Poetry Reading in Greenfield MA This Week

 Greenfield’s Third Tuesday Word is back and in a new location. I’m the featured reader July 20 at The Lava Center, 324 Main St, Greenfield, MA, with a bunch of new work. There’s an open mike, and this new space is supposed to be wonderful. Lava is close to the corner of Main and Federal Street. There’s a new air filtration system and plenty of room for distancing. Your’e invited.

This photo is one of my favorites, and has nothing to do with reading poetry, unless one of you is moved to write about it. This is what happens when young calves aren’t taken away from thier moms too soon, or perhaps not at all. This critter is almost mom’s size, and really worked at getting a meal.

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a correction

Sorry, folks, but WordPress changed my poetry lines from how it had been set up for me in preview, and made this poem difficult to read. I’m resending the poem, and hopefully the lines will hold their order.

Best,

Elaine

Canning Jars 

I had need of the old jars this morning                                                                                       went to the cellar to retrieve them                                                                                                 from the bottom shelf
the empty jars still had bits                                                                                                                   of your faded handwriting 

Twenty-two years ago you sat with me                                                                                      writing lavender  thyme anise hyssop                                                                                                on stickers with neat calligraphy
a row of garden for the herb shelf 

It was difficult to loosen faded labels                                                                                              to fill the jars with something new                                                                                                  they now sparkle in the dish drainer                                                                                               aside from rust on the hinges 

Like what changes the heart                                                                                                           what charges iron to rust                                                                                                                 can’t be removed easily

 

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Preserving Summer

Preserving Summer

July brings the beginning of blueberries and raspberriesseason. I’ve made two rhubarb cakes, rhubarb and strawberry custard squares, and many berry/kefir/yogurt smoothies. Soon they’ll be a blueberry pie. But the loveliest berry treat is glass jars filled with preserves.

Canning Jars

I had need of the old jars this morning went to the cellar to retrieve them from the bottom shelf
the empty jars still had bits of your faded handwriting

Twenty-two years ago you sat with me writing lavender thyme anise hyssop on stickers with neat calligraphy
a row of garden for the herb shelf

It was difficult to loosen faded labels to fill the jars with something new they now sparkle in the dish drainer aside from rust on the hinges

Like what changes the heart what charges iron to rust can’t be removed easily


LOCAL NEWS

 Greenfield’s Third Tuesday Word is back and in a new location. I’ll be the featured reader July 20 at The Lava Center, 324 Main St, Greenfield, MA. There’d a new air filtration system and plenty of room for distancing. 



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Rio Caliente

Some years back my daughter Jenny & I visited a very special place on the edge of the Primavera National Forest in Mexico, north of Guadalajara. While we were there we met wonderful folks from other corners of the world, and this is a story of one night I spent with two people that had also traveled there. They were singer/performers and didn’t wish to be recognized. I met the first woman as I strolled down a mountain path singing a refrain to a song, trying to remember the rest of this classical folk song. We bumped into each other, exchanged pleasantries, and then I said that I knew it was a long shot, but would she know this song, and I sang her the refrain. I suppose she thought I was putting her on, as she confessed that she had written it.

River Night

We float in Rio Caliente
and consider the stars.
We swim slowly now and then,
our muscles and bones soak in warmth.

My daughter leaves us
disapproving of older women skinny dipping, laughing together at midnight.
We talk about Ireland and
share old stories of the troubles.

Obsidian hills surround us here, jacarandra trees heavy with purple bloom. Still, we talk about crossing other borders, how our lives have brought us here.


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The Roses

Early summer brings roses and bees,so many bees, to the garden. May your garden be bountiful and fragrant. May they bring you joy.

And the Roses

Like ladies at a garden party

day lilies lean slightly tipsy by steps

leading into a pebbled courtyard

Sprays of scarlet roses droop

and invite my nose to press in

I inhale, the bees have nothing on me

Scent of summer fills the air 

each bloom intoxicating 

warm air suffused with perfume 

Bees burrow in like lovers

then back out, dazed and weaving

drunk on golden nectar

Stand at the threshold

with antlers, fern, and roses

listen for the sound of bells

know then —my kin are close

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A Bit of Cheer

I’ve got four friends that have welcomed new babies into their families in the past year. Despite covid, they all found ways to visit, whether it be on Zoom, FaceTime, What’s App, or having a covid test, and visiting outdoors at a distance. This turned my mind to writing this small story, to honor the many young boys I’ve worked with over the years. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.

He’d grown up with five siblings, with all that entailed. Boys shared one room, girls another, and they’d have their beds lined up, one drawer for each of them in the bureau, and space for toys on a shelf.  

One winter they’d spread a train set over the living room floor for a month. The girls fashioned homes and stores from small food boxes, made people from clothespins. He and his brothers saved small boxes to make trucks and a train station. They had loads of fun with it once the Christmas tree was down, and it kept them busy until spring. They’d never gotten along so well, the whole of them, creating this wonderful town. In this make-believe place they got along far better than in the real one.

This was also the year that Brian discovered three different worlds in their small home. It was like stepping off the Starship Enterprise onto a different planet, when he walked into a bedroom. His parent’s room was the home planet, the planet you left once you were out of the crib. Everything was neat as a pin, and you just weren’t allowed back in anymore, once you had your own planetary bedroom.

The boy’s room was small. There was a laundry basket, and his two oldest brother were in charge of their own laundry. Woe unto you who just stuffed dirty laundry under the bed. You’d be caught with nothing to wear. The wall colors were bright, blue and yellow. The room was  just big enough for them to sleep in, nothing more, except a tiny table & chair for studying, when you needed to study quietly, like James did.  

But the girls room was different, like a fairy tale. Mam had gone to town there. There were soft billowy curtains. When they caught the slightest breeze they’d would move like small birds were flying under them. There was a tree outside the window, and you could smell springtime and autumn from it. On the floor was a pretend cradle, and a big basket with dolls. There were other things, too, like pick up sticks, and board games.  

When Brian was five his little brother Davey was born. Davey was a round baby, usually wrapped in softness.  He only cried after he peed, or when he was hungry. Harry loved to sit next to his mam and hold Davey, all wrapped up like a sausage.  He wanted to be able to feed him, and finally mam helped him hold the bottle.  Davey was brilliant at sucking out the milk.  His small hands would wave when he saw that bottle coming.  Brian’s mam called Brian her helper.  He didn’t even mind getting the wet diapers passed to him. He’d watch how mam cleaned up Davey, and noticed how good Davey smelled after. He’d take big sniffs of that clean baby smell. Brian felt quite important, like Davey was his, too.

One day he went into his sister’s room, and he saw a basket filled with three baby dolls.  One of them had hands just like Davey’s.  He went to the basket, and before he knew it, that baby doll was in his arms, and he was singing to it. That’s when Nora walked in, with his mother behind, with a filled laundry basket.  One look at their faces, and he knew. He was asked to leave the room and not touch the dolls. HIs mother kept an eye on him now, and didn’t let him snuggle Davey as much.

Today Brian was bringing his own new baby home. He already had a soft wee doll  set in the cradle for baby James. This would be different. He held James close, and helped his wife into the car.

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Climate Change/ Earth Changes

Last week I read an article that stated that carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmospherehas reached its highest level 10 billion years. The link to this story is : https://www.npr.org/2021/06/07/1004097672/atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-fueling-climate-change-hits-a-four-million-year-high

It Is Lonely

Earth tried to be the bright blue light

in the Milky Way galaxy,

but it had become so

difficult to respire,

difficult to keep her

fish alive in oceans,

wearying to preserve forests,

impossible to clean 

rivers and lakes.

She watched chestnut, maple,

hemlock, beech, pine,

trout, haddock, salmon, char, 

seals, whales, bear,

all struggle and deplete.

Pipelines filled with gas & oil 

tattood across her fields, her rivers.

Smoke and smog enclosed

cities all over her round body

More cars, more lights 

blinked in skyscrapers, more profit

made from the fruits of her body.

The land that is her body,

water that is her blood,

air that is her breath,

changed.

It is lonely, she thought, 

dying while no one noticed.

I’d love to hear some hopeful news from you, about how things may be changing for the better.

Best,

Elaine

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Warming up in June

We are fortunate to have several ponds and lakes in Warwick. In the summer there’s plenty of swimming opportunities, and the water is now warming up.

 

Summer

kids dive and shout

look––the geese

a fish bit me

watch out– a snake

hey– let’s swim to the rock

the buzz of bumblebees

doing the impossible

stuffing themselves into

each blossom head first

a quiet plop

the frog disappears

when the turtle

slips off the rock

the change from day to dusk

when cicadas pack up shop

and crickets take over the night

like teenagers

for no good reason except

except its summer

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Memories of My Dad and D Day

helmut.jpgEarly June brings my sister’s birthday and raises memories my Dad telling stories of D-Day. For those of you who didn’t have a dad that landed on the beaches, I’ll explain that my sister’s birthday is June 3, and D-Day quickly follows on June 6. While one doesn’t celebrate D-Day, because it was important in my Dad’s memory my sister and I still call each other to say, “It’s D-Day“.

Since my Dad passed away there have been books and movies about D-Day, but for me, the memories are quite different. They are safe, snuggly stories I heard when dad tucked me into bed.

Many stories were about when Dad camped out in Dartmoor near the river. It was beautiful there and I suspect it reminded him of Ireland, where he was born.  He told stories of the waiting. There were ferns growing, rabbits ran by, and Dad once got a chocolate bar in his rations.  It was a special treat, and he packed it away in his pup tent to save for special.  Later when he retrieved it, he found the mice got to it first…. it was almost all nibbled away. Each time I nibble on chocolate, I think how dear that chocolate bar was, and how sometimes we hold onto things that are precious too long.

Dartmoor sounded like paradise. I imagined rabbits and mice dashing through the field of ferns, and a small tent to snuggle into at night. And all the stars to see above.  And then I’d drift off to sleep, holding my Dad’s hand.

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I heard how the troops landed on the beach and scaled the cliffs. Later, I heard how they marched into Paris There were photos of him and his companions at the Eiffel Tower.  He kept in scant touch with his brothers, all fighting in different countries.

I remember one story about his group walking down a road in France as the Germans were leaving. Everyone was hungry and tired.  They came to a farmhouse and didn’t know who might be there. It was their good fortune that the Germans had recently left.  The  French farmers were hiding in the cellar, not knowing who was coming down the road.  The farmer’s family was happy to see this group of Americans and shared their food.  And like them, I share this smattering of what I have to offer, old memories.

After his return to Boston married, and soon there were myself and my sister, and the stories of D-Day began when I asked my dad to tell me a story.

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Years later, I was on a retreat in Totness, and I traveled downstream to Dartmoor on a boat. You could have knocked me over with a feather when the Captain pointed and said, “That’s where the Yanks were camped waiting for D-Day”. I had come to that field of rabbits and fern and was able to walk there myself.

This was originally printed last year, and I can find no other writing that would do for this week, and to honor my father’s memory.  I’ve been fortunate enough to travel back to my father’s home in Ireland, to see the lanes that he played in as a child. And I’ve seenthe fields where he waited for D-Day. 

May all beings heal, May we dwell in kindness to each other. May we find Peace.

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Small Town New England

In the United States this weekend we celebrate Memorial Day, and many people visit cemeteries. Our local cemetery had it’s first burial in the 1700s, and I’ve recently procured my own green burial plot there. The cemetery is on a gentile hill that overlooks the town center. I wrote this poem after I walked around to find a good spot.

Warwick Cemetery

I’ll rise from my burial place

and turn like a dancer, toe bones

pushed into damp grass, skull

pointed toward the trees. I’ll pause,

listen to the scarlet tanager sing,

and greet my neighbors on this hill.

The first ones came in the 1700s,

bent to drink from clear streams,

foraged under wide chestnut trees.

You’d be surprised how alive these 

old ones still are, if you call them from 

the sweet hereafter, and listen with your heart.

I’ve watched them drift into town hall to take measure,

join any party they’re invited to. When they arrived

for one town meeting, they swung the vote. 

When I join them, bring me cups of tea, 

pour it over my grave, strong 

Irish tea.          Such comfort.

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