The Morning Tree: A Glosa

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apples_jillwagnerartdotcom_pastel painting

A tree of blood moistens the morning
where the new mother groans.
Her voice leaves crystals in the wound
and a diagram of bone in the window.
Meanwhile the coming light holds steady
and overtakes blank limits of fable that forget
the tumult of veins in its flight
toward the turbid cool of the apple.

–“Adam”, from Federico Garcia Lorca’s Primeras Canciones, 1922

~~~

The drop of ink that falls
absorbed between the fibers
of a parchment bed no pen
of yours or mine can resurrect
is spreading. Footprints of tar
pace a figure eight, delineating
nakedness that none of us can see
except in vaguely worded fantasies.
Debris across the mountain feels like warning;
a tree of blood moistens the morning

while I am still senseless
and too sensitive, I can refrain
from driving home some vagrant
point of fact no one has invited,
least of all that dead bore couple,
habit and experience. Phones
attached to hips are gathering
lone gods of randomness in droves.
Beggars with no credit offer loans
where the new mother groans

labouring to no avail, you’d think,
would set off some alarm—what child
is this? But no one’s claiming fatherhood,
and that fat bastard capital forgets
to keep his mouth closed when he chews.
What trickles from his chin is spooned
into tubes, shot straight into the veins
of pretenders to Cassandra, whose Trojan
never breaks and is still well tuned.
Her voice leaves crystals in the wound

that rub against synthetic outrage
waiting for its moment—that will never
come—of sweet approval. What tendency
is this to sprinkle vinegar upon a neighbour’s
olive grove that looks to be abandoned?
No succulent upon a fence can grow
when roots are parched of laissez-faire.
We subatomic dancers hate rehearsal,
swiftly leave behind our sold-out show
and a diagram of bone in the window.

So what did the rich man say
to the ferryman? I’ll be damned!
Only he wasn’t and still the river
foams in hopes that someone might
approach her self-creation
in a feathered cape with dignity.
Sir Walter and the puddle knew
Good Bess was on her way. All others
in the fractious crowd stayed petty.
Meanwhile the coming light holds steady

and the errant ink grows jittery
for having glimpsed the perfect
quill in V-formation flying over
Parry Sound. What if I dry
and flake apart before we two
can prove the world is wet?
The goose without a fleeting honk
flies on. She does not give her tail lightly.
Eggs of gold each day she brings to market
and overtakes blank limits of fable that forget.

Two things depreciate at the moment
of purchase: the second is worry.
Grinding mandibles on behalf of another
foretells a long decline toward mush
and not much else. No imagination
will fling you out of Eden. Paths of right
and wrong confuse the tenant farmer,
not the lord who views all he surveys
with potential, green and bright,
the tumult of veins in its flight.

Oh, sweet desire, now that you know
my name, let’s draw the canopy against
drunk beetles banging on their broken
schemes. Not all shells are suitable
for dyeing, though every word, I’m told,
will find its violin and grapple
for the pitch it hears in dreams
of paradise, giving way to the refugee,
nourished in his flight by sunlight’s dapple
toward the turbid cool of the apple.

~~~

This glosa borrows the first two stanzas of Garcia Lorca’s poem, “Adan”. The original Spanish can be found here. I’ve published a book of glosas, Dead to Rights, with an accompanying novella, Dead Edit Redo, which you can find here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Translation by Elaine Stirling, © 2015
Image: pastel painting by Jill Wagner from http://www.jillwagnerart.com

Puppet Master

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puppet master

~~a pantoum~~

puppet master, where is your string
master, where is your puppet? Tangled
in the fictions of habitual deception
every act becomes a stutter, grim escape

master, where is your puppet? Tangled
again, you lost control of your tales
every act becomes a stutter, grim escape
from the static of the blackness where you hide

again, you lost control of your tales
I thought I heard the tapping of a new play
from the static of the blackness where you hide
but it was only rain against the shutters

every act becomes a stutter, grim escape
in the fictions of habitual deception
but it was only rain against the shutters…
puppet master, where is your string?

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Image: Nocturnal Art of Marionettes by Fenrizulf at DeviantArt

Musings on 3.14.15 @ 9:26:53

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pi

~~a terzanelle~~

so I never learned pi as a girl
my mind was too random
adults are crazy, life is a whirl

of homework and crushes and teenybop fandom
formulas caused my throat to go dry
my mind was too random

sucking in only enough to get by
I drooled at the prose of Dickens and Poe
formulas caused my throat to go dry

I couldn’t see which way my future would go
yearning each day to spin off and away
I drooled at the prose of Dickens and Poe

until infinite space finally had its say
slamming chaotic nonsense to form poetry
yearning each day to spin off and away

draws the ratio that powers my geometry
so I never learned pi as a girl
slamming chaotic nonsense to form poetry
adults are crazy, life is a whirl

Happy Pi Day!

~~~

The rolling dips and curves of the terzanelle seemed a fun way to celebrate 3.14.15, explained with great elegance by Steven Strogatz here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
The image of pi in cross stitch comes from http://www.kokoba42.blogspot.com.

Discworld: In Memoriam

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terry pratchett laughing_dailyedge_dot_ie

I will get over this but not today.
The elephants have shrugged and stolen you
away someplace where Rincewind and Sam Vimes
keep summer cottages, and Carrot dines
with you and Lady Sybil’s dragons. Who
is here among us now to show the way
to operate a clacks, and lead us through
Ankh Morpork’s grubby lanes? These are rough times!
We need an ape librarian who climbs
his way through L-space—ook!—of Unseen U.
I know what Granny Weatherwax would say.
En’t dead, just traveling! I s’pose that’s true,
since DEATH and you were always best of friends.
Who laughs the hardest, kind Sir, fastest mends.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Photo of Sir Terry Pratchett from http://www.dailyedge.ie

Who Knew the Maiden?

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Conn house winter

~~a villanelle ~~

who knew the maiden say she moved with grace
although she doesn’t live here anymore
the house is draped in silver lace

with modesty she fixed all secrets to their place
and turned away fine suitors by the score
who knew the maiden say she moved with grace

they did not see that sadness etched her face
nor hear by night fear pounding at her door
the house is draped in silver lace

in honour of a passion frozen interlaced
with love of God and distant family she adored
who knew the maiden say she moved with grace

although I wish she might have danced a pace
or two before the years took cruel score
the house is draped in silver lace

her intellect at season’s end is carving space
to greet, I’d like to think, her one and grand amour
who knew the maiden say she moved with grace
the house is draped in silver lace

~~~

Dedicated to KK

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Photo by R. Kelley, 2015

Pedants Unite!

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pet ants

Today is National Grammar Day,
and so I am joining my pedant
on his march, the fourth. He is
a fine pedant with six sturdy legs
and quivering antennae.
We were introduced by my
bi-ped aunt, whose not…who’s not
from New England, else she’d rhyme
with rye bread font. My pedestrian
pedant to the brim is full
of minutiae, spending his tiny hours
as headmaster of a petty school—
there are such things, honest to gosh!
—sorting who from whom with
no fewer than—or is that less?—
43…a pause…trophies for every time
his student’s don’t ill place apostrophes.

I am mostly full of glee
that Grammar Day’s but once
a year, else we all would live
in fear of overtaxing pedantry.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

The Miserabilist

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fool_irving amen_the jester woodblock

~~ a chant royal ~~

A motley fool of one hundred and two
who freshened the moods of seventeen kings,
confounded ten queens and ne’er a sword drew,
nor suffered the pain of everyday stings,
with a purse always full, a bed always
warm, once offered to share his foolish ways.
Just five simple words, all trials will cease,
enemies vanish, your fortunes increase.
No magic potions, no frogs to be kissed,
an action so simple, it must needs please:
Don’t inhale near the miserabilist.

The miserabilist? A word no one knew
in court or in town, it swiftly took wing
& all through the realm, a strange caution grew
as folks sniffed one another for something
amiss in the way that they spent their days
or their ducats, criticized or gave praise.
And when they approached the flagrant unease
of some poor sad sot, they tried not to breathe
till they’d set his ass or his boat adrift.
Many were crowing of new-found relief.
Don’t inhale near the miserabilist.

The motley fool’s popularity grew
while the rickety king found a new spring
in his step, for his subjects who once knew
only the keys of complaint learned to sing
new refrains. Livestock grew fat on the graze;
barren wombs came to life; a pinkish haze
settled over the land; a tinkling breeze
cooled the fears of poverty and disease.
All ventures thrived; every day brought new grist,
abolished old habits of thought like fleas.
Don’t inhale near the miserabilist.

Now our motley fool was no fool. He knew
that avoidance alone can never bring
joy of the kind that eliminates blue.
Constant surveillance against anything
must eventually flood minds and by-ways
with its very nature. Streaks of dismay
were already seeping like rancid grease
through the gossip and fray, a slick decrease
of focus on five simple words. Once blissed,
now sinister was demanding release.
Don’t inhale near the miserabilist.

Fool, undeterred, he donned his cloak and blew
the air from out his lungs. He stashed the rings
and torques of gold that fortune brought and flew
by night on horseback to an untried king
with retinue who wished to learn the ways
of wealth and surplus. Endless sunny days
accompanied our fool whose mental ease,
well practiced, holds no tics. No enemies
could pierce him, no impostors grasp his gist
of life as serial simplicities.
Don’t inhale near the miserabilist.

The motley fool has never ceased to tease
the humourless within us. Still, he pleads,
let go of consequence. Give wrath a miss.
Breathe deep into the vast where love agrees.
Don’t inhale near the miserabilist!

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Image, “The Jester”, a woodblock by Irving Amen (1918-2011)

First Sight

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002

Reading Gone Girl alone
in a downtown café
Marvin Gaye and Jim Croce
jockeying for all-time best balladeer
you could pardon a gal
for thinking it’s a cruel kind
of retro world except—
that somewhere in the middle
of a clue dropped
by the missing heroine
I look up to catch
a glimpse of your tall dark
shadow with a sweep of tartan
scarf like a thoroughbred’s mane
passing the plate
glass window
and the pale cool offering
of fiction overturns
and spills
coins of new fortune
wet and foreign
at my feet
as if the Trevi fountain
had burst a billion wishes
through some wrinkle in time
and the novel spins from a patch
of melting snow with the same arc
and grace as you turning
on a dime
and walking
back this way.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

Moving Day Dreams

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001

I’m pretty sure I dreamed of a palm tree plantation
hand in hand with Merwin or maybe Gauguin
where words swell on trees like ripening citrus
rhyming lolls in hammocks with white cardboard fans

hand in hand with Merwin or maybe Gauguin
a giant yellow cat with eyes like Branwell Brontë
rhyming lolls in hammocks with white cardboard fans
warns me not to set fire to his bed again

a giant yellow cat with eyes like Branwell Brontë
knowing how much I’ve already discarded
warns me not to set fire to his bed again
I assure him that caves are too wet to burn

knowing how much I’ve already discarded
where words swell on trees like ripening citrus
I assure him that caves are too wet to burn
I’m pretty sure I dreamed of a palm tree plantation

~~~

with thanks to JC for the inspiration

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

Spring Breakthrough

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012

“The fountains of my great deep are broken up.”
—Mark Twain in a letter to his boyhood friend, Will Bowen

Fountains of my great deep are broken up
and churning to an eager froth blueprints
of an empire somebody believed in with
such passion they begat the likes of me.

The currents that alarmed me as a pup
I thrashed against for years. It makes me wince
to think that happiness derives from stiff
unyielding lips sealed for sake of loyalty.

Every laundered past must one day disrupt
as eggs will hatch and thin-skinned fears evince
their bloodlessness. I blow a quiet kiss
to ossified, outdated tyranny.

The geyser of my frozen deep now flows
through limbs revived in lovers’ sweet repose.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

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