Fragrance of old books… (tanka)

Click on the link below if you care to hear me read this tanka:

 

fragrance-of-old-books

My thanks to editor, Marilyn Hazelton, for publishing this tanka in Red Lights, one of the best tanka journals around.

Walking Away

Where do poems come from? Anyone who writes poetry asks that question and has that question asked of them by others who wonder how a poem comes to be. There are many articles and books on the subject, but still there is no single answer. Every poet writes differently and often in a lifetime writing patterns and habits might change, too.

To show you how oddly this can happen, I’ve decided to post a poem that appeared in my chapbook, Erasing the Doubt (published 2015 by Finishing Line Press). “Walking Away” is  a poem that has its own style, its own cadence and its own meaning. If I were to read this somewhere, I think I’d say it feels very much like an old fashioned poem, as if it echoes a voice from long ago. How did that happen? There is an unusual story behind this poem and how it came to be. It came to me as a whole poem when I was up late writing and suddenly became very, very tired. It appeared almost dreamlike to me. I typed it up quickly, read it once and went to bed. When I read it the next day, it didn’t feel or sound like me, but obviously I had written it. Strange indeed. This experience happened only once in my life.Was another poet speaking through me? Or was this merely a side freed from regular consciousness because of fatigue?

I’d love to hear your comments on this poem and what it means to you when you read it. Feel free to leave a message

I’ve recorded this poem if you care to listen as well as read. Just click on this link:

610980-bigthumbnail

Walking Away

 

When you go, where do you wander?
When you leave me, do you look back?
I sit here, book in hand, not reading.

           The wind blows fiercely through now.

 

They asked how long you had been silent,
And I answered with a lie, which
Was not the truth but might have been.

          The wind blows silently through now.

 

Did you hear me whispering to you?
Did you hear what I had to say? Or did
I turn away and only mouth the words?

          The wind blows piercingly through now.

 

Where do you go when you wander?
Tell me what you see. When you look
At me, I feel you walking away.

          Lamenting the darkness, the wind blows softly now.

 

 

1-IMG_1133

“Walking Away” was published in Erasing the Doubt by Mary Kendall (c) 2015, Finishing Line Press.

 

 

 

 

Tanka on a May Morning

In the past five months I have been studying my much beloved tanka, haiku and small poems in order to become a better writer. Writers–and poets–need to keep growing as they go.  As part of my interest in these lovely small poem forms, I have joined a number of exception online groups of poets who post their own writing. On several of the sites, “prompts” are given and sometimes a picture is given. People respond as they wish or not. Often comments are given. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to get a “like” or even a comment by one of these poets who are so gifted and accomplished tanka and/or haiku poets, but even without the ‘likes,’ it feels wonderful to be a little more confident about sharing poems publicly. This morning, I’m posting several tanka I wrote this week to specific prompts.

~

1    [prompt: celebration of color]

Photograph (c) Kristin Sanderson

Photograph (c) Kristin Sanderson

 

scribbles

of scarlet red

in the shrubs—

two cardinals

take flight

~

  1.  [prompt: full moonrise, unforgettable moon]

 

Photography (c) by Cab Treadway

Photography (c) by Cab Treadway

cloud masquerade

tonight—

the moon is hidden

from your

wanton gaze

 

~

 

3    [prompt: how you share your journey]

old cobblestones

so hard to cross—

without speaking

I take your arm

and we walk on

old cobblestones in cornwall

 

~

4    [prompt: flutes..music…]

plum-tree-picture

sweet song

hidden in the plum tree–

a nightengale

gives itself

away

nightingale1

~

The End of Autumn

Red Leaves

                                                                                     “In my End is my Beginning”

The End of Autumn

How could we pass through autumn
without thinking about life.

Life and death.

Life and birth.

Birth and death.

The book ends of our existence
with pauses of space in between
waiting for us to write the chapters
that will fill the empty volume
that eventually defines a life.

Golden Leaves

These photos were taken by me at the Duke Hospice at The Meadowlands in Hillsborough, North Carolina. This hospice is set on an old farmstead in rural Orange county. The hospice and grounds are a wonderful gift to all who pass through.

Quotation embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots

Quotation embroidered and worn by Mary, Queen of Scots

Due North: A Winter Poem

Due North © 2014 by Isotell

Due North © 2014 by Iosatel

There are nights in the winter
once the leaves have fallen away,
when sometimes I wake in the dark,
hearing the distant, plaintive sound

of a single train a few miles away
as it crosses over a country road
or maybe it’s to warn off deer
that pause too long on the track.

The train travels due north,
and in the blackness of the night
the train’s dark sounding
brings back fragmented images
of my childhood life up north.

North, where winter’s silver skies
are layered in clouds most
of the year, and where snow
begins to fall early and deep.

North, where my family lived
in the rust belt of Lake Erie,
where strong winds raced across
the lake with bone-chilling cold.

The lake effect meant snowstorms
that went on for hours, even days
on end. Times when all of us gathered
together happily, knowing school
would be cancelled the next day.
Night was peaceful back then.

In the morning, we’d make our
way through the thigh high snow
and help shovel the walk, leaving
tall tunnels of snow on either side.

Our boots would crunch on frozen
snow, fingers painfully cold, but
that never stopped us from a snowball
fight or playing king of the mountain,
or sledding, tumbling, rolling in snow,

or making lovely snow angels
all over the yard. Those were the
carefree days of childhood, when
we didn’t worry about time or the
future or much of anything.

And for a while the thick snow
continued to fall, covering the tracks
of cars, birds and anything else
that dared to wander outside
on those interminable winter days.

Now, no longer in the north,
I lie in bed remembering such
simple times, times of being together
as we coasted down the snow hills,
all six of us tucked in tightly together

until halfway down when the toboggan
shifted and just after the pull to the left,
we capsized, all of us scattered down the hill,
laughter ringing out so loud as we fell,
each of us ready to give it a go again.

Tobagganing in the Snow

Tobagganing in the Snow

My thanks to the photographer, Iosatel, for use of the photograph, Due North, which appeared on his blog, The Obvious and the Hidden, 03/11/2014

Dining with the Woodpeckers

pileated suet

While visiting my brother and his wife this summer in East Aurora, New York, we experienced a truly wonderful and unexpected visit from three pileated woodpeckers at the suet feeder Jim had filled. His wife, Paulett, said the woodpeckers were frequent visitors to their lovely back garden. This was a first for me. Although I’ve been an on again, off again birdwatcher for most of my adult life, I’ve only seen one pileated woodpecker in person before. Seeing three at the same time was simply brilliant. Watching their acrobatics as they fed on the suet, flew back and forth to peck at a tree, and generally manoeuvered their rather large bodies in amazinglying agile ways was pure delight. After a feeding frenzy, they flew away and it felt amazingly still and empty where they had been. Much like a visit with beloved family and friends, the ‘after’ part comes all too soon and leaves a void in our hearts. This poem is dedicated to Jim and Paulett, two of the kindest and most caring people I know. Thank you for sharing your home, your family and your amazing woodpeckers with us.

pileated 5

Dining with the Woodpeckers

In the late August garden
The quiet afternoon now

Comes to a languorous close.
Out of nowhere, a flash of red,

Bright scarlet crests crowning
Zebra-patterned feathers.

Three Pileated woodpeckers
Begin to feast at the suet feeder,

Fluttering, flying tree to tree,
Tree to feeder, alternately

Pecking at thick maple bark,
Then shifting to soft silky suet.

The youngest, now the size of its parents,
Joins in to grab his share, and father

And mother dutifully give way.
For a few Cirque des Oiseaux moments

All three woodpeckers hang right side up
And upside down, their brilliant red heads

Flash like stop lights in the early evening sun.
We sit around the table eating an early supper

And sipping local wine. Conversation drifts
As we watch in these avian acrobatics.

Just as quickly as they arrived, so soon are
They are gone. More wine is poured,

Seconds of hot buttered corn and fresh
Heirloom garden tomatoes are passed

From one to the other. Like the birds,
We share this meal together, enjoying

The richness of what the day has given.
A light wind blows the leaves outside,

A beautiful evening for us to be together
Knowing that summer will end all too soon.

Picture by Beth Brandkamp

Picture by Beth Brandkamp

Daybreak (2)

 

Yes, this is the second time you’ve seen this picture in my blog. It was posted with a poem, Daybreak, in late August and now it reappears to accompany a second poem it also inspired, Daybreak II. A single picture on paper, on the screen or in the memory has a powerful, persuasive control of our imagination. This beautiful photo by my friend and photographer, Yolanda Litton, has done just that.

 

Early Morning at Bagnegrole (Photograph by Yolanda Litton)

Early Morning at Bagnegrole (Photograph by Yolanda Litton)

I’ve included an audio clip of me reading the poem. Click on the link below and wait a few seconds.

 

 

Daybreak  (2)

 

Waking up in at daybreak in the south of France
Is as if I were stepping into someone else’s life.

So far from my own home, this wistful morning fog
Rises slowly to reveal a house of soft honeyed stone.

The slope of a sharply pitched roof holds a tall chimney
Where the swifts are now resting after a long evening hunt.

Somewhere a rooster crows with the energy that only
The young can bring to a new day. Out of nowhere,

A soft gray cat tip-toes by, looks up at me and blinks
Its eyes in that inscrutable feline way and disappears.

I stand here leaning on the windowsill, wondering
What my life would be like had I been born here.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts up from
The kitchen below. One lone church bell rings

Calling its faithful to prayer. But nature’s beauty
Is my religion, my serenity, my salvation, my Eden.