Leaving the Sixth Floor
“Oh yes,” she nods. “I really have met God.
He stared right at me, with his one round eye.
He can watch everything; he doesn’t need
two, like the rest of us.” She wrings a strand
of hair around her wrist and I can tell
the morphine has begun to take effect.
“So God’s a Cyclops?” I suppose that seems
as good as any other human guess.
“Perhaps,” she mutters, “though he wears a shell
and bathes Himself upon a peduncle.”
“Oh? God’s some kind of clam? He has no teeth?”
I wish I hadn’t said it like a joke
without a punch line. “Maybe He’s a conch,
crawling through sand, lolling His holy foot.”
She yawns, gazing past me at a framed print
of peacocks and deer in a magic wood.
“Oh my!” her breath is broken with endings.
“There’s someone walking on the water, there
under the oak tree. Quickly, look outside;
tell me you see him too. Please say he’s real,
and that I’m not as crazy as I sound.”
Could be, I think, it’s God again, this time
tiptoeing over the hospital lawn
in disposable slippers, His head pink
and shining from too much radiation.
I try for nonchalance, which doesn’t work
because I’m not expecting this small man
balanced on a branch and wrapped in starlight.
He's wearing a pale tunic with grey cloak,
his long hair crowned with a ragged circle
that looks like seaweed knots – or is it thorns?
He faces my window and lifts his hand.
Over the visitors' parking area
an ocean glimmers, where his gentle sail
has caught a breeze; yet all the leaves are calm.
“I guess you’re right.” It’s possible she hears
but now it doesn’t matter. In the room
only her respirator’s still talking.
“Shhh, cluck!” I see two outlines in the glass:
my own and someone else’s. I don’t turn
because I understand there’s no one left
but me. When I exhale, a spreading mist
blurs everything but ship and upraised arm.
A post-midnight prayer, then I slip away.
As I reach my car, a throb of alarms
ricochets from the building behind me.
No point in going back; my place is here
among the minivans and wading pools.
The cowrie necklace on my rear-view mirror
swings like a pendulum, snaps and falls.
Needless to say, on occasion my thoughts run to the decidedly strange!
Former train station in my hometown, Wolfville. It is now a library. To "visit" online, click this link: http://www.valleylibrary.ca/main/index.php?pagecontentid=252&demoid=1&PHPSESSID=7bde57694f69bb3209c9471bd44009cd
Way Station on the Akashic
We always tilt between
moving shadows and bones
that stitch the seesaw
fast to grassless ground.
Ghost cowboys straddle
cold fenceposts before they
close painted legs over
the splintery pine.
Cageless, a bitter pitbull
unjaws his brindled rage
and the four-year-old falls
quickly, a red snow star.
Lily whispers are exhaled
from a motionless mortician
who is Saturday sleeping.
His anxious cat kneads sheets.
Part-time husbands dance
around circles of chains;
a biker with piano teeth
tickles the pack lord’s wife.
A bride leaps her altar rope
before the knife descends.
Daughters watch and offer
arms to their awed mothers.
Hairless Marianne softly
explores the new skull door
where her brain presses.
cracks, then arc-arms bricks
through the stained, immaculate
windows of his father's house.
Coals roll from a June picnic,
toward the shoreline and black
lake. Ninth-grade lovers later
drown. Their bonfire collapses.
The fabric feels thin tonight.
If it blows aside, what hero
will race down that beach,
turn aside the deathboat?
In this eight-loop, every
accident recurs, all sparrows
fall and revive. Top Forty
brackets a Bach cantata.
We strip and stretch,
lacquered with grave veneer:
open shut breathe choke.
Flesh rots. Rises. Reassembles.
Sad parades of pets and babies
wind among our dumb feet.
When will we neuter deadbeat
dads, or empty cancer wards?
The teeter-totter waits
at the top, and sheds
unused minutes like skin cells
before the downward drop.
Recently, I picked up a book called Science and the Akashic Field, (c) 2004 by Ervin Laszlo. It deals with the ancient concept of the Akashic Record as it applies to scientific pursuits, particularly in the field of quantum physics. Is our personal immortality merely a matter of whatever imprint we leave in the fabric of space-time? Does the universe itself possess an enduring memory, the A-field? I have mixed feelings, I must admit. Read Laszlo and see what you think! - Brenda
Sculpted in slate, blue heron stands
at water’s edge, considering
the mysteries of hidden things,
minnows, frogs, tadpoles,
mud and sand.
I watch in awe his rapier bite,
impaling hapless, slimy meat.
Trout in his shadow swerve, retreat
to scatter upstream
out of sight.
My own position, much as his,
depends on quickness mixed with chance,
roiling deep currents as I dance
through smooth, concealing
What swims below I may not see,
nor follow every wandering thought.
Halting immobile in one spot,
my vision takes in
Living in a seaside province, I've always loved water. As a child, I was constantly fishing for trout; now, I keep a few koi and goldfish in my little self-created pool, and find them to be far more intelligent than I'd ever have guessed. The secretive world below the surface seems a useful metaphor for the vast, incomprehensible universe we inhabit, both outside and within ourselves. Miniature landscapes, too, have their own complexity - and the pirouettes of atoms are as astonishing as the slow march of any sun.
Fibonacci Series in a Sunflower's Heart
Miriam's Final Exam
The egg girl seeks to grow her golden one
with photocopied sonnets. As she reads,
each word descends on cords toward her son.
The meter fails, but then the voice of Donne
wraps round her like a vine, and from its seeds
the egg girl seeks to grow her golden one.
She dreams in poetry, but she's begun
to doubt herself and as her pencil bleeds,
no words descend on cords toward her son.
She prays for inspiration. There is none
for fallen mothers; still the test proceeds.
The egg girl seeks to grow her golden one.
She hears the teacher warn of time outrun:
just ten more minutes. Clock-hands click like beads;
their words descend on cords toward her son.
No further work remains - what she has done
must guarantee her grace. Thus she accedes.
The egg girl seeks to grow her golden one;
the Word descends on cords toward her Son.
The Guardian (UK) has an excellent Poetry Workshop in which many different forms are featured and discussed. Submissions are sent from all over the world. I was thrilled to have one of my villanelles, Miriam's Final Exam, chosen for the April Short List. Because it's a mystical poem, I'll include the link here. The Guardian page is found at http://books.guardian.co.uk/poetryworkshop/story/0,15167,1462545,00.html
"Brenda Tate sets up an intriguing conundrum: is her character that of a pregnant schoolgirl? And how does she become transformed into the Virgin Mary? Does the Holy Sprit descend on her through the metaphysical (in both senses here) priest John Donne? This poem may be just too clever for its own good! The variation in syntax of the second couplet line is clever and unobtrusive. This might not have the lasting impact of Charles Causley's "The Ballad of the Bread Man", but it has a similar ambition and works impressively." - Tony Curtis (Evaluator and Critic)
After Spring Rock Picking
One more shovel of bedding, for the sweet
beasts to lie upon. Another heft, shift, whistle
into the evening aisle with its cobweb weave.
Yesterday’s plaid wool dangles from a nail, warmer
than wanted in this passion of seed and green.
My pitchfork sings with the older voice of July,
raised for an underhand twitch, a filling
of tongues and souls with fresh benediction.
One more scoop, the grain rolling like haiku
in quick syllables beside the water buckets,
before I swing the doors to admit my desire.
Pock clop chock, horses accept their shelter
and the old clover shorn in bright afternoons.
How I rose among the sheaves to scythe it home!
It is time for locking stalls, before dark drops.
Then a press like granite under my heart closes
the valve gates, and all is finished. I am left
to crinkle like oats under the splintered steps
with my chin on summer’s forgotten grass.
I own no hope except to be found tomorrow
beneath a sun shaft, my harvest of field stones
round as kneecaps in the quiet wheelbarrow.
“Whoa there, good girl,” calls one windowed star.
Dust -- soft as foal’s breath -- settles on my eyes.
Diamond Bobbie, Arabian Mare
All poems and photos (c) 2004-2008 by Brenda Tate