First Sight

Tags

,

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

Tags

, , , ,

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

Tags

, ,

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to ossified, outdated tyranny.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

Bledsoe Island

Tags

, ,

island

Peculiar news reached me today. They say you have returned to
Bledsoe Island. I thought you’d finally caught that chipped arrowhead

between your teeth, tumbling into the deep water well where you’d
tell me of cheating wives who worshiped you, their Tuesday love god.

On windless days, betrayal wafted from your pores in mustard
fog that smelled of nicotine and squelched all hope of poetry.

I learned from you to hold my breath and tongue. A lazy skill, it
saved me sinning forthright on my own. I wonder who I fooled.

They say that Bledsoe’s sinking—climate change and reversing tides.
This time, I won’t toss you a lifeline. We’ve both learned how to swim.

~~~

This is my second foray into the mantinada, an ancient poetry form developed on the Mediterranean island of Crete. Couplets are decapentasyllabic, fifteen syllables per line, and are not required to rhyme. There’s something about the meter that lends itself to themes of vengeance and old feuds. Not my usual dwelling place, though fun to visit now and again.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

Wear Your Power Lightly, Child

Tags

, ,

Tamara de Lempicka art deco painter

i

wear your power lightly, child
what you see distressing you is density

it’s not your home, your source or style
wear your power lightly, child

like vapour pass through mayhem, wild,
unencumbered—nothing less is mastery!

wear your power lightly, child
what you see distressing you is density

ii

adore the angles of a perfect fit
enjoy the heathered slope, the wind-blessed sea

the best do what they do for fun of it
enjoy the heathered slope, the wind-blessed sea

trace avenues of gold and chocolate
only you can shape your destiny

adore the angles of a perfect fit
enjoy the heathered slope, the wind-blessed sea

iii

when the silence comes to call
make room for him, your dearest friend

push come to shove can only fall
when the silence comes to call

reminding you the great enthrall
is what creates and knows no end

when the silence comes to call
make room for him, your dearest friend

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
The painting is by Polish Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980).
What a life she lived! It’s worth checking out her bio.

I Do Myself a Petty Crime

Tags

, , ,

grandfather clock_commonsdotwikimedia

A Villanelle

If I should find myself relying on the line
I have no time, pushing you and everyone away
in self defense, I do myself a petty crime.

An act of theft, a small deceit for which time
has little tolerance accumulates throughout the day.
If I should find myself relying on the line

instead of seeing easily and clearly that I’m
closing doors to something more. By fearing play
in self defense, I do myself a petty crime.

I’ve stored too much inside this cluttered mind
so lacking space, my spirit yearns to stray.
If I should find myself relying on the line

I have no time, I could instead admit that I am
dreading some great boot to squash me into clay
in self defense, I do myself a petty crime

for greater opportunity surrounds me all the time
I wed the truth of this to everything I think and say;
if I should find myself relying on the line
in self defense, I do myself a petty crime.

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
Image of grandfather clock face comes from Widimedia Commons

The Influence of Serious

Tags

, , , , ,

sirius2

How will you look and what will you do when the basalt
tombs of the sorcerers shatter…?

—W.H. Auden, “Under Sirius”

She had a fear of hooligans
hid money in her bra
always took her vitamins
and loved to talk about the scar
from where they took some organ out. The jar
of her remains was sledged and pressed
to inlaid script on a walnut bar:
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

Every day he calculates the gains
and losses of his stock. He knows the law
of averages and watches for the evidence
of fraud and computer error. In his craw
resides a rattle, born the day he saw
that awful film about a lottery. In his chest
gather minions of a tumulus star.
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

Beware, says the astral guide, when choosing religion
or cursing it, for what you think is never far
from what will prove to be. The jinns
of your experience work hard to bar
the opposite of what you want. They war
eternally against the lies of no and less.
In the arriving of life, there is no disallow.
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

The lines I sketch, the cards I draw
hold steady to my vision’s best,
expanding whatever I think I saw.
I am chased by the state of immediate yes.

~~~

The ballade (not to be confused with the musical ballad) is a fixed form from medieval and Renaissance France. It contains three eight-line stanzas and a four line envoi with a refrain at the end of each.

The rhythm of the final line had been rattling in my head for days and finally came to rest when I found Auden’s poem. I love the galloping urgency he conveys in only seventeen words.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

The Peaceable Wobble

Tags

, , ,

underwear

I’m standing on a giant ball that spins
mostly water, mostly space
you’d think with such a wonder I’d begin
every new day on slightly higher ground

mostly water, mostly space
my heart holds the beat while I navigate
every new day on slightly higher ground
how I viewed things yesterday, who cares?

my heart holds the beat while I navigate
through snickers of cynics who love to recall
how I viewed things yesterday. Who cares
if someone thinks they saw my underwear?

through snickers of cynics who love to recall
past snobs who keep their uppity distance
if someone thinks they saw my underwear
I’ve been known to topple and feel ridiculous

past snobs who keep their uppity distance
I wonder if maybe we’re all just trying
I’ve been known to topple and feel ridiculous
yet where is the harm in a little exposure?

I wonder if maybe we’re all just trying
you’d think with such a wonder I’d begin
yet where is the harm in a little exposure?
I’m standing on a giant ball that spins!

~~~

The pantoum, a traditional Malayan fixed verse, is great fun to write when your thoughts are spinning and you’d like to decelerate. It’s a kind of sudoku with words. My thanks to Mikels Skele, poet and fine thinker, for tweeting “snicker of cynics”. I hope he carries on with his collective noun series. They’re brilliant!

© Elaine Stirling, 2015
The image comes from a site called Just Jared.

The Tangled Sea

Tags

, , , ,

002

A Glosa

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
against the stinging blast;
he cut a rope from a broken spar
and bound her to the mast.

—“The Wreck of the Hesperus”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In the moribund night of a waning moon
on the crags of an island known as Doon
o’ Fara, moves the shadow of a weaver
from thatchéd hut to cliffs of spray and salt.
By day she spins and knits complicated
garments for the discerning and remote.
By all accounts, her wealth cannot be touched
or measured, though she started life as
property of one they called the Stoat.
He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat

and circled her, resentful, day and night.
Whate’er she thought or dreamed, he knew.
He brought her sprigs of violet and skeins
of tangled wool to while away her hours.
He filled her head with tales of dread and
disappointment that sealed her like a cast.
You are my legacy, he’d croon. When I am gone,
you’ll carry on my song of life’s depravity,
wrapped firmly in the wisdom of my past
against the stinging blast.

The weaselly man he traveled far, indulging
endless appetites. To ease his welcome home,
he filled the holds of ships with ivory bits and
wooden masks in such vast quantities that
Fara could not move inside her thatchéd prison.
Some folk say she clubbed him with a bar
of solid gold; others say he met his end
in polar realms—who knows? One day,
she hired a young man home from war.
He cut a rope from a broken spar

and built a sledge, and together they expunged
all traces of the dark controlling Stoat. With every
discard off the cliffs, her mind became more spacious.
The young man went his way, and she, devoted
to the doon, mastered patterns of abundance from
the roiling wind and sea. Eons since have passed,
and only in the darkening moon are glimpses of the
weaver seen. But on certain icy twilights, you may
catch the whiff of him who, loathing freedom, cast
and bound her to the mast.

~~~

You can learn more about the medieval Spanish form called glosa here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2015

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,587 other followers