There he sits! Wonder if I can get any closer.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
...and which of its roses three
is the dearest rose to me?" - Robert Browning
This is the prettiest thing I've ever grown, and one of the prettiest things I've ever seen. Even back when Julius and I grew camellias, I never saw one as pretty as this simple, single red rose. The single cane is full of buds, and I need to move it away from the pink rose bush. Moving roses is very difficult and risky--for me, at least.
It's planted too close to the pink (Cecile Brunner). I've forgotten the name of the red rose, but "rose is a rose is a rose," to quote a female whom I hate to quote.
I've ordered a couple of plants, or more than a couple, from Breck's. Some of them will be shipped in the next month. I've already fixed it with Steve for his crew to clean out the yard under the trees; the leaves are calf-deep where they haven't been mowing, of course because there isn't any grass, and dead limbs all over the ground. I went out there this morning and pulled some more dead limbs out of one tree. I also pulled dead limbs out of the foliage across the back, so Steve's guys will (I hope) clean those up, too. Jerry might want them to save for kindling for his fireplace.
~The two bunches of plants that I'll have to plant this spring/summer are three astilbes in different colors to put in the front flower beds, and a bunch of lily-of-the-valley bulbs that I'll put in big planters
Actually, all I plan to put in the back right away (as soon as they clean it up) is all the spider wort I can dig out of Pat's yard and transfer to the bank that the Atchisons built to keep out rain-overflow from the drainage ditch, for a sort of rock garden
But for fall planting, I've ordered a few colored irises (for the front of the house), some winter aconite (tiny yellow flowers) for a ground-cover patch in back, and a bunch of small white Dutch irises that will grow in the shade of the trees.
It used to sprawl down this hill in a tumble,
Singing and talking,
Flinging itself through twigs and brambles,
Leaving them shaking.
Now brown leaves, pebbles, and a dead willow
Mark the dry course,
Faint signs that I can scarcely follow
To find the old source.
Seems all of it must have escaped for good
From the sand and gravel,
Fled downhill, across the road, to the woods,
Seeking its level.
It grieves me like personal disaster,
Though I never owned it,
Unless it became mine only after
I lost and mourned it.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Mountain Rapture(Linked sonnets)
I. Cry of the Hawk
Upon the highest treetop poised, aware
Of sky above and dizzy drops below,
I spread my wings out wide as they will go
And sunward spring through icy mountain air.
I stake no claim beyond the steeps I climb,
I cannot name the ecstasy I feel;
Yet in this ringing atmosphere I reel
On windswept wings through cloudscapes dearly mine—
My home these heights, my nest this craggy place.
Gifted with sight that needs no guide or chart,
Hunting I glide, and with unruffled grace
I rule and ride the winds that whirl and dart.
Once more alight, exultant from the chase,
I clutch the bright rough world against my heart.
II. Song of the Poet
I can stand anywhere on Mount Cheaha,
Drink in the crystal air like homemade wine,
Stretch out my arms and feel this planet’s pulse
Like my own lifeblood reeling through my veins.
I close my eyes and search my soul for truth,
And find my love for earth is rooted deep
In mountain vales, and born of wind and rain.
I love this rock-strewn, corn- and cotton-sown
Sweet Alabama land, and all the earth
Spread out around it; sand and sea I love,
As far as clock or chain can rule or mark.
Here on a rock I stand in Alabama,
My thoughts like wings unfurled against the sky,
And hug the whole rough world against my heart.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Morning Before a Storm
Clouds with wings of gold
enfolded pale blue morning
that a moment died,
rose up white noon, and
O bright cumulus
flung clear around
my unsuspecting stratosphere!
How can even God
behold this gleaming day, yet stay
in place, while higher
every mile the sky grows! I
would tumble treeward
rumbling, See My Wonders, See
Creation Glowing, Hear My Thunder!
I, myself, although
no god or wing-blessed being,
must fling my senses somehow
high enough to reach
and reel among those sun-dipped fields
of light, dance there, cling there,
or of sheer worship die!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Nature seems to hate all kinds of roads;
It wants them bent and folded, strewn with rocks,
Then quickly covered up with undergrowth,
And makes sweet gum and pine shoots spring up bigger,
Faster, where there used to be a road.
There used to be a road across the mountain
That cut the farm in two; round a steep bank,
A wagon trail branched off up the Grape Hill
And stopped at the spring, beside a double oak
With one trunk straight up, one trunk bent out sideways
By a hundred years of climbing, swinging children.
One year the last of the old folks left the farm;
They were there first, the old ones, and they clung
To what their hands had built, until their children
Moved them to homes that were only far from home.
For a while the sun shone bravely, the rain fell,
The wind blew round the buildings playfully,
Shouting to lure us back if we were listening;
Nobody heard, and nobody came. The land
Was rich but rocky, and grew rockier.
Its rudimentary roads uphill and down
Soon lost their edges and began to merge
And blend into the landscape. When your roads
Begin to go, you’d better hurry up
And do something about it; but we lagged,
Quarreled and talked, and cursed the four wheel drives
That could still navigate the main road’s length,
In spite of all our big no-trespass signs
That soon were shot full of holes. Deer and fox hunters
Enjoyed the place, we heard, especially
After the buildings burned out of their way.
The buildings burned, all traces disappeared;
The old house, new house, smoke house, chicken house,
Log barn, plank barn, cabin, spring house, all
Except some chimneys and foundation stones—
Soon these, too, sank and were buried in the briars.
Meanwhile our lives grew brambly as the land;
The old ones, then their children, died and sank,
Till very few were left who knew for sure
There used to be a road across the mountain
That cut the farm in two.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The thing that I wanted most was solitude.
I bought five acres, planted them in vineyards,
And built my cabin, two rooms facing east;
In summer lived in both rooms, but in winter
Closed off the room that didn’t have a fireplace.
The day I went to town to buy a hoe,
A brindled dog followed me home and stayed
For seven years, then one day disappeared.
I sold strawberries, wine from my grapes, brandy
Flavored with peaches from my dozen trees,
And melons from a patch so up-and-down
The fruit would roll and dangle by the vines.
I had one neighbor, but we seldom spoke.
Infrequently a wagon traced the road
Across the mountain, passing near my vineyard,
And now and then I walked to town to trade
Or sell my produce. In a few years, too few,
I had a stroke, and then I had to go
To Richmond with my daughter, there to live
What time was left, if you could call it living.
I respect God, and if I ever see him
And he grants me a wish, all I mean to ask
Is an acre hidden on the far slope of Heaven,
My old stray dog, and to be left alone.
Friday, April 24, 2009
What have I to do with houses?
Soot and smoke a chimney causes;
Walls of wood shut Nature out;
Floors of stone cause ache and gout.
Door and window, wall and gate,
Lock and key, a prison make.
Free soul, what is a house to me?
Home is where we choose to be.
Yet wood and stone have power to start
A longing in my human heart,
And dreams of home involve a door
That I stand, deed in hand, before,
And wake myself with shout and din
And bellowing, to be let in.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Landscape by an Alzheimer’s Patient
Gold for the meadow, gold,
for the hill, green.
Warm brown for shadows in between.
Strokes of colors bold
on the canvas cold.
Thin fingers working, bent and lean,
old in the summer, old.
For the years green
lie drowned in shadows, slipped between
fingers fumbling, cold,
for youth’s warm gold
lost in some half-remembered summer scene.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The house was empty, but the years went by
And children came and wouldn’t go away
No matter how you scolded; at first a few,
And then so many that you couldn’t tell
Which ones were yours and which belonged to neighbors.
You told them they could stay if they’d be quiet
And keep their fingers out of stuff that bubbled;
They meddled, though, made noise, and teased the cat.
They used to follow you when you were busy,
Pull at your sleeves and pester you for magic,
Even at their own expense. They never learned
That magic is in the way you handle things;
The bats and mice would play with them by the fire,
But only because they took the time to play
With harmless creatures in a lonely house;
Now, grown and impatient, they still look for magic.
When one of them knocks at the door with a list in his hand
Or a look in his eye that says, I need a chain
Of nine green stones, one broken; an old ring
That opens up to hold a dram of poison;
A brooch of Bonaparte’s hair; some copper coins
Melted and stuck together; a flint axe
That could and might have scalped a pilgrim; or
Five seashells frozen in a limestone base;
You hate to tell him, once you kept such things,
But now in rented lodgings have no room
For household store. But son, you say, take this,
An apple burnished like a dragon’s egg,
A gleaming sphere that holds a treasure. Listen,
Son, this apple has a star in it.
But he is gone and never sees the fire
Between your fingers lighting up the night.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I'm about to get tired of this.
This Old Fox
(A square-dance tune)
Sly fox, laughing fox,
Dancing on the hill,
Dogs have never caught me yet,
I think they never will!
Loud man, Drive man,
Baying at the moon—
Tomorrow I’ll be on my way,
And you’ll have to chase a ’coon!
Every time the rooster crows,
I see the hawk fly over—
All you chicks and goslings
Better run for cover!
Wild hawk, chicken hawk,
Shadow on the moon,
Wish I had my true love here
To sing me a pretty tune!
Mary Jane, Sary Jane,
Put on your finest gown,
For when the fiddlers strike a tune
We’ll have a real hoedown!
’Possum up a ’simmon tree,
Raccoon on the ground—
Raccoon says, “You son of a gun,
Shake some ’simmons down!”
Wild grapes, sour grapes,
Growing on the hill,
Hunters never caught me yet,
I think they never will!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Great-Great Grandfather’s Ghost
Some say this life was bad,
but next time will be better.
I hear Goyath-lay answer:
Maybe last time was better
than any time to come.
Last time we had the land
and freedom to fight for it.
I was a medicine man;
no bullet could kill my body.
The nature of my power
caused me to live too long,
but that was my destiny;
most of us were free,
free to defend our homes,
free to die young with honor.
The best time we could know
is now our history;
the land was alive, and we
were living parts of it.
When they started killing the land,
we did not fight hard enough,
we did not mourn long enough,
though we were the casualties--
first the buffalo, then the people.
Many died young with honor;
the rest of us now are strangers
in the land the Great Spirit made
and gave to our ancestors.
I think they have killed the land
already, and a few buffalo
and a few of our people survive,
only as ghosts and shadows.
where the wind blew free
and there was nothing
to break the light of the sun."
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Straw into gold? I never tried it with straw.
Leaves mostly; cobwebs, pebbles, grains of corn,
And water lilies–once water by mistake,
But it was enchanting, the ripple of liquid gold.
It isn’t just touching; the Midas touch is a myth.
There are nets and ropes to ravel, tracks to follow,
Foxes mixed up in it somehow, pyramids
Of glass, rose quartz, and the end of it done with words--
It probably can’t be done by accident.
At first I thought that everyone could do it.
My mother stared and frowned, then rubbed her eyes;
“Stop showing off,” she said. My father warned,
“If you brag, it will go away.” How did he know?
That’s how it happened. On the first day of school
They laughed at me–-a fool kid babbling mixed-up words,
Crying because I couldn’t get them right,
Words of crystal, amethyst, poplar bark,
Or mist like the edge of a cloud when it’s changing shape--
Such lovely words! I miss them more than the gold;
It was never there when you went back to look for it.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
My poem "Letter From the Country" (page 23 of OME, posted April 13th), was inspired by a Shakespeare sonnet:
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen,
What old December's bareness everywhere!
And yet, this time remov'd was summer's time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime
Like widow'd wombs after their lord's decease;
Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me
But hope of orphans, and unfather'd fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And, thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or, if they sing, 't is with so dull a cheer,
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near.
which is one of at least a dozen that I know by heart. "What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,/ Distill'd from limbecks foul as hell within!" Reading Shakespeare's sonnets can be an education in English literature, if one studies them enough to know what they say, and what they mean.
"When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate;...
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed;
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope;
With what I most enjoyed, contented least--
Yet in these thoughts, myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee; and then my state
Like to the lark at break of day, arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd, such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings."
I know of no rougher magic.
My poem today from OME is "People-Watching," on page 18:
Don’t you remember me?
It’s rude, you know, no matter what the reason,
to tuck in your chin and hurry by
and cut me
In Salem once
we piled the rocks as high as we could reach,
and never heard a cry or groan.
Wasn’t that you?
When we were moving stones for old Ramses,
someone in the quarry bumped my arm,
causing me to drop
a load on him, and I believe
he had your face.
And you—remember: when the Sirens sang,
and we bound each other to the mast,
I could have tied slip knots, and where
would you be now?
Old antagonisms don’t excuse
as if you never saw me
in your lives.
Come, don’t hold grudges!
If I broke your bones, why,
that’s how these emporia,
these monuments and pyramids
Friday, April 17, 2009
This house became a home, so nearly mine
That something of me clings to it, to haunt
New tenants, as its old ghosts haunted me.
For seven years I paid the rent on time,
Enjoyed the roses and let them run untrimmed
Over the fence; buried my dog in the garden
The night he died; I dug the grave in the dark
And laid bricks over it beneath the rose bush.
A pair of squirrels who lived in the sycamores,
The cardinals, jays, and two old mockingbirds,
Provided year-round entertainment free.
Here I nursed my daughter through the flu,
And spent some sickbed time myself one winter
Indoors, while the north wind whistled down the chimney
And made the gas fire pop and flicker low.
Those days, the house was like another country;
News of the outside world came through some wires
Snaked silently into the house, and filtered out
My ancient, time-encumbered radio,
Altered thereby, I wouldn’t be surprised.
Well, it was home, and all the ghosts were friendly;
I hope ours prove so. Now I must move my books
And move my daughter, and leave my dog in the garden
Under the roses where he used to bury bones,
Leave the birds and squirrels, the quince at the corner,
And the roses just as I was getting ready to prune them
And maybe divide the iris, or buy some new;
Leave the wisteria that I trained to grow
Across to the hedge, making a summer house,
A playhouse for my daughter, years too late.
I can just bear to leave, by telling myself
There’s hope I’ll find another dog I like,
And another place that will feel like home. Now, life
Is like this house. That ought to be a lesson.
It isn’t a part of you, but only the place you live in,
Paying the rent and keeping the property up,
Or letting it go, but subject to sale or transfer
After you’ve ground its rich soil into your hands
And sent out fine white roots into all its cracks,
And just when you’re getting ready to trim the roses.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
At our unceasing plea,
to tarry for a day
within these battlements
of thorns, thus to withstand
the wilting touch
of hot breath and hungry hands
that love too much.
Page 20 (copyright 2001 Joanne R. Cage)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Life travels with the speed of light;
No sooner Monday than it’s Sunday—
A whole week gone, and it seems like one day!
Why do we name the days that fly
Like racing clouds across the sky?
Calling names won’t slow their flight.
Adam and Eve and all your kin,
This is how you’re paying for original sin.
In the garden—
In the garden,
Morning felt like forever;
Noon was time enough to walk
From the northwest corner of the north forty
To the southeast of the south.
In the garden a girl could grow up
In a single April afternoon
Under the apple blossom sprays, heavy,
Heavy with honey-scented white,
And (suspicion being all that ever slept)
When the golden fruit
Weighed down the golden boughs,
Might feast in silver shadows,
Veiled from any troubled gaze.
A gentle comedy, unthinking players!
How could the apple stir our brains
Into the folly of naming these brief days?
Chanting their names like prayers,
We string them together in wilted daisy chains
And set them winding on time’s blurred wheel,
Whirling too fast for us to see
The worm at the core, the serpent at our heel.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
He lies asleep,
And will not wake to keep
The promises he made, for deep
Are graves, and steep.
my crystal vases;
now, instead of daffodil
and white rose, on my low hill
clover and ferns grow, and a bee grazes
one pink blossom, wild and still
in the green mazes.
sharing with these silent friends,
nights of black velvet;
Leaves of gold and flame
falling from the autumn sky
will adorn my bed.
and melodies will whisper
soft like a lover,
as petals of petunias
close in the darkness.
Page 22 (copyright 2001 Joanne R. Cage)
Monday, April 13, 2009
The winter lies between us, and I find
With you away
That April can be hard to bear,
When budding leaves like small green gossips
Nose into my gloom,
When mocking blooms uncurl
And, flinging off their coats
Like careless girls, go bare in beauty
And the snow-brushed air.
My loneliness needs ice,
Frost for the landscape,
Chill for the burning thaw;
How spring can chafe the heart
And dazzle winter-shaded eyes, alone
I’m learning well.
Return, my love, restore
My April innocence.
I tell you what I never knew
Before: my seasons come and go
Friday, April 10, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
Posted by Joanne Cage -- Joanne Cage at 3:12 PM
Sunday, April 5, 2009
This has been a nice slow day, with intermittent light rain showers, plumb delightful. Today I read two books by B. Cartland; I bought them off the library discard shelf, thinking maybe they would sell, since Miss Barbara is aufsgepast. This morning I happened to open one of them and read the first page at a glance, almost, and was hooked. The old girl's stories are still good. She didn't mess them up with sex and sensationalism until the end, when He and She were married and it was OK.
Even though the two books were in large print, my eyes are only slowly getting back to normal. When I have eyestrain, it's like darting shadows between me and whatever I'm looking at; but it goes away fairly soon.
Jed phoned last night and said he would be here Wednesday or Thursday, and will stay for Easter. I have missed him--it's been a long time since he was here last.
It's 5:30, and I've still got to run to the store.
Posted by Joanne Cage -- Joanne Cage at 5:29 PM
Saturday, April 4, 2009
My "public appearances" nearly always result in a couple of days of the grumps. So here are a few things meant to cheer me up.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It's funny, I sing all the time when I'm by myself. I mean constantly, and I never cough. So I always assume I can get up in front of a crowd and talk with never a bobble. So yesterday when I started reading my poems, I (as usual) suddenly panicked and thought, "Oh, no, I hope I don't start coughing!" Then I had to get Pat to read my poems for me, as I couldn't speak without coughing.
Maybe I need to talk in the same register or pitch that I sing in.
Anyway, Bonnie Ann came, and Sally Freind. And Kathleen Thompson, who reminded me that we remembered each other from Ala. State Poetry society. It was fascinating to me, listening to Pat read 20 of my old poems. They sound better than they look when I just read them to myself.
One time Mrs. Layfield was at our house, and she read some of my poems aloud. Daddy said, "They are good when she reads them!" Although it wasn't an unqualified compliment, I've never had a prouder moment in my life.
Before the coughing fit, I talked for 15-20 minutes about writing poetry. During that time, it didn't occur to me to hope I wouldn't cough, so I didn't. Cookie Freind writes poems, too, and she wanted to know about the mechanics--rhyme schemes, rhythm, etc. I told her I'd send her a copy of the back section of one of my old lit. books that has all that, so I have to remember to send it to her.
Kathleen and I exchanged chapbooks. I read hers when I got home. Her poems are subtle, musical, deep, and very good.
Posted by Joanne Cage -- Joanne Cage at 2:22 PM