Thursday, March 03, 2016

Water poems

Here are a couple of poems I read last night at an open reading, but have not yet posted here--until now. I also read "Flip Turn Lesson" which appears in the previous blog entry. I hadn't noticed until I read the poems how interconnected they all were with water--and two of them with birth ("White Screen on Water" and "Flip Turn Lesson").

The first, "White Screen," I wrote in 2014 on a ferry traveling from Logan Airport to Hull--a ferry I wouldn't be on had the operator not had mercy, heard my shouts and waves, and returned to the dock to pick me up! Having my laptop with me, I opened it to write but not wanting everyone on the ferry to see what I was writing, I wrote in white on a white screen. At that time, I was visiting Boston to run the National Masters Indoor Track Championships (ran the 800--in the same heat as a woman who broke a 60-64 age group record!), but Boston is always a kind of homecoming for me, as I was born there, and that feeling surfaced for me during that ferry ride. At the time, though, I also reflected on what it might be like to swim in those waters, maybe in the Boston Light Swim--by then it was on my horizon as a daydream, a possibility but a distant one still. It almost seems as if this body of water is entwined for me with the Great South Bay, both bringing me to birth in a way.

White screen on water

Text turned white
while riding the ferry to Hull.
The plane skirted the coast, water turning color
as it shallowed.

The laptop hides secrets.
I want to give them a gift, but all I have
are gummy bears bought in the Hyatt lobby, which turn iconic as
planes descend over water.
Now I look up,

eyes opened
in Boston, I still inhabit
its water, its Irishness, its islands, some invisible.

Unseen my words are, as I see
birds flying in tandem, coupled birds, lives
in the making. I will race.
The water moves me,

I write blankly, onlookers seeing
only the squiggles that warn of errors. I see
sun on water, birds and buoys, and the world

widening into ocean.


The next poem, written summer 2015, was inspired by my swim coach, John Kenny's challenge to me to swim 8x50 butterfly. This is my weakest swim stroke and, for that reason  possibly, the one I want most to master (but it's a difficult dance, and I'm still in the early stages....)

Waking the butterfly

Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly’s wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath; and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses. –Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

That day at the Y, the swimmer called it
a dance, pushing off wavelike, wings for arms, reaching
the wall, laughing. Just try the kick.

Keep trying -- Like Ginger, promising
the impossible
becoming possible.

A dance.

Fifty Fly!
Still larval, I try,
cough, stop, no magic in these ruffled wings
Remember there is iron, remember push-off. Pick yourself up.

Fifty Fly
I’m terrible at this!
He doesn’t stop.  Something stirs inside
the cocoon, breaking bits at a time.

It’s a dance.
We have begun.
We will fly.


The open reading: a truly lovely affair--we were originally to be in a separate room upstairs but because the owner of Xolol's Tacos didn't get word in time, he'd scheduled another event. However, he was most gracious and gave us all free drinks. We were seated at a table near the window, maybe 8 of us, with five readers (including me). What variety--humor and tragedy, childhood and old age, and in between. These readings occur monthly, organized by Tracy Kaufman Wood, who read a very funny memoir about Jewish children in a public school participating in an Easter bonnet contest around the time of Passover. Not an easy act to follow, but we were a most encouraging group!


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