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Archive for January 13th, 2023

[with 3 poems by Katherine Soniat]

This morning is the thirteenth day of the first month in the Gregorian calendar. Outside my window the sunlight is thin and pale and all the birds wear their winter flannels. New Year, you say? Seems pretty frayed and achy this morning. Like me.

Not every culture celebrates the new year in the depths of Winter. Chinese New Year, based on a lunisolar calender, arrives with the new moon between January 21 and February 20. In much of Asia this timing includes the first glimmers of Spring, so New Year is a celebration of new growth and new arrivals. In 2023 that date is January 22.

The Islamic calendar is strictly lunar; the new year commemorates the Hijrah, the migration of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina (year 622 in the Gregorian). This can fall in any season of the year; for 2023 it’s Summer, July 19.

Rosh Hashanah (“head of the year”) is the Jewish New Year. By tradition this is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. It is celebrated 163 days after first day of Passover at the new moon closest to the Autumn equinox, between Sept 5 and Oct 5. For 2023 that’s September 15.

In every season, a new year. God’s course is one eternal round. Gray, dormant, stuporous, on hold, nothing happening you say? Linda and I enjoy celebrating the New Year with the arrival of our NC Wildlife Federation Journal. On the back page of every issue is a seasonal almanac, “Jeff Beane’s Guide to Natural North Carolina.” Just a sampling –

Dec 25 – Christmas fern, running-cedar, mistletoe — plenty of GREEN
Dec 28 – Winter holly and yaupon berries are RIPE AND READY
Jan 2 – hardy butterflies out & about on warm afternoons:
+++++++++ buckeye, fritillary, red admiral
Jan 7 – Bald Eagles are laying eggs
Jan 12 – Great Horned Owls nesting and hooting up a storm

And my favorite, on my birth date:

Feb 11 – Gray squirrels are having babies

Life goes on. Time is not standing still. The year is no straight line but a circle always new.

❦ ❦ ❦

For Sweet Dreams

Crimson with rash, I’m in bed in a hotel, my box of blue
capsules for sleep labeled: por sueños, dulce y tranquilos

beside me. Swallowing three with red wine, I doze off
to wander from door to door calling – I’m here for sweet dreams

until a figure ushers me into the room where you’re dying. Winter here,
embers smolder in the grate. The scarlet rug with a bear woven at its center
covers you, almost up to the eyes – as if I need a reminder in this room with your
white metal bed on wheels.

Again, I insist that I’ve come only for dreams, knowing that when you’re gone,
part of our darkness will be complete.

From down the hall comes the smell of stew, that domestic porridge,
and I want you, the father of my children, not to die. I promise to stay on the path
with our basket of food as slowly you rise from bed

to hold me from behind. With your hands on my stomach, you say
we’re headed home, and this time it feels right to be going, sundown
in a gold winter day.
++++ ++++ ++++ Then, as if doused,

++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ that dream goes black,

++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ blank –

++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ my basket stone-heavy
++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ ++++ and empty.

Katherine Soniat
from Polishing the Glass Storm, Louisiana State University Press, © 2023 Katherine Soniat

 

❦ ❦ ❦

I’ve been stretched on the couch for an hour reading Polishing the Glass Storm. I close my eyes. Pale lights, words with subtle breath, stalking figures fourstep slowly. They don’t make sense – they are sense. But now I’ve opened my eyes and they release my hands and the dance moves elsewhere. On and back.

Katherine Soniat’s poem sequence is the birthing place of memory, dreams, archetype. Time is fluid; memory shifts, now deceitful, now suddenly tangible. The speaker is child and mother, daughter to the dying, confessor, lover. The poems are conversations with the speechless, conversations of the soul with those living and those past living. Katherine recommends reading each section and its poems in sequence so that context can dissolve and reassemble. The images weave and drift; from an expressionistic landscape emerges the story of a life.

This is a challenging collection but worth the sojourn, the journey. From one comment on the cover: Soniat has the audacity to create a mythic language for the soul’s adventure that is utterly unguaranteed, adamantly open to the unknown . . . . More than a sequence, this is a cycle, a turning into and around. No straight line but a circle always new.

❦ ❦ ❦

In Bed at Night

In my mother’s house there was no heart.
In my mother’s heart she was always looking
for a home.
++++ ++++ I threaded stories of her, ones neither
of us had heard. Soft ones with feathers
at the bottom.

When my son had a daughter, she came into this blueness
knowing details with a past.

In bed at night playing puppets with the covers, she had
the smallest one whisper, You know, there’s so much sadness in this world.
She was three, and I almost didn’t hear that.

It was dark in the room, and inside her head. ++++ She thought in stride
with nothing — humped-up sheet, her cave in a city on earth
that must might go away.

Katherine Soniat
from Polishing the Glass Storm, Louisiana State University Press, © 2023 Katherine Soniat

❦ ❦ ❦

Place Where the Wind is Born

My promise is to stay by the bed, one finger tracing
his forehead into a fountain – up and out of the hospice,
over the garden wall.

He stays and I stay, the loping past, tail to mouth,
circles the room. Feeding. Time twisted about, only hours
left to count forward.
++++ ++++ ++++ Sound disappears. His vocal cords
sigh a bit – the syllabics of this life, done.

Silence enters every muscle. Visceral stillness. His lungs keep
breathing. Little motion but mine that afternoon in the shade-slated
room, the Dalai Lama’s chant playing by another sickbed. The fan
moves back and forth, as I blow breath on him.

He receives me like a sail.
Old Fudo, I tell him, purrs at this feet, the ocean vast and clear –
the tiller in his hand. In a strange, fierce tongue I speak
of what is no more.

Not much to let go – diminished relic of a man, something Franciscan
and medieval about him. ++++ ++++ By the window Buddha sits

with a load on his jade back.

Katherine Soniat
from Polishing the Glass Storm, Louisiana State University Press, © 2023 Katherine Soniat

❦ ❦ ❦

❦ ❦ ❦

2020-03-07 Doughton Park Tree

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