Posts Tagged ‘Richard Widerkehr’

[with 3 poems by Richard Widerkehr]

Cold March drizzle makes Hepatica nod and droop. Nevertheless, the twelve accompany me undaunted on a naturalist hike along Elkin Creek. What will we discover? Here are the last few Hepatica blossoms of the year; their sister plant opened her first bloom along this trail on February 7, five weeks earlier. Now a single flower on each silky hairy scape looks down at its feet, the winter-pocked liverleaves also fading ahead of summer’s foliage. It’s cold this morning and the vernal equinox is still three days off.

But cheek by jowl with old Hepatica are fresh patches of its second cousin, Rue Anemone. No drooping at all! Both from the same family (Buttercup, Ranunculaceae), the two flowers share many features and from a distance look similar – our crew’s task is to learn to tell them apart. Both are easily overlooked, pale blooms only a cm. or so in diameter, with 6-10 petals and a jostle of stamens crowding multiple pistils clumped in the center. Even color is not a reliable clue: the pale Hepatica in this neutral soil is only one shade of lavender removed from Anemone’s white. Rue Anemone’s smooth slender flower stem is one giveaway, and then of course the leaves, Anemone’s fine clusters like little paws climbing toward the bloom, contrasted with Hepatica’s broad, basal, waxy lobes, each like a liver. What some might casually mistake for a clump of sameness, in haste undifferentiated, what we ourselves might at first glance have misidentified have now become familiar, individual: each uniquely itself.

❦ ❦ ❦

A Sabbath of Complete Rest

I’ve been thinking what that might mean, so I listen
to the wind in the fir trees outside our red house –
how the trees stand almost like horses asleep on their feet,

how their roots touch crevices in soil, how at night
their branches, blacker than the sky, must not forget
yellow forsythias, summer, their own dark needles,

how they wait, how they’ve waited. This is no psalm
of light, Chloe, no song of white horses in the sun.
The root of the word Shalom means complete.

Richard Widerkehr
from At the Grace Café, Main Street Rag Publishing, Charlotte, NC, © 2021

❦ ❦ ❦

How does a poem draw you in? How does it invite you to live in the world it creates? Place must be one way. Just a few pages into At the Grace Café, I realize I’m damp and about to shiver in the Pacific Northwest. Not that it’s raining absolutely all the time – the great dark firs lifting their heavy sleeves also propel me into the landscape. A trail through clouds and mist leads me. A swirling lake shore is mysterious and at once consoling.

Personality is another thread that weaves through these poems and entangles me: the writer’s sister, her mental illness an elusive and threatening animal that speaks wild into every situation; his mother, reminding us that each of us must live a portion of our lives in denial; and the personality of the writer himself, illuminated by recurring heartbreak in his work as counselor and by longing for stability and resolution. Personalities approach and retreat, promise to reveal just as they again withhold – all I can do is hold on and join the dance.

Finally there is joy. Not waiting beyond all conflict or at the conclusion of all sorrows, rather joy that emerges from and lives within these troubles that we all, confess it, share. A fleeting moment with one’s beloved, a brief lifting of fog, moon on snow – a simple singular presence can form us into fellow sojourners. The poem can make us family. The poem may grant us grace.

❦ ❦ ❦

Pay Attention, You Say

No, I haven’t read updates about the orca
+++ nursing her dead calf. I try not to get
upset about too many things. Lately,

I write these poems for my sister –
+++ I can’t spare the least insect or angel,
she says. Yes, plankton lined with oil

covers some sea beds. I’ve seen orcas
+++ breach the surface, black and white,
their bodies like mountain sides

sliding under. When we were kids,
+++ my sister and I caught a tiny fish –
she cried, and our mother threw it back.

Yes, there’s the sadness of plankton,
+++ the orcas, snow fields at night.
Last evening on this mental health unit

where I work, a patient I’ll call Carla –
+++ she’d cut her left wrist – she said,
Some scars are mercy and justice.

I let out my breath. At least my sister
+++ no longer sleeps with the moon
in her cardboard box. Now

you point out two otters on the bank
+++ of No Name Slough, how they
their small black eyes on us.

Richard Widerkehr
from At the Grace Café, Main Street Rag Publishing, Charlotte, NC, © 2021

❦ ❦ ❦

Crane Flies
O for a Life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts! – John Keats

In late August, the crane flies
come back, nervously feeling their way
up windows, trying to get out. They flutter
like huge, scatter-brained mosquitoes,
scraping this way and that, sometimes just
hanging as they flex their long
front legs like feelers, emitting
a dull, frustrated buzz.
++++++++++++++++++ Is it light
they want, the world outside?
They can’t get used to glass, its cool
way of whispering about the uselessness
of struggle, also its dry comments
on their death flights.

Each time I sweep these nutty insects
out the window, more fly in, as if
I were the absence they brush against,
their life of sensations
come to an end.

Richard Widerkehr
from Disappearances, The Wind Room Series #4, Radiolarian Press, © 1996, 2003

rue anemone

❦ ❦ ❦

Richard Widerkehr has a new book from Shanti Arts Press, Night Journey. Richard has taught writing in the Upward Bound Program at Western Washington University and has worked as a case manager for the mentally ill.

❦ ❦ ❦

IMG_0880, tree

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: