For many reasons, I’m heart-sore this week. There isn’t a long post in me, but I didn’t want to let this slide another week. And so, here are three autumn poems. You may recognize them from previous postings – that’s okay.
See you next week.
I Saw My Ghost
I saw my ghost yesterday,
Drinking tea in dappled light.
I checked all my bones,
Running soft fingers along
Testing the joints
And painted-over cracks.
I am pleased to report
They all held up
A tiny splinter
On my least significant metatarsal.
It gave a short yelp
We did not speak,
My ghost and I,
Though she lifted cold china
To a mouth that cut.
I silenced those bones
Better left to old closets:
Those bones best forgotten
October Fell Upon My Back
October fell upon my back,
The brindled wood, the barren lack,
Smoke-yellowed light a slantwise cross
Through bleak-bald trees gone gaunt with loss.
Before the wind, the dead leaves whirled,
Grey starving mist between them swirled.
The forest asked me, low and pained,
“And is it good, what you have gained?”
I stood alone on earth hard-packed,
Stood weighing grief
And weighing lack.
Dry berries withered on the thorn,
The season’s hinge creaked plaintive, worn,
While streams decayed to stiffened mud,
A sting of smoke and smear of blood.
October dark caressed my bones,
The trees leaned in, my lovely crones,
But standing in the forest bare,
I could not speak, and did not dare.
And the last fall wind
Crept under my coat.
The Elegance of the Turtle
This is not a poem
I have written for you,
The elegance of the turtle
As he drifts through
And for the slow guilelessness
In his farewell.
I am certain of the turtle,
It is better that I sing for him,
Where withered cattails shiver
And greying willows weep
Over the water.
What I’m Listening To This Week
I am walking through my village
Drinking a hot chocolate –
Quickly, because it’s spilling over the sides,
Cresting with each crunch
And rasp of leaves underfoot.
It is – in truth – a little watery,
Tasting of rinsed-out Thermoses
And ice-skating arenas.
But it was given to me in kindness,
And this sweetens it,
And as I walk through my village,
Drinking my hot chocolate,
Geese wing through weakening sunlight,
And my throat goes tickled, tight:
An early foretaste of
My annual laryngitis.
All signs suggest
A long, hard winter ahead.
But for now,
I am walking through my village,
Drinking a hot chocolate,
And it is sweet indeed.
So I’ve thought about it,
And while a Hugo would be nice-
If we could figure out the politics, maybe?
-That isn’t what I really want.
I admire the Nebulas, and
The World Fantasy Award has
But if I never get one,
I won’t lose sleep.
I don’t know if I still qualify
(Or ever qualified, let’s be honest)
For the John W. Campbell,
But I think
I no longer care.
See, I’ve thought about it, and
I love getting fan mail
From people I don’t know.
I appreciate the reviews on Goodreads,
And other fine book retailers.
And yes, I squirmed with
When my advisor said
That I deserve a “Pass Plus.”
But I’ve thought about it,
And what I really want
I want you to find me,
Some Tuesday afternoon
When we aren’t doing anything.
I want you to pause,
Just for a moment,
“I read your story –
It was really good.
I liked it.
I’m so proud of you.
So I’ve thought about it,
And I think
I’ll beat on:
Seeking the words
That you’ll find beautiful.
What I’m Listening To This Week:
“There Will Be Rest,” a lovely choral piece by Frank Ticheli, set to a poem by Sara Teasdale. Honestly, I’m really tired right now, so just listen. Absolutely divine lyrics and treatment.
I have been quiet, mostly because I’ve been very, very busy. Writing-wise, I like to function like a Swiss Army knife. I write short stories, novels, plays, games, audio dramas, museum monologues, flash fiction, radio segments (that’ll be a thing soon, stay tuned and pardon the pun), blog posts, …
It’s a lot.
But there’s one more thing that I do write, I just don’t share it very often.
After all this time, I’m usually pretty blasé about showing my writing. If I can handle editors, Amazon reviews, and Stonecoast workshops, I can handle almost anything, right?
Well…poetry is different for some reason. I’m not sure why. Maybe because poetry feels so much more vulnerable and exposed. Closer to the bone, in a funny way—it feels like the words stand out so much more.
But hey, exposure therapy, right? I’ve also been feeling contemplative, if slightly melancholy. Almost like, in the middle of summer, I can feel the first faint winds of autumn approaching.
And hence a rare poem from me. Post-Stonecoast residency, I’ve decided I’m an odd mix of Romantic and Classical sentiments. I like feelings and nature and making up stories. But also, I like form and structure and order. Which probably explains the following. Enjoy!
That long June morn, long years ago,
I watched the rose and lilac grow.
And like them, you were all in bloom,
As heavy hung their sweet perfume.
I watched their blossoms budding clear
And did not know the winter near.
That first fair morn, I could not guess
The depths of summer’s loveliness
As on we walked amid the dew,
And rose and lilac ‘round us grew.
How bright their blossoms then appeared—
As even then, the winter neared.
Though swift the season slipped away,
And sooner closed each passing day,
Still did the brightness of your eyes
Outshine the hard autumnal skies.
I marked the dwindling of the year
But still denied the winter near.
December’s chill came soft and slow,
As soft as rose and lilac grow.
So gently did the lurking frost
Caress the blooms already lost,
But oh—how cold the touch of fear
When first I felt the winter near.
Through all the years’ unceasing snow
No more will rose or lilac grow.
Like them, you were not meant to stay,
Though endless seemed that summer day,
And longer still the sunlit year,
The winter now, at last, is here.
What I’m Listening To This Week
Pretty sure I have a new theme song: “Hymn to the Fallen,” from the film Saving Private Ryan. Funnily enough, I hated this piece the first time I encountered it. My choir was doing it, and the choral part does not make musical sense in isolation. This piece needs the brass and drums to work—the choir is really just another instrument.
It’s hopeful angst, which seems to be my thing. The drums tattoos give me shivers (especially the first and last ones), and the massive choral crescendo around 3:53 makes me want to write all the things ever.
Above all else, it’s a swan song. Maybe that’s why I’m loving it so much these days…
I don’t often write poetry. Sometimes I get the odd one, but I almost never share my poems.
But when I do, they become opera arias…
Story time! New Zealand and I adopted each other long ago. I love the landscape, the people, the culture, the history…but when I backpacked around the country by myself, I got a little homesick. To be clear: I had an amazing time, with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and I do not regret a single second.
And I also missed home.
So, one day while riding the InterCity bus between towns, I stared out the window at the impossibly green, mist-shrouded hills, and I composed some verse in my head. When I got to the backpackers’ that night, I tapped it out on my phone. Several weeks later, when I came home, I transferred it to my computer.
I liked it. Nothing super fancy or experimental; I wanted something simple. It had an interesting meter, though. The pattern of stressed syllables reminded me of someone running. Which was exactly what I wanted. It captured those nights in hostel bunk beds, staring at the bunk above me and trying to work out which direction home lay. I figured the poem might be interesting set to music (again, that very bare, understated pub song feel), but I don’t compose. Heck, I barely write poetry.
I came home. I forgot about it.
Fast forward to January 2013. I was rewriting the libretto for East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon. Since I was eighteen the first go-round and the performance requirements had changed in the interim, I was mostly rewriting from scratch.
Rose (our plucky young heroine) had an aria. There were some duets and trios, several chorus numbers for the kids. But the White Bear/Prince didn’t really have an aria of his own. I started thinking about how the enchanted Prince would feel: roaming through the northlands, lonely and just wanting to be warm again, waiting to come home…
And a spark of emotion and memory flared.
I dug into my files. I found the poem. It already had a strong meter; I’d already wondered if it would work with music.
Time to find out.
I slipped that poem into the opera almost unchanged (I think I altered the tense of one verb, maybe?). And there it’s stayed. My partner in this—composer Norbert Palej—did a beautiful job with the aria. I didn’t tell him what it was really about, and yet he crafted a lovely piece. The music aches.
Nothing you write is ever wasted. You never know when thoughts, emotions, and memories will reappear to inform your creative work. Save it—because someday, it may find its home.
Cool Thing of The Week
You didn’t think I’d go through all that without showing you the poem, right? I mean, it’s part of an opera now: I think I’ve lost any rights to qualms over sharing it!
I was waiting for the passing
Of the bleak and bitter night,
For the fleeing of the shadows
And the coming of the light.
I was waiting for the dawning
Of the absent summer sun,
And the waiting warmth that spurs me
On the distant roads I run.
I was waiting for the tasting
Of the season on the air,
For the old familiar fires
Breathing smoke upon my hair.
I was waiting for the greeting
And the chorus from the hearth,
For the end to all my calling
From the very end of Earth.
I was waiting for the sighing
When I stood before your door.
I am waiting, and so dying –
Waiting just a little more.