Light Gatherer

Spring in the snow

I have lived a cluster of sterling days
chased with silver light. Radiance
bounces from crystalline snow
halos your hair lending
you a glorified look. Your smile shifts
Transmuted it flies to tiny dendrites
transformed into electrical jolt
felt at the base of my spine
it radiates to extremities
I capture your shoulders
grasp hard, compose my lips,
close the gap.

Photo credit: stock.xchng user bcch

She is Just Away…

Forget Me Nots in my Mother's Garden

My mother is in China.
Visiting Tiananmen Square.
The Forbidden City.
Viewing 800 ceremonial buildings
containing 9,999 rooms
and a courtyard for 100,000 people.

She walks through Beijing’s ancient narrow hutongs
Learning about the daily life of the ordinary.
Then the Summer Palace, where the Imperial court lived
Every year from April to October.

On to the peaceful valley of the buried Ming emperors
Later to the Great Wall,
Undulating up and down the Badaling Hills
Marveling at great stone towers she learns its
Curves are to defy devils and demons,
Who only travel in straight lines.

At the Temple of Heaven
a series of elegant circular structures
Reaching for other realms
She hears of rituals of servility
for release of sins

I follow her progress in the itinerary,
subject to change.
With no telephone numbers,
no hotel address,

There is no way to picture her
visiting these places.
I have no photos, no book
to show the way.

I am reassured that she will have
a welcoming dinner of traditional Peking duck
with a lively acrobatic show during dinner,
after which she can relax during the evening
and gather her memories and new friends.


This poem was penned in 2003 when my mother was in China. Each day of her trip I tried to picture her doing some of the things that were described in the very formal, old-fashioned itinerary that was provided by the tour company. Some of the phrases in this poem are “found” in that I lifted them directly from the itinerary. While she was gone, I realized that I had no way to contact her, no way to communicate. And it struck me that her traveling to China was giving me a foretaste (way in advance I hope, as she is still wonderfully vital and active) of how it may be when she is dead and gone. Then I’ll have no way to communicate with her, no way to see her, no knowledge of how she is. The formality of the itinerary and its stiff language made me think of the Victorians and their journeys and then of Victorian era poetry. The title of this poem refers to James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “She Is Just Away”. If you aren’t familiar with his sentimental Victorian poetry, you might find this Wikipedia entry interesting.

Transfiguration

Red Maples by CTD 2005 Flickr Creative Commons

There is a quiet moment
when winter moves aside
and spring begins
secret and obscure
it hides
known to initiates
holding full glory
of the new season
in newly formed hands

In mystery
arching and straight
stark as branching veins
against the flat sky
small trees lift their
growing edges
to be transformed
from sienna to burgundy
by the warmth and light
of an eternal star.

Red maples slowly uncoil
their blossoms
promise of fruitfulness
chancing cold
frost tinged air
they rise in union
with the opening world

Photo credit: flickr creative commons user Ctd 2005

Tide

Folly Beach. Marsh, Birds and Morris Island Light by Wm. Smithem

Today I have watched
every cycle of the tide.
four divided by two
high and low
alternately covering
and uncovering.

With each one
I expected
to find some evidence of you
floating toward me,
or evidence of you
steadily in retreat
and I only found
the rhythm of the ritual
flood and fall.
like a woman’s body,
the marsh fills and empties.

I think I expected this water
to bring you to me like
Jesus walking;
a miracle resolving all
doubts, simply believed.

Then I imagined
that I would flow
outward and find you
connected as we are
by the water, the wind,
and the grasses
undulating in unison.

But all I saw
were the birds,
who took flight
and carried me
into the horizon.

I Sleep Under Words

Folly Beach Dawn by William P Smithem

I sleep under words
cocooned in down
I dream with ideas
formed by other minds
read by eyes
felt in bones

In the light I wear them
amulet like fetishes
bound bits of sound
arbitrary vibrations
tongue utterance

Awakening
I climb the cliff
into the darkness
led by the glow
of their lingering
luminescence
lustrous
pearlescent in the
nascent dawn

Driving Into Eternity

Driving Into Eternity

Riding downhill into the wind
I awaken to the joy of possibility.
Exhilarated by the speed
I am propelled into my future.

Driving the straight-away with ever increasing urgency.
Competently shifting
Clutch, shift, accelerate
Clutch, shift, accelerate
I explode through the barrier into the unknown
Flying into my dreams.

Phosphorescent flashes light the blackness
Black on Black
Magnesium explosion on green
White core into day night
Resolution into blindness

Edisto Soul

Edisto-Soul

Crossing the Edisto,
I saw my soul
Reflected on the
Black Water.
Caught like the sky
In its mirrored surface,
Like the leaves floating.
Fallen from the Source,
In Autumn.