Veronica's Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland on writing, living, the Flint Hills, and the Post Rock Limestone Caryatids

Category: Poetry

Mars Conjunct Venus

There’s a rabble-rouser in me.
Likes to fight. Likes to shut down
a discussion with his jury-rigged
arguments made of home-canned
logic and duct tape. Lives with his gang
in an abandoned barn on the outskirts
of my mind. Strutting around shirtless
and sweating like he owns the place.
His girlfriend, she’s interesting. Titian mane
falling over a thrift-store feather boa.
Laughs like the bell grandma used
to call everyone in for dinner. Sings
like cold water from a deep well.
I’d be friends with her, if I could
just get them apart. We watch them,
my little girl and I, hidden under the
low-hanging branches of an evergreen.
We only see shadows through the grimy window,
but we can hear their voices, laughing,
shouting. Firing off the shotgun just for kicks.
If they knew we were here,
they’d torch the place and scatter.
We’d never see them again. But they’d
still be around, out there somewhere,
causing trouble.

Rowan at window2

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Black Tangle

Pinwheel

It could take a year to get this place in order,
but I have to sell quickly. And I have to give
it over to the next owner with my whole heart,
with love and joy. So today I’ll plant this stone
flower box, with mums, because it’s late
in the summer, past the season for annuals.
The box is overgrown with perennials that
no longer flower, and volunteer white heath
that flowers too late. Oddly for August,
there’s new green growth under the black tangle
of last year’s moldy stems. I grab handfuls
of dead stuff, roly-polies scatter. Oh roly-polies,
cute dry-land crustaceans, I remember now
why I hate you. How many times have I
planted mums here, how many times
did you kill them? How many gallons
of water did I carry and pour out
for that which was doomed? I remember now
the full heart I put into this place, the
hope I held. How bitterly I gave up. How
intimate I’ve become with the word failure.
Why am I doing this? Love and whole heart,
oh yes. These blooms will be bright and pretty,
if only for a short while: that’s all I need.
Give me a week to show the place, then
let it be someone else’s job. I leave
a chunk of gangly mystery flower, move
the native late-bloomer a few inches
to make space for today’s fresh batch.
No normal person would find beauty
in these weeds, but I am a master of rescuing
the unwanted, of seeing beauty where others
see trash. The beer-can pinwheel isn’t a loss,
yet. I turn it to the slight breeze, watch it jiggle.
Every time I think it’s slowing to stillness,
another whisper wakes it. It never quite dies,
never really spins.

Yeah.

One of my primary purposes in starting Veronica’s Garden was to promote my novel, which I self-published four years ago and no longer promote. In fact, I’m officially not writing anymore, except I still blog and I write more poetry than I did for years. But. I’m supposed to be promoting my massage therapy business now instead, but I keep writing about nature and writing.

Today I had a massage from my friend Joy Daley. So if anything, this poem will promote Joy’s bodywork, which is ironic because I think she only takes new clients by referral. But, if you think this sounds appealing, I can probably do it for you as well. You can ask Joy, she trades with me, so she would know.

Yeah.

When you’re overdue for a massage
and you finally get a really good one
and you forget where you are and
a you feel inexplicable joy to see
a few lazy clouds dot the sky above
your freshly opened cranium and there’s
unspeakable beauty even in the train
carrying a thousand cattle to a grisly death
and a cacophony of sunflowers jostle
for your attention and turkey vultures
greet you on the road and you want to cry
and you forget who you are
and you just keep driving, smiling, saying
yeah. yeah. yeah.

Green hills

Dark Is the Shadow

Dark is the Shadow, yes, but
Dark is also the Indweller,
silent eternal Divine Love
within you, shrouded for
your protection from light
a thousand times brighter
than the sun. Brilliance that
would burn your eyes to see it.

When the moon crosses in front
of the sun, you can see stars
you never knew of. Forget the
crickets and monsters, there’s light
out there, for those who stand in the shadow,
cosmic rays from elsewhere, beyond
the sun, rushing in in just this brief moment.

Be there for it. Seek it, go wherever
it takes you. Pay whatever is
required to go into the Dark,
to see the light you can
only see from the Shadow.
Accept and claim its alien gifts
rushing in for you and you alone.
Upheaval is only another word for change.

Witnessing the End

Autumn Hills

We were told that there would be difficulty,
betrayals, losses, and lack.
We expected to make sacrifices for
love and worthy causes. There
would be demagogues, tyrants, and
CEOs who lacked empathy.
And there would be beauty,
in a face or in art or in nature.
And we were taught to love these things,
to be comforted by them in times of
suffering. But did anyone tell you
there would be days you would
walk the streets openly weeping,
drowning in the world and the grief
of knowing you are witnessing the end.
It’s time to say goodbye to everything,
to giraffes and orcas, the butterflies
that migrate a thousand miles to share
warmth through the winter. To the wild
places that save us. To earth not driven
to hiding from relentless attack by those
who would plunder, extract, and leave
her for dead. And leave us for dead.
Say goodbye to life not owned by profiteers.
We were advised to remember
that time isn’t linear, and we are immortal
beings of light far greater than the
speck of dust we know here now. That
all these things we love are eternal,
in some way we cannot understand.
But still here I am, immersed in
sunlight on grassland in winter,
red-tailed hawk circling overhead.
And there’s a man from a city in Japan,
standing on the Kansas prairie weeping
to discover that there is still such beauty
in the world. Say goodbye to it all, my friend.
The voracious maw won’t stop until
every last drop of water has been tainted, every
wild animal eaten or caged. Every heart
and mind given over to the demagogue
and the masked man behind him. Say
goodbye with every breath and impulse,
every moment, every truck that passes
on the highway, every word or beat or
image clamoring for attention. Goodbye with
every step, walking hip deep in tall grass,
or pounding unyielding pavement of city streets,
or wandering the bright-lit aisles of a dollar store,
openly weeping.

Saturn Square Neptune

Everything at odds with everything else.
The refrigerator heats up the kitchen.
The air conditioner gives the kids nosebleeds
and the washer backs up the kitchen sink
and leaks water somewhere under the floor.
The clothesline runs through a gauntlet
of chiggers. Bug juice and sweat and
I shower and change into clean clothes.
Mud oozing up between the tiles.
And health insurance. Whole days lost
to the phone and the clock and the
checkbook. The premiums are
so high I can’t afford the deductible.
Maybe some yoga will detangle things
so I can write. I focus on my breath until
it’s too late to write. Do you see what I mean?
Sometimes everything hinges on
everything else, but sometimes everything
is a dog fight to the death
of everything else. And this blue-white light
through my core: is it lighting me
from within? Or splitting me apart?

Chiron Return

Let’s get this out in the open: I rush to publish earlier than is probably advisable. Last week I published a poem that I edited twice in the next two days, then revised it so substantially that it should probably get another post altogether.

If I come across as half-assed, and valuing my work beyond its worth, I’m okay with that. That’s what blogging’s all about, right? Take it or leave it.

But it appears some people actually do like my poetry. For you, enjoy.

 

Chiron Return

Did Chiron get fed up with the body
he’d been issued, that stubbornly refused
to heal? Did the master healer hope,
month after month, to find an efficacious
blend of herbs to stanch the bleeding,
or did he know this injury
would be the downfall of a demigod?
Did he struggle to comprehend
the incongruity of a wounded immortal?

Was he annoyed to hear humans claim
as identity afflictions that ought to have
healed decades ago? “I hate to cough because
sixty years ago I had pertussis.”

Did he see the forty-nine-year-old woman
with the heavy bleeding, the torpid thyroid,
incontinent bladder, presbyopia, insomnia,
and toothache—close his eyes, feel the throbbing
of his own nagging wound, and think,
this is what it’s like to be mortal?

Palermo house

To My Demented Friends

Sunrise Over Pond

a few seconds later

To the man who filled his basement to the ceiling
with boxes of meaningless things, because
“There’s money down there,” and
to the woman who said there had
formerly been a hill behind the house,
“. . . but it’s gone now . . .”—
I too live with unfathomable sense of loss,
a pool too deep to swim to the black depths.
Struggling to get to the bottom of things
(“Bring the darkness to light,” she said,
“not the other way around”) and desperate
to rise to the air. I’m not afraid
of the darkness down there, but I am afraid
of drowning.

Flight of Unknown Birds

For Lent I gave up writing, and being a writer, and talking and writing about writing. A friend asked why, and I told her I couldn’t tell her until Easter. Truth was, I wasn’t entirely sure myself. But it turns out I’m not that good at keeping a Lenten vow, so here’s my answer.

The Flight of Unknown Birds

Coming over the ridge in the winter-golden hills
light angling toward the endless horizon
as it only does in late winter in Kansas.
How is it I have come to love this place
so deep in my viscera, rooted in me
in a place before words. Bald eagle lifting
into flight. Blood splattered on the road.

I should hit the brakes, grab my camera,
shoot, but I’ve done that before at this very spot,
more than once. No photo ever satisfies.
Only this moment itself can express
this moment. All beauty is unspeakable;
truth, inexpressible. In the back seat
my daughter bends her head to a book,
oblivious.

I have tried to quit writing for the spite of it.
Even walking away from certain failure,
I know I’ll come back. The light in winter,
the flight of unknown birds: all existence
is poetry. There can be no being apart from it.
I’ll write long after I’m dead, until my bones
disintegrate into the earth.

Winter Prairie 3

Miley Cyrus and the Flaming Lips Cover Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds

He said, Miley Cyrus and the Flaming Lips,
it’s so weird, I don’t get it.
He said, is it just the drug thing?
She said, yeah.

She said, I’m having a flashback right now.
She sat back to enjoy the ride.
Any moment, there would be an
explosion of sound, even as
the surface of the pond was still,
smooth as glass, as a mirror.
The sun was setting in front
of the windshield, like watching
a show on a screen. Through
a screen, through the windscreen.
Windowpane.
He said he’d played this song
for her before. She didn’t remember it.
It was familiar and new at the same time.
Deer foraging at the edge of the woods.
Behind her, voices, children singing.

When they got out of the car,
they all danced.

Driving Into Sunset

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