Portrait of an Artist Named Stella

From inside the little house
within the suburban snow globe,
someone’s given us a good shaking.
Our paper weight neighborhood’s
been plopped onto a potter’s wheel
and is riding a most vigorous spin.
Outside, the landscape’s molding
into plaster life masks of houses,
the road. Cars and trucks
idly shiver beneath the skeletal
fine-limned trees that stand and sway
as if stroked in India ink upon
this immaculate gesso. Or at least
that’s what my bleary eyes see
of our homes enclosed within
this seasonal table top tchotchke.
I’m told there’s an escape-hatch
equinox whose surname connotes Green
over the horizon. But the horizon
lies way past anything I can see
through the snow-smoky white winds
spinning around me while I sit
staring out the window in
the little house within the snow globe
on the desk, where the dizzy poet
pens a blizzard named Stella’s biography.

Like a Lion

March Winds, by Graham Clilverd FRSA - 1949

March Winds, by Graham Clilverd FRSA – 1949

March’s winds bend back
the trees, only to fling
them away to swing back for more
bullying shoves, while whistles
and cracks fly like birds
from maple to spruce and back.
Aloft, freezing winds plait
cloud strata into ropes
of black and white, then
knot them into gray snarls
to toss across the blue
like cat toys. Below,
I sway like the trees,
my old joints cracking,
while I whistle and ponder if
this will be the March I’ll
finally untangle myself
from the snarling, the knotty
thoughts of you that roar
in chilling leonine echo
across my ever-blue memory.

Just because…

Scraping Toward Vernality

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The maples stretch for
aging daubs of Winter,
these gray clouds grimly
clinging to want-to-be
Spring sky. Red-bud nails
on their fingertips claw
to snatch what lies
just out of reach,
like an escape tunnel beneath
fickle March to April,
the hope of this dreamer
captured in endless February.
Today, robins delivered
prospects for escape
from this steely season
hidden in their songs
like files within King Cakes.
Sun sinks out there,
later each day, while
shadow maples stretch
across this field
pulling back Winter’s
flimsy blankets, clinging
to a want-to-be Spring…
Just Spring.

A Handshake of Penumbral Equilibrium

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Dawn Moon Copyright © 2017 Annie

At the hour before sun
takes the celestial stage,
I’ll often rise and push aside
the curtains to face West’s
still-lit horizon.
Above the trees,
hangs proud Moon in
full-faced glare,
training its baleful stare
eastward, as if to dare
sun erase its moon-shadows.
Soon enough, East’s ember glow
stretches its lengthy fingers,
to mesh with West’s
in a handshake
of penumbral equilibrium.
The night things
of field and sky,
retire from Sun’s scrutiny.
They’ll repose until sundown
when fresh moonlight awakens
a new arc of insight,
illuminating all these
brightest nocturnal imaginings,
only I can dream.

A poem inspired by this photo by my friend Annie, as part of her weekly Writing Outside the Lines Challenge. I do my best work when the sun and moon meet in dawn’s penumbral equilibrium. Hell, even named my first poetry collection for that edge-of-shadow state of being.

Sacraments of the Snow

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So small is each worker,
yet so united in communion,
that they cloud my view
of what their force builds.
It’s their lot in my back lot
to shape a scape as placid as
a pearl’s face, with whom
even selfish moon feels compelled
to wed it’s center-stage light
in the blackest February night.

But this congregational effort
to absolve the dark transgressions
and from chill gray winter
will only stand as a tent village,
a home temporary as a sinner’s promise,
for these crystallized raindrops
set to ascend back north
when the river ice cries out
and floats south to the sea.

On this Sunday, the frozen souls
will whisper prayerfully
from matins to vespers
in vestments so chaste,
as the soles of sinful men
sully this pristine place of worship,
this mausoleum where they await
the rapture of equinox crawling
beneath the southeastern horizon
toward earth’s resurrection.

Dawn, Feb. 11, 2017

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You stir, cough, roll over and peek one-eyed at the clock signaling in garish mini-sunrise that it’s 6:30 AM. Kicking off the covers, you swing to face the wall while your feet search for slippers hidden in the coolness of your bed’s shadow. Scuffs beneath your feet, you shuffle to the window and pull back the curtain just a crack to see the consequences executed by the overnight snow. Eyes blink their reconciliation with the alarming alchemy cosmically metamorphosing the black-smudge base metal of yesterday into the platinum of a new day. Wedding cake duplexes and cupcake SUVs suspended from the clouds by steamy exhalations surround the cul de sac as gray dawn doesn’t so much rise as just happen. Crows calling in cacophonous amity, scratch away the comforting blanket of bedroom quiet. Four inches? Six inches? Does it matter? You still ache from pushing aside Thursday’s storm, so what’s to come when you eventually step into the subarctic day is just another pile of potential, frozen and tossed upon your front step like a million Sunday papers. You crack your back, grab some socks and head downstairs. Weekend’s come and it still feels like Thursday.

Welcome to my shivering, shoveling, sleep-deprived world. And I count myself lucky to be here in it.

Echoing Days on the Muhheahkunnuk

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The Cohoes Falls, frozen in winter.

As I count down these,
my dwindling days out here
in the country for old men,
I feel my life closing in
even though here the sky’s
so much wider and higher
than it was over the city.
Even with steely buildings
shouldering me on their
right-angle ways toward
this corner and that,
I always managed to escape
thoughts of fewer tomorrows
to the here and now
of the river the ancients
called Muhheahkunnuk.

We’d wander from the anchorage
at Beverwyck to the falls
of Cahohatatea, in concert,
rippling like an echo south,
then north then south again.
I forgot it’s tune here and now,
where the trees shoulder me
toward another sundown,
whispering and cracking
like these old bones. Can I
head back upstream to my life’s
chiming Cahohatatea, perhaps
to drift on new echoes of this
old journey? The we can back up
to push off again tomorrow.

Cahohatatea is the name for the waterfalls where the Mohawk River drops into the Muhheahkunnuk, the Mahican name for the Hudson. Since I retired, sometimes I think the thing I miss most about working in Albany–Beverwyck to its Dutch inhabitants–are my noontime walks along that historic “river that runs in two directions,” its waters pushed back upstream by the tidal flow from its mouth at Manhattan.