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Archive for June 17th, 2022

Making

[with 3 poems by Catherine Carter]

Some people have to make. They just have to. Rising on the trencher, wheat and yeast; the oven to hold the fire to bake it. Seeds in earth raising beans and tomatoes to complete the meal. Pastel eggs and multicolored hens and the lavish coop that keeps them happy laying. And the little boy running through it all to glean the beetle, lizard, feather that make him ur-shaman of this world.

Of course, making is both taking apart and putting together. Bits and pieces. Sweat and cussing, grabbing the hawk off the pullet which lives but not the broke-winged raptor, the fear, the sadness of it all balanced by an afternoon watching the boy pull grass seed and chickweed and feed them to the ladies. Making dinner, great globes of sun-gold yolk the color of squash blossoms and pumpkin rind, all the energy of single-minded pecking and imagination.

Some of us imagine we are not makers, we lack the skill, we can’t get the pieces to fit. Tough loaf, corners never square, life unlevel despite every attention to its foundation. Aren’t all of us just children running through it? Glean color and community, bread of joy, fruit of noticing. Tell it. Share it. Make it grow.

 

 

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Mortal Minerals

It’s a rainy night in April;
before the thunder came the year’s
first wood thrush, a young
one, half-croaking as he tried out
his marvelous syrinx. Before that,
the tree frog, forecasting. The steady rain
is a slow rushing past the window,
hard on asphalt, soft
on dirt: tomorrow, ordinary
blessing, there’ll be no need to call
on the well to quench the potato patch.
in one fine mesh of the screen a tiny drop
of rain slows the lamplight
that spring from the dirty burn
of carbon, the stored fire
of the local star: and that drop gleams
like a moth’s eye.
Through the screen and the drop come
the cool scents of water, earth,
clove pinks, April
all over again, piercingly
sweet: I’d say unearthly
sweet, except that it is
earthly, entirely earthly, these are
the sweets of earth, this
is us, mortal minerals
in the brief era of stars, this is it.

Catherine Carter
from Larvae of the Nearest Star, Louisiana State University Press, © 2019

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Catherine Carter sees the world as it is, imagines the world as it also is, makes the world and us as it is and as we may be. Fine honed blade, loupe, wicked wit, soulful compassion, she is the master of all instruments and qualia. I feel I’ve been waiting all my life to read these poems, to see what I’ve seen before and recognize now with new eyes, to hear the hymns of fern and turning seasons. Survey the squash vine that may shade the whole world; whisper to ancestors in oak leaves. Anguish runs beneath and through it all but goodness as well that shines from lit night-windows, real for at least a moment if we can imagine it so. In the first poem Catherine says, seeing it again / out of your own sore eyes, telling / what no one else can. And in the closing poem: some wordless joy / into the day’s high air, I will / not cease telling. Thank you for the telling, the making!

Catherine Carter is Professor of English at Western Carolina University in the mountains of North Carolina. Today’s selections are from Larvae of the Nearest Star, Louisiana State University Press, © 2019 by Catherine Carter. Mortal Minerals first appeared in the chapbook Marks of the Witch (Jacar Press, 2014); Night Driving, Lighted Windows, and Chickweed, Hens first appeared in the journal Still.

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Night Driving, Lighted Windows

Despite all the night terrors, despite
the knotted fists and brutal words,
toilets and trash cans running over,
chained dogs, the reek of meth
or whiskey, fabric softener or vomit,
every lamplit window glows gold
as every other—no matter what’s gone
on inside, or is still going.
And each white shed-fluorescent speaks
of workbenches, oiled chisels,
screwdrivers, someone shaping
a shelf or rewiring a washer,
making, mending. Passing
those calm yellow squares,
I can almost believe
in someone quietly handing coffee,
a towel, a deep cup of soup,
and someone else glancing up: thanks.
I can almost believe
that if someone lost came
tapping at that window,
the bolt would fly back in welcome.
Those windows’ warm gleams
shine out for miles, telling their
beautiful stories, some of them
maybe true.
+++++++ — And I, on my way home,
plunging into my brief funnel of light,
I fly past like a witch on the gale,
soothing down fear, smoothing
wrath with my passage: my invisible
gaze remaking the world
for a moment into that place where even now
we are all warm and have enough
inside our square stars, we are
forgiving those who share
the world with us, we are making
and mending what we can.

Catherine Carter
from Larvae of the Nearest Star, Louisiana State University Press, © 2019

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Chickweed, Hens

The chickweed in its loose lush
viridian sprawl hurls out
arms and spokes, wheels reeling from
heart-hubs into green galaxies
of spear-heart leaves, spattered with
speckled stars—all light-spawned
themselves from the nearest star,
this one sun. To eat of this
opportunistic shallow-
root, this transfigured sunlight,
you must grasp the center;
you must take it by the heart,
then bear its pulsing spirals
to hungry hens whose harsh beaks
peck it apart, snap it down,
gulp up tiny lives riding
its long sprays and spurs, devour
the vivid freshness of spring-
greens to reverse those spinning wheels,
turn those armed clocks back to sun-
orange, yolk-gold, fat food: the
other transfiguration,
this work of winged, warm-blooded
reptiles, the savage women
of summer, the layers of life.

Catherine Carter
from Larvae of the Nearest Star, Louisiana State University Press, © 2019

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Today’s words and images are dedicated to Josh, Margaret, Bert;
to lovedog Rudy and three-legged Zoe;
to the Silver Laced Wyandottes, the Black and the Blue Australorps,
the almost cuddly Americaners, the Barred Rocks.

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Doughton Park Tree 2011-04

 

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