Veronica's Garden

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

Tag: poem

The Big You

hst_carina_ngc3372_0006

Image credit: NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team

Do you ever find yourself obsessing
over small things, because it makes
you feel big? A far bigger You
watches you with amusement:
sitting hunched in the doorway,
counting grains of sand,
never crossing the threshold.

Do you want to be big? Forget the sand,
step up, step into your Large Self.
Be as big as you already are.
Claim all the space you require,
we’ll walk together among the galaxies.
There’s a nebula I’d like you to meet.
See Her stretch beyond every imaginable
horizon of human consciousness,
transcending form, vibrating with
light and sound, pregnant
with a million stars.

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.

Bad Friend

Writing is like a needy, bad friend who comes
uninvited and never leaves. She plants
herself on the couch, turns on the tv,
lights up a cigarette. “What’s for dinner?”
I try to remember all the good times
we’ve had together, the light that
would radiate from the space between us
when we were deep in conversation, the
magic tricks she used to entertain me with,
but I can never get anything done
when she’s in my life. She eats all the food
and sighs when I ask her to move her feet
so I can bissel up the crumbs. Day after day
she’s on the couch, chain smoking,
channel surfing, demanding my attention.
It wouldn’t be so bad
if she’d kick in a hundred now and then,
but ask her for money and she just
sticks her hand in her pocket and pulls out
a couple crumpled singles and some change.

Kick her to the curb. “Get out of my house,
bad friend, Writing. You’ve driven away my
true friends and put me in debt.” But
she’ll never leave, nightmare witch girl
who keeps coming back,
no matter how brutally I beat her.

She’s gone, now, but not far. A hint of smoke
drifts in the window from the trees behind the back yard.
I hear her cough, lurking there, waiting.

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?

Mars Retrograde Haiku and Discussion

mars

Photo by Hubble Space Telescope, 1997

He lost his key. He
borrowed mine, and lost it too.
This is all his fault.

Retrograde is the period in a planet’s orbit when it appears, from Earth’s perspective, to move backwards through the sky from night to night. Recall from high school science that this backwards movement was an important clue for Johannes Kepler to the fact that Earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. He wasn’t the first to posit a heliocentric solar system, but he was (so far) the last who had to.

Modern astrologers are well aware that nothing in orbit actually moves backwards; but during the periods when a planet appears to, its influence is said to be delayed, truncated, inverted, or otherwise screwed up.

The red planet is symbolized by its eponym Mars, Roman god of war. He’s involved in violence, conflict, and decisive action, as well as passion and the most animal sexual drives. When Mars is retrograde, don’t be surprised if it’s next to impossible to get anything done, to get motivated, or to take initiative. You may also notice minor irritations that would usually pass become major conflicts for no apparent reason.

I became aware of Mars retrograde as a factor in my life years ago, when I noticed that by some strange coincidence, everything in my life that I was unhappy about was caused by one of my male bosses (I had a lot of jobs in those days), or by my male partner. I had female bosses and friends, but they were all innocent of making me unhappy. When I see unlikely patterns in my thinking, it’s a good time to reflect and ask if perhaps the patterns I see aren’t generated more from within than without. I made a conscious decision to let go of my anger toward men, and, within a couple months, my irritation with all the men in my life passed. Those men I was angry with didn’t actually hold as much power over me as I had imagined.

Recently my dear husband lost both our keys to the car I drive. By a convoluted series of events I found myself alone with the vehicle in a town 20 miles away, and no way to start the car. (Don’t ask, it’s too ridiculous.) Blaming him for this problem did nothing to solve it. Realistically, I participated in the creation of that situation too. I repeatedly reminded myself of these two facts, and everything worked out fine, without even much delay. It wasn’t until yesterday that I found out that Mars went retrograde on April 17, and won’t turn around until June 29.

So I’ll need to watch myself until then, and keep a rein on any man-bashing I find myself falling into. It really doesn’t make me happy; it’s a distraction from what truly matters. It doesn’t even provide sufficient material for a good poem, beyond a haiku.

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

Some Days

I’m supposed to be finishing the Costa Rica journal, but instead I’m writing poetry. Some days are just like that.

Some Days

Some days feel heavily burdened by
a miasma of inertia. The work refuses
to get done, the kids whine and refuse too.
Some days nothing works, no effort bears
fruit everything is a futile struggle, and the only
thing to do is to recognize
the hopelessness of it all and quit. Give in
to your children’s demands to go to the pool,
get there fifteen minutes before closing,
be in the water as long as you can,
until the whistle blows. Because—
remember this—on days when trying
doesn’t work, not trying doesn’t work
either, it’s just a little easier, a little more
likely to precede an inexplicable
moment of sublime grace when you
suddenly notice you love everything,
the dust on the wall, chigger bites,
the tomatoes you still haven’t planted
and the picnic you’re planning. Simple pleasures
like the swimming pool and the city band
that plays music in the park. Quit fighting,
and notice it’s a remarkably nice life you have.
Notice the way time passes and
every moment is slightly different
than the previous one, until it’s another season,
you’re middle aged now and it’s okay.
Accept that nothing works, and get in the water,
be in the water as long as you can, until
the whistle blows.

Snow In May

Dear friends, it is I, Veronica Speedwell. Perhaps you thought you’d heard the last from me; But no. Spring positively requires poetry about flowers, and that is a job for me, whether Rachel likes it or not.

Snows of the Prairie

White fluff falls from the sky
of a glorious early spring day.
Cottonwood seeds catch the breeze:
Snow in May

The sunflowers peak and die back—
summer’s last ember.
White heath breaks into bloom!
Snow in September.

white heath by fence

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