pneuma

what is the spirit? how you felt
exhilarated in the rain and wind
that one time, you were ten
and traveling, you knew
actual magic
*
you must bring it
the yoga teacher says
no one else can
find those places
of either hurt or release
*
in ancient Greek, I’m told
pneuma, verily only
the stuff of life
which blows
over all our heads
*
true dark skies last summer
Milky Way and eclipsed sun

beyond earth’s wind
beyond need for meaning

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to the guy who still holds the 8th-grade school record for long jump

you’re my age now, I’m thinking
as I wait for the game to start
how we engrave these accomplishments
as if they might matter
thirty-five years hence
do you even know
your name is still on this board
and what does it mean
we hold these selves within us
from a time when such things made us strive
to be important to someone—
to ourselves?

 

Texas history

there we sat, in air-conditioned classroom, crammed
into desks into rows; this tennis coach-teacher insistent
if not passionate about a dusty battle for glory fort, right
there still, in our hometown. living easy and far from that
rough bloody battle. except. we knew movie heroics,
lines in the sand. we knew how to wave a flag,
cheer the team, fear the other. still do

I recently ran across a contest prompt on the theme of San Antonio history, which sent me right back to 7th grade and the Alamo.

driving home, in this drizzle

because I saw the opossum
improbably trotting across the road
and thought first of Piglet then parents
children helpless things all those
waiting-watching-waiting for loved ones
to come back and in that slow-flash
you hit your brakes swerved behind me
(is it raining out there? it’s raining here too)
waking not anger sadness superiority but
neither mere impatience
with your impatience

A life history in suburban plantings

We’re a flower-hungry people, so you know “bloom where you’re planted”: from that land of live oak, bluebonnets, prickly pear you grow in a neighborhood draped with ivy and crepe myrtle. Rooted shallow and wide. Your own first garden unshaded, broad-bladed grass framed by marigold, vinca, mint.

What root traces your steps

to prairie snow, sugar beets, lilac by the door? The spreading apple tree, dandelion spring. Your first taste of hate for forsythia follows to southern pine forests, thin wood at playground’s edge, understory ferns’ moist heat.

What love for a place you never belonged?

Thinking to settle: the huge rain-flopped peony, ants swarming on the buds, short burst of cerise and the cheerful yellow rose. In back, a fragrant heirloom shrub (so your children shower you with petals).

What root graces your steps

to a place of language you can’t speak? Though you can hear its nature through the soles of your feet. Rosenbogen wreathed in pink, balcony view of trellised garnet-red, scented cream-peach Vorstadt walk.

Such love for a place you never belonged.

Now you are here, tamed by hosta, daylily, boxwood hedge. Your roses true knockouts (though bees don’t care) gleaming ruby in the light. Heart-shriveled, craving green-wild and the overthrow of mulch.

What root tangles your steps

and what blame if you guard yourself from sinking right in? You’re the dandelion fluff blown by any new wind…

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raindrops, tulips, eggs

on a day when pear-bloom carpets
the drive, strawberries wide-eyed, grateful
we pay for the sun again in the way
we bought it with months of gray

why should it make me glad
that thunder-clap, downpour tapering
to gentle plash—I am remembering
the cracked-earth thirst of South Texas

how we turned our faces to warm rain
after breathless hours of cloud-watching
(will they, won’t they stop here or hurtle past
like the tankers on 281)

perhaps there’s no mystery:
it’s fiesta-time, now, in my hometown
bluebonnets gone in their mayfly-life
so we chase and embrace it

and here the redbuds held tight
child tulips upright, spared for tomorrow

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must we always

that bookchair thirst for travel
begun long ago on oak-branch horses
penciled blank-book stories
and no one had to know
your delight in these treasures
of every hidden world

what need to share? to boast?
how we dilute our all
in the cutting world
when stumbling tongues fail
to proclaim dazzling deeps of upblue
though they ever pulse the heart

 

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This Garden

1.
in its first summer, I’m fighting
gravity and grass, plus
the sun so much fiercer in blessing
and insects unforetold

2.
my camouflaging clothes
made for errands, patio-reading
anything but weeding
require constant hitch and catch
on the tiny cartilage of rose-thorns
the ones I can’t see

3.
I’m not looking for much
beyond this silence but I say
next year all the greens go in boxes
next year a promise to myself
to my seedlings

4.
sacrificed to the spirits of wildness
(as far as they go in a finch’s song)
my orderly plans thrown cloudward
with not enough regret

5.
the back of my neck like old leather
even my wrists and feet
brown as long-distant childhood

For a long-lost friend

wednesday was your birthday and yes I still remember

freshman year, walking in hot spring, holding hands
sitting in the sharp grass of our front yard (you could
bike over, then) talking and talking, devastating
the grass, writing long notes on loose-leaf paper
that you called “letters”

and I returned from summer vacation and didn’t return
your calls, how you wrote te quiero on the first day
of sophomore English, but I hadn’t learned that much
Spanish yet

playing Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare, senior year, learning
some girl was jealous (perhaps unrelated) though

you drove us in your mother’s station wagon
to that Something Club dinner where they read
our words—scholarship stuff—and after we talked
and talked (cassette tapes on the car stereo) as fate
would have it, my future husband called to ask me out
just as I walked in the door

and graduation day, in our red robes and gold cords
and all the trappings, milling around the giant hall
actually called the Coliseum, of six hundred-plus
also-robed kids there you were, running your speech
by a bank of phones; I wanted to call
your attention once more
and lifted a receiver

 

NaPoWriMo Day 29 prompt is an “I remember” poem.