POEM OF THE WEEK: The Rain Rises

toby wild field














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


Ezter Imres Must Produce collage 2



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: At the National Gallery



A friend told me once (years ago) that someone
suggested she say, “Thank you, Jesus” for everything.
Snarled traffic. A cloudy day. Finding a penny

in the gutter. All were equal blessings.
She tried it out, an experiment in gratitude. Saying it
changed her life. Though she didn’t believe

in God (much less Jesus), “thank-you’s”
filled her days. Life was brighter. Good stuff happened. Later
she tapered off. Then forgot to do it. Red lights and rain

again turned into annoyances, she said.  Today
by chance I wander into the Dutch Masters. The guard
nods and I move toward Vermeer’s “Lady Writing.”

I’d forgotten her. It’s been years. Track lighting
illuminates the canvas, but it doesn’t hold a candle
to Vermeer’s yellow. The plushy coat, white ermine cuffs

and collar. The girl’s face turns out– distracted,
preoccupied. A pause mid-sentence. A letter to her lover?
Liquid brown eyes. High, soft forehead, full lips. Her earrings

glitter. The necklace on the desk is dabbed with dazzling
flecks from some unknown source. Involuntary words form
behind my lips like beaded light: “Thank you, Jesus.”

by Christine Hemp
IMAGE: Johannes Vermeer, “A Lady Writing” 1665 oil on canvas

Poems and Ponderings

POEM OF THE WEEK: Beetle Backs and Wings

Audobon Cropped














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


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: My Father Turns Seventy

Peter Hemp 70


October 20, 1997

If the years suddenly went flat, maybe
I could look behind me, see his tall figure
striding through hotel lobbies, plush carpets,
and chandeliers, while bellmen nod hello.
The tinkle of martinis on the rocks. Sunsets
in Moscow, Singapore, the lagoon at Waikiki.

If time were strangely made to turn round
maybe the moments I keep inside would circle
back. Our bike trip on a foggy morning.
The Snake Road gravel sticking to the tires.
We couldn’t see the Sound, but we heard
the foghorn and its muffled echo moaning.

Maybe if the past were shaped into a square
I’d see what he has left along the way. He was only
thirty-five that day chunks of alder fell
from his chainsaw screaming at the woodpile.
He almost lost a finger, but just a bloody square
of thumbnail dropped with the stubborn wood.

Or if the years fell diagonally
I’d see down the middle of the X he drew across
the U.S. map and drove it. I might discover
what he was looking for in Three Forks, Lincoln,
Selma, and Key West. A man obsessed with lines
that intersect. Meriwether Lewis in a Ford.

My father finds the benchmark, the apex, where
past and present meet. Like summits reached —
Rainier, St. Helens, Baker, Hood, and Whitehorse —
he holds both journey and arrival. I think that he
suspects he also carries in his pack the pitch
of my affections. The scale, I have kept.

Now he draws in contour the shape of what’s before him:
Utter wilderness. Olympic peaks look more like him.
They wear the mantle of having been there, no less noble
for the storms or being blinded by the clouds.
What my father doesn’t know is how his imaginary lines
have marked my own map in the making,
a colored web of love.

by Christine Hemp
IMAGE: photograph of Peter Hemp

Poems and Ponderings




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


Giotto UltraViolet 2


I close my eyes
the light that was
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


Tunneling 3

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

POEM OF THE WEEK: On Getting Married


O'Keefe Clam Shell

For the First Time at 49

by Christine Hemp

I expected long silences and morning breath.
A lingering, tepid cup of coffee. The long
road to death where mortgage and the box
of Wheat Chex chalked out the lines of day.
I expected long silences and mourning. Breath

of someone named “Woman: Married,” expecting
nightmares of altars and the wrong man standing
there. Rings had nothing to do with me. The dreaded
dormitory of the damned. Those girls had given in,
I expected. Long silences stretching. Morning breath

Expecting silence. A sad and empty breath.
And what of those other men? The curves of their
necks disappearing into the soft grey collars
of their sweatshirts? I wanted them all. I don’t know
what I expected, but they fall silent in my morning.

I expected long silences and morning breath.
I wouldn’t acclimate, I thought, couldn’t breathe.
Now, oh — what scents I’ve come to know
and inhale. Where’s the resignation, the impassive face
I expected? Your long silence is the very breath
of morning.

Image: Georgia O’Keefe  Clam Shell 1930. Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches 

Poems and Ponderings