Recollection of My Father, Atchafalaya Basin, 1984

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(photo by Clare L. Martin)

Sunrise, Atchafalaya Basin—

 

Daddy’s ankles in water as the flat-bottomed aluminum boat slides off the trailer. I put my life jacket on. Daddy says, Hold onto the rope and walk to the wharf. I board the boat carefully, so I don’t fall in the water. Daddy never wears a lifejacket. He throws the outboard into reverse then shoots out to the channel that is peppered with cypress stumps, some hidden below the waterline. Daddy knows the clear path to where the fish are hiding. Any good spot under the willow trees.

Flowing costumes of green braids—the willow-dance of the breeze. Daddy opens a Schlitz beer can and gives me a red soda pop. He baits my hook because I don’t like touching the catalpa worms with their black goo. We cast close to the ribbons of branches, being careful not to set the hooks in the trees. We’re not fishing for squirrels, Daddy says.

Sun ascends to the shoulders of the willows. We eat bologna sandwiches and chips and sip our drinks. I am getting sunburned. We are waiting for the corks to bob, pop below, and disappear under the water for good.

Daddy talks to the fish. Take it, Big Red. That worm is good. A tug, a quick jag to the right to set the hook in the fish’s mouth, then I’m pulling hard. Reel, reel, reel. The sun perch breaks the surface, shimmering iridescent reds. He is fat. He twists mid-air drowning in oxygen and blood. Daddy pulls the hook from the throat of the fish that swallowed the bait and hook.  Then, as I expect, Daddy squeezes the middle of the fish and it expels urine directed at me. I squeal. Daddy knows I hate and love this. Our ritual joke.

Daddy tosses the sac-a-lait into the ice chest. I am proud to have caught the first fish of the day. I feel lucky like we might have enough to invite family over for a fish fry. Everybody brings their own beer. Sac-a-lait battered in seasoned cornmeal and deep fried. Sometimes the fins are so crispy we eat them. Mama always has a loaf of bread on the table in case anyone gets a needle-like bone caught in their throat.

Daddy fishes with two hooks: one low for the catfish and the other higher up the line. Daddy does catch a catfish: a slick, almost lavender one in the shadows of the willows. He uses pliers to remove the hook and holds the catfish carefully so he isn’t stung by the barbed whiskers. Good eatin’ Daddy says. He put up a good fight. I love the fight most of all.

This day I catch a Gaspergou. It is big and fights like a man. I sweat in the sun’s heat. This big fish fights so hard. I pull, pull, pull and reel fast. Daddy holds the net near the water’s surface. How big will it be? We are both excited. It’s big and Daddy says, They’re no good unless you cook it in a courtboullion. We both know Mama will have nothing to do with it. Daddy wants to throw it back in the water, but I start to cry. We fish until the sun is low on the horizon.

At the boat landing, we are dirty and tired. The boat is full of trash: beer cans, wrappers, and a few thin streaks of muddy blood.  Daddy tells a Creole boy, who helps us put the boat back on the trailer, that I caught a Gaspergou. The boy licks his lips and smiles. I smile too, shyly. Daddy opens the ice chest and holds up the Gaspergou. The sun’s just now set but the silhouette of the fish is delineated starkly. The last streak of light is fuchsia and orange. I get into the front seat of the station wagon. In the rear-view mirror, I see Daddy giving the teenager the Gaspergou and the very last Schlitz.

 

©2017 Clare L. Martin

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Accompaniment

Herself as Landscape 1

 

Dusk. A line of tall pines.
Blue mist horizon.
Impression of a stark hill.
The feel of wanting
to merge two into one:
the viewer into the viewed.

She is soul-gatherer.
Where does she take him?
Or is he taking her? To the lake.
To the dark, wooded lake.
He presses his thumb
in the most sacred space.
Encircles her pleasure;
brings her to his merciful lips.
She cries out and loves him more.
Loves him to the brink of all desire.
She is shadow. She is glory all at once.
She is light embodied and then,
diminishes into glowing dusk again.
She controls the image.
She controls her body.

She places the image
at the font of the world
where holy is only seen
by unveiled eyes.

Bless them.
Bless them. Bless them.

©2016 Clare L. Martin

A Gift

THE ROAD BEFORE US

Let us travel the road before us

and enter into the mystery of trees.

Let us find the sleeping doe

attentive and aware

of the ever-wolf.  I will go

and find kindling. I will set

the fire that will engage us

and carry our heaviest thoughts

upward.  Clouds dwindle.  

Smoke trails us like a wraith.

I am caught in it. I rise

to the web of bleak branches,

to the very tops of trees.

Tonight leafless trees

are smothered with blackbirds.  

This night-smoke

becomes the blackbird

rising to its highest—

Drifting embers smite the moon.

©2011 Clare L. Martin

And there was.

I wrote a poem today. It is the first new poem I have written since May 17th. The summer has been one drama after another. I am pleased with the form this poem has taken. It was inspired by a photograph by Zeralda and might become part of our collaborative project of words and images.

Nice to meet ya, again.

OFFICIAL BLOG RENEWAL POST001-1014

 

Each success, no matter how small, in practice of what I love is a lightning strike against the dark.  And I have been in dark, metaphorically dark and literally extinguished places. I’ve been around fires a blazin’ too and they can be happy places!

Ah ha, yes. Well.

I am a poet/mother/wife living with bipolar disease. I have been blessed with clarity and stability in my medical situation for a few years with the effort put in by my strong team of caregivers medically, in the healing arts, and through the support of loving family members who have stood by me. I had recurring traumas and “breakdowns” in my life which robbed me of many things.  I was unhappy and clinically sick for most of the 1990s.

I’m gaining back my life, which could have been lost, had I succumbed to the disease and died. (And yes Bipolar kills.  Look up the suicide rates of bipolar people, people!) I have been gaining back my sense of self and finding healing through writing.  There’s a link between mental illness and creativity. My interest would be: poets who have bipolar disorder.  This is a hot topic and I expect to weigh in on it from time to time.

I’ve always been a writer, writing up to this very sentence, poems, plots, plays and peddling pure phiction.  

I am a lifelong resident of Louisiana, and a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now called University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I majored in English and minored in Philosophy—the perfect match of disciplines for a budding poet.  I published a few poems in college, got married, and only sporadically wrote for a few years. 

When I feel the aura of a poem coming on to me so clearly,  I am moved by words yet forming, as if words could ride air and pass through my skull, form the syllables in my mind and mouth, and I get up from whatever I was doing and write something.  Writers write.  Thinkers think. Thoughts fly away until you put the thought-words on a piece of paper or enter them into a computer—then you are a writer, for having written it. Congratulations!

Pre-Poems/Free-Writes— the mystique of this airwave/brainwave/of what was working in my subconscious/some feathery slip of a thing flits from its dark hiding place and dawns in the mind.

I was a lazy writer, in the sense that I did not demand it of my self. I wanted to learn how to do it my way.  Not in a conventional class room.  I wanted to be in my environs living and drawing my poems from the right here that I am living. The within: my domestic life, sex life, body life, mind’s life, and my natural life as a creature on this planet with other creatures, domesticated and not.

I am in the pursuit of the image. It is my starting point in all writing I do.  What is the image?  Observation is the key. I am also an amateur photographer, so for me it is usually a visual stimulus. A description must encompass, not describe too much but rather show in deft and artful language the essence, the charm of it.

Is it startling?  Is it sustainable? What I mean is does it having lasting qualities to live on in the poem if we construct an environment for it to thrive? Will its meaning inspire other meanings which may or may not conflict with the intended meaning.  Does this matter?  If it is what it is and you want that image/those words, then you choose. Poetry is making choices.  Words-connections-shaping-breaking-exploding and putting the poem back together, or not– are the choices of the artist.  Read poetry, get inspired, and learn to make choices.  Major choices are definitive; some choices allow a little wiggle.

That’s what it is about.

I am building around a central image, not always, but habitually.  Images come from things and we get to know things through our senses, sight, smell, taste, hear and touch, so images come from the basic 5 senses—this is basic knowledge of what is concrete and what it abstract in the study of poetry but it is crucial because by utilizing these tools you can transform, imagine, ignite passionate responses, and through words you can bloodlessly crush people in a way they like to or would rather not like to be crushed.   

So when I return I will speak of why I am in pursuit of the image as it is stated at the top of the blog.

 I welcome comments for friendly and heartily espoused discussions.  What I have written here is brief and leaves many questions to me but I wanted to holdback so questions could be put to me and any other readers for discussion.