In the elegy, "In Memory, Joanne Breen" a memory comes from the colors of yarn:
I am fingering a length of yarn
from the mill at Stornoway.
It is green as a summer meadow
though when I untwine it widdershins
I see, spun into the yarn, fibres of blue
& yellow & purple, occasionally orange.
I am undoing the magic of the spindle,
The poem "Shoes," also a death poem, connects to yesterday's "Widow in Red Shoes," by Tess Gallagher, but here it is the earth that is red. It's winter, but
I put on your summer shoes.
They smelt of the red red earth
Where lemons grow, where olives grow.
All kinds of life enters these poems, even the elegies--family life, community life. Some are commissions for public events. "Quitting the Bars" suggests some trouble with addiction, as does the strangely delightful "Note from the Puzzle Factory," about maxing out a credit card to buy cell phones for all her friends "so they could keep in touch / day or night. With me."
Nobody rang. Nobody rang.
Imagine. Not a soul. Not a sinner.
I sat in my room thinking on this.
Then I up and signed myself in.
And the students in her Coleridge class at the Recovery through Art, Drama, and Education Project are deeply interested not so much in his Kubla Khan poem, as in Coleridge's own health complaint, constipation, as they recognize it from their own opiate addiction.
Many beauties, delights, and surprises in this book. I remember "conkers" from my year in England, a toy made from two chestnuts, for whirling and conking together, but in "Common Sense," all the young chestnut trees are dying, as kids have stripped away their bark while collecting their conkers. "We don't deserve this earth I sometimes think / and yet the children acted from ignorance." They had not yet acquired common sense. This poem begins with
A murmuration of starlings in a rowan tree
mid-August berry feast
and berries raining down upon my head.
Here in America, the rowan tree is called the Mountain Ash. Mid-August now, school begun in its halting way, but the poem reminded me of grade school, a girl who died over the summer, and how we planted a Mountain Ash on the school lawn for her. And as I worry about family and friends in the midst of the California wildfires, I encounter "the scouring power of fire / in this the fire season..."
So I'll turn back to brave "Cora, Auntie,"
always a girl in her glance
teasing Death--humour a lance
she tilted at Death.