Flower Time

I loved you first in lilac time
I loved you first in lilac time ….

Flower Time

I saw you first in jonquil time,
When you were bathed in grace.
You sat aglow with fire sublime,
And golden shone your face.

I loved you first in lilac time.
A bloom I plucked for you.
I wrote you verse with song and rhyme.
I hoped you loved me too.

I kissed you first in tulip time,
It must have been a sign.
The buds and we were in our prime
When your two lips met mine.

I married you in daisy time
On summer’s longest day.
We traded rings and heard bells chime.
We pledged always to stay.

Too soon we’ve come to aster time.
The days are shorter now.
Would stealing some be such a crime?
We’ll make it right somehow.

Should we endure ’til wintertime,
The time when flowers sleep,
Dreams we’ll share of a gentler clime
Where we no more shall weep.

Found notes

Found note in Raymond Carver's last book of poems.

One of my favorite things to do when I’ve got spare time it to drop in at a used bookstore and go treasure hunting in the poetry section.

Not looking for anything in particular, but rather, just poking around to see what might be there.

The surprises are half the fun of it. I’ve discovered some great poets this way. And stumbled across collections of poems I’m enjoying to this day.

I know it would be more efficient to simply go straight to Amazon and have their algorithms tell me what I should be interested in. But, it’s just not the same thing.

The online bookstore experience lacks the hand of providence … the delight of surprise … the magic of serendipity.

Like what happened to me the other day when I went into town to get my teeth cleaned. (No cavities!) So I celebrated with a visit to the local used bookstore.

It’s a small, narrow poetry section, but with several shelves within it. I was standing up on a chair to start with the A, B and C authors, when I ran across a collection by Raymond Carver.

I had only recently been introduced to Carver by my friends Mark Neigh and Seth La Tour. (Seth is a poet himself, over at One Poem Every Day.)

I had grown to appreciate Carver, but did not have any of his books. So I was excited to find one of his books in decent condition. It was A New Path to the Waterfall, which I remember Seth recommending highly.

I was to learn that this was Carver’s last collection, some written while he knew he was dying from cancer. It had an introduction by his wife, Tess Gallagher, who helped him organize and edit the book.

So, I bought it and a couple of other books and took them home. The next day, when I sat down to read it I found one of those little surprises.

Thumbing through, the first page I came to was the dedication page. Carver simply and emphatically had dedicated the book to: Tess. Tess. Tess. Tess.

And just below the dedication, was the hand-scrawled autograph: Tess

Well, that was fun! Tess had actually signed this book for someone.  But, then, when I turned back to the title page, there was a longer handwritten message:

Tess Gallagher for Carolyn Maddux, meeting in Shelton. Have Ray’s and my last time w/him writing ~ until …
Tess 5/13/94

When you consider that Carver had died just a few years before at an all-too-early age 50, you can see how my treasure hunt turned from fun to poignant.

I did a little research and found that Carolyn Maddux is a Northwest poet, herself.  Still alive and living in Shelton, Washington, as far as I can tell.  I wondered a bit about how and why books find themselves in a used bookstore, but then turned back to the book itself.

When I read Tess’s introduction, the poignancy grew. In it, she gives an account of the last months of Carver’s life. She writes how scattered the pages of the book on the floor and crawled around on her hands and knees, reading and deciding by intuition which pages should come next.

She also made this statement about Carver and his poetry:

It seems important finally to say that Ray did not regard his poetry as simply a hobby or a pastime he turned to when he wanted a rest from fiction. Poetry was a spiritual necessity. The truths he came to through his poetry involved a dismantling of artifice to a degree not even Williams, whom he had admired early on, could have anticipated.

That’s an amazing statement: Poetry as a spiritual necessity. But when you read the book, you can begin to see how it can be true.

And what a book of poems this is! For just a taste, this is the book’s last poem, which is also engraved on Carver’s tombstone in Port Angeles, Washington.

LATE FRAGMENT

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved. To feel myself
beloved on the earth.

You say cicada, I say locust

Cicadas shed their skin
Back in Missouri where I grew up, we had an insect about the size of the end of your thumb that folks called locusts.

The proper name for these critters was “cicadas,” but for me, they will always be locusts.

These bugs made a terrible racket when they started their serenade. Some sources say the noise is so loud it can damage the human ear.

I won’t take that bet. They can be exceedingly annoying.

But they are also fascinating because they molt and leave behind an almost perfect exoskeleton. As a kid, I would collect these artifacts like little relics.

My fellow poet over at Dancing Echoes recently wrote a haiku about these creatures.

Dancing Echoes does a great job coming close to the original idea of haiku.

The old haiku masters combined words with beautiful calligraphy and drawings to form a total experience.

Dancing Echoes pairs each poem with a beautiful photograph. In this effort, she approaches the complete experience achieved by the old masters. You could say it’s haiku for the modern age.

The cicada haiku from Dancing Echoes reminded me of an old poem sitting in my files gathering dust. It’s not haiku. But it does feature a cicada — or rather, a locust.

SOMETIMES IN THE
MOONLIGHT

Sometimes in the moonlight
The feeling comes afresh,
The old familiar feeling,
The aching of the flesh.

Sometimes in the summer
The noisy locust strains
Against the skin that holds him.
To shed his crusty chains.

When the trees grow weary
Of their summer masquerade,
And fallen leaves are gathered
I hunger for the shade

Of limbs that never falter
And love that never cools,
Where ruin never alters,
And where death never rules.

Hometown Haiku (and a note for Father’s Day)

The Saline County Courthouse looms above the square in Marshall, Missouri
“Once, it was magic”

A recent trip back to my old hometown prompted some haiku.

Thomas Wolfe may have said “you can’t go home again,” but you actually can. It just won’t be the same as it was.

I’m not sure if there were any satori moments on this trip, but there were pangs of the heart. I’m posting this as a Father’s Day remembrance.

The old hometown seems
Smaller than I remember.
Once, it was magic.

Last time going home,
The old place sitting empty.
Memories and dust.

Mother and Father,
And all three of my brothers.
I alone remain.

Well over sixty
Dad built a barn by himself.
Now it, too, molders.

Father's old Bible
Held together with duct tape

Father’s old Bible
Held together with duct tape.
Now he’s face to face.

(A few years ago, on an earlier visit, my brother and I walked through the town cemetery)

Last time I saw him
We strolled between tombstones.
Now he has his own.

I left to find truth.
Yet here I am seeking scraps.
Scraps of memories.

Haiku, with feeling

Mother and father
Father cared for Mother through her decade-long ordeal with Alzheimer’s. After her death, he went downhill very quickly.

My recent infatuation with haiku master Issa, has led me to his poems about his family. Sad story. His mother died very early. His father remarried, but the new wife was not a warm, nurturing stepmom.

So, Issa leaves home early to wander and find his fortune.

Later, as his father was dying of typhus, Issa returns home to care for his father in his dying days. His verse about his father’s last days is a heartbreaker.

Last time, I think
I’ll brush the flies
from my father’s face.

I was reminded of my last contact with my father.  This is a different time and a different age.  Instead of being in the same room brushing away flies, I was 2,000 miles away.  I attempted to reach my father by telephone.

Last call to my dad.
Nurses wheeled him to the phone.

Couldn’t hear a thing.