In honor of National Poetry Month, Escape Into Life is featuring several of my poems about poetry today: How a moth flies into a poem, How to read a poem, This is not a poem, The solace of poetry.
“Inevitably she is driving
when it happens—”
Check out the great art, too –> Escape Into Life
Four years ago I posted about loving this season, so much so that my first website was called November Sky. And then I began publishing Autumn Sky Poetry, and Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY. This year I’m taking a break from publishing and trying to focus on writing and photography. Here are a few of this year’s autumn photos and a poem I wrote in 2005:
Strange Violet Behind Trees
—after Wolf Kahn
The house hides in dusk’s spangled purples.
It’s hard to see such colors, capricious
tones barely there once night has almost
sucked the light from the forest.
And silhouetted trees rear up
as I walk, interrupt the horizon,
their dry leaves muttering imprecations
in the magenta gleam of twilight.
You have gone and I must be careful:
the path has faded to mere shadow
and I can no longer understand
the exuberance of a leaf twisting
in the breeze. How does autumn tangle
everything so elegantly, as when crimson
replaces the decorous sheen of green?
Such willful ambiguity. I walk steadily.
The soft retreat of chlorophyll asks useless
questions. The mother tree sleeps
and misses the violet whoop of fall,
the overlapping dive of it all.
By now night has stolen
twilight’s indescribable glow.
Our house has quietly slid
into an atmospheric blur.
There is nothing more to see.
My darling, the violet has disappeared
and I’m not yet home but I can still feel
the brittle slump of frost behind the trees.
—first published on About.com
I wrote this poem in 2008. While writing it, I finally learned that sometimes things that mattered not at all to me often mattered a great deal to someone else. This poem is from Dark Matter, and was one of the poems that won the 2009 Ellen La Forge Poetry Prize.
Mysterious white rock fingers on Mars
Dust blows on every world, I tell her
as we stand at the edge of the cemetery.
She is angered over the deadness where the grass
wore down. While we argue solutions I think
of Mars, how a strange unburial exposed
a crater’s heart so that white rock pointed
into the landscape like the cenotaph
for a whole planet. Here the small, rigid
gravestones mock us, their marble cold
as pointed fingers. My mother insists
that some seed will fix the erosion,
but I can’t help the wind or the crows
that abandon feathers everywhere,
littering the dead with indifferent fluttering.
Nana will never notice, I say and receive
her shoulder turning away from me,
the stiffness more evident than the love
as she walks to the stone. I follow, carefully
avoiding the pansies that have returned again
this April, their tiny petals trembling like wings
against the rocky ground.
September 2015 – Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books
buy link: Amazon
My older son is graduating from college this Friday with a degree in computer engineering. I would like to say oh, how time flies, or what just happened to the last twenty-odd years, so that everyone can nod their heads in understanding, but clichés will be the death of me, so I shall refrain from such indulgences. Instead, here is a poem from my chapbook The book of small treasures (Keystone Finalist — Seven Kitchens Press). I wrote it over ten years ago in anticipation of the moment I’d understand my children are grown. As most of you know, that time has come and gone, and I am trapped in nostalgia, as are all parents at certain moments.
The murder of the self
No one believes it at first. One ordinary morning,
the moon withdraws her fingers from the bed’s edge
and you wake, a single body in a great gathering of women:
veiled, recognizable only in the eye’s reflection. We peer
into each other. The individual soul is in us all, glittering
like the black wings of a crow. But the trick is on us.
The moon knew it would happen, our mothers knew,
too, how the mind would stretch unexpectedly,
and then in an odd moment, ten or twenty years later,
you wake to find grown children scattered
around like seedlings: unnoticed until their first
leaves grew green enough to matter. This disbelief
lingers. For a while, you expect something else:
a recognition, perhaps, that you have done some-
thing exceptional. But it is ordinary, like the night
is ordinary, and the moon’s hovering between
stars is ordinary. Like a tree is ordinary,
until it grows larger than you, drops
its sweet autumn leaves upon your face.
It’s National Poetry Month again, and I have no plans to write a poem a day (NaPoWriMo). However, this one slipped into my head yesterday and today. A gift? Or a curse? Not sure yet.
Sometimes I speak in verse—
iambic lines, or worse,
trochee. It’s like a curse
I cannot stop. Perverse,
the rhymes infect, transverse,
coerce my brain. “Disperse!”
I shout. “Be still,” my nurse
responds, his voice so terse
I know I’ve gone insane.
He binds my wrists. I strain
against the bed, my brain
awhirl with mad disdain
until the meds constrain
the meter gone profane
and bold: a hurricane
of poems I can’t explain.
“Spondee,” I moan.
“Sestina. Sonnet. Koan
And then the heavy stone
of anesthetic thrown
from syringe to bone
descends. I wake alone.
No ode, no pain, no throne
composed of metered tones
and stately palindromes
contaminate my words.
My mouth a hearse—
dead letters disperse
against my teeth. The nurse
appears. His smile is vain.
He says, “We’ve fixed your brain.”
I scowl. He frowns. I feign
civility. “My purse?”
I ask. “The universe
awaits.” He shoves it close.
I ease the zipper wide
to show the poems I hide
for rainy days and snide
restraints cannot divide
my mind for long. I hide
my plans, re-versified
and calm. For now. They tried
to break my muse. I bide
my time until the worst
miasma fades, and Verse
slips back into a poem
or two, or more: a tome!
Oh, poetic loon,
how sweet it feels to croon
aloud the song of moon
and line. Iambic swoons
and dactyl foot balloons
unhinge my afternoon—
a perfect honeymoon
from sane pursuits too soon
applied with syringe or spoon,
a brutal, dulling dose
of anodyne. No verse.
No rhyme. Just prose. A curse
devoid of rhyme. “No pun
for that!” I say. The nurse
returns. I close my purse
Christine Klocek-Lim, 1 April 2017
This morning, flowers cracked open
the earth’s brown shell. Spring
leaves spilled everywhere
though winter’s stern hand
could come down again at any moment
to break the delicate yolk
of a new bloom.
The crocus don’t see this as they chatter
beneath a cheerful petal of spring sky.
They ignore the air’s brisk arm
as they peer at their fresh stems, step
on the leftover fragments
of old leaves.
When the night wind twists them to pieces,
they will die like this: laughing,
tossing their brilliant heads
in the bitter air.
About.com: Poetry, Spring Poems Anthology, March 22, 2007.
A new poem of mine, The Hunt for Dark Matter Minihalos, is up at Nautilus — Cosmos, along with a a selection of poems from my book, Dark Matter.
The Hunt for Dark Matter Minihalos
They say absence
makes the heart grow
as when downed red leaves show
a tree’s true size.
And when a cliff collapses,
its megatsunami can expand
across oceans, because the absence
of one thing can only be measured
by something else.
–>read the rest of the poem at Nautilus
September 2015 – Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books
buy link: Amazon
An earlier version of Dark Matter won the following prizes:
2009 Ellen La Forge Poetry Prize (formerly the Grolier Prize) for poems: “Star explodes halfway across universe,” “Saturn’s moon may have hidden seas,” “Smallest black hole found,” “How to search for aliens,” “Mysterious white rock fingers on Mars,” and “Three galaxies and a comet.”
2009 semi-finalist in the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry.
2009 semi-finalist in the University of Wisconsin Press Poetry Series, Brittingham and Pollak Poetry Prizes.
2009 semi-finalist for the Sawtooth Poetry Prize, Ahsahta Press, Boise State University.
2010 semi-finalist for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Competition.
I first wrote this in 2005, and have been tinkering with it since then. Twelve years of contemplation yielded this final version last night (unpublished, since I rarely submit poems anymore).
My mother’s psalm
She told me despair filled the valley that night,
and so her sisters walked out, carrying anger
and anguish out of the barren land.
They packed vexation into hard dirt
with their bare feet. Secret recriminations
were brought forth and opened.
Claws were undressed.
They threw their silence to the ground
and buried it beneath the bodies
of forsaken loves: miscarriages,
abortions of justice.
Nothing hidden survived the night.
My sisters were crazed, she said.
They yelled and whipped their hair loose
and damned their bras and jobs.
No dinners were made, no houses swept.
The night was full of women and they sucked
the air right out of that hollow slit of darkness—
but there was plenty to drink.
And my mother said: yes, fill up my goblet, sister.
So they filled her mouth and mind
with passion and resolution.
They saturated the valley with righteousness.
For a full day and night, the women drank
and rinsed and spat
out the foul mess they’d been taught.
Because finally they understood.
And she told me they climbed out of that place naked,
and strode off into fertile ground together.
I wrote this ten years ago. It’s always weird to go back over something you haven’t looked at in ten years. I never did get this one published, probably because it is so vague. There’s no central point to it, except that it uses words to express that feeling I have when I go out onto the trail in the winter. I’m fond of this poem.
Fields and floods
Winter should be peaceful, filled as it is
with dry grass and wind, a few clouds pieced
together with snowflakes. The sky pleases itself,
opens each dawn like a window once the sun
has sipped his tea. The frozen meadow knows
how easily bared dirt sifts into the wind. And then
there are the voices that murmur in the cold, groaning
over hardened ground. In so many places we have remade
the earth into what we think we want, the weight of us
creaking along the surface near the fallen leaves,
our footprints inevitable. So many changes—
we have forgotten how quietly the last few ponds sleep
in ice-stretched fields. How the land cradles the sunset’s
reflection in her flooded, frozen hollows.
It’s strange to read this poem again, now that my sons are grown up. I wrote this eight years ago! More of my weather sonnets are in my chapbook Cloud Studies.
From here the tree looks like it’s hardly there,
half-formed and blurry in the shifting mist.
Like sleep, precipitation clouds the air
with fuzzy dreams and silence. I resist
the melancholy, choosing to believe
that clarity is understood, not seen.
Inside my son is playing games, one sleeve
pushed up, the other drooping in between
his fingers as I watch him laugh and frown.
The tv sprinkles light against his skin,
as indistinct as any fog while down
the hall his brother tunes his violin,
its notes as insubstantial as this day
when growing up still feels so far away.