Veronica's Garden

I originally started this blog to promote my novel, Post Rock Limestone Caryatids. Now I write essays and poetry about everything, including the Flint Hills, healing, parenting, etc. WARNING: emotional content, sometimes intense. Read at own risk of feeling.

Tag: poem

Rings of Saturn

Om shram shreem shroom Shanaichiraya namaha.
-Hindu chant to Saturn

The day I saw the rings of Saturn,
gas giant, Slow-Mover, earth star,
reaper, a whale in the Pacific
was carrying her dead baby
for the 16th day. That day
we gave a trunkload of stuff
to the thrift store, and bought
other stuff to take home. A woman
with lots of tattoos saved two kittens
abandoned at birth by their mother.
One died, the other lived.
The old patriarch was retrograde,
a trick of perspective making him appear
to move backwards from day to day.
I woke up and saw gray mist
clinging to the walls, and knew
it was time to smudge the house,
this day the sun and moon and earth were aligned.
The President told lots of lies, which
he did every day. My husband
wrote a sermon about Elijah killing
worshippers of Baal, which was really
about prophetic Christianity.
A doctor okayed my children to play sports.
I got high on chiropractic.
That night we took a bus to the location where
the telescopes were erected.
My daughter knew the nighthawks
circling and swerving in the deepening dusk.
It was August and the sky was hazy,
but as we stood and waited, our faces ghostly
in the moondark, more stars appeared.
And more, faint specks of dust
in the indigo sky.
An expert talked about
constellations vs. asterisms,
and about light pollution. I waited in line.
Then there he was:
746 million miles away, bright disc
wrapped round by a frisbee of light.
51 years he was my neighbor, my father,
Saturn, gas giant, slow-mover,
reaper, his weight pulling me even
here on Earth, as we orbit our star,
our source, together, and I never saw him
until this night.

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Mind vs. Body

Dang, but my poetry is messy these days. It’s why I haven’t been posting much, though I’m still writing. I feel like everything needs major work before it’ll make any sense whatsoever. This one is a perfect example, but I think it’s kind of about the messiness while demonstrating it, so I’m posting right away, and you can take it or leave it.

Mind vs. Body

What does the body mean,
when it changes or moves
or doesn’t move? This
conglomeration of tissues, organs,
fluids, that somehow manages
to be one animal, presided over
by a mind which thinks itself
separate. Godammit, listen to me,
the body says. Things are changing
and we need time to adjust. You
off floating around in outer space,
pondering unimaginable enormities
while we are down here performing chemistry,
digesting molecules, identifying that which
needs to be gotten rid of, constantly breathing,
pumping, organizing, keeping house.
Give us a freakin break.
Okay, says mind, but there’s
a little thing called a checkbook.
It’s just a thing to you, but to me
it represents abstractions that,
long story short, are relevant
to stuff you care about, like food,
and a comfortable bed to sleep in.
Don’t get me started on geopolitics and
petrochemicals—
Oh for heaven’s sake, shut it.
Balance your goddam checkbook
instead of yoga, we get it.

It goes on like that all day,
mind and body struggling
to get their needs met,
both knowing they need each other,
but not sure exactly why,
or what they’re even talking about.

Congratulations

I wrote a poem about the lunar eclipse, but it’s not ready. Instead I’m sharing with you this one I wrote a while back, but since we’re all under the whip of the Shadow now, I think it works pretty well for today too.

Congratulations,
you have just reached the point
at which everything you write sucks.
These poems you’re compiling for a book:
dim words that lay on the page like a dead fish,
if the fish failed to stink or bear a moist,
slithery texture, nor had ever lived in the first place.
Sterile, then, like the hands of a surgeon,
though his scalpel has been misplaced, and the patient
has no need of evisceration. Go on,
proceed with the project. This attack of self-loathing
is an inevitable phase, which passes.
The book will be fine, but your perception
of light and depth is now compromised,
and you’ll have to go from here blind,
by feel, by memory.

Volunteering at the Fireworks Stand

Fireworks, Wamego, KS 2
Blockbuster Smoke Balls, Black Snakes,
Big Rig. Climbing Panda, Pooping Dog.
Oh Americans, we love our fireworks.
Love to make loud bangs, love
the sensory disorientation of smoke
and flashing colors. Blue. Bullet Bombs.
Feel the Blast. I feel it, America,
the blast and the bombast that we think
makes us us. We tone it down for no one.
We own it. Bandit Bombs. Blow the Bank.
Is this who we are?
The woman who gives God the credit
for the silent wild giraffe she just killed.
The grinning politician who displays
a big gun in a parade, the thousands of dogs
cowering in closets and under beds
while we celebrate.
Screamin’ Eagles. Pooping Elephant.
A Shot in the Dark.
But aren’t we also that quiet brown boy
whose grandma carries his coins
in a baggie, admonishing him to choose
his fireworks wisely, then pays the difference,
gives him the change, and donates a little
to save an old building.
Sky Spider, Alien Landing.
He thanks me as they leave.
Trifuge, Heavy Cake, One Night Stand,
Dirty Dancing In the Sky.
Oh America, your schizophrenia is mine.
Your land, your peoples, your languages,
your paranoias, your heating climate,
your religions, your fears, your lies,
your history, your crazy are all in me
for all time. God bless America.
Night Circus, Mammoth Day.
Magic Crystal, Twitter Glitter.

Moon

Moon At Dawn 2

They say the moon only reflects the sun,
but doesn’t she pulse with her own
invisible frequencies, not gold but silver,
cooler than ultraviolet, and white-hot.
Insouciant as a cat secreted in the dark,
keeping her own time,
whole units of time named after her.
They say she’s less powerful than the sun,
but she has her own gravity.
See how her silent tug pulls oceans.
They say the moon is nothing but a giant rock,
but what rock hangs in the sky
at that precise distance perfectly balanced
between plummeting and drifting away?
They say the moon has no influence with us,
does not bathe us from our first breath
in her waves of light and gravity,
of memory, hope, myth, and love.
They are wrong.

Wildness

What if it were a dream, what would it mean,
if a cat killed a bird barely ready to fly?
You wanted to protect the birds,
but you couldn’t. The cats’ wild nature,
what you admired about them,
drove them to hunt. When you took them in,
you thought you could balance their needs
with the needs of the local environment,
aliens though they were. You thought
you were more powerful than they.

At this point, in the dream, the cats
would have grown much larger than you’d expected.
They’d be like tigers, paws as big as your face,
claws that could take you down in one playful swat.
You’d be fearful for the safety of the children,
who, because it’s a dream, would be very small,
infants, even, not the actual gangly teens
you know today, who look down to meet your eyes.

You would hope that evolution
might have given the birds something.
They are wild, too. You might try
communication, learning their various
calls, watching and learning their habits.
Don’t build your nest in that tree, there are cats,
I can’t protect you, because cats. Cats.
And miraculously they understand, and
move the nest closer to the house.

What does it mean, when every day
you struggle to keep the wildness in, but it escapes,
and every day another dead bird by the door,
with the mottled feathers of one big enough
to fly, but not yet very good at it,
not having grown into their distinction,
the patterns and colors that show who they are?

Adopted

Here’s a poem for all the adopted people and parents on Mothers’ Day.

Some families don’t look like each other.
Tall and short, different shapes,
long pointy noses and buttons,
olive complexion and fair with freckles.
Blue eyes and brown. All mixed together
dumped unceremoniously into one pot.
Stir, add heat, and call it a family.
We have no shared genetic memory,
our only history that which we claim,
that which we make together or make up.
A handful of heritages from which
we choose at will. This is adoption.
We are people so audacious as to
choose our family, by luck or by love or
being in the right place at the right time.
There may be times when we feel we don’t belong,
we’re in the wrong family. There may be times
we secretly long for the rich, kind, perfectly adoring
people we were meant to have,
who would buy us everything we want
and never make us do chores.
But we always know better: the real family
is the one you are with. Who needs
blood and DNA and shared cheekbones and skin,
who needs strangers to know by looking at us
who belongs to whom?
We are family by force of will.
Our existence is proof that we are.
Our existence is proof of the power of choice
and when we say mother and father
we are speaking verbs more than titles.
Don’t feel sorry for me, I am adopted and proud
and know the strength of family
in a way you blood relations never will.

Bob King

back massage

Of my teachers in massage school,
he was the one I wanted to be like.
Bodybuilder, deep thinker, he taught me
the importance of balance in structure.
Intellectual: in another incarnation
he would be an engineer, but in this one
he was an engineer of the body.
Lengthen and strengthen, he often said,
and I still say it in my mind
when I’m touching a person’s hip flexors.
Lengthen that which shrinks down and inward,
strengthen that which is overstretched.
Let us each stand as tall as we are.
Big strong hands that could make you feel safe
by touching you, compassionate spirit
that could make the truth feel less scary
when he spoke it. Lengthen and strengthen.
I’ve come to that age when I know
that people I remember from a long time ago
are likely to be dead now, but hadn’t yet
when I heard Bob King had died.
Magician, wise man: He knew the secrets
of the body. He taught me how to breathe.
How could he not live forever? How could I
have had my last conversation with him?
I still hear his voice, the way he measured his words.
I still think of questions I’d like to ask him,
about the vagus nerve, or torsion of the pelvis.
For some people I would be willing to believe
in heaven. I’ll see Bob there, and we’ll talk
about how it was to be in the body,
the exquisite pain and the dancing, the feeling strong
and feeling like a jigsaw puzzle put together wrong.
Remember when we used to lengthen and strengthen,
he’ll say, and I’ll say yes, I do, I did,
lengthen and strengthen.

 

NaPoWriMo day 22: [They rank those kids.]

I decided to lean into the falling asleep while writing thing I’ve been doing all month, and instead of trying to focus on an idea, type all the words that go traipsing through my mind as I doze off. I don’t know that this result is a poem, but I don’t know that it isn’t. What does it mean? Why don’t you tell me?

They rank those kids. Make them drink
motor oil. Sit down with us on the cold ground.
Is it too long from the church
you like to change my direction?
I’m not sure if he’s changed it
or if he’s changed. You’re giving
him more weapons. It’s in Kansas City
more likely, it’s got a little tin to it.
What happened? I just found this
on a high shelf you probably can’t reach.
You want it? They’re lying to you,
Rachel, your head’s so high. Do you hear the
waterfalls doing that? I hear them.
If you make her a paper airplane.
Nobody gets it, the purple zeitgeist.
Those slams really bother you. Mm hm.
That makes sense because everyone agrees
they’re really happy. Don’t box us in.

Mom, what are those giant airplanes?

NaPoWriMo Day 19: Fires of Spring

Burning hill
The vultures love to ride the rising heat.
They see it shimmer in the air
high above road and prairie.
Brown clouds rising on the horizon.
Haze dulls the air. Bits of ash fall,
and come to rest on every surface.
Miles of blackened ground.
Within days, new green seeps up
from the black; indomitable grass,
life that can’t be arrested, even by fire.
There’s dying back in fall, then still cold
of winter, and now this slow explosion.
Even when I cough and tear,
I love the smoky smell of prairie spring.

 

Here’s some cool footage of the prairie burningfrom the air.

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