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SO click here to switch over! Same name, same Sherry, but now hosted by wordpress(dot) com.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I've been carrying this photo on my cell phone for weeks.
It was with me when I flew to NYC and spent timeless days with others not of this earth and yet entirely of this earth. Why did I go and what happened to me while I was out there? Before I could determine the answers I came home to family fighting floods and spent an evening gauging atmospheric conditions in our tornado-ripened sky (when do we dive into the crawl space for shelter??) All the while this quote I found hanging in the Western Heritage Museum staying with me.
How does this feel -- to follow one another out of this world? And what of the text left unwritten: And into the next world.
How did the Northern Cheyenne end up in Montana? History tells us they drifted. The Chippewa were pressed west, which pressed the Sioux further west, which displaced the Chaa to areas in North Dakota where they could still occupy fixed villages, make pottery and practice agriculture. And then came the day they were driven into the plains, losing their arts and learning instead to become roving buffalo hunters in order to survive.
To this day, in sacred ceremonies, the spiritual keeper of stories tells how it came to be that the tribe lost the corn upon being forced to live after leaving their eastern country.
If you study the stories of Dull Knife and the Northern Cheyenne, you will be told how the Indians drifted. Did they, do we, do I? Underneath the buffalo-hunter's robes is the spirit of a roving corn-planter.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Yeah! Wanna see what I (as in We) have been up to these past months? Rose Hunter's YB Poetry Journal just went live and I've been a guest editor there, along with John Riley. You only thought you knew about windows! Come take a peek! And if you want to download a copy for free to read on your Kindle, there is a link for that as well.(Get your free eBook version here!)
(This is my first eBook I've formatted! I am eExcited!)
Friday, May 27, 2011
I do remember. From this angle, up river, you can't tell how far and fast the water falls where you see the white water, but we lived downstream from that fall. And so we grew up knowing the power of water, the tremble in the ground.
Meanwhile further downstream the U S Army Corp of Engineers have decided to open the spillgates and let the Missouri River rush past. Towns spread along the banks in North Dakota are preparing for the flood.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Somewhere in Brooklyn are these open windows and this one bend of fuschia petals. I wonder if the petals have dropped now that I am back home.
And somewhere in Ohio are the two cowboys who sat next to me on last week's plane taking us from Montana to our Minneapolis connection. From there, they were headed out to see Rick's barn. Middleseat-Wranglerjean-Man asked Windowseat-Levijean-Man how big did he suppose the airport was in South Bend. Windowman was surprised. After a bit he cleared his throat and said, I thought you'd want to know how big Rick's barn is. That's the only thing I know.
I confess to wanting to know how big Rick's barn is. Now I'll never know.
And flying back from Brooklyn via Charlotte to Denver the couple behind me fought. Both had aisle seats. Apparently she couldn't trust him with the simple issue of renting a car once they landed. Apparently ever since he bought the wrong brand of cheese at the market last Christmas, she's not let him make a decision. What's it going to take, he asked in the sleepy-dark cabin of our plane, to prove he's a worthy man?
This is something else I'll never know.
And then came the final leg back home: Flying in from Costa Rica, the young couple seated next to me confided they had just relocated to my home town and were camping at the KOA until they had enough money to move into a house. Tomorrow he was off to work the oilfields near the North Dakota border and she would remain behind. They are trying to have a baby, they confided in the dark, but so far nothing they've done has worked.
Will they ever have a baby? This is something I may one day know because they've invited me to pitch my tent next to their camper once the rains subside. It will be easy to know which camper is theirs when I reach the campground. The 4 foot tall, bamboo giraffe riding home on top of our three suitcases in the overhead bin will be playing sentry outside their trailer door.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
The lady in a blue pants suit had a mean cane. She
tapped beat her way to the front of the line so she could enter the Reading Room ahead of us. That was fine with me.
I was still reeling myself back in from coming across Virginia Woolf's cane in a display case on the main floor of The Library in New York City. Hers was bamboo-ish brown and found floating down river by her husband some days after she filled her coat pocket with rocks. Next to the cane was her last journal, turned to the final page.
What were the last words? Thin ink fading on the top third of a journal page. Though I wanted to feel the rhythm of her handwriting, how she looped and unlooped her letters, I didn't want to read those words.
In the Rose Reading Room, we were met with soft light. Here was and here is the place writers come to write. Sunlight flows through the windows suggesting we write write write. We sat at a table further lit with brass lamps. The lady in blue was complaining too loudly that she deserved a security guard in the room. What if someone were to steal her handbag? Strip her neck of jewels?
And what of us, I thought. Who will guard us from her vent?
And what of our first words? What would we write if we came here, seriously, to begin the work of our next poem? Downstairs in the marbled entry strangers were peering through thick display glass, discussing Virginia's cane.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
We were fishing. I wasn't aware of the fishermen on the far shore to my left, nor of the train tracks 20 stone throws behind us. I was tuned to feeling what I could feel beneath the surface of the choppy water. First you learn what the current feels like, and how the wind tosses your rod and line. And then you learn to tell the difference between seaweed and a trout bumping the bait on your line. And then you learn to wait while you feel a fish nibbling the worm on your hook, 3 feet beneath the surface. Wait, wait...be ready. When you feel the tug, you try to hook the fish. In mid-hook, I noticed a flash in the sky directly above my hook: a hawk in a furious nosedive!
Did I try to reel in? Did I try to hook my fish? I dunno. I was stunned. S t u n n e d. The dive, the splash, the silence. The momentary pulse of time. And then- the hawk resurfaced, wings power stroking up and away from me. With my fish caught between his claws. One split second between us. My fishing buddy came over to me afterwards: You know if you had caught that fish, you know, right?, that you would have lost your pole. The notion of which filled my lungs with the sort of breath I haven't inhaled in years.
Afterwards we came across an old park with outbuildings built from river rock. Whatever purpose they once served they are no longer serving now. But still. But still, the notion of what might have once happened inside the river-rocked cottage stays with me, just like what almost happened with that hawk.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
When I ask how he is doing, he sends a photo of sunrise coloring the walls in what he calls his front room. It's easier to sleep in the living room recliner now; that angle makes it possible to breathe.
When I ask again (Dad, how are you doing?) he emails a series of photos of cottonwoods along the Sun River. Each day Dad and Mom walk the river to watch the beavers work. Day begatting day, the trees are standing, but seemingly begats suddenly - one day the trees are chewed down. The day will come when the trees will be in the river, a part of a beaver dam.
We don't see the dams happen, we see them when they are done. My folks are hoping if they keep quiet and blend in, they will witness the making of one said dam.
When I ask about his biopsy results, he sends instead a photo of these ducks. See how, no matter what, the ducks stay lined up?
All the while our world is zipping with TV shows and utility bills, test results, the rising price of gold, another section of our universe tunes to something different. The ducks will be ducks and the beavers find their trees. And the wash of sunrise continues to color someone's front room walls.
Monday, May 2, 2011
This is what beavers do.
One day the tree is standing, the following day the tree is not standing. What happened in between? I've come to realize I use between an awful lot in poetry. Ok, so I use the word mitten quite a bit, too, so perhaps that doesn't mean anything. Oh! And I am just now realizing words like perhaps and mayhaps show up frequently. What's up with all that?
In the meantime, in the . . . uh . . . between time . . . with napo writing done (30 poems in 30 days in April), I thought I'd share one of the drafts here. It's (huh! go figure!) a between poem. This one takes place somewhere between the Emerald Hills and the Yellowstone River and was almost called "On Becoming Two Old Codgers" but I decided that what goes on in the poem is transitional, a between thing.
Rehabilitation North of Emerald Hills
Once you agree to walk with him,
you walk the crushed red track
with the disgruntment you’ve been
carrying around for days
ever since you did the math
and realized you were no longer
middle-aged and he tells you how
disgruntment is not a word and how,
second of all, you shouldn’t want
your face to match the poorly-
thought-out sky and how,
in the third place, today’s grey sky
looks like a painting
no one would ever buy.
The track you walk circles
a practice football field
behind the country school
funded by Exxon, the only
business in the river bottom
once known as Poverty Flats.
An orange Just Say No Frisbee
abandoned in the outside lane
reminds him of what he didn’t do,
and why he’s here now doing laps,
bagging trash, recovering wind
and strength and friendship.
There’s a softball, lost in deep grass.
His throw falls short
of the tool shed and he mourns
his aging mourn about the increasing
lack of distance in his throw.
You do the math and tell him how,
fourth off, he’s gained two yards
for every three years you’ve known him
and, fifth of all, it’s good he’s quit aiming
for that poorly thought-out sky.
Photos courtesy of William O'Keefe,
somewhere between the Sun and the Missouri River.
April 29/30, 2011.
Monday, April 25, 2011
Frankie, the owner's cousin, is in the lobby reading our newspaper. I'm always thinking I should write about Frankie, but this is all he does: Watches the lobby TV, reads the lobby news; waits for a chance to visit with anyone who isn't busy.
(This is me being busy.)
(It is still April in poetry land and I still have five more poems to write.)
And the photo is from my nephew. We can call him He Who Knows How Fast A Bee Can't Fly. Up until recently he ran an engine crew during Montana's wild fire season. And then he thought how fun it'd be to be a lineman. And I thought I'd lift his photo because of all the metaphors that came to mind.
And then I suddenly felt like Frankie in someone else's lobby, climbing someone else's pole, stealing someone else's photo.
(This is me realizing I won't ever write a lineman poem. Which means I still have five more poems to write.)
(This is me getting back to work.)