The Writing Life

Nothing like a silent house.

A quick note: This was just written in the last hour while a delicious-smelling gumbo is being tended to by my family and not me, which is new and greatly appreciated. My dear friend Debra and I had an exchange on Facebook earlier and one of her responses prompted this poem.

Blessings, Debra. May you have all the words that need to be written by you.

~Clare

 

 

“Nothing like a silent house”

The books unread
outnumber the ones
that enter me like vines
through brick. How the walls
peel and sigh, I will never know.
The floor muddies after storms
that come like final distractions
before death by fire.

There is cigarette smoke
in the house, but no piano.
To all of us, this place is home.
Sometimes rats shiver me
awake with their mating-grind,
and dry cries seep
out of my own sleep.
I construct fungal nests for the rats.
We know there will be
more, more, more
and they may devour us,
but we let them live: night-lit
companions, sticky and full of rotten figs.

We had a dog once, a puppy
I brought home. I was depressed
and it was something to love me,
but it disappeared after chewing
an antique chair. Gone to that place
where stables burn,
the kicking horses
locked-in, kindled with hay—

I cannot always grasp a poem.
I try and they bend
defensively as I reach. I try again
and words beat me with their wings,
leaving me ransacked and bruised.

There is nothing like a silent house,
and nothing, nothing
in this world like want.

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

River Dream

214

 

I slip from the edge of a muddy cane field into the Mississippi River with a baby in my arms.  It is my daughter and she is one or two years old. We glide over the water, my bare feet causing small wakes. Sometimes we move by vaulting with a large limb of a tree that carries us farther and faster than our own energies.  We are like wind over the water. We move far and fast; away, away but always the river hungers.

My little girl keeps falling asleep; limps out of my grip into treacheries of the river. She sinks quickly, or sometimes floats just at the surface. I pull her out by her hair. In one part of the dream, we fly through a deep-green stand of trees along the riverbank. The leaves and branches do not ribbon our skin, but I fear flying into their hardwood bodies. I tighten my grip on my girl. Sometimes she laughs, enjoying herself on this great adventure. I don’t know why we don’t smack right into a trunk. Why don’t the trees kill us?

In open air, we meet a woman who can also fly and knows the river. She promises us safety.  She flies with a baby in a carriage chained to her backside. At one point she slips the baby, much younger, much smaller than my own, into a pocket, and unhooks the chain, dropping the carriage into the mud. We fly great distances. The river grows angrier that it cannot have us. We glide close to the bank, sometimes we change course.  In the very middle of the river, the deepest part, I see a half-sunken iron statue of Evangeline; her rusted breasts emerge from water. The flying woman solemnly, weeping, gives us up. She flies to a silent grove to breastfeed her infant.

A man with a boat that is shaped like a deep gumbo bowl with an outboard motor finds us, or rather we find him via a hand-painted wooden sign offering boat tours.  I ask him where we are, tell him I want to go to Youngsville, and that there is a new sports complex with tall, bright lights that might serve as a landmark. He says we are only three miles away. This gives me hope.

Once we are isolated on the water, with no one watching, wind forces its tongue down my throat. Thrice, my only child falls in, and I have to go deeper each time to get her and bring her back to life. She is exhausted, sick from coughing the Mississippi. I keep telling her to hold me tightly, but she doesn’t comprehend enough language, so I grip her with the one goddamn-willing muscle I have left.

The man with the boat starts to ask questions, says he doesn’t have a woman and I seem to be a good one.  From the belly of the boat where I am seated, I see the longed-for lights of the sports complex, not too far away. The man operating the boat continues on the river swiftly, jamming his wrist with a hard twist to increase the motor’s speed. At some point he abandons us wordlessly, waist-deep in a forgettable tributary.

I wake up wanting home, being home and grab a notebook. Write down the bones.

 

4.21.14

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You Will Take a Strange Journey

Wordlab Funny Business

 

So we had a couple of options for our second exercise with Wendy. She gave us the choice to write a fictional biography of ourselves or to write a piece with the narrator as a fortune teller and begin with the sentence: “You will take a strange journey.” I chose the latter, and after the heavy “Ode to a Child Soldier” I/we needed some levity.

szo0256

You will take a strange journey.  Be sure to polish your toenails, but both of your big toes must be a different color from the rest.

Someone will offer you a LARGE SUM OF MONEY.  DO NOT ACCEPT IT!! It is tainted with rancid processed meats that were left in a car for seven days in a Louisiana summer and sprung a leak onto all the hundred dollar bills.

Your journey will require spelunking into an active volcano. I see good things coming from this. You will meet your soul mate down there.

I see a green veil around you and normally I would advise you to practice tantric masturbation but your veil has polka dots, so please, I IMPLORE YOU to do it more and go ahead and finish.  You are way too bottled up.

So we are almost done and I have to tell you that the price I quoted you has gone up since you have been here. It will be $1000 cash-only, paid upon receipt of service, or you won’t be going anywhere, buddy.

 

©2014 CLM

 

Ode to a Child Soldier

Ode to a Child Soldier

 

This child should eat
something more than water
and bone and be clothed
in something other than desolation.
This child should be sung to and sing;
be mourned and praised. He should
know that pulse within himself
when freed makes a sound
we call laughter. He should know it well.

O, my well-armed child
with pockets full of bullets,
run if you can. Bury the gun
in your hand deep and in secret,
even from yourself.

Victim, slave, innocent,
your one life
has been eviscerated
with the purpose
to kill.

I give you this, my hope,
that there are people
who want to dance with you.
There are people, who, in their beds
wonder if you are shod, if you know
your parentage and bless
you in holy, hypnogogic prayer.

 

 

This was written by me today in a session of Acadiana Wordlab led by poet Wendy Taylor Carlisle which had part of its focus on the Ode as a “song of praise.”

©2014 CLM

There are angels among us and some of them are human beings. I am lucky to have one as my niece.

From my niece Morgan Landry just now in reply to my plea for cheering up:

“You’re a creative genius, and in my personal opinion, the most genius of those in the arts have to pay a price. That price is awareness. You’re inclined to be hyper-aware, and when you wish you weren’t is when you are the most. Sometimes it’s bad, and all you can sense is its pain and misfortune — the world is so unfair. But other times, your psyche points towards the opposite pole of your internal spectrum. You can see so much beauty everywhere around you. You envelop yourself in the warm ancient afghan of our culture and bloodline and heritage. You feel your family’s love fill you up until you no longer know quite how to express it. You see a Monet in every leaf in a puddle on the old shitty sidewalks. And when you’re in the darkness, you just have to remember that all of these things are there still. You’ve done a stupendous job transforming your pain into a sturdy foundation for your soul and your work. You benefit from all that’s around you. Anyone who talks with you can’t help but feel happy and cared for; I can see it when I’m there. I love you forever!”

 

God bless you all and goodnight. XOXOX

Getting Clean

 

I took an hour from my day for quiet outdoors. I gazed into the slow current of the Vermilion Bayou from the vantage point of a deck overlooking the bayou at a local park.  Thin limbs floated in line with thatch and fallen leaves. Trees, on the opposite bank, were reflected in the muddy water and swayed against watery sky.

I couldn’t help thinking of my father and cried a bit. He knew this bayou well. He had fished and boated in it when he was a boy, and as an adult, he frequently he traveled it down all the way to the Vermilion Bay to get to Cypremort Point.  We had a camp there for a time when my brother and I were small children.

My father almost drowned in the Vermilion. I wrote a poem about it, “Father Almost Drowning” that first appeared in Poets & Artists and is collected in Eating the Heart First. On my father’s casket, we displayed another poem I had written about his life. In the quiet moments of this exceptional spring afternoon, I thought of how much my father has done for me since his death.

I believe we are spirits in flesh.  My father’s spirit has gently cautioned me at various times when I was running headlong into harmful choices or getting involved in matters that were detrimental. I truly believe our dead loved ones are protectors and guides.  So, I reflected on him and his otherworldly wisdom, and gave myself over to the Divine Whatever.

I knew I was being called to water today. This morning when I was bathing, I thought of one summer weekend that we had spent at the camp at Cypremort Point. There are so many memories, but this particular memory was of a time that we went to church barefoot. It was a moment that really caused great distress for me. As I recall, our shoes were wet and muddy from play. My mother wouldn’t allow us to wear them to church. That Sunday morning, we had our baths and dressed in clean summer clothes but my mom wouldn’t let us put the dirty shoes on.

I remember looking at my bare feet as I sat in the pew feeling self-conscious and strange. I looked up insistently at my mother for some kind of calm and she whispered, “God just cares that you are clean.”  I laugh at this because clean or dirty, I believe we are cared for. It was a moment that made me actually laugh out loud this morning as I was getting clean.

And I am “getting clean” in other ways. I am de-cluttering my head, cleaning the metaphorical window that offers in/out views. Even though I always have meditative moments in my bath ritual, and have sporadically used relaxation techniques and meditation techniques for years, I had not set forth to actually practice on a daily basis. Now it is a priority for me. My new steps in “getting clean” are practicing mindfulness, setting aside two-half hours for meditation, going to church when no services are being held just to sit in silence, and joining up with a group that meets for meditation.

To quiet ourselves and find the silence within, allows for changes in perspective and deeper perceptions. In these silences, images and ideas for poetry are flooding in and I have greater access to the deeper parts of myself that lend wisdom to incorporate into creative writing. It was really cool that a few weeks ago Margaret Gibson Simon (who blogs at Reflections on the Teche) led a meditation writing workshop at Acadiana Wordlab. I always long to go deeper, and I do, obviously, when I am writing and “in the zone.”

All in all, I feel energized, new, and more deeply committed to myself, my people and the Divine Whatever. I wish you peace and wellness.

Clare

P.S. I saw the trailer for David Lynch’s documentary, “Meditation, Creativity, Peace” http://meditationcreativitypeace.com/   and I really want to see it. There is a form on the website that offers anyone to send a message if you want to coordinate a screening in your hometown. I am thinking about it!

If you would like to experience something great go to http://www.meditationoasis.com/ I have been using this particular site for about a week.

neg heart

IN THE MARROW ALL HUNGERS BEGIN

 

 

carnal wetness
the needle
sensations of wind

a tug at flesh of the low-belly

a harvest
of cerulean veins

hook-eyes

a frazzle of electric wires
coiled                          to the womb

 

an excised heart
as soft palms cup it
transforms
to a tranquilized dove

 

Beloved jailer,
holy executioner,

Can this sin
be absolved?

 

I took communion without wine.

 

©2014 CLM

Delusion

blackbird

Delusion

 

She slips out unnoticed by disguising herself as a shadow and moving slow as shadow; a lengthening mark against decreasing light.

Beyond the open field, where the patients do calisthenics each morning, there is a hedgerow and beyond that a gate used for truck deliveries. Beyond the field before someone notices. Beyond the field to the gate before they know she is missing. She slips darkly into a green abyss.

Her bare feet skim the mud; she drips dark mud as each foot rises in step. A decrepit thought enters her mind. She turns back, just momentarily; to see the brick-bone building almost in ruin. She cries seed after seed into slim furrows her toes created.

She must punch in a code to enter or exit. She does not know if she is entering or exiting. She climbs the gate. Someone shouts. She climbs down the gate. She runs. She runs until it is night. The North Star is obscured and she wouldn’t know it anyway. She wishes for a river to follow a down-flow. She knows people in the South. But, perhaps, they don’t love her anymore?

All of her imaginings, innumerable, sorrowful, soul-stealing sinister, become sheer, so that she can almost see through them (but unfortunately cannot).

It begins to rain. For every raindrop a black feather falls. Blackbird-eyes are upon her. She hunches from heaviness of the scattered wings; swallows a mouthful of naked moon.

Her days and nights culminate into the fullest sun. She murmurs: Is it or is it not, and why?

Somehow, impossibly, the world softens around her. Her idea of God softens, too. The one and only voice she possesses constellates with discorporate multitudes in harmonic undulations of holy praise.

©2014 CLM

Woman in Prayer

A reflection on an experience this afternoon.
Peace.

~CLM
Woman in Prayer

I am penitent; pour myself out
onto the hard rail of the pew
somber Mary alit, red-glassed candles
no smoke, but a hint of myrrh
the cleaning woman shakes her mop
a woman comes in, blesses
herself at the font of holy water
and more women fill in like light
to pray
at the stations of the cross
they speak to me and I
decline their invitation
their prayers become
my own                the sun exhales
color,   the breath
focus
on the breath
fill the lungs feel the fullness
release let go let go
of the tension in my body,
the bones of my neck click
my hanging God the Christ
that I need to believe in
that I am begging to take
a lifetime’s desperation
to deliver me
right my path
crown of thorns
my own heart
brambles and thorns
jag the aorta
what if there were wings
the blackheart caws
I want to fly, to flee
this earth yet I cannot
so willfully I come here to pray
I come for mercysilence
and today as supplicant

These women,
in devotion, full of grace
could not possibly be
as contrite, as sinful as me.

 

© 2014 CLM