Thursday, December 24, 2009

Molt. Rest. Molt.

Here's a poem from Amy Gerstler's terrific new book DEAREST CREATURE, a total pleasure for Christmas Eve. Not exactly in the holiday spirit, but, like this whole book, adventurous, funny, and completely unexpected. The long poem called "Mrs. Monster Pens Her Memoirs" is brilliant.


Chew your way into a new world.
Munch leaves. Molt. Rest. Molt
again. Self-reinvention is everything.
Spin many nests. Cultivate stinging
bristles. Don't get sentimental
about your discarded skins. Grow
quickly. Develop a yen for nettles.
Alternate crumpling and climbing. Rely
on your antennae. Sequester poisons
in your body for use at a later date.
When threatened, emit foul odors
in self-defense. Behave cryptically
to confuse predators: change colors, spit,
or feign death. If all else fails, taste terrible.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sleeping underwater with the maple leaves

See Paul's blog for photos of the fantastic snow here in the Springs today. It started yesterday, later than we'd expected it after the big drum-beats of the weather forecasters so excited to have a "major snow event" to talk about. First some stray swirling flakes, their density gradually increasing, and before I knew it the ice covering the fish pond was covered itself. I thought about the fish down there in the growing dark; just an hour before I'd seen one, sleepless, wandering slowly around under the skim of ice. I wonder if the darkness settling over them -- like a very early nightfall -- sent them all into their winter state of suspended animation at the bottom?

More snow as night fell for us, and we left the outdoor lights on so we could look, and kept poking our heads out to take the measure of it, but truly it didn't seem that much when we went to bed. By morning though -- extravaganza of ornament! Sheer white stretching on through the back garden, everything silent, nothing moving but bluejays, cardinals and woodpeckers. You couldn't tell just how deep it really was until you got outside in it -- which proved to be a daunting project, getting the doors open, stepping out, and immediately sinking in to our knees. Two feet, thirty inches? Now the fish are far down under the thick white that makes their kingdom dark, sleeping there among all those maples leaves I didn't have time to get out of the water.

Thus a snowbound day: reading, writing a little, messing around online. cooking, a nap, and -- just when it seemed that torpor would overcome us both -- bouts of snow shoveling. The body wants to slow down, like the goldfish settling themselves in -- and good thing the body then refuses, and wants to kick up its heels. Or is that the head?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Death and the Zebras

This remarkable poem by the Basque poet Bernardo Atxaga, translated by Amaia Gabantxo, appears in the current issue of the Canadian literary journal BRICK.


We were 157 zebras
galloping down the parched plain,
I ran behind zebra 24,
25, and 26,
ahead of 61 and 62
and suddenly we were overtaken with a jump
by 118 and 119,
both of them shouting river, river,
and 25, very happy, repeated river, river,
and suddenly 130 reached us
running, shouting, very happy, river, river,
and 25 took a left turn
ahead of 24 and 26
and suddenly I saw the sun on the river
sparkling full of sparkly splashes
and 8 and 9 passed me
running in the opposite direction
with their mouths full of water
and wet legs and white chests
very happy, shouting go,go,go
and I stumbled suddenly with 5 and 7
who were also running in the opposite directions
but shouting crocodiles, crocodiles,
and then 6 and 30 and 14 ran past us
very frightened, shouting crocodiles, crocodiles, go, go, go
and I drank water, I drank sparkling water
full of sparky splashes and sun;
crocodile, crocodile, shouted 25, very frightened,
crocodile, I repeated, rearing back
and running very frightened in the opposite direction
I suddenly collided with 149
and 150 and 151,
running, shouting very happy river,river,
crocodiles, crocodiles,
I shouted back, very frightened
with my mouth full of water
and wet legs and wet chest
I kept galloping down the parched plain
behind 24 and 26
ahead of 61 and 62 and 63
and suddenly I saw, I saw a gap
between 24 and 26, a gap
and I kept galloping down the parched plain
and I saw the gap again, the gap again,
between 24 and 26
and I jumped and filled the gap.

We were 149 zebras
galloping down the parched plain,
and head of me were 12, 13
and 14, and behind me
43 and 44.