Tag Archives: George Mason University

HARDWOODS

I unearthed my old grad school poet’s notebook this morning. Cracking the cover, I found a sheaf of paper that held several iterations of a poem (c. ’00) I remember sweating over for months. My handwritten revisions scrawled on the printed pages a glimpse into the mind of a young, hungry, hopelessly romantic, and obsessive poet trying to find “the thread,” as William Stafford writes impeccably about in his poem The way it is. I’m emotional here, finding these artifacts of myself, and re-discovering Mr. Stafford’s poem. So much time has passed in the last 15 years. So much life. Love. Loss. I’m amazed, heartbroken, grateful, and open-armed for today, and the rest of the days that I’m given while on this planet. I may be a little older, but thankfully I’m still hungry, just as hopelessly romantic, and (slightly) less obsessive. And I guess that’s the point. Somehow, I’ve managed to hold the thread. 

Whether or not the poem has done the same (let alone found the thread the first place) is another story. Anyhow, I thought I’d share the finished (as it were) piece with you.

I

Exhaled from routine like birth into warm water I cannot see where I’ve been. Trying to climb from here the trees reach their nimble fingers & arms & backs & roots accept me. Hold my weight & rock me as I climb. They won’t break as I won’t break. There is always energy in the tree and myself. A will to stand.

Into the tree I am absorbed & moved with the xylem & phloem & I can see with leaf-eyes & feel with bark skin & intercambial intuition & my feet are warm & moist in the summer & cool & dry in the winter.

I will stand when I climb on my father’s shoulders or my mother’s fierce love & leap for the ring of blue sky over a field of yellow wheat & valleys of wild craning sunflower necks with their collective corolla-eyed sun-mane as they face the sun until it goes down.
II

Without fail I will swing on those rings over the river that grew to swallow towns & fill harbors with driftwood & dreams & styrofoam & people who could not hold on & now float & twirl in the eddys roiling off upstream rocks to the harbor (always back to the harbor). A meromixis. Our bi-annual aqueous rotation from sediment to surface. We hold on though, for all we’re worth in spite of ourselves. 
III

Steam that rises from super-hot lava super-cools in saltwater forming islands that can only serve as places to stand or tie off our boats while we bob & glass the horizon for any signs of life & look at our broken oars with longing & angst that we weren’t better prepared & all of the focus in the world isn’t making me feel as though I’ll sustain the black clouds that are passing to the north of us drawing cloud buckets of ocean to distill & carry & deposit on parched, thirsty Mid-Western ground. We’re all so miraculously connected.
IV

Through the course of a sunrise
the philosophies of a full coffee pot
& a yawning stretch make sense.
The front door starts the deer from their beds,
flagging through swale, slow bounding into
the stand of hardwoods east of the house like a list of poems I have yet to write.
Familiar & unrecognizable people mouth silent words
& then disappear into a lingering sense
that something important happened while I slept.

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Filed under In the woods, On the water, Poetry

Aleida

I just spent this past Sunday with my 7 year old daughter at a lacrosse tournament. She was playing with the 3rd and 4th grade girls team, invited because their numbers were thin and she’s tall (and quite coordinated) for her age – and I was asked to help coach. I worried a little that the age/skill difference (and the fact that she had never played a real game before) might make her shy/pensive/un-assertive. Quite the contrary. She had a ball, and I found myself uncharacteristically silent several times throughout the day, just watching her run, laugh, scowl and chase the fast-break, take a breather on the side-line with her goggles on her forehead and a Gatorade in hand. At those specific moments, had I tried to offer some sort of instruction or encouragement, I’m sure my voice would’ve cracked (that’s a no-no, by the way. No emotional stuff, dad.). I did holler though when she scored a goal, her first, and my voice cracked like puberty had made a comeback.

The last couple days I’ve been thinking about how far she’s come from the pudgy bundle we brought home that cool Virginia November almost 8 years ago. Throw in any number of Coldplay, Dave Matthews, Augustana, Jeff Buckley or Nick Drake tunes that happen to be playing on my iTunes and voila! I’m suddenly up to my eye-balls in nostalgia. We had Aleida while I was in grad school at George Mason for poetry. A good deal of my writing was about my every-day…trying to make connections between my past and my present. Having our first child made for a pretty deep pool of “writing matter.” Here’s a section from my master’s thesis (a book-length poem about fatherhood, fishing and the landscape(s) of America) that I just re-discovered, in which I talk about Aleida:

[34]

Most pools have been filled in with concrete to keep
kids from swimming. Suckers run in fractional numbers.
Land around the cemetery has been cleared. Wooded places,
have been cleared that used to feel as if, in being there,
your steps were the first. Dogs are not allowed.
Plots are allowed only two arrangements per—
tasteful, modest arrangements.

Dad took my daughter to look for suckers this spring.
In a small piece of slack-water above the fourth bridge
they found three fat lakers holding in the shade.
He lifted one toward my daughter, her eyes wide
& then wider, the fish working its mouth, waving its tail
back & forth. Not sure what to make of this creature,
she screamed when she touched it, laughed her child-laugh,
wiped her hands on her pants as dad returned the fish to the water.

Yep, connections between my past and my present. Fatherhood, much like fishing or poetry I’m realizing, is about paying attention to the small things…before those small things grow up and head into the current of their own life.

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