POEM OF THE WEEK: Lorraine Troutman’s Roses

vya

LORRAINE TROUTMAN’S ROSES
for Dr. Aimee Kohn

One season, between jobs and men, I potted
pansies, weeded beds for cash. The air
was cold, spring barely evident but for the odd
crocus and a stirring among the chickadees. Alone
at Adelma Beach with my shears and instructions
to prune all of Lorraine Troutman’s roses, I scanned
the garden heavy with alder leaves, soggy
clumps of grass, and sticks blown from winter gales
funneled down the Straits. Not a wrinkle on the bay.

The leggy roses sagged from months of wind.
I snipped the canes, finding pith among deadwood
stems, making cuts at least an inch below
unhealthy branches, sometimes even slicing off
a full and shapely bud, knowing that disease
could kill the bush if I didn’t sacrifice
parts of those pale pink ramblers, yellow climbers.

The sun peeked through the clouds and I stopped,
stepped back, took in the shape of what I’d done.
When I turned I caught the light glancing off
the surface of the bay and through the calm rose
a creature from the deep, blowing from its spout.
It blasted straight up until the whole of it, shining
in the sun, held the moment in that pose, all its heft
defying air and sea. It breathed. Then heaved itself—
with joy?— sideways on the water, its tail smacking
afterwards, an affirmation of its feat.

I saw no one to wave to, to point and say, “Did you
see that?!” But all morning as I worked my way
through thorns and vines, I kept the secret close,
sometimes looking back at the spot on the water
where the whale had shown me what power lies
beneath a quiet tide; what spouting streams
exhale like healing fonts right behind us
while we pare what needs to go, taking care of what is
good and whole in Lorraine Troutman’s roses.

–Christine Hemp
from The Examined Life Journal, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

IMAGE:  photograph: Breaching Humpback by Jon Cornforth

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: The Juggler

Jugglers Dream Calder

THE JUGGLER

Look at the juggler balancing time!
His hands intent on a touch, not a hold.
He knows suspension is his paradigm.

He throws up the terrible flames – watch them climb
in a circle of light like a big marigold.
Just look at that juggler balancing time!

Tossing his torches, mocking what’s tame,
he walks the tightrope in a ragged blindfold.
He knows suspension is his paradigm.

Round and round like a fanatical rhyme
he sends the world spinning—ah, numbers untold
see the juggler balancing. Time

and space are God’s ball and flame.
Flinging sun and moon to the vacuous cold,
he knows suspension is his paradigm.

But we all must be jugglers in pantomime,
hands ready to clutch, but brief touch is more bold
for us. And the juggler balancing time
Suspends! Suspense is his paradigm.

–Christine Hemp
   from  the Webster Review

IMAGE: “Juggler’s Dreams,” Alexander Calder, 1966; gouache and ink on paper
29 × 42 in

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Icarus

Fall of Icarus Matisse

ICARUS

It was his idea, this flying thing.
We collected feathers at night, stuffing
our pockets with mourning dove down. By day,
we’d weave and glue them with the wax
I stole after we’d shooed the bees away.

Oh, how it felt, finally, to blow off Crete
leaving a labyrinth of dead-ends:
my clumsiness with figures, father’s calm
impatience, cool logic, interminable devising.
The sea wind touched my face like balm.

He thought I’d tag along as usual,
in the wake of his careful scheme
bound by the string connecting father and son,
invisible thread I tried for years to untie.
I ached to be a good-for-something on my own.

I didn’t know I’d get drunk with the heat,
flying high, too much a son to return.
Poor Daedelus, his mouth an O below,
his hands outstretched to catch the rain
of wax. He still doesn’t know.

My wings fell, yes – I saw him hover
over the tiny splash – but by then I’d been
swallowed into love’s eye, the light I’ve come to see
as home, drowning in the yes, this swirling
white-hot where night will never find me.

And now when my father wakes
each morning, his bones still sore
from his one-time flight, his confidence undone
because the master plan fell through,
he rises to a light he never knew, his son.

by Christine Hemp

from Graven Images, A Journal of Law, Culture, and the Sacred;
and in XY Files: Poems of the Male Experience Anthology by Sherman Asher Press).

IMAGE: Henri Matisse “Icarus” 1943 guache on paper, cut-out

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: The Rain Rises

toby wild field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE RAIN RISES

The mist rises from the pavement after rain.
The pavement rises, too, and says goodbye.
The toad goes nowhere till the rain raises him.
A hurricane wind strains the road’s undulations.
The terrain moves, changes as the rain rises.

After the rinsing rain, we can see the road
And ride its curves and follow it upward.
Look! The road is rising to the sky! And we
Are riding it like fools, like wise men
Who know only that they must go. We rise,

The mist turning into skirts, our legs white
Against the plain blue sky now showing
Through the clouds. Everything rises, finally,
Doesn’t it? All of us, wind-billowed and hazy,
Our bodies turned to mist inside the rain.

by Christine Hemp
IMAGE: Mark Tobey, “Wild Field” Tempera on board, 1959

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Let’s

Ezter Imres Must Produce collage 2

 

LET’S

arrange our cups
and plates on the floor
in the shape
of a clock. Watch
time stand still.

by Christine Hemp

IMAGE:  Eszter Imre,    “Must Produce” series, Porcelain (2012)

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Beetle Backs and Wings

Audobon Cropped

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEETLE BACKS AND WINGS

I grabbed a shirt and wrapped the giant
beetle in the cloth. I gently carried him
out to the dark. To the world of mosquitoes
and moths, his kind. When I dropped him

on the porch he paused, found his bearings,
then scrabbled toward a place I do not know:
The underworld of beetle holes,
shiny shells and leggy families crowding.

Every day the world is buzzing, crawling,
calling to a nest. The olive-sided flycatcher
offers her cadenza: “You COULD be!
You COULD be!” and I skate

along those notes, trying to fly
on sound as much as wing to be
inside her joy, her insistence without doubt.
She may eat the beetle, yes, but who says

that death is every time a failure?
What is this world anyway, when we finally slip
through that membrane which keeps us
from the dead? The flycatcher – can’t she be

there, too? And how could heaven not
contain both beetle and the bird? I have no use
for Elysium without the River Styx. Like the glossy
feathers of the hummingbird – not green at all,

merely a reflection of light’s emerald wavelength –
this world is false. Oh, but the sheen of it
(beetle backs and wings) keeps me
coming back for more.

by Christine Hemp
from “That Fall” (Finishing Line Press)

IMAGE: John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Olive sided Flycatcher. From “The Birds of America” (Amsterdam Edition)

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: The Things That Keep Us Here

Cone Door Detail

THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE

I wouldn’t call them dream times exactly,
those moments when the wind finds you
folding clothes or putting the milk away.
And all that was no longer is.

As if you stepped out from another life
you lived just moments ago. It’s the smell
of the closet or the strain in that sonata
you listened to yet never heard till now.
But it isn’t now anymore.

It could be that a man you know well
turns his head in conversation to look
at someone and you notice the curve
of his neck below his ear to where it slides
inside his sweatshirt.

It hurts to see the softness there. It’s not
longing because you aren’t thinking
about the future. For a moment
you’ve forgotten about that. You should be
in a movie but you aren’t. It’s just your life:

a piano note, a folded shirt, the stray black sock.

by Christine Hemp
from “That Fall,” Finishing Line Press

IMAGE: Marvin Cone, “Appointed Room,” 1940 oil on canvas (detail)

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Vacant

Model-for-the-curtain-in-the-first-act-of-The-Firebird_Chagall

VACANT

My father told us never to look
at the dead animals along the road.
Our Ford sped past the stiff
fuzzy guts, sometimes freshly spilled.

It was out of respect. He said
the same about burned-out houses,
their black windows unblinking.
I wished he’d stop, though, so

I could walk back along the gravelly
shoulder, bend and touch the
crushed legs of a dog or stroke
the small face of a raccoon. Bodies

frozen, their innards like garter snakes
flattened into S-curves on the road.
I wanted to find what was missing,
what had called this carcass home.

–Christine Hemp
from Mañana Magazine

IMAGE:The Enchanted Forest: Marc Chagall’s model for the curtain in the first act of “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky, 1945, collage on paper.

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Even When

Giotto UltraViolet 2

EVEN WHEN

I close my eyes
the light that was
you
burns
against my lids.

by Christine Hemp
from “Looking For Your Name”         (Orchard Press)

IMAGE: Giotto, Detail from fresco in Peruzzi Chapel, Florence., c. 1320
(viewed with ultraviolet light)

 

Dedicated to generous, gregarious friend and neighbor, Aline Martin, who just left the planet–after 95 years. Buon viaggio, Aline. Safe journey.

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Tunneling

Tunneling 3

TUNNELING
by Christine Hemp

I have found my way down.
Feverish, muddled, I dig
deep through loam and stone.
I jam my bleeding fingers
behind stuck rocks,
my nose dirty, the darkness close.

Burrowing deeper I feel
the earth breathing, her flesh
old pebbles, algae, rotted trunk.
Inside her I can breathe.
Rise and fall, rise and fall.
Even the hands of moles move with her.

Secret springs pulse
to the beat of blood and lung.
I press against the damp cool dark,
far from glare and sounds
of feet and talk.

My eyes grow larger now, burning
wide as miners’ lamps. From every
crack and cleft a tiny rivulet
of sand spills in my path.
It’s deeper

down from here on in: to find
that hidden root, a living course,
the buried seam that joins all things.

IMAGE: photograph by Christine Hemp

Poems and Ponderings