Sunday, April 07, 2002

April: the month for poets.
In an article in today's local newspaper, columnist Diane Cameron, again, shines her own unque light on a blurry issue: National Poetry Month. She quotes William Carlos Williams:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems.
Yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found here.

And she ends with :"...poems can help and they can heal, and sometimes they can communicate what no treatise or speech ever will."

Setting death ablaze.
Writer Helen Cixous says "The only book that is worth writing is the one we don't have the courage or strength to write. The book that hurts us (we who are writing), that makes us tremble, redden, bleed."

With both skill and courage, Jeneane Sessum posts about her father, about death. She stirs up memories of my father's death and inspires me to stir around my stashed pile of poetry until I unearth this:

I will bury the tuber of an arrowroot
at the head of my father’s grave,
where my brother enshrined
a cluster of quartz,
where my mother stands, each time,
wondering aloud about
what he looks like, now.

“There were signs, ” she says,
her words muffled in the upturned collar
of the coat I have outgrown
and she has shrunk to fit.

Above her breath, four crows
defile the lacework
of a snowy sycamore.

“One day I saw three small doves
flying above his car.
And then there were the crows.”

A nervous rustle. A shift of feathers.

“They gathered in the trees behind our house
on the day he came home the first time.
Thousands, like charred leaves.
like black snow.
He had gone alone to the back porch
to face the sun.
Suddenly, he was in the doorway,
his face dark with anger.
He said the noise was killing him."

From the snow, a frozen sigh.
The cold of the grave
claws at my boots.

And when they folded him neatly,
barefoot and grim
into that final silence,
there was no space left to tuck a cry.
We fed him to winter,
to the honest needs of roots.

On Easter Sunday,
her bread wouldn’t rise.
She stood at the window
and stared at the crows.

She set the prayer plant
from his hospital room
beside his empty chair.
If the crows saw the leaves
turning dark and silent
they never said.

I will bury the tuber of an arrowroot
near the stone of my father’s grave.
And hairs of the tuber
will twine with his hair,
beckon the rain
and dance with the worm.
And the tuber eyes
will watch in his place
for the message of the great crows
who keep vigil in all seasons
from the crotch of a crooked bough.

And I will buy her a new maranta
to pray in the tuber-mind.

And I will lie on my father’s grave
and listen.

copyright 1987 Elaine