middle-of-the-night inspiration

Freighters sing tonight;
their serene calls amplified
in the fog-drenched air

Last week the weather on Lake Michigan was a little too spectacular for early June. Summery, hot, beach weather mostly, with little wind and a bug population that hasn’t gotten out of control (yet).

My friend and co-worker came to the lake to stay and work for the week, and we set up shop at the dining room table and made the most of the lovely view, working when we needed to and breaking when the outdoors beckoned. I’m used to being alone here, but it was nice to have a reprieve from the quiet, especially after work. We had plans to have dinner out one night, maybe a lunch, too, but it was just too nice to bother to leave the beach. So we didn’t.

One evening, the fog rolled in and stuck throughout the night. I left windows and doors open because it was warm enough for it, and was awakened at 4 a.m. to the sound of a freighter’s foghorn, steady and gutteral, in the otherwise still night. Soon after, another foghorn in a slightly higher tone; a duet of call and response. There was no picture to take, so I wrote a haiku.

These are the things that make my heart swell. The night sounds, the morning dew, the sunset colors, the ever-changing lake.

Today the power went out and I couldn’t work for almost two hours. A minor annoyance; an enforced break to walk the beach. A neighbor’s generator hummed, but otherwise there was quiet aside from the birds and the bees, which seem busier this year than ever.

I’m thinking a lot about what there is happening when I have a camera in hand. Sounds, mainly, or a mood or feeling in the surroundings. Last evening I shot of roll of 120 film in the meadow, mainly of the seeded goat’s-beard puffballs dotting a small section of the meadow near the road (these look like giant dandelions that have gone to seed). The goat’s-beard shared space with other grasses and some rich purple sweet pea. It was another windless night; gray and dull skies, warm and a bit muggy, sweet-smelling and earthy. I could hear an occasional low growl of thunder from a storm out over the lake, but louder than that were the bees–near hummingbird sized bumblebees, working around me, a din of their buzzing. I added to my mosquito bite collection, getting fresh bites on my hands as I worked. One of the resident eagles soared overhead and disappeared.

I took notes so I would remember these things–the things that you wouldn’t know by looking at one of the pictures from this roll. The things I might not otherwise remember when this film is developed in a week or two.

This is what I want to explore. Can I impart the sounds, or a smell, or my heart bursting, or the pinch of a mosquito bite? Can I infuse these other-sense things into an image?

Coming to Terms with the Dead

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I nearly step on its body,
the small bird that the wave pushes rolling and tumbling ungracefully
as a watery offering toward my feet on the shore.

I see more as I walk, first five in close proximity
and then six, seven, nine, twelve dead birds in open shore-graves
until I can count no more and turn back to the cottage, weeping.

I recognize them as the swallows that nest in holes dug into the sandy cliffs
that form too close to the water, cliffs which were battered by yesterday’s storms
and the wild waves and wind that erode the shoreline.

I wonder if these dead are mourned—if the birds I see now
darting along the beach as I walk home are searching, frantic,
for the holes they built not long ago to nest their young?

My footprints disappear as quickly as I leave them,
the depressions in the sand fill instantly and without fanfare;
a reminder of my own impermanence and the lake’s dispassion.

There is no rescuing to be done;
I can pluck a struggling moth or two from death for today, and dry my tears.
The lake carries on.

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Autumn’s arrival

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The mood changes so fast here. Summer’s over, time to move on. There’s a melancholy (but not a bad melancholy, if that makes any sense at all). I welcome the fall air and these storms that roll across the lake, whipping the waves into a frenzy and sending me running up to the house as the huge droplets let loose from the clouds, almost a surprise.

I wrote a poem yesterday. Funny that for years I wrote poems and never showed a soul–now I’ve read two to an audience, shared them here, written more , and here is another one. There is a freedom that comes with my age and I will simply embrace it.

What have I got to lose? You will read or not read, like or not like, remember or forget. And we’ll all move on.

Autumn’s Arrival

Bring down the flags,
tuck up the beach chairs and the boats.
Shutter the windows and bolt the doors;
September has come.

She sends the summer people scurrying from lake cottages
back to big cities and dull suburbs,
where the sound of gentle lapping waves is replaced by
shrill alarms and maddening traffic.

We stay on the beach, undeservedly,
and wonder how we will fare here when the winds blow cold,
the days grow shorter and the nights clearer,
longer: more silent.

The weekenders will come before then; the color-seekers and apple-pickers
bringing city reminders and driving too fast.
We’re not like them anymore, and
we’ll say we can’t wait for them to leave.

The lake will chill by October, but I’ll still
walk the beach barefoot: either I won’t like to be confined by shoes
or the feel of the bone-cold sand will keep me grounded,
I won’t know which.

We’ll retreat when the wind finally overtakes our voices
and leaves us mute; when winter in earnest comes and the sky
is indistinguishable from the lake, the sand, the woods,
and all is a sullen and frosty gray.

I’ll keep sand in pockets and pebbles on night tables
in the city, in wait for the spring thaw and a fresh beach
scrubbed clean of last summer’s footprints.
It won’t be long.

A good crowd

I write a little poetry sometimes. Not because I want to, or because I know how to, but just because things bubble into my head and come out of me in a certain way, and I call it a poem, even if it might not be, because that’s just what feels right and well, let the poetry police come and argue otherwise.

I’ve never published any of it, nor have I ever read my own stuff aloud to anyone (unless you count my dog, who has been a patient, if not interested, listener). Just over a week ago I stood in front of a lively and supportive audience of some friends and some strangers who were just liquored up enough to seem somewhat less daunting (to me, anyway), and I put my lips up to a microphone and without apology or explanation read, aloud, comfortably even, two poems I wrote.

And it felt kind of awesome.

And I kind of want to do it again.

 

The Piano

In the thick of things it came,
was wheeled up onto the porch on an old, battered ramp
dragged into the living room where it stood
no worse for the wear or the years
waiting, like an old and somewhat awkward guest,
to be told its place

A fragment of my mother’s life, this piano
the one she played in her youth
rich, deep chestnut, years etched in those wooden waves
red stains, streaks on white keys
from her clicking nails, you could hear them
through her South Pacific and Schubert’s Serenade

She disappeared into those songs
and others
in her place fingers,
keys, clicks, voice, movement
I could never look away
when she played

But she is gone
the piano now a reminder
in a too-small house, crowded dining room,
where a cat makes middle of the night attempts at Mendelssohn
and where children offer serious concerts
during dinner and phone calls

where it waits still, ever patiently, for its player

 

A Love Letter to Manhattan

Oh, Manhattan
you are captivating!
At once both old and new
enveloping, yet aloof

I dreamed of you long before we met
of your towering buildings poking holes in the clouds
your grit, your attitude, your people
you felt like home and I fell hard

You remained perennially beyond my grasp
save for the brief moments I pretend that we are a couple
howling at a crazy moon together
from a drunken rooftop

Better to leave you in my dreams, though
like a pined-for lover
skip the fumbling, awkwardness
and the eventual demise

I’ll visit
we’ll flirt
you’ll stay shiny and elusive
and I, still captivated