its flavors fade
and all that's left
is what weighs me down.
Steven's Poetry/Writing: June 2009 Archives
Recollected in Tranquility
In the mix and muddle of events
it's often hard to see and say what
seem to be the truth; instead we stand
aghast and gaping at what we cannot
change. We seek inside asylum
a solace, a sweet peace
to spread like a thin blanket
that offers no warmth, but a harsh
security--a shell against the shocks
that strike at who we are.
Grey ghost of gravel
and pavement, he passes
underfoot with a whisper.
Still he stands
a bated breath until
the untrustworthy foot
or shivering, skipping shade
goads him into fresh-
footed flight across
sunlit surfaces, his
shadow flying in front
cutting new contours, sharp-edged
etchings for lawn and sidewalk.
On a trip to Macomb, Illinois for a geological convention (North-Central GSA) a group of us left the very small college town and drove some 25, or perhaps as much as 50 miles west to Keokuk, Iowa to have dinner at a small Mexican restaurant on the western side of Keokuk. My recollection was that the food was pretty much a midwesterner's idea of what Mexican food is all about. But on the way there we stopped on the western bank of the Mississippi--and that is what is recalled below.
The rolling hills of Keokuk--
I thought, hills in Iowa?--
as down the sweeping streets
that strayed over the bluff-tops
above the river, I saw brick and wood
houses, magnificent in age and whiteness
and pride of generational holders.
The Mississippi at a decades long
ebb stranded barges filled with sand
and gravel at the gates of the river,
and we five men looked down into
the muddy wash, posed as
though at urinals for some sassy
That is not the now Iowa,
the Mississippi that flows
past the brooding past--masked
by marble, brick, and mortar.
But that river, pinched in from
banks and flowing trickle
to trickle and puddle to puddle
lives large as long as those who stood
still see and think and share
their thoughts and ways.
THAT Iowa is alive in ways
that one I cannot see now is not
and though the shape and shade
and form and flow of memory
mocks what once was, and each
recall shifts subtly
what is brought back,
still it is there in the richness
of memory, the raw wilderness
of thought to return and
reshape as bidden.
So the muddy puddles are forever
part of the river that roars with
might swell and undulates
and undergoes its remaking
Last Saturday my book group had its most satisfying discussion (about a book) in quite some time. We spent nearly two hours just walking through Mrs. Dalloway in an attempt to understand everything from the title of the novel to why time dissolves in leaden circles. Here then, composed before the discussion, is my attempt to make sense of the novel.
Clarissa and Septimus--Giving Time Meaning
in the dissolving leaden circles of the hour
she learns to be, spring green,
and he learns not to be before
a leaden grey car crouched in the drive
and haunted by spectres of previous trips.
As the hour sounds, time
and all its boundaries dissolve
so what were separate actions
now become all one
and grey and green and male
and female, all have meaning
in the limpid light that
in the ripples of lead.
There, could it be any more clear?
And I add for what it is worth, the following excerpt from my journal of reading:
"One of Woolf's themes in Mrs. Dalloway is how time is measured and becomes variously interpreted, especially when simultaneous actions are seen in gentle correspondence. She began to put her fingers upon time's pulse and see that while clocks and chronometers hack and split time, human actions give it profound meaning. There's a human need to measure what cannot truly be measured."