We are family, Dytiscidae…

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Pond-surface

~~a glosa~~

Alive, we are like a sleek black water beetle
skating across still water in any direction
we choose, and soon to be swallowed
suddenly from beneath.

—“Night”, Robert Bly

~~~

Have you lost count of your senses?
Someone who loves you long ago made certain
you had five on each hand
and five, wiggling, on each prehensile
pinkening foot. Symbolic and prime
you burst from cramped and pensive foetal
with a joyful cry—I am arrived!
And not just to mark time or fulfill
biology. You and I intended joy, full
alive, we are like a sleek black water beetle.

Surface creature, you can smell the deep
and dip your skinny feet wherever taste
and fancies send you, yet a surfeit
skim, some oily practicality, pollutes,
lopping like a fisher’s scaling knife
permitted from forbidden. Vivisection
of the vastness of the sparkling neural
universe within has become the gauge
by which we sniff another’s misattention,
skating across still water in any direction,

frantic, fearing too much clamour and
the probability that all accelerates
toward more of better, more of worse. Appetites
of yesterday, I eschew, convinced through
dimming, wrongly disavowed sixth sense that
someone’s making off with mine & ours. Hollowed
by the scummy years of digging in & digging up,
asphyxiating from de-oxygenated history,
desire, healthy-gilled, moves on. Hallowed
we choose, and soon to be swallowed

this moment and the next, we entertain
dread for sake of conversation. Final breath
the switch that flips dusk to dawn, you and I
enter, one by one, the ark, the mothership.
We all must board that skiff eventually.
Why should I care if the pH of your belief
is pond sludge to my frisky brine? Some
silver, shiny, passing school that’s learned
to count past five will snatch both joy & grief
suddenly from beneath.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Dytiscadae: predaceous water beetles
The gorgeous image of a pond surface comes
from http://www.miriadna.com.

Wells

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This small hand dug water well is the only source of water for a small village located on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. Photograph taken in support of Joint Task Force (JTF) Liberia.

I have lost my map to the well of deep
thoughts. I’m caught up in shallows and crosshairs
reacting to bobbers in barrels where
one wrong emotion or word indiscreet
upsets the precarious balance. Nowhere
in views or remarks of the day can I
track what in dreams leads me straight through the eye
of the storm to the seed. Forget despair
and the voices that choke, outraged by lies
in their fervent belief that keen focus
on desperate acts will stir magnanimous
change. Cast out, flocks of native kindness fly
in search of fields where levity holds camp.
Here, wells of hope replenish through the damp.

~~~

Image of Senegal village well is from Wikimedia Commons.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

The Chicken State

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Crazy Looking Chickens (12)

~~a pantoum~~

For every point of view there is an audience
a tier of seats with fannies firmly set
and eyes like glue sticks predisposed
to roll, adhere, and plaudit: Just like me!

A tier of seats with fannies firmly set
affirms that I have reached some center stage
to roll, adhere, and plaudit. Just like me
is what my chicken self (cluck-clawk!) aspires for you,

affirms that I have reached some center stage,
a coop d’etat, a free range state with me as head
is what my chicken self (cluck-clawk!) aspires for you…
what’s that you say—I’m cool—steel hatchet?

A coop d’etat, a free range state with me as head
and eyes like glue sticks predisposed…
what’s that you say? I’m cool? Steel hatchet—
For every point of view there is an audience.

~~~

The glorious chicken image comes from http://www.coolanimalspics.blogspot.com.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

The Best We Can Do For Now

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bolas

Listening for your boots of Spanish leather,
heels worn from years of compas and despair.
I know your beat, your broken harmonies;
they whip like shredded silk, thorn-studded hair
shirts. You’ve reworked martyrdom to cold tease,
partner in a hopeless dance of never.
Last night, aroused by rustling myrtle trees,
I thought I heard you sigh…no? Whenever
such illusions rise, I turn to fairer
game. Your footfall I will hear whenever
I let beauty be in tangled fields of tare
and learn to see past fractured tiles to frieze.
One day, you’ll take those spurs down from the wall;
a final chase, then vanish to us all.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

Inversions

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IMG_4181

~~a glosa~~

I’ve been chewing darkness for so long
that I don’t know how to relearn joy;
I’ve been walking on lava for so many years
that my feet have lost all memory of fleece.

—Gabriela Mistral, “Nocturne of Consummation”

~~~

I made away today to the blue green
waters, slipping through crevasses of
musty inattention, past the trawling clusters
of opinionates despairing of their worlds
to reach this remnant of an iron age. I used to wait
on people I adored who saw in everything a wrong.
I danced my favourite red shoes off to prove the right
and bled in endless causes. Nearly lost my head
yearning, fruitless, where I never could belong.
I’ve been chewing darkness for so long

the fife bands of the mind with their penny
whistle tweedling, their tinpot repercussion
of past victimhoods march at my heels, wanting
me to swallow pain as good for me, agree to being
ground to ash until my joints and sinews ache.
Nothing tastes the way it did when I enjoyed
life, which qualifies my joining the insipid who bash
their heads against the walls of Plato’s cave. Their aim
is group concussion, so torpid and pointless a ploy
that I don’t know how to relearn joy.

And yet, now that I’m here
with only forward as my guide
and no convincing evidence that death
like the dusty fly-bit reign of Ozymandias
is worse or better than anything else,
I can turn to the cantankerous my deaf ears,
leave one-trick ponies to their sad politics,
appreciate the strides humanity has made,
has yet to make beyond the vale of fears.
I’ve been walking on lava for so many years

they know my name in Pompeii;
Popocatepetl is my winter home.
But for all the pumice I’ve endured,
the present me sees fresh at every turn
and boredom as the only borderlands.
Prosperous, sans alms or palms to grease,
I welcome the agora surrounding me
whose wares and wherewithals are
so abundant, true, intent on peace
that my feet have lost all memory of fleece.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

As you sneak on (pretending to be blind)

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Old-Mine-Entrance-600

~~a glosa~~

Go panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep
to detonate the hidden seeds with stealth,
so in your wake a weltering of wealth
springs up unseen, ignored and left behind.

—Ray Bradbury, “Go Panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep”

~~~

Get out ahead, Ray said. He whispered
in my ear from the second tier of theatre seats
where season ticket holders gather to escape.
Your former audience stopped listening years ago,
so why are you still heeding bitter voices
in your head? Imagination does not keep.
It’s manna, fresh dispensed among the tribes
you’re meant to leave, so you can fathom
where the motherlodes of Sheba’s gold run deep.
Go panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep.

Debunkers have their charm. They seem
like hammer-headed moths of vast intelligence.
They flit from mindset to vain hope of possibility,
only to wilt—another failed experiment,
I knew it! Knew what? You would be wise
to ask, but only to and of yourself.
You knew that you would find exactly
what you sought, and hope some future scientist
will prove it? Leave them to their questionable health
to detonate the hidden seeds with stealth…

…and magnify each crystal-studded vein
where economy of thought originates. Think twice:
One. For this I came. Two. For this I surely have
the means. An inch worm dreams of forests,
then, grown wings, discards old measurements.
But what of all those sickly trees you felleth,
gypsy moth? What of them? She will not rue
cocoon or larval path. Shame’s the slimy capital,
concocted and collective. Fly! Propel yourself
so in your wake a weltering of wealth

accumulates, surrounds, and in your seeing
shows itself both spendable and true.
The good you do and will from heights
of first imagined, then believed prosperity
must needs befriend the equally envisioned.
The fallen cannot help the felled to rise. Mind
you, it is true that misery loves company,
but why would you such membership desire?
Expansion is and ever will. That, not of its kind
springs up unseen, ignored and left behind.

~~~

The title of this glosa comes from the sixth line of Ray Bradbury’s poem. Parentheses are my addition.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

The Invitation

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sappho-sq-e1463499497885

~~a glosa~~

If you are
my friend, stand up
before me and scatter
the grace that’s in your eyes.

—Sappho

~~~

Come with me, come away
to the blesséd isle while there
is yet time, while the wind
still sings your name before
the doldrums seize and pull
you under. The island is not far
except to those who sour life’s milk
with all they’ve sought and missed.
The future circles, an obliging star
if you are.

You’ve turned this invitation down
before, and in your place diminished
hopefuls gathered, minions with their
optic shards attempting to trap love
songs, SOSing—See us, over here!
There are no second sips. The pleasure cup
is full and never empties, but corks you
have collected as your proof seal tight.
They bottle lips & now you’re stuck,
my friend. Stand up!

Place one foot on the best
of all you’ve known, and shake
the other free. Your balls—and I
speak boldly now—are only chained
as tightly as your need to rectify
what others choose to matter
and believe. Intolerance intolerates.
It stews miasmic, grasping fears of who
might pull the plug. Such Illusions shatter
before me and scatter

as they must and will
with every choice I make to bypass
ignorance and steer my craft toward
Golden Ages that have been and are, full
visible, charting cross imaginable currents.
The stones you cast, your needful lies
reached long ago these island shores.
We’ve kept them all, turned pearls now
and music celebrated to reprise
the grace that’s in your eyes.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2016
Image: Detail from a fresco, portrait of a young woman
thought to be Sappho, at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale,
Naples

Tulips and Thistles

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IMG_4102

~~a pantoum~~

You who insist you’re a lover, I want
you to bring me six tulips
the colour of kisses, and thistles
majestic as lace on a queen’s bridal bed.

You, to bring me six tulips
in a knightly manner of ease and grace
majestic as lace on a queen’s bridal bed,
might reverse this kingdom’s weary intent.

In a knightly manner of ease and grace
with a butterfly’s poise, the glance of your sword
might reverse this kingdom’s weary intent
of depressives, defeated. Restore the good word.

With a butterfly’s poise, the glance of your sword
the colour of kisses and thistles
of depressives, defeated, restore the good word!
You who insist you’re a lover, I want.

~~~

The thistles off to the side of this patch of tulips are still in bud. When they open they will be astonishing.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

“Sisyphus, it’s Zeus.”

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Sisyphus-Image-01C

~~three triolets~~

I

Sisyphus, it’s Zeus, your ancient cortical
connection to full power over gods.

You no longer stand so vertical,
Sisyphus. It’s Zeus, your ancient cortical

desire to dominate, toppled to diagonal.
Where wisdom finds no purchase, idiocy plods.

Sisyphys, it’s Zeus, your ancient cortical
connection to full power over gods.

II

Oh, suspicious Sisyphus, your sibilance
sprays pointlessly like toms among the spayed.

What use is your opinionated vigilance,
oh, suspicious Sisyphus? Your sibilance,

unlike my rain, is spit and spit upon. To push against
resistance steepens your already hopeless grade.

Oh, suspicious Sisyphus, your sibilance
sprays pointlessly like toms among the spayed.

III

Thanatos (Death) and I with Hermes have conferred.
You’ve pushed your rock up long enough. No more!

So what, you’re man enough to give the gods a bird?
Thanatos (Death) and I with Hermes have conferred.

It’s time you faced downhill, my friend, and heard
what sings beyond the morbid river Styx dark shore.

Thanatos (Death) and I with Hermes have conferred.
You’ve pushed your rock up long enough. No more!

~~~

Some years ago, I co-facilitated a series of goddess workshops for women, based on my adaptation of The Hero’s Journey (called The Heroine’s Journey). We rented the upstairs floor of a Starbucks convenient to us all. The name of the Starbucks manager? Zeus. You can’t make that sh*t happen.

The tight, repetitive form of the triolet seemed to lend itself nicely to poor, boulder-pushing Sisyphus. It also gives a sense of how it might feel to have the father of the gods spray-talking at you.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016

This Play Called Today

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bright-color-colores-colors-cute-125062

~~a ringelreim~~

Long live life, and live it long! Everyone stars
in this play called today. While the bars
I perceive in my role may confine, drop or raise,
I am free to define, independent of praise
or its lack. I can pickle or smash any memory that jars.

To muddy and stir up the past by reflecting on scars
reverses the fields that have healed to perpetual wars
in meadows where fresh thoughts might graze. Long live life!

On my stage, I use mirrors and mist and gold samovars
to embody delights that arrive from above and afar.
Thinking too much about right and wrong ways
of the grim-faced around me confuses and weighs.
What a drag—and what a production we are. Long live life!

~~~

Ringelreim means wrap-around rhyme in German. The form is one of many variations of a rondeau.

© Elaine Stirling, 2016
Image from http://www.favin.com

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