May 1st

“There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.”

-from “I Am in Need of Music” by Elizabeth Bishop

…………………..

The Bonsai Room

This tree knows how to make
its small world full –

supports a blossom
that should be impossible
for its size and scale.
It puts all its years
into the effort.

This greenhouse under window, under rain
will hold its magic no matter when
you return –

like the tick of the clock
in your grandparents’ house,
the shine of copper pots,
coffee mugs and conversation
around the red-checked tablecloth.

It is the opposite of ephemeral.
We may chase newness, but there are things
that draw us back.
We want to know the world we leave
continues just the same.
Not impossible, but rare –
and enough to have it
only there, and here.

-Jenny Crakes

April 30th

“And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.”

-from “What lips my lips have kissed…” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

…………………………

Moment At The Door

They moved the satin quilt aside
for a last look upon his face.
Shock was a shield since he had died;
they moved the satin quilt aside.
It was on him their hopes were tied,
Each unrushed moment given grace.
They moved the satin quilt aside
for a last look upon his face.

-Jenny Crakes

April 29th

“Tornado, this is my child.
Tornado, I won’t say I built him, but I am
his shelter. For months I buoyed him
in the ocean, on the highway; on crowded streets
I learned to walk with my elbows out.
And now he is here, and he is new, and he
is a small moon, an open face, a heart.
Tornado, I want more. Nothing is enough.
Nothing ever is. I will heed the warning
protocol, I will cover him with my body, I will
wait with mattress and flashlight,
but know this: If you come down here—
if you splinter your way through our pines,
if you suck the roof off this red-doored ranch,
if you reach out a smoky arm for my child—
I will turn hacksaw. I will turn grenade.
I will invent for you a throat and choke you.
I will find your stupid wicked whirling
head and cut it off. Do not test me.”

-from “The Mother Warns the Tornado” by Catherine Pierce

…………………………..

Measure Once, Cut Twice

to rip the seam
to crumple the clay vessel
to pull the crooked nail
to erase the penciled writing
to retrace one’s steps to the previous fork

Along with death and taxes, you can count on
the machine that snags,
the motor that stalls,

the undoing.

And yet, these objects that watch us blunder
though all the things we never learn –
the clocks that chide our tardiness, the stovetop made to burn
our dinner, still extend unequal grace –
They’re only human.

-Jenny Crakes

April 28th

“Descending
on her egg or draping her head
along her back, she’s
too exact and sinuous
to convince an audience
she’s serious. The natural elect,
they think, would be less pink,
less able to relax their necks,
less flamboyant in general.”

-from “Flamingo Watching” by Kay Ryan

……………………….

Cotswold Way

After this small-world year
this is where I want to be
in the footsteps of six years prior:

choosing my soft-carpeted pathway
through a Frost-yellow wood,
tracing Roman villa walls,
walking with a delicious spooky chill
onward in the dusk
from the Neolithic burial mound –

finding myself sharing a pasture with a bull,
the “beware” sign dangling unhelpfully
from the gate at the far end,

looking out from the top of a cheese-rolling hill
approached by a kindly gentleman
checking in to make sure
I wasn’t thinking
of throwing myself down it,

overestimating my day’s hike
and ready to flag down a bus
with my Girl Guide flashlight,
even the village green seeming
I could sleep there without alarm.

That restless ache gives way
to the joyous head-toss of a sheepdog
the day I watched the herd swirling
through pastel-green mist
like a white whirlpool.

-Jenny Crakes

April 27th

“Our brushes cut the stone in watered arcs
and in the soak frail outlines shiver clear
a moment, things us kids pressed on the dark
face before it hardened, pale, remembering
delicate old injuries, the spines of names and leaves.”

-from “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways” by Louise Erdrich

………………………..

Roots and Wings

There are answers I do not know and answers I know in great detail, and questions I have not asked and questions I have asked in great detail. I know what happened in that town but not where it falls on the map. I know how the vial that contained me was chosen but not why it got there. In the genealogy group others seek help translating postcards and headstones, determining when this photo was taken or where they perished. I want more than constellations in darkness and the black holes of questions. I want to see what my grandmother saw the first time she wore glasses, and play a hand at the poker game where my great-grandmother’s labor pains came, and decide what my uncle did when his draft number was called. I can wear the jewel-embroidered blouse now but I want to wear it on the ship. Even traveling through the land where I may be indigenous I cannot answer who it belongs to and neither can wars. But they try anyway. On that land’s edge I float in the dusk in the ocean’s silky warmth, where the answer is we are anchorless, yet when it is time the Cambrian waves wash us ashore.

-Jenny Crakes

April 26th

“Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.”

-from “Up-Hill” by Christina Rossetti

…………………………..

Over the Finish Line

When you are tired
and thirsty
and a little lost
and it is not fun anymore
and you have no more steps
or words

When what you feel
has not yet caught up with you –
sunburn still blooming early
under your skin,
the close call
hours yet from alarm

dig your roots in
like a maple sapling,
outlasting the gardener
who comes to uproot you
with bucket and trowel.
Stand your ground.
The rain that freezes fingers
makes your leaves shine.

-Jenny Crakes


April 25th

“For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.”

-from “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

…………………………….

Lilacs
(CW: suicide)

Someone gathers
this bouquet
for you
from beside the faded white building
at the eight-grade country school.

There is greater
heartbreak
per capita
here,
there is nothing
poetic
to say
about rope and ravine.

Still
these evening flowers
glow. The children
find light
and bring lilacs.

-Jenny Crakes

April 24th

“She told us children how the cows could sense
when their own calves were marked for butchering,
and how they lowed, their wordless eloquence
impossible to still with anything—
sweet clover, or her unremitting care.
She told it simply, but she faltered there.”

-from “Butchering” by Rhina P. Espaillat

………………………….

Animal Sightings

Once, when I was a child
a cougar darted, lithe, eyes gleaming
from the rainy wood
across the road before
our astonished truck.

I suppose – as my father lamented –
that, absorbed in my library book,
I missed a once-in-a-lifetime view.

Though I have also, of course,
seen animals I wish I hadn’t;

the tranquilized grizzly bear
at the Bronx zoo,
the arctic wolf hunched –
eyes glazed –
on the edge of “A Family Fun Adventure,”
singed by weather
a hundred degrees in the wrong direction.

I am sure they wished
they hadn’t seen us, too.

-Jenny Crakes

April 23rd

“And let there glide by many a pearly car,
Pink robes, and wavy hair, and diamond yar,
And half discovered wings, and glances keen.
The while let music wander round my ears,
And as it reaches each delicious ending,
Let me write down a line of glorious tone,
And full of many wonders of the spheres:
For what a height my spirit is contending!
’Tis not content so soon to be alone.”

-from “On Leaving Some Friends at an Early Hour” by John Keats

………………………….

In The Butterfly Garden

A romantic comedy
might have started
when the purple-haired volunteer
helped me out the double doors
between tropical paradise
and winter prairie.

We’d just watched a two-year-old
have a total freak-out
as one butterfly
landed on her nose,
me laughing overtly,
Miss Purple Hair covertly –
due to the dignity of her position.

I asked her what had happened to the button quail –
Nature’s most dapper birds,
who used to strut along these pathways
genial and proprietary
in their bow ties.
She was not sure.
She was new here.

I smiled and accepted her invitation
even though it was to leave,
and stepped into the mirrored passageway
followed swiftly by a fanciful blue morpho,
echoing feather-soft brilliance
wherever it moved.

Oh, she said in a fluttery voice,
that’s never happened before.
I’m supposed to catch you,
and I waited reverently
as she shooed the escape artist
back inside.

-Jenny Crakes


April 22nd

Crown
By Kay Ryan

Too much rain
loosens trees.
In the hills giant oaks
fall upon their knees.
You can touch parts
you have no right to—
places only birds
should fly to.

………………………

Fever

Fierce trickery
of the body,
each heartbeat
a battle drum.

Shivering in August
under the fierce
Dakota sun.

Contradictions
cause the throat to ache
and consciousness to protest –

slipping into a winter river,
the sickness burns
toward rest.

-Jenny Crakes