the window only a few times more, but mostly resting in a warm dark nook with nose buried in tail. The world was here and he came into it and was part of it. The world was here for him to look at through the windows in his head – passing scenery of all that is earthbound.

Nocturnal traveler beneath star-fall. Celebrator of sun, worshiper of sleep and feasting.  Like the ancient Egyptians, I seem to be obsessed with death and cats.  I suppose, had I lived back then, I would have him mummified.

But in this present time, winter has come empty-handed and the cat will be one of many things it takes. Little heart-motor slowed to stillness, as perfectly natural as feeling you can’t go on and reaching out to grab hold of something. Death is the loudest silence you’ll ever hear: expected by all, and nothing to be done about it.

Fudge

I came across the recipe in your old index card box, alphabetically misplaced between Fruitcake and Fritter Batter. “I miss you”, I said aloud as I measured out the sugar, butter, salt and evaporated milk. The cat looked at me expectantly, thinking – as he always does – that I was speaking to him. I combined the ingredients in a small pot, boiled and stirred them for five minutes. Outside, the sun tried its best to shine down on weeds turned brown from ice and frost.

I followed your handwriting with my eyes, blue ink letters across a 4 x 6 ruled index card. You had good penmanship, easy to read. The card must have been white when you wrote on it, but now it was one of those nameless colors – the shade left behind when someone you love dearly has been dead for years.

Remove from heat. Add marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped walnuts, vanilla extract. “I wish I could hear your voice again”, I thought as I stirred vigorously for one minute. I loved you for who you were. No labeling, no naming. Forget “woman”, forget “grandma”, forget “Ruth”. I loved you just as the person you were, how you saw the world, how you expressed yourself.

I thought about your losses while I poured the mixture into a pan lined with tin foil and set it in the refrigerator. You lost husbands, parents, your daughter, your brother. You lost them all and still you sang and danced, brewed coffee, fixed martinis, greeted everyone cheerfully, and followed this recipe just as I am doing now. All that loss, loss, loss, and still you stirred these ingredients every holiday season, scraping them into a square pan lined with foil.

In a way, it is with your hands that I lift it from the pan once it’s chilled. It is with your fingers that I cut the finished confection into little pieces. And it is with your heart of hearts that I arrange them on a platter, in a tin, or in colorful bags, and give them away.