Sunday, December 3, 2017

O' Christmas Tree


we cut the tree from the field adjacent the house
with a long armed saw and our two boys

one lay in the grass and we said he is baby Jesus
the other walked off with his father

they both fear the woods,
at night I tell the bedtime story

two boys lived in a house in the woods
no, they cry, out of the woods not in

on the edge, I ask,

everyone wore red but me
and there was no snow

I have been thinking about last times

there will be a last time 
for all things here

some of mine:
a last baby birthed

a last drink
but who can say? neither are well remembered 

in the log cabin we situate the tree
with tradition

in the same corner it has 
stood since 1978 

play Christmas songs
make dinner -- the children refuse

the next day alone
I brim with fear

looking at the tree 
and the news

it's a white pine that might have grown 
up to one day crack the sky

Sunday, November 26, 2017

New Work

My essay "Self Portrait" at The Rumpus 

Photo by Eneida Hoti on Unsplash

Self-Portrait in Red #2:

Tell me, what does a woman do with her anger, with her rage, or with her shame over being made subservient, secondary, object? Where in her body does it live? How many times can she circle back?
She sees herself through the eyes of a man looking at her looking at him, a self divided. What she cannot tolerate about the world she buries there, in her body.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

New Life

We moved into the log cabin in Orwell this week.

Last night we drove in after three days on the road from Minnesota. I took the boys for a walk in the field; our neighbor cuts a path for us with his industrial lawn mower. Along the path wild apple trees grow, some with dead limbs, others with low reaching branches I think the deer must eat from. There are places where the grass has been pressed down by the warm body of animals. I think of a mother and twin fawns as I wade through the long meadow to reach the tree and pick the mean, sour fruit the boys insist on tasting. The wet grass soaks my cotton shoes and W. whines for me to pick him up. I carry him a bit. We find wild grapes and berries, milkweed and burdock. M. asks where the bees have gone. In June hundreds swarmed the blooming locust trees and we stood beneath them and listened to the collective whir.

The house is filled with cobwebs. Though my mother-in-law came to water the plants, it looks like no one has been here in a dozen years. Spiders everywhere. We walk through the rooms and try to envision the way we might make each, what each will be. The boys will only play in the main rooms, even if we create other play spaces. They insist on remaining close. They also don't yet want to venture out alone. But today is our first day here. I arrange my desk before the window of our spare bedroom. It looks out onto a field and woods. I am grateful for the few pines that grow here; they remind me of Minnesota. Home. Though I have been in Vermont for over a decade, Minnesota remains home to me. I don't know if it's the stubborn insistence in me that keeps looking westward, longingly, or if truly the inroads of the landscape of home form a map of my heart. I long for it. Today, I long for the road where I run, for the path through the woods. The smell of thick pine, the past ripe berries along the path, the late summer blooms. But if I stayed there I would never write a thing; longing has always been my swan song, my pulse, my disease and my path. Without it, what would I be?

Quietly, ever so quietly, I have been planning my next book. This summer I finished editing (a two year process for me) my first book of essays and began the long road of sending it out to small presses and independent publishers. For three years I have thought of returning to fiction and writing a novel. It feels overwhelming and well, terrifying if I'm really honest with myself. It has something to do with the length and my desire for a sense of constant ending, a sense of completion. But as we move into what is undoubtably going to be a rather different phase of our life, no longer in a neighborhood, living in a rural community on hundreds of acres of my husband's family's land, I feel the pull towards these stories again. I long for the deep inward solace of imaged worlds. More then ever I long for other worlds, the places where I can make peace with the tunneling ache of the world and its stunning beauty.

What do I fear? I fear working for years on a novel that amounts to nothing. That never meets the mark. With essays or even short stories, you might write a few bad ones, but you can easily let them go and move on to the next one. As I write this, listening to the fly stuck in the window, and the birds outside, I see clearly it is really only a challenge of the mind. And now the fly is free of the window and takes another path and now its back on the window. I worry too that I should not speak of the work I'm doing as it sometimes destroys the mystery and the mystery is like the engine of the writing, the longing, the seeking. One longs and then seeks.

J. takes the boys to the park at the school in town and then grocery shopping. I find my boots and walk out into the field. It's warm. The whir of the bees surrounds me. I realize they are feasting on the golden rod. I stand and listen and the sound vibrates. I catch a Monarch, just hatched, drying its wings. Up down, up down. The wind blows and I cannot tell you what an open field does for the soul. Like the lakes I love in Minnesota, the space of distance sets us loose, mends us.

Monday, August 7, 2017

To The Newlyweds

Once she left you pearls
dropped like apples from a tree
and he offered gold as soft as leaves.

There will be days
when you wonder, soul stretched,
words urgent
shared in haste
questions dust to dreams,
but those are good days too.

Let all the days be good days,
make a study of your beloved,
a sand castle for his sorrows,  
light given in darkness takes
your whole being
it is not easy
this work of love—

In the morning, the sun
comes through the kitchen window,
cuts across the floor, warm as bread.
He stands with hands
cupped around steamy coffee
she washes a dish, sets it to dry,
before turning,

--I see her shake the water from her hands
and his soft smile--

it will be the sun on her shoulders
you covet or his hands on the cup
as it reaches his lips and shakes sleep free,
you think of all day.

So too this vow of love,
as ordinary as rain
as sacred as morning,
let it be the road home
let it carry you.

August 5, 2017

 -for Sigrid & Aaron on their wedding 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Mourning

All day I have felt the slick animal of depression at my throat. It's deep January in Vermont and the snow has not kept, the ground is wet and sloppy, the sun is gone, gray hovers. When I cannot see the sky my spirit sleeps; I feel a sense of inner breathlessness. Some of my favorite skies are bright blue afternoons on the coldest days of winter in Minnesota, and, though rarely, in Vermont.

Inauguration Day looms. The People's Billionaire who has swiftly put together a cabinet of like billionaires and appointed individuals who have no tether to the reality of the people of this country, no concern for equality, or are out and out crooks, will take the oath as our nation's leader. How this came to be we can't quite say; the irony is hardly worth mentioning.

Many are headed to DC to protest and to march on Saturday. I plan to join in a protest march at my state capital if I can muster the energy, but, in truth, my voice feels quelled into a deep silence. I long for distance and seclusion, for broad swaths of snow-covered lakes and forest, for the heat of an open fire, for the smell of smoke, for an intensity of weather that might offer a sense of reality closer to the body, to the raw edges of being, and too, away from the hustle and bustle of commerce and capitalism, consumerism and stuff, more and more stuff... the awful drain of daily life in America.

Paul Itkin

But there is another part of this I think. A part of me feels so inadequate as a political voice that I don't want to try to shape a message... into what, anyway? Who would I be speaking to? Or, rather, to whom? Who would be listening? What would be the point? Other activists have told me that they know what to do, it's time to organize. It's time to act. Some say even that this could be a great time of productive progressive growth and transformation by creating alternative sovereignties in our communities and workplaces, with our friends and families. But the work of organizing feels overwhelming and I am humming with rage and sorrow that has a life of its own.


Today I read a friend's blog "Mourning Becomes the Left" about mourning the losses we feel politically. He writes:

I think we need to reclaim mourning as one of our practices on the Left, as a political and communal practice (or, rather, reclaim it more broadly – the incorporation of mourning is certainly one of the things that gives the Black Lives Matter movement such power – and in a way that allows us to mourn the defeat of our hopes as well as the loss of lives).
This rings true for me. I feel I am mourning this defeat, the loss of hope, the loss of dreams for my country. I want to be alone in the woods, in the silence from which I feel calmed. I don't want to engage and this feels bad too.

The snow on the ground out the window melts and the sky catches blue around the edges. It is shapeless as though waiting.