August 2017

Hiss, ping ping

            by Lucinda Bowen
 

Listen.

After a month of sun,
the sky holds itself close to the meadow
this morning, whispering, “sip, sip”
as a mother might minister to a child
whose face is flushed with fever.

The way the raindrops
line the spine
of each stalk and stem
makes me want to consider
the smallest small things.

I listen to the slip and drip,
watch the flower’s pink petals
fill like pitchers,
each no bigger than the pinkyslip
of a newborn’s fingernail.

This weather is but a gesture
to a field that has blossomed
despite seasons of thirst.
The morning’s mist
will only moisten, not quench.
Soon the cloudwisps will flounce off, distracted,
the sky behind them winking blue.

Even so, the stems shine green and golden
under the weight of this water
they have waited for.

I have skirted scarcity all my life
and yet I have never bloomed
as pink and pretty
as this thirsty flower.

I have never
bent grateful
as this blade of grass,
bearing the hiss, ping ping
sound of insufficient blessing
on my naked, needy back.
 

I wrote this poem early on a misty, rainy summer morning as I was walking past the orchard and the wild field next to it, near the Meditation Hut. I was struck by how the raindrops magnified every single blade of grass, each plant and flower lined in silver. And I was struck by the immense need and thirst of the field, and how meager this offering of rain would be, after so much drought.

—Lucinda Bowen

 

Included with Lucinda Bowen’s poem (above) is the note she wrote for Old Frog Pond Farm’s 2016 Plein Air Poetry Walk and chapbook, Splash!

 

Please mark your calendars for this year’s event on Sunday, September 17 at 2 p.m. at the farm. Over 20 regional poets, including Lucinda and other poets who have been featured in this blog, will read new site-specific work on the theme of Memoir. The Poetry Walk is free and open to the public. Chapbooks of the poems will also be available for purchase at the event. Hope to see you there! 

July 2017

Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu

     by Wei Ying-wu (translated by Red Pine)

                       

Taking time off in the enervating heat

we drifted in a skiff along the city moat

a light wind blew open our robes

a flute echoed through the woods

thin clouds darkened the water

a fine rain cooled the lotus-scented air

rather than pour out our cares

we raised our cups to the flowers

 

"Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu” is from In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu, translated by Red Pine, and published by Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, 2009).

 

Wei Ying-wu (737-791) was born into an aristocratic family in decline, and served in several government posts. He fashioned a poetic style counter to the mainstream: one of profound simplicity centered in the natural world. He is considered among the finest Tang dynasty masters, in the ranks of Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Few of his poems have been translated into English.

 

Red Pine is one of the finest translators of Chinese poetry into English. He was the first to translate the classical anthology Poems of the Masters. He spent four years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, and produced radio programs in Taiwan and Hong Kong about his travels in China. He is the author of Zen Baggage, an account of a pilgrimage to sites associated with the beginning of Zen in China. He lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington.

June 2017

Wet Gravel

      by Fred Marchant

                       

Stone barrow on a point overlooking the sea,

a good place to take the last labored breath.

Quartz veins, shale, slate layers, the pressed

sandstone, thin lines we read the epochs in.

Rust and gray minerals down rivers in Zion.

A bit of brown miracle dirt from Chimayo.

The rock a boy threw at my head, the one

I pitched back at him. Mickeys we called them.

Cairns you see climbers build at the summit,

and mark the trail with on Kilauea caldera.

Glacial stones that migrate under the earth,

or sit as unmoved as the Buddha, hard enough

to break tines off a backhoe. Prayer-stones

we place with care and words atop the grave.

A white pebble at the bottom of Frost’s well.

O stone, wrote Nguyễn Duy, thinking of lives

lost hear Angkor. O bloodstones of Mycenae

that we sit on while we drink from our water.

The backyard stones a child will hammer open

to find the unequivocal silence inside of things.

Wet gravel paths we turn and face each other on.

 

"Wet Gravel" is from Said Not Said, Fred Marchant's new collection of poetry published by Graywolf Press in May 2017. It is used with permission of the publisher.

 

Fred Marchant is also the author of Tipping Point, Full Moon Boat, House on Water, House in Air, and The Looking House. He has co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) From a Corner of My Yard, by Tran Dang Khoa, and Con Dau Prison Songs, by Vo Que, both published in Hanoi. He is the editor of Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, also published by Graywolf Press. An Emeritus Professor of English, Fred Marchant is the founding director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center in Boston.

 

Fred Marchant will be reading in the First and Last Word Reading Series, Thursday June 20, 2017, Somerville Armory, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville MA, 7 p.m. He will also read at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop on June 26, 6 Plympton Street, Cambridge, MA, 7 p.m. From June 26-June 30, he will be teaching and reading in the annual writers' conference sponsored by the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston. Link: https://www.umb.edu/joinerinstitute/writers_workshop/workshop_schedule. For more information about readings and workshops see Fred's website: Fredmarchant.com

May 2017

The Child in Wonder Falling on Grass

         by Donna Johnson

                       

Spring’s early heat turns you to dervish.

Your knees soiled green from tumbles,

with wild screams you protest mother’s firm grip.

Then, minutes later you sleep, curled in her lap.

Smells of coming rain, mud, and wild onion

surround you, while farther, only inches

in the great scheme, expands the black unbreathable,

which astronauts say smells like burning tungsten.

This year, the black drop of Venus will mar

the perfect sphere of our small dense star.

A middling yellow one among millions similar,

It warms your skin, the grass, the dirt below the grass,

as it absorbs the remnants of supernovas

bursting their whipped cores.

 

From Selvage by Donna Johnson (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon) 2013.

Donna Johnson is the author of Selvage published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her poems and reviews have been published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Cafe Review, Green Mountains Review, Perihelion, and other journals. She won Cutbank magazine’s annual poetry contest and was a finalist for the Patricia Dobler Award.   

 

April 2017

Homage, Orby Head

         by Susan Edwards Richmond

                       

When I can go no farther, and the maps are all

blue, I count the birds at the end of the world:

swooped down from their russet watch-towers, long,

low lines of silhouette stoop to the waves,

piebald buoys bob in the lea of rocks,

plump-bellied gourds with red waders on troll

the bricky stone. Arms clasp over pulled up

knees, salted by the wet perimeter

of light. Gathering in the past, shapes stream by,

great auk, Labrador duck, and Eskimo

curlew in venerated waves, all plucked,

bloodied, and damned. Shingles crack in the tide’s

ruddy contusions. We have everything

to lose, and have again and again.  

 

after Seamus Heaney

 

“Homage, Orby Head” appears in Susan Edwards Richmond’s new book, Before We Were Birds, published by Adastra Press.

 

Susan will be reading from Before We Were Birds at the 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, Maynard, on Thursday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. Come early and enjoy Gail Erwin’s show, Niche, Cyanotypes and Constructions, in the gallery, as well as the work of Jane McKinnon Johnstone. Hope to see you there!    

 

March 2017

The Snow Storm

     by Marie Howe

 

I walked down towards the river, and the deer had left tracks

deep as half my arm, that ended in a perfect hoof

and the shump shump sound my boots made walking made the silence loud.

 

And when I turned back towards the great house

I walked beside the deer tracks again.

And when I came near the feeder: little tracks of the birds on the surface

     of the snow I'd broken through.

 

Put your finger here, and see my hands, then bring your hand and put it in my side.

 

I put my hand down into the deer track

     and touched the bottom of an invisible hoof.

Then my finger in the little mark of the jay.

 

Reprinted from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Marie Howe will be in Acton this month to receive the 17th Annual Robert Creeley Award! She will read from her work at a free public reading at 7:30 p.m. at the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School auditorium, 36 Charter Road, Acton. Old Frog Pond Farm & Studio is a sponsor of this event.

Marie Howe is the author of three books of poetry: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, The Good Thief, and What the Living Do. She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing From the AIDS Pandemic.  Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others. Find a full bio of Marie Howe at www.robertcreeleyfoundation.org

February 2017

Butedale Rite

          by Karla Lynn Merrifield

 

When the ice thaws & the first floes
leave for their long passage down channel
all the ghost salmon return in a spring

ritual to the site where white water
falls into the cove & shadow of commerce
in the red flesh of their brethren falls

on their ghostly silver bodies, on all
the hollow memories of their lost species.
It is a celebration of demise—

not theirs—but that of the hungriest ones,
those alien creatures with machinery,
tin cans, solder, steam, a greedy streak,

a killing instinct, shamelessness.
The ghost salmon return to the shambles
& the silence, to the clean scents

of rotting wood & rusting steel,
the long, slow fade of human sanctimony.
The ghost salmon return & return & return

until a new tide turns, bringing
again their living kind from the sea
to this native place, their place on earth.

 

            —from Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills Publishing)

 

Karla Linn Merrifield, a National Park Artist-in-Residence, has 12 books to her credit; the newest is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada. She is assistant editor and book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye. Give her name a Google to read more and visit her at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com

 

January 2017

Alex Therien’s Chickadees

        by Charles Weld

 

Alek Therien said that they lit on his coat just like flies

when he stopped chopping wood to eat his lunch of cold potato

in the snow. One thing he had in common with his friend Thoreau—

at least, when describing chickadees—was penchant for hyperbole.

Talking large, my uncle called it in a letter he wrote that same decade.

After many, cold hours in the woods, during which Thoreau surveyed

the changes that a hard freeze had made, he wrote each chickadee

warmed him as a bright fire constantly burning. Thrice, not twice,

warmed would be his adage about wood’s heat. Chopping and

sawing heat first; burning, second; and, at times, these woodlot titmice

whose charity is unrehearsed. One advances, shies,

and advances again before picking a seed from my wife’s flat hand,

less bold than those that crossed Therien’s clearing to demand

supper from Thoreau as he cut across a neighbor’s cut-over land.

 

Charles Weld lives in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Pudding House published a chapbook of his poems, Country I Would Settle In in 2004. Kattywompus Press published a second chapbook, Who Cooks For You? in 2012. Charles Weld works as an administrator in a non-profit agency that supports youth with mental health needs.

 

December 2016

Pass Creek

          by Tom Sexton

 

The lamp we leave near the door to light

the cabin if we arrive after dark

hissed and flared before it caught.

When it did, I thought I saw blossoms

on the leafless tree outside the window.

I was both amazed and oddly comforted

to find that they were only moths

that had come to rest on the half-dead tree.

 

When was it that I first began to long

for the sound of Pass Creek beneath deep snow

and the endless blue of unobstructed glaciers,

for wind that bends me like a sapling

and for those few December days when light

touches its coat of many colors to the hills?

 

—from For the Sake of the Light (University of Alaska Press, 2009)

Tom Sexton served as Alaska's poet laureate from 1994 until 2000. He is the author of fourteen books of poetry. Tom now spends every other winter in Eastport, Maine, with his wife of fifty years, Sharyn, and their Irish Terrier, Murphy. 

November 2016

The Act of Sweeping

          by L. R. Berger

Clay Sculpture, Jane Kaufman

Clay Sculpture, Jane Kaufman

 

A woman is sweeping her porch

as if life depended on it,

 

dowsing for counsel

through the press

 

of an old broom, through

some small sure act

 

she can be certain

does no harm.

 

Wind rouses, loosening leaves

from even the stiffest branches,

 

and sets the tiny

green boat on the bay

 

rocking like our wavering

scales of justice.

 

She could be paddling

herself across. Wind

 

sweeps the porch. A crow

who walked the plank

 

bobs on one quivering

wrist of pine—

 

springs off, as if to dive,

but rises.

  

—from The Unexpected Aviary (Deerbrook Editions, 2003)

L.R.Berger’s collection of poems, The Unexpected Aviary, received the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry. She’s been the grateful recipient of fellowships and support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN New England Discovery Award, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, Wellspring, and The American Academy in Rome. With Kamal Boullatta, she assisted in the translation from the Arabic of “Beginnings” by Adonis (Pyramid Atlantic Press). She lives and writes in New Hampshire within earshot of the Contoocook River. 

October 2016

The Design of Autumn

          by Janisse Ray

 

Any day the hawks, circling

overhead, will be gone. Perhaps today

their last. The trees throw off

 

bushels of paper money, collecting

in the weeds. The leaves are loud

when the wind comes off the hill.

 

Who can lie down at the time of

ripe fruit, of decadence, before

blackness? No matter how rich

 

we become, or old, or unable,

won‘t some part of us desire to weave

a basket in which to forage

 

the last of the grapes? Or, start

moving toward the valleys of deer?

I go wandering greedily

 

amid all the falling-down.

 

—from A House of Branches (Wind Publications, 2010)

Janisse Ray lives in the coastal plains of southeast Georgia, where she farms, studies nature, and writes. She is the author of the poetry collection, A House of Branches, and three books of literary nonfiction, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, and Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land

September 2016

Learning to Swim in the Millpond

          by Sarah Brownsberger

 

The surface is gold and slick

with algae, weightless

oil sallowing your skin;

you see it when water striders

leave tracks with their spider feet.

 

Underwater is silver

with sediment and weed rot,

metal shavings dancing

round the magnet of your hand,

round your ankles lily stems and

 

cold currents over hollows where

snapping turtles lurk,

your hair in slow motion

in shafts of sun

from a sky like old glass.

 

You perch on a stone, watching

bubblets rise from your gooseflesh arms,

dragonflies dart and shy, a crow

croaks from the elm and suddenly

you hear the rush in the sluiceway.

 

Once my brother and I sank a raft

in waterliles; a shout sounded

from the bank as we thrashed

to a rush-hidden island, a boulder,

where we waited to be rescued

 

like Moses in the basket,

waited very still because

aside us lay a coil of fresh dark stripes,

a snake that blinked but did not

budge, happy on warm granite.

 

Sarah Brownsberger’s poems have recently appeared in Poetry East, Commonweal, and WomenArts Quarterly and have previously appeared in The Hudson Review, Field, OnEarth, Salamander, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals. Her essay “Poetry, Hunger, and Electric Lights: Lessons from Iceland on Poetry and its Audience” appeared in the September, 2015, Cambridge Quarterly (UK). Her Icelandic-English translations include Sigfús Bjartmarsson’s bestiary Raptorhood (Uppheimar, 2007) and Harpa Árnadóttir’s artist’s diary June (Crymogea, 2011).