Poems

Yes & yes by Christina Rosalie

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California Wilds
California Wilds
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Photo: Erika Senft Miller
Photo: Erika Senft Miller

There aren't words really, not yet. Except that I went, and found myself a part of a tribe of the most creative people among the familiar landscape of my childhood for a handful of days. I can back brimming. I came back on the 100th day of my circle project. I came back filled. Heart-felt. Held. Discovered. Seen. Inspired.

Since then I've been nonstop making. A notebook already full. The next book taking shape now fast, and certainly. Big canvases edging into sight... and I'm taking every moment I can to create.


Trying for fire by Christina Rosalie

100 Days of circles I should be doing other things. There is a list. Deadlines. So many shoulds. Instead I am thinking about the rose that my youngest picked today that smelled like euphoria, and of his smile asking to play catch, and of the homeless people I pass by again and again, each time feeling everything and still not knowing how I can help, passing as I do in my car without carrying cash, or on the sidewalk with my dog. Instead I've got headphones in my ears, and paint on my fingers, and I'm circling my circles, and I've got this Tim Seibles poem on mind.


TRYING FOR FIRE
Right now, even if a muscular woman wanted to teach me the power of her skin I'd probably just stand here with my hands jammed in my pockets. Tonight I'm feeling weak as water, watching the wind bandage the moon. That's how it is tonight: sky like tar, thin gauzy clouds, a couple lame stars. A car rips by -- the driver's cigarette pinwheels past the dog I saw hit this afternoon. One second he was trotting along With his wet nose tasting the air, next thing I know he's off the curb, a car swerves and, bam, it's over. For an instant, he didn't seem to understand he was dying -- he lifted his head as if he might still reach the dark-green trash bags half-open on the other side of the street.
I wish someone could tell me how to live in the city. My friends just shake their heads and shrug. I can't go to church--I'm embarrassed by things preachers say we should believe. I would talk to my wife, but she's worried about the house. Whenever she listens she hears the shingles giving in to the rain. If I read the paper I start believing some stranger has got my name in his pocket on a matchbook next to his knife.
When I was twelve I'd take out the trash-- the garage would open like some ogre's cave while just above my head the Monday Night Movie stepped out of the television, and my parents leaned back in their chairs. I can still hear my father's voice coming through the floor, "Boy, make sure you don't make a mess down there." I remember the red-brick caterpillar of row houses on Belfield Avenue and, not much higher than the rooftops, the moon, soft and pale as a nun's thigh. I had a plan back then--my feet were made for football: each toe had the heart of a different animal, so I ran ten ways at once. I knew I'd play pro, and live with my best friend, and when Vanessa let us pull up her sweater those deep-brown balloony mounds made me believe in a world where eventually you could touch whatever you didn't understand.
If I was afraid of anything it was my bedroom when my parents made me turn out the light: that knocking noise that kept coming through the walls, the shadow shapes by the bookshelf, the feeling that something was always there just waiting for me to close my eyes. But only sleep would get me, and I'd wake up running for my bike, my life jingling like a little bell in the breeze. I understood so little that I understood it all, and I still know what it meant to be one of the boys who had never kissed a girl.
I never did play pro football. I never got to do my mad-horse, mountain goat, happy-wolf dance for the blaring fans in the Astro Dome. I never snagged a one-hander over the middle against Green Bay and stole my snaky way down the sideline for the game-breaking six.
And now, the city is crouched like a mugger behind me--right outside, in the alley behind my door, a man stabbed this guy for his wallet, and sometimes I see this four-year-old with his face all bruised, his father holding his hand like a vise. When I turn on the radio the music is just like the news. So, what should I do--close my eyes and hope whatever's out there will just let me sleep? I won't sleep tonight. I'll stay near my TV and watch the police get everybody.
Across the street a woman is letting her phone ring. I see her in the kitchen stirring something on the stove. Farther off a small do chips the quiet with his bark. Above me the moon looks like a nickel in a murky little creek. This is the same moon that saw me twelve, without a single bill to pay, zinging soup can tops into the dark -- I called them flying saucers. This is the same white light that touched dinosaurs, that found the first people trying for fire.
It must have been very good, that moment when wood smoke turned to flickering, when they believed night was broken once and for all -- I wonder what almost-words were spoken. I wonder how long before that first flame went out.


First published in Hurdy-Gurdy by Tim Siebles

Today {Just One Paragraph 12/20} by Christina Rosalie

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Today, nothing quite lined up, though there were many moments: picking wild berries, seeing friends at the South End Truck Stop, and watching Bean watch the glass blowers, his eyes wide, his whole body watching. And there was last night when my writer crew gathered around my dining room table with wine and good chocolate, ears listening for the heart of my story. Still, today was just today. And I am trying to let it be enough.


Today
Today I'm flying low and I'm not saying a word. I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.
The world goes on as it must, the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth.
But I'm taking the day off. Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though really I'm traveling a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.
- By Mary Oliver


Just this: by Christina Rosalie

fieldAndSky“The Summer Day”
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?   — Mary Oliver

What my heart wants to say, even though my own words fall short: by Christina Rosalie

               Tangled Roots - Christina RosalieKEEPING QUIET
Now we will count to twelve and we will keep still.
For once on the face of the earth, let's not speak in any language; ets stop for one second, and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engins; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.     ~ Pablo Neruda     So, so devastated by the days events. Words fail, yet my heart is full.

How it is: by Christina Rosalie

The Decision

There is a moment before a shape hardens, a color sets. Before the fixative heat of kiln. The letter might still be taken from the mailbox. The hand held back by the elbow, the word kept between the larynx pulse and the amplifying drum-skin of the room's air. The thorax of an ant is not as narrow. The green coat on old copper weighs more. Yet something slips through it-- looks around, sets out in the new direction, for other lands. Not into exile, not into hope. Simply changed. As a sandy track-rut changes when called a Silk Road: it cannot be after turned back from.

-- Jane Hirshfield

The process of becoming sometimes feels like this: by Christina Rosalie

Last night I watched the rain storm move across westward sky towards us; hurtling, sweeping, overtaking us without permission and with utter wild grace. I know what this feels like. To be overtaken by wild grace; by the unexpected thunder, by the way the rain washes everything away, making every memory new.

I know how it feels to stand at the screen and feel the ozone tear, feel the sky open, feel the way things will never be the same, and always are.

This is always how it feels, at the heart of things. Tempestuous, urgent, simple, bright. The rain moves through the valley obscuring the mountains. I lean into the vulnerability: learning to ask, to answer, to show up in the heat, to make things new.

Where ideas happen: a documentary of small moments by Christina Rosalie

In the slight slender seconds of pause when the tea is hot and the quiet is steady, or at the stoplight, waiting to cross the street beside a billboard, and then the galaxy of staples are all invitation I need to linger, to take a picture, to look and then look again.

It happens in the washroom at the little vegetarian cafe, where the picture of Bukowski, likely piss drunk, is a lurching reminder as I dry my hands to be irreverent and bold with what I know; in the same way that the ink-spattered sink promises that being in the midst of the mess is the best if not only way to find the truth.

And it happens always, in the cafe, a frothy cappuccino its own evidence of creative collisions and circumstances that invite recollection or collection; And also always staring out my office window at the sky, where the moon, white and round, offers endless chances to describe its pale face anew, and so I do.

// An invitation: Tell me your way of talking about the moon without talking about the moon at all. (I love the way you think.)

On a walk after sunset by Christina Rosalie

It's cold out tonight.The kind of cold that makes me fold my arms around myself, feeling my pulse in my glove clad finger tips, as my breath floats up in the air around my head like a halo or a thought caption.

My footsteps make loud sounds across the frozen ground as I follow the dog, clipped on a length of rope I've wrapped around my palm. She dashes off ahead following the wild scent of deer or squirrel or rabbit across the pale snow. I follow after. Lurching, stopping, feeling the way my heartbeat makes thunder in my ears.

It's cold the way it hasn't been all winter and my unaccustomed cheeks burn bright, while overhead the almost full moon, that bowl of milk, spills its light all over.

There are moon shadows at my feet, squat and dark, following now before, now after as I turn towards home.

The weather has been a yo-yo, indecisive, shaky in its course. One day the road's all mud; the next the puddles hard again while in the woods, the trees know their certain secrets.

On the mild nights, owls fill the woods at dusk; on the quiet days, silence. It is the same with my heart: lifting off and landing a thousand times right here. Startled, steady, mild, wild.

A future self as glimpsed in a poem by Grace Paley: by Christina Rosalie

“Here I am in the garden laughingan old woman with heavy breasts and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen well that's who I wanted to be

at last a woman in the old style sitting stout thighs apart under a big skirt grandchild sliding on off my lap a pleasant summer perspiration

that's my old man across the yard he's talking to the meter reader he's telling him the world's sad story how electricity is oil or uranium and so forth I tell my grandson run over to your grandpa ask him to sit beside me for a minute I am suddenly exhausted by my desire to kiss his sweet explaining lips.” ― Grace Paley

Always this by Christina Rosalie

On the gravel drive, a sleek-skinned slug moving slowly, antennae swiveling about. A bumble bee, flying along side me as I run its wings moving a thousand times faster than my feet. Horses in the pasture, does at the edge of the woods, a new fawn, thrushes, blackbirds on the wire and buttercups by the armful strewn across the fields. This is my prayer, my alter here, to move among this tall clover, to run one foot after the next, and to take note of this always and again blooming glorious day

certain things keep on in their own fashion without us by Christina Rosalie

I don’t know how to reclaim any kind of balance now and so this is what I do instead: I list the day, one thing after the next.

The white herons, a pair, that fly overhead as I drive on a flood closed road, water licking at the front door of a white house the whole first floor a marshland spilling across rugs, abandoned furniture, things left as the water continued to rise.

The lake is engorged, spilling across the causeway washing over the sand bags that are stacked like prayers heavy and hopeful in the hands of men.

After the herons a V of geese confuses me, flying northward several dozen in formation, their long necks like compass needles while elsewhere geese have goslings now; grey and yellow like the tornado threatening clouds that came and went, lightening splitting the sky like an over-ripe fruit, and thunder that made the picture frames clatter.

I’m always on the lookout for the way things will turn out next: the yellow dog, Butters, bounding to greet us; the cat who waits at the door bringing mice; the grasshoppers starting to saw away at their summer song in the fields where grass grows taller than ever, taller than a two year old child’s head, even though the corn still waits, and the garden waits unplanted save for last season’s volunteers: tomatoes always find a way back, and lettuces without explanation; certain things keep on in their own fashion without us.

I wake to rain by Christina Rosalie

The roadside fields have become wide brown lakes,where the sharp stalks of last summer's corn stipple the surface marking the rows that already rose knee high with promise: sweet ears for thieving raccoons and combine harvesters in the fall. This year, the corn is late. The farmers wake to rain and wait, hope spilling from rain-torn holes in the pockets of their lives and the pregnant sky draws close, bearing storms and songbirds tilting on the windy air. And when we least expect it, sun.

Signs of life by Christina Rosalie

Riding 33.2 miles per hour on a back country road does something for your soul. It makes you grin, for one. It makes your hair, pulled back in messy braids yank like kite strings in the wind. Being that close to the pavement you see things differently. No, you feel them. The fragrance from every newly blooming roadside flower hits you like a cloud blossoms: magnolias, cherry, daffodils in front of every farm house the color of breakfast: scrambled eggs and pale yellow butter.

Where the sun has been the longest the heat lifts off the road embracing your calves and thighs and bare arms with sudden softness and warmth; and in the shady pockets where the road dips down, the cold air comes at you like something from a dream.

You see things: beaver ponds abundant with newly chewed logs and saplings. Geese with long black legs and wide feet, paired off, nesting. Turkey buzzards with wings as wide as your arms, their shadows quick and black across the road. New lambs, some just days old, their knees knobby, their ears swivling at the whir of your wheels as you ride by. A bearskin tacked to the side of a woodshed; two women sitting on lawn chairs smoking cigarettes, their pale legs bare and almost glowing in the late afternoon son.

This is what happens when you stop holding so fiercely to what you must do: the world gets all up in your face with its green and manure and potholes, and it’s utterly glorious.

For 26 miles the only thing you think about is whatever is right in front of you: every pebble, sharp curve, rut, and roadside marsh. You see a blue egret on one leg; a swarm of insets illuminated in the mossy golden light; a hairy brown goat let loose to wander in front of a barn; a barefoot teenage boy with shoulder length hair walking up to the open door of a grey log house.

You feel only this: the way your body does this thing nearly effortlessly in concert with this sleek machine; improbably balancing, moving fast, faster, until it’s only an intuitive, kinetic and immediate, and not a thinking thing at all. And when you return, the world is closer and newer, and you are more of it, than apart from it. Yes.

on my path by Christina Rosalie

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations--
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice,
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~ Mary Oliver

+++

Thank you, thank you for your words! I'm soaking them up as I plunge into an intense week with tight deadlines for school, facing things I don't know how to do and time constraints I don't know how to meet. I'm so excited to share this book. To make it good, and true, and beautiful. I love that it has illustrations, and can't wait to share some peaks at my process with you, just as soon as I come up to breathe again.

Today I sit at my kitchen table by a vase of iris and roses (thank you my sweet sister!) and watch fat wet snow fall hard. I keep coming up against the boundaries of what I'm capable of in code (Action Script 3.0), and keep fumbling until I get beyond them. This process takes hours, with hardly anything to show, and I'd be frustrated except that none of it really matters, save for how I'm learning, always and again from what I cannot yet do. From every misstep, I learn the location of solid ground; from every failed attempt, wrong turn, or narrow miss, I find my path more clearly.

At the window:: a morning poem by Christina Rosalie

I am at the window eating oranges sent from a friend of my mother-in-law’s from Florida: the only place now in our country without some fringe of snow,

and they are sweet fire.

I suck the juice off my fingers, sticky and grateful as fat white snowflakes fall again toward the earth beyond the glass.

I am still not tired of watching.

Still not tired of the way the world is now, like a line drawing in graphite, all gesture, all movement, all white on gray on white;

and so I watch until I feel things settle within like snow, softly

I watch, till the blue jays arrive in the lilac bush for the oily seeds I put out at the feeder and my soul drinks up their color: blue on gray on blue,

and the sweet round fire of the orange,

and I am sated.

August 25:: Working Together by Christina Rosalie

WORKING TOGETHER

We shape our self to fit this world

and by the world are shaped again.

The visible and the invisible

working together in common cause,

to produce the miraculous.

I am thinking of the way the intangible air

passed at speed round a shaped wing

easily holds our weight.

So may we, in this life trust

to those elements we have yet to see

or imagine, and look for the true

shape of our own self by forming it well

to the great intangibles about us.

~ David Whyte ~