Available on Amazon and through Nixes Mate Books.
Available on Amazon and through Nixes Mate Books.
“Gestation” by Clare L. Martin
(watercolor, color pencil, crayon, charcoal on paper, digitized, filtered).
“Creation” by Clare L. Martin.
charcoal and crayon on paper. digitized. edited. filtered. 2016.
“Marsh Song I*” Mixed media, Clare L. Martin ©2016
We drive westward along the Louisiana coast on a crumbling highway with my parents. The sky purples with becoming light. Our bellies are full of boudin and cracklins. Hot coffee is handed carefully from the front seat to my husband and I seated in the back.
We sing “J’ai Passe Devant Ta Porte” or “Bon Vieux Mari,” called by my mother and responded to by my father. Always my father embellishes his responses. My mother rolls down her window and points to the Roseate Spoonbills lifting from their roosts. My father stops singing and praises God.
A prayer is said for loved ones, wherever they are. More of the morning sky erupts over the marsh. I think of painters, how I wish to be one, how I have tried with my words. This day we are traveling to see Sandhill Cranes that have been spotted in Creole, a few miles from here. We always take the scenic route and happily travel from dawn to dusk.
How many times have we come to this slipping away land and been blessed by our forgetfulness of the world’s problems and our own? Countless. How much do I miss these two people who gave and saved my life? My longing cannot be measured.
To treasure the dead is our inheritance.
*I dedicate this artwork and these words to my beloved family, especially to my deceased loved ones, wherever they are.
Clare L. Martin
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.
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.
I want my ashes spread at Cypremort Point, Louisiana. To me it is a place that I have loved visiting all of my life. I continue to make memories there with my family.
As a child, my imagination was continually sparked by my mother’s nature-games, spotting hawks, Kingfishers, cranes, and other birds who inhabit the area and also her fun stories about Bear Country, a sloping area near the Weeks Island turnoff. When we drove through Bear Country to get to the point, my mother’s voice would always drop a bit in tone and volume and she would tell us to be on the lookout for bears. As an adult, I finally saw a Louisiana Black Bear there and my mother’s evocative tales all became so wonderfully real again.
We had the use of a camp on the point for many years when I was very little until I was maybe ten years old. We would stay weekends out there with family. We would fish, crab, play in the water at the beach and then pack up at the end of that seemingly endless time and go home. I always liked Cypremort Point better than home. I do not remember much of the home on Sixth Street I began life in, but I vividly remember Cypremort Point.
Once I was allowed to steer the boat out in Vermilion Bay. I turned the wheel hard left and we circled dangerously. Once my father “caught” an alligator on his fishing line at Marsh Island and I shrieked in fear that the alligator was going to “get me” as he reeled it closer to the boat. There was an illusive, enormous sheep’s head fish that all of us tried to catch. It lurked under the wharf and we would see it swim slowly in and out of sunlight. There was a day when the sun was full and high that I saw a thunderous strongman lift a sea turtle over his head on a shrimp boat. I was stunned by the exotic creature and the strange man who seemed to appear from a Sinbad the Sailor movie.
This brings to mind the dead winged monkey that I saw in a pile of shucked crab shells. It was stinking and scary. I saw the wings. My brother didn’t. Its dank and wet hide was encircled by flies. I looked closely for evidence of breath but there was none. It was my first up close experience with death.
I held onto that memory for years, the wonder of it and the improbability. I protected my illusions. I saw a winged monkey like in the Sinbad movies, like in The Wizard of Oz. These creatures were real even though the one I saw was dead, rotting, and half-buried under red-boiled blue point crab shells.
It was more real than anything.
I have told this story to only the closest of friends, or after a long drunk. It didn’t do much to jeopardize my reputation because my reputation has always been at risk. Saturday at Acadiana Wordlab, I wrote about the dead winged monkey and we all laughed. The truth perhaps spilled out that I had imagined it, that likely the monkey was a pet on a shrimp boat, not Sinbad’s ship, and the pet monkey had died and was discarded.
But I really want to believe, to hold fast to the magic of its existence; the idea that we do not know all that we think we do. I want to believe in the strange and unfamiliar, the existence of secret things of this world. How would you know that this creature does not exist? Our knowledge is fallible, limited. You may say I am a silly woman, and I am. I am in my heart still that silly, shocked and awed girl; a child of wonder. And I reside in that one, and perhaps many other, glorious illusions.
A wolf went blind, died and was fed on by scavengers. The gristle that remained decayed and maggots swirled. On a cold morning, after days of rain, these wolf bones crack under the footfall of a man. The man carries a shotgun and a flask as he walks in the wood. He is thin and holds one fractured belief. I will not tell you what it is. He has a sweet side, or so they say, but that is not a necessary detail in the story. This man woke this morning with an erection that his wife would not satisfy. The man is looking for something to kill and a cure for his erection. The day heats up. Crows caw his coming into the sky. The man takes a swig from the flask and rubs his wet nose with a camouflage glove. The animals smell him and stay hidden. The man picks up a sheer bone from the carcass of the wolf and sniffs it. He is all of fifty-eight and is no longer employable. The man puts the bone in the chest-pocket of his denim overalls. The man remembers something and forgets it almost as quickly. Then, he remembers his mother’s saying that “It must not be important.” But it was. Why are we concerned with this man? He is not the story. The story is of starving wolves, bones, rotting viscera, the callous vultures that circle a small clearing in a wood after days and days of rain. This story is of the matter we are made of, return to; our shared transformation.
My debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, published by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo selection, is now available.
Click on the image to purchase directly from Press 53′s web site.
Also available on Amazon (may not arrive before Christmas)
For more information, or to purchase a signed copy, contact me via the email address below:
Clare L. Martin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Praise for Eating the Heart First
“Clare L. Martin is a fine young poet whose work is dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse. Like the landscape of her beloved Louisiana, her work is alive with mystery. You could swim in this hot water, but there are things down inside its darkness that might pull you away forever. It is an exquisite drowning.”
“In her first collection, Martin deals with many common themes – motherhood, death, nature – but does so with an unsettling grace. There is an honesty and an understated tone that give each piece the right mix of tension and release. Many of the poems are exceptionally well wrought, describing loss and hope, anger and want. The most powerful piece in the collection has to be “Bread Making.” The seething anger, mixed with a dash of christian mythos, combined with flour, and sweat, all bake together into the perfect loaf.
Although described as a Louisiana poet, Martin will appeal to readers way beyond the dankness of the bayou.”
“Clare L. Martin pulls off an impressive balancing act in her debut book of poems Eating the Heart First. In this collection, divided into three sections, she manages trust of her intuitive powers while she tats her findings onto poems built with technical expertise. She is a believer of dreams, and the whole of the work can be read as an oneiric treatise guided by the powers she believes in: the power of memory, the power of water, the power of moons, the powers of longing, and the power of love. In one of the late poems a crow in a dream asks, ‘Let me be a whorl of darkness— / Let me be a fist in the sun.’ All of the poems in this collection have the impact of that crow’s call and of the trope it creates. Gradually the poems reveal richly textured revelations of a heart tied to human experience in that ‘dream we cannot know completely.’ And, while we may not ever know the dream completely, Ms. Martin hands us a guidebook to dreams and to the art that uses dream and dreaming as the scaffolding from which to make something beautiful, and useful, and mysterious all at the same time.”