sea change

There’s been one, a change, the heat here after a long period of rain, and mornings the air is laden with rich coastal air (John’s comment as he came in from the deck an hour ago with the coffee pot which had been left out overnight…). I love the cool hour before the sun rises and the scent of sweet peas fills the morning.

sweet peas.jpg

I multiply on the face of
                                                         the earth, on the
mud—I can see my prints on the sweet bluish mud—where I was just
                                                         standing and reaching to see if
those really were blossoms, I thought perhaps paper
                                                         from wind, & the sadness in
me is that of forced parting, as when I loved a personal
                                                         love, which now seems unthinkable, & I look at 
the gate, how open it is...
                 --Jorie Graham, from "Sea Change"

“…the book will return…”

leaves from Hallowell Road

I woke up this morning with all kinds of ideas about form, how it finds us rather than the opposite, how for some of us, our life’s work is all of a piece, an ongoing composition that allows for — even encourages — continous engagement. I’d read a review of Jorie Graham’s From the New World: Poems 1976-2014, by Ange Mlinko and I think I was dreaming of Graham’s poetry, heard its music and wild intelligence all through my sleep. She is a poet who mines the deep seams of Western culture from a personal perspective, always questioning and questing. And the way she positions her lines on a page, challenging the space and accomodating them to its imperfections — no one else does that in the same way. Mlinko has her reservations about some of Graham’s later work but says, “Her long-lined long poems expand into time like a lyric version of manifest destiny.”( She is an unabashed Modernist and I suppose that one of the reasons I find her work so persistently exciting and congenial is because those are my values too. I go to the great Modernist writers of the 20th century as often as I look for something new. And reading, say, Virginia Woolf or Katherine Mansfield, Basil Bunting or James Joyce, I find the world made new again and again. And then again. In The Second Common Reader, Woolf proposes the ideal way to read, which is an ideal guide to her own work of course as well as those books we return to over and over again:

The first process, to receive impressions with the utmost understanding, is only half the process of reading; it must be completed, if we are to get the whole pleasure from a book, by another. We must pass judgement upon those multitudinous impressions; we must make of these fleeting shapes one that is hard and lasting. But not directly. Wait for the dust of reading to settle; for the conflict and the questioning to die down; walk, talk, pull the dead petals from a rose, or fall asleep. Then suddenly without our willing it, for it is thus that Nature undertakes these transitions, the book will return, but differently. It will float to the top of the mind as a whole. (from “How Should One Read A Book?”)

I wrote down those early thoughts this morning and then promptly lost the post into some Internet fog. And the day happened, with some housework, a long walk in search of mushrooms (only two chanterelles worth keeping and several pines too sodden to bring home), the rescue of a tiny rough-skinned newt from the road where it had crept out and then lost too much body heat to move any further, and listening to, then seeing, a kingfisher above the marsh between Hallowell Road and Sakinaw Lake, where Ruby Creek swirls in its autumn fullness, and where I hoped to see cutthroat but instead only found long streaks of white guano where eagles had feasted on their bodies. The day happened and the sun has set, though there was such a glow of late sun in the cascara just beyond my window. Everything full of everything else, shape-shifting.

What is the light
at the end of the day, deep, reddish-gold, bathing the walls,
the corridors, light that is no longer light, no longer clarifies,
illuminates, antique, freed from the body of
that air that carries it. What is it
for the space of time
where it is useless, merely

(from “Salmon” by Jorie Graham)



there was time this morning…

…to read two poems from Jorie Graham’s stunning collection, Place (Ecco, 2012), while I drank my coffee in bed. They are dense poems, scary in their intensity, and this morning a phrase entered my heart, made me shake while I continued reading. It was from the poem “The Bird That Begins It”:

                                                  What is the job today my being

                                                               asks of

                                                               light. Please

tell me my job.

I thought of all the mornings when I woke, never asking. And I thought of what I loved — the moments in light, winter or summer, firelight, sunlight, the soft light of an oil-lamp when the power went out and we read anyway, our books held close to the flame. I remembered our small fires on White Pine Island, cooking over them, our boat bumping against the rocks, and look, there’s Lily (dead nearly 20 years) heading down to the water.