Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘spring’

For one brief moment each place is its center. The sky parts, darkness rends, the sun touches that place then moves on, but the place retains the sureness of its center.

We are wakened at 2:00 a.m. by trumpets and tubas playing hymns. They have stopped outside our window on Marshall St., played two verse, then moved on. I peek through the blinds while downstairs my Mom goes out onto the front porch in her nightie to thank them. From other parts of the old town, faint and distant, Linda and I can hear the band’s counterparts. Our alarm is set for 4:30. We whisper in the darkness. For a moment we are the center.

By 5:30 we have gathered with hundreds of others in the darkness outside Home Moravian Church in Salem Square. Robins sing continuously. There’s a scolding chickadee in the fresh-leaved poplar, its silhouette barely discernible in the pre-dawn. The old church clock strikes the hour. The liturgy commences. The congregants respond: This we truly believe. A brass choir leads the hymns and we listen for the echo.

Now we have processed from the Square to God’s Acre, brass harmonies behind to encourage, bands at all corners of the broad fields to call us along. As we gather among the unadorned white gravestones, “the democracy of death,” each with fresh flowers, the players gradually converge into one orchestra at the center. Three hundred strong. The liturgy concludes with a sweeping final anthem. The sky parts. Darkness is rent. Here is the sun, and the center.

The Lord is risen indeed.

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_1959

It’s hard to count how many times Joseph Bathanti has visited Elkin, NC to bring us poems. He read at the library here in March to prepare us all for Poetry Month, and as he always begins when he stands up after the introduction, he said, “It’s great to be back here at the center of the universe.”

Thank you, Joseph. We always feel like you mean it. And after we’ve listened to your poetry we do discover ourselves at the center.

.     .     .     .     .

Joseph’s poem EASTER is from his book Anson County. It was originally published in 1989 but has been re-released in 2013 by Press 53 in Winston-Salem. When we returned from this morning’s Easter sunrise service in Old Salem, and after a nap, I sat on the porch in the sun and leaned back with Anson County. “I know there’s an Easter poem in here.” I was not disappointed. I never am.

. . . . .

EASTER

They stand like shades
against the skyline:
in resurrection suits
and second-day dresses;
waiting to be gathered and burned
by the first fires of dawn
they have come to believe
will perfect their two-days-planted fruit.
Now like the rush of souls
it leaps across the sky
shredding fog with cerise flames
sudden as tongues.
And there can be no denial
of this white light
that carves fields rife
with wheat and corn,
sculpts holy men behind plows,
draws the harrow and martingale –
nor the flash and raiment of seeds
above the red river mouth.
Behold.

.     .     .     .     .

from Anson County, Joseph Bathanti, Press 53, Winston-Salem NC, copyright 2103.

Originally published in 1989 by William & Simpson, and again in 2005 by Parkway Publishers.

.     .     .     .     .

IMG_0880

Read Full Post »

Every workday I’m out the door with a travel mug just as the sun pokes through the pines on Johnson Ridge across the valley. One solace – I leave by the back door, through the screened porch, embraced by the centenary beech before I get in my car. If there’s a little light it’s a herald of goldfinches; if full dark a doe might spook. The ‘possum might still be rooting in the compost. All just outside my porch.

This morning March snow is sifting through the screen and puddling on the planks. Office closed (at least until noon). While coffee perks I shove the screened door open against a drift of heavy white and toss a couple of handfuls of seed to the ground feeders. I huddle against the house until the birds return (they’d only flown twenty feet into the hickory branches). Hello, my friends. On the porch I’m only ten feet from the phone, the bills, the desk-high tasks undone, and three miles away I can hear traffic on I-77 unslowed by a little precipitation, but here is sanctuary.

*      *      *      *      *

Porch_01

How many porches have acquired personality in your memory? Grandmother’s in Hamlet: the swing hanging from heavy chains, for Bob and me a pirate ship, a jet plane. Nana’s in Morehead: the smell of Bogue Sound, the chaise lounge one of us would sleep on when the July nights were too hot; our own first porch, the red rental house in Durham on Green Street, a family portrait with toddler Josh and Margaret just beginning to smile, all of us smiling.

With such an archetype it must have been easy for Maureen Sherbondy to elicit the poems, essays, short fiction that she has compiled into Voices from the Porch (Favorite Gathering Places). It is an anthology broad as a coastline or a rural avenue, but also deep in the secret heart of people gathered and torn. It’s a tangled story of memories and feelings that won’t allow themselves to be laid aside. It is voices that have whispered and will continue to whisper to each of us.

Voices Cover 01

Judith Behar’s poem Evening opens the collection. Like opening a door onto a space of sanctuary, and revelation.

*      *      *      *      *

Evening

Dusk rises from the pond,
misty and green, then gray;
a bullfrog croaks his song
up to the darkening porch
where three women drink wine by candlelight,
the humid air like saris on their skin.
They idly talk of gardening and plans
for summer travel. Work falls away,
lines soften, then disappear
in shadow. A slivered moon
hangs in a cloudless sky.
They clear the dishes, carry their glasses in –
their day ended, the guests depart.
Creatures of the night
swarm in the grass.

*      *      *      *      *

Judith Behar lives in Greensboro and is the volunteer publicity director for Writers Group of the Triad. She has taught English at Guilford College and practiced law in Greensboro for 30 years. Her poems and short stories appear in a number of publications, including contest winners in Pinesong, published by the NC Poetry Society.

*      *      *      *      *

One more reason to consider sitting down in the porch swing and reading this anthology: my short story Overflowing about Jimmy, Nella, and Monty in Surry County and the danger of love.

IMG_7952

*      *      *      *      *

Read Full Post »

Leave the Carolina silverbells blooming up the Elkin Valley. The foothills daffodils are still bright but curling at the edges. Now Redbud Alley, I-40 where it slices through woodlands between Winston-Salem and Kernersville, is about a week past its peak. Raspberry sherbet ribboned with lime. In Durham after showers the corner of every parking lot is drifted with yellow layers like foam the tide has ebbed to discard. We park for an hour or two, and the overhanging sweetgum trees cover our hood with anthers like clusters of powdery nerf grapes.

Now I’m on I-540 escaping Raleigh; Knightsdale aproaches and my eyes are burning. Zebulon and sneezing can’t be more than minutes away. By the time I reach Wilson the season has advanced a good two weeks, and Barton College is planted firmly into April. I park behind the music building (it’s Weekend College and every lot is full), walk two blocks, and Rebecca Godwin is waiting to welcome us into the Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center with Aunt Edna’s ginger snaps. And poetry.

Walking into April! Poets and poetry, greeting old friends with a hug, discovering that the impressive writers presenting their work today have now become your new friends, clapping to suport new poets that have come to read for the first time: just about every time I go to a poetry reading in this state, it feels like coming home.

The afternoon session of Walking into April always begins with this year’s Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet and his students. More on John Hoppenthaler in a forthcoming post, but here is some bright imagery from the verse presented by this year’s students:

Cindy Thomas

Cindy Thompson: “Let yourself become the fight, the dance.”

Nancy Seate: “It isn’t the object but the light it reflects.”

Candace Jones: ” . . . when the world is barking too loud.”

Marty Silverthorne: “sabers and rifles will grow like weeds. / Maybe we should plant boots / so when the marching blister’s busted, / blood would not ooze out weakened stitches.” [from Prayer for Boots, in the voice of his Civil War ancestor]

Sometimes April seems like the month of Too Much Poetry Stuff, but come next April on the second Saturday I’m saying, “Damn the pollen, full speed ahead!” and driving right into it.

Read Full Post »

Picture a slender somewhat grave man approaching the lectern. Matter-of-fact. Even slightly reticent. With only the briefest introduction he begins to read, and now you’re suddenly jolted by verse that is tart as some strong organic acid. Or wickedly funny. Or so tender, so full of love, you want to beg this person to be your friend, too.

And sometimes all three of those in the same poem!

I have admired Dave Manning’s poetry for a decade, but the images that seethe up through his lines have been simmering from California in the ‘60’s all the way to Cary, NC yesterday. Sarcasm that is never cruel. Sweetness never treacle. And always lurking a page or two away that divine wickedness.

Two of my favorite are collected in his book-length The Flower Sermon. In almost every poem a mystery hovers at the edges. The lines between waking and dreams, between chemistry&physics and the spirit realm, between existence and the everafter, all these lines are blurred and merging.  From the poem Mysteries:

How can light so absolute be gone –
no lesson to learn, no explanation?
Only a wall where a door
once opened. A mystery

like death
or where fire goes
when it goes out.

A poem like a Zen koan, more question than answer. The act of discovery comes after I’ve finished the last line; its silence reverberates, its hushed clamor.

And the last two stanzas of Mallards in Winter, which cries to be read when spring is still a thing hoped for but mostly unseen:

Their peace is so profound I cannot
disturb them. Their house is icebound,
but its attic is the sky. In the tearing storm

I invite them to take refuge in my dreams.
At the canvas edge, where the seasons
change, they escape into springtime.

So many of Dave’s poems intimate that where there seems to be no escape – from ice, from winter, from death – the mystery of hope abides.

Crested Dwarf Iris

Here are the complete poems:

Mysteries
you are the music
While the music lasts.  —  T.S.Eliot

I light candles to the way
you eyes would find me
from the far choir loft
and you would smile,

to the day
we brought the smell
of Liquidamber leaves indoors
with us, the first two stair steps
wet with the May rain; on a wall
a painting I had never seen —
geese rising from a marsh at dawn —
street sounds with tones,
the green-bue of late afternoon.

How can light so absolute be gone –
no lesson to learn, no explanation?
Only a wall where a door
once opened. A mystery

like death
or where fire goes
when it goes out.

 

Mallards in Winter

With the leaves down, I see them
paddle the creek-length, green heads
against the lighted flow.

They drift downstream in silence,
as if in a painting on a silk screen,
toward Lake of the Winds.

Their wakes show them to be real.
I watch them bob and disappear,
then emerge from the banks into the winter’s

silvering light. They let the current
take them, soundless, through
the shadowed channel’s mystery.

Their peace is so profound I cannot
disturb them. Their house is icebound,
but its attic is the sky. In the tearing storm

I invite them to take refuge in my dreams.
At the canvas edge, where the seasons
change, they escape into springtime.

[from The Flower Sermon, Main Street Rag Publishing, (c) 2007 David T. Manning]

 

Links to other poems by David T. Manning:

Dave Manning Sampler in WestEndPoets Newsletter
www.Westendpoetsweekend.com/pdf/WestEndPoetsNewsletterjanuaryFebruary2011.pdf
www.Westendpoetsweekend.com/pdf/WestEndPoetsNewsletterMarchApril2011.pdf

At the Spring, in Rattle
http://rattle.com/blog/2009/05/at-the-spring-by-david-t-manning

Mirella, in PoetrySpark
http://Poetryspark.sparkcon.com/poems/manning/mirella.html

Read Full Post »