Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
sweeps winter's lonesome feast
into a midden
of scarcity. The fox
is the thicket's fire-tender,
the crow's command
the hidden constellations'
©Laura Sorrells 2010
all rights reserved
Monday, November 1, 2010
This book has a stain of sesame oil on the fourth page, near the end of the recipe.
This book helped me name my cat.
This book has the address of an old friend scrawled in purple ink on the final page.
This book has a crazy woman living in it, trying to bust out of the attic and prone to setting beds on fire.
This book rambles on forever but ends up with an affirmation unlike any other.
This book opened itself right up to a poem about a hawk last night when I went to read it.
This book made my student ask me to call him "Nobody." I said I would, and he started writing poetry.
This book wanders through my dreams at night.
This book contains a bolt of white silk and a quote from Townes van Zandt.
This book spent its nights under my pillow until I finished reading it.
This book wants to grow wings and fly off the deck down into the dry leaves.
This book is illuminated and came back to me after a foolish absence.
This book reminds me of invented colors.
This book was made into a movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. and when I saw the movie I stopped reading the book.
This book is missing the flyleaf and endpage because I used them to start a campfire when all I had in the forest was damp wood.
This book helped me pass a big test.
This book has mobsters and baseball stars in it, and I still wonder what happened.
I was reading this book to my mother the night before she died, and there is a fighting tom in it, and a tree with lights, and the parenthetical holographic remembrancewords "That's nice."
This book is a cathedral.
This book makes me want to go listen to Johnny Cash singing "Ring of Fire" real loud.
This book is part of the ninth grade public school curriculum but shouldn't be. The Cold War is over.
This book is dotted with winsome purple asterisks next to words that aren't verbs.
This book has a picture of my grandparents in it, sitting in a metal glider on their front porch.
This book is really a stage spotlit with mauve footlights and strewn with crumpled roses.
This book makes itself obnoxious when I see it but demands to be read.
This book has a dogwood blossom in it, pressed between the words of Pascal and Buber.
This book delivers a mighty punch and honors all its promises.
This book has a wheel of runaway cheese in it.
My late grandmother spilled something on this book, on the cover and then again in the part with the crazy goatman.
This book won't leave me alone.
This book has a streak of lightning in it that split a woman's life open.
This book hopes it will be written soon.
©Laura Sorrells 2010
all rights reserved
Saturday, October 30, 2010
© 2007 all rights reserved
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
anchors this patchwork
of ark and territory,
cajoles a leaking eddy
of vertigo away from
the directives of dreamtime.
Landmarks mimic palaces,
then unmark themselves
completely. Some blank
untelling vanishes the birthrights
of air and forest.
When does the pirate
become the melancholy saint,
tethered by the silent slide
of an inexorable forgetting?
© 2010 All rights reserved.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Can this small moment make you happy? And is it small enough to change your heart, to take up home in places where you bleed and breathe and fade? to show you how to lie against the scrappy breathing dirt where these shifts happen, and take inside its little seeds and wings? If you shrink your sight down small enough you'll see the changing scales of green anoles as brown earth turns them sandy. If you let it steal your size, your moment's heart can carry you in this same place forever, an empty warmskinned spirit in the rune of present vision. Absolved of any yearning, any reach.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
we measure floodwater
with ink and narrative.
You listen to these rogue spirits,
becoming the rising geometry
of wet churning magma.
I wonder at your simple repair,
the moveless, lucid energy of
a shabby fabric
absorbing tsunami mud,
welcoming the jigsaw of tragedy
into your mad arroyo heart.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Sunday, August 22, 2010
What kinds of words might the kudzu whisper to the magnolia branches as it overtakes them?
I imagine them to be syllables of consolation and care, spoken with tenderness despite the encroachment of vine over pod. Inexorability curls around each phrase in a drawl, slowed so that the emerging noises sound like a record played at the wrong speed, lulling branches and blossoms into acquiescence.
How long does it take for rust to darken into bloody burnt sienna?
No one can tell. The flakes defy analysis. Their carbon craquelure hearts don’t like being studied. They change with the slowness of snowdrops settling into soil when flurries fall and the earth is too warm for them to stick.
When will this well run dry? And when it does, what will you do for drinking?
Its water, like the backside of that old barrel I found down in the ravine last fall, has been rusty for some time now, and there's no telling what will happen next. I had a dream the other night about a tall machine, like a crane or an android giraffe, lanky with angles of metal that reach up to the sky when they should somehow be digging. When I woke I felt taller for a moment, and also deeper, as if the soles of my feet had met up with some spilled honey or errant tar while I walked in my sleep.
Whose face do you see in the moon?
Last time I looked, it was a bitter old man, in love with rocks, who collected them in heaps and hid them behind big sheets of wavy glass for no one to hold and touch. That glass is cracked and clamped together with big metal pincers now, and I see stick figures of men running in the stacks of marble alongside the buildings where the rocks still wait for someone to see them, know them, collect them, love them.
How do you know what those rocks need?
I do not know for sure but I had a feeling last time I was with them that they were lonely, that their coldness belied an ache for touch, a stony pulse that no scope can find. Of course, I could be wrong.
What kind of birds are those in the big white oak down by the train tracks?
They don't resemble any other birds I've ever seen. Their feathers catch the rain and turn it blue. They sound like killdeers do at dusk, but they don't play games in the grass to keep things safe at home. There are four of them and they share branches with six or seven crows in peace, the bigger darker birds still as silhouettes in a shadow box.
How do you know what to gamble on?
Anything can merit the tenderness of risk. It might be numbers, taken from some pool of pattern we all dip into when we need to quantify or guess. It could be weather: the blessing of rain in lakes, the welcome screen of snow on grass in early morning, the return of warmth. Or it could be something else entirely: a roll of the dice into the grace of shadow and the diminishment of wealth. Smallness, a challenge and a psalm, dealt out like manna or a sacrament as things fall apart and the center splinters into pieces of itself in places we can't reach or see. Loss, a subtraction resisted at first but then embraced and even loved.
When will we know when to quit?
When the smoke turns colors we don't see now. When cities percolate with the sounds of moving feet, not rushing but ambling, sharing the roads with the fed travelers who once sat hungry and alone on crowded hillsides. A multitude, at peace and heading towards some common space of work and gentle effort, a tribe finally able to claim its sustaining voice in the spaces where the words once slept.
© Laura Sorrells 2010
All rights reserved
For once, this is not a found poem.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
is traveling within
the thirst of this weather.
can be a portal.
Each cell is a shaman,
burning and simple.
The body of everything
connects and absolves:
The landscape's cosmology
is a family.
Such bright increasing.
--lks July 2010
© copyright Laura Sorrells
All rights reserved
This is a found poem from Sacred Fire magazine, with a couple of words added by me.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
of neglected danger,
a primeval testimony
Risk seeks recognition.
It renounces the mind of safety.
an unknown fool,
serving a restless yearning,
a jester who expects a stage
but dances a liminal dream,
along the edge
of rupture and shadow.
Be that acrobat.
Rise into origin,
©Laura Sorrells 2010
All rights reserved
This is another found poem; I wrote it using Sallie Nichols' book Jung and Tarot: an Archetypal Journey (which I found used in the Canton, Georgia Goodwill store, between a tattered Paula Deen cookbook and an old copy of The House with a Clock in Its Walls.)
Friday, July 23, 2010
What to take away from walk along meadow road? Robert Duncan poem Always I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow. I always want to pull everything I feel there into my arms. Even the trash, the detritus, the ugliness of shed paper and plastic by the side of the road. The cars rush down through there so fast. Once on a summer afternoon when it was very hot a couple of slow walking Latino teens. Two boys with low hanging jeans and slouches. Nonchalant nods and small waves. Sometimes a big yellow shaggy dog capering in the meadow. In summer, thistles everywhere. Dense jungle of white pinwheels of thistlefuzz and the thick blossoms, some bright pink, others more muteds, some striated pink and green and white. The air is full. In winter a mammoth made of kudzu rearing to greet what could be another mammoth but might also not be. A heron sometimes hanging out in the funky smelling marshy part of the creek…I haven’t seen it in awhile. Red winged blackbirds fly in the field and gather in that bare tree up on the hill. Ron and I kissed here that night in late November 07, right before Thanksgiving. Someone called down the hill from that big ugly new brick house to ask if we needed anything. Guarded brusque almost fearful tone in that man’s homeowner’s voice, a warning. Ron played at emerging from the spectral kudzu on the walk back. I took a picture of him in bad crepuscular light and his orange cap flowed. He had his head bowed and one knee slightly raised, braced against the wall of the little house on Manor Street that is gone now. A small herd of deer playing in field one day in May when I walked there with Ron. Deep restlessness and sadness and unease, almost always, walking along this road with him. On Halloween too. Bright and sunny. Unseasonably warm. Felt peaceful and present but shadowed too. The light was turning tall dead pine a sort of flaming auburn on road just above. Gloaming. Hang gliders. Not orange or brown enough for it to feel like autumn but the cicadas were noticeably absent. Or their voices were. In solitude it is best. Bob Holroyd trance didgeridoo song walking past the honeysuckle and smelling the sweetness, almost cloying. Vivid sunsets with the air like lemon and the smell of fertility everywhere. And those singular trees. There are some stumps in that field going back towards town that always seem like small ground mammals to me, about to move towards or away from me. First time I drove this road was in 03 and I was listening to a Joe Henry song, go with god. I told Mitch about it in an email later. There was a bull there with long tapered horns, standing still and solemn. Power. I have walked out into the meadow along that little pasture road a few times. I always feel like I am trespassing. Last time I came away with itchy legs from plodding through hillocks of weeds. Still it felt like I was walking out into the spread of something holy. I can hear voices coming down from the houses over to the left. They seem too close.
©Laura Sorrells 2010
Some rights reserved
Friday, June 25, 2010
is oblivious to inquiry.
It promises an event
hands and branches
Nothing makes you full.
An inexorable grace
is keeping you alone,
a penny in rain,
red with the absence
--lks June 2010
This is a found poem, constructed from a selection of words gathered from The Illustrated I Ching, translated by R. L. Wing. I enjoy writing these. It's best to find a text that brings together words with what might be called a similar spirit, a common way of evoking and describing. I built one of these poems from Sheperd's Seed Catalogue this past weekend. Other recent sources have been David Abram's amazing book The Spell of the Sensuous and Barry Lopez's book Home Ground. More to come.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A hundred possible skies
my country's silences.
Every other cloud
brings a roaring,
a ground of storm
that emerges after
its one bright minute
has faded into
hours of fog
Nothing is more
--lks May 2010
I wrote this as a sort of found poem, using words culled from Dave Bonta's Morning Porch blog and an article from the April 2003 issue of the middle school-oriented magazine Odyssey: Adventures in Science. That issue focused on the aurora borealis, but I didn't use many of the words I borrowed from it.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Write a research paper, if you can, about the difference between Ramen noodles and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. Explain the exegesis of both forms of nourishment, and allude to the special ways you can address the inherent salty sameness of their bases. Tell us about the first time you made egg drop soup from that dry crackling package of Ramen and how good it tasted with a dusting of paprika across its skin as it cooled. Explain how, when you need to make more than one meal out of something, such a soup can become a casserole of sorts overnight, and how black pepper, when dusted across the surface of this second dish, works its way down into the soggy filaments of noodle, giving the whole thing a deceptive saline freshness for just a moment.
Write a poem about the imaginary creature you built from other animals you knew, back in the fourth grade. Tell us about the fine silver veins that flowed across the wings of the animal and how it had a voice, but one seldom heard, like yours. Tell us about your brainchild's feet, how nimble and creaturely they were, and about the animal’s tail. Tell us how it looped through your dreams as you first imagined this beast, and how it danced and darted like the tail of the Cowardly Lion, off balance and in rhythm with its own inner ley lines, a barometer of all the fears and energies its owner carried through the world. Give it a name, and have it roar.
Write a descriptive paper about a flamingo. Explain the flamingo’s perspective on life and show us all its needs and problems. Let us feel what it’s like to have knees that bend backwards. Have us see the river water it lives in through your new flamingo eyes. Take us with you when you fly away, and have us reach the horizon along with you, a part of one big wing, a rising of color from mud into sky, a departure, a choice, a leavetaking, and a joining, a cacophony of birdvoice dangling down along the joints of flying legs so that all the other animals still hear it, long after the migrating flock has left them behind.
The seeds of all my seasons come together in a soup of something I could once taste but hold in my mouth now like water. Everything is here: sweetness cupped in kernels that distill its flavors down like some old mill. White corn gone to tassel late in summer, hot from fire and swimming in some kind of honeyed brine that tastes like weathered wood and nothing I can name, a leftover solstice mix fierce and slow with underpinnings of rot and adventure, a taste of singe and lakewater, of a wet moon and its spell. It carries too the haunted pucker of October, the sour whimsy of collapsing things in ruined little gardens. A mystery, sliced in half when I wasn’t looking and offered with one hand out and one hand hidden. Pepper plays with it well and coaxes it into almost giving itself up. When I try to figure it out it almost leaves. It tickles like I imagine the folds of snowflakes’ edges would, a tumble of melting angles in my throat. Most times too it trails a residue of spice---shyer than nutmeg and wilder than something like paprika. I can’t name it but it has its own way of warming me, a heat gentled by the ways I get to know it and by the slick and chilly film of spring, of cool things breathing water as they birth. It wants to be raw but simmers. I don’t season it but wait for it to tell me what it needs. Sometimes it’s cream to cradle it and make it younger, to soften up its brazen twiggy heart. It might be a sprig of rosemary, nipped from the bush by the train tracks, or the green of wild young onion, raised up from feral earth and brought inside. Other days I’ve sensed a flush of rosehip, much too sweet for its own good, a blast of death inside it like the blasphemous hymn I found myself humming at dusk in April as a child. I’ve needed it for days now but it won’t come. There’s nothing written down for me to go by. I play and add and mix and stir but nothing lets me name it, and there I am again with that drink of simple water, limned by none of the grit and gruel I’m used to getting. I cradle it against my tongue and then it’s mine: an emptying fix for all my angry fullness, a hex of chaliced shadow warm as earth, my only season now its gulp of dwindling sun and ragged twilight wind.
--lks March 2009
Friday, May 14, 2010
Despite the cool spring wind
The prayer flags hang motionless.
I see their soft gray cloth
With the skin of
My feeling mind.
The prayer flags make friends
With the weathered gray wood
They rest against.
The travel of hornets
Is all one thing.
The way they buzz
The tattered flags
Is part of that thing.
The old dragon’s mauve jaws
Carry age and the droop of solitude
In the prayer flags’ upper
Left hand corners.
The prayer flags turn pink
In the softening light
Of April dusk.
Once a merry string of
The prayer flags take it easy now.
See how the flags resist
They hang like pale strips of soft iron
From ten-penny nails.
Beneath the prayer flags
And boards of smoke-gray wood
A strip of metal
Collapsed in last summer’s
hot June rain.
I tell the prayer flags
A couple of my best secrets.
The gunmetal dog with the fat jowls
While I talk.
I don’t see the prayer flags
In the inky air of this
Thick summer evening.
If I listen and hear
What’s behind them
I can see how their edges
A thick goldenrod cord
Takes care of all the prayer flags,
Like a sign
On a highway,
Pinning them to
A buckled gray rail.
The storm has taken a long time
When it does
It takes the prayer flags with it,
Squares of ash and rose
By a big green wind.
"About six inches to the mile."
"Only six inches!" exclaimed Mein Herr. "We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest scale of a mile to the mile!"
"Have you used it much?" I inquired.
"It has never been spread out, yet!" said Mein Herr: "the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So now we use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does quite as well."
--Lewis Carroll, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
When I saw the basket of shoes I began to pull them up out of each other. I kept coming back to the blue Keds. They seemed to strain mutely to go back into the heap. A spider turned out to be living in the arch of one of them. It scuttled out when I dropped it, a comma of legs and fat round center angling for safety under an old chest of drawers. For some reason I waited for a skittering confetti of spider babies to come after it. I’d read about that happening and about how infant arachnids will fill up all the space around them like a pulsing carpet of potential web. When nothing showed up I shook the sneaker vigorously, but only a furl of graying lint, shaped like some obscure piece of punctuation I didn’t recognize, fell out. I plucked at the hole in the side of the left shoe and threw it back into the barrel.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Above the blond prairies,
the sky is all color and water.
The future moves
from one part to another.
This is a note
in a tender sequence
that I call love,
trying to include you,
but it is not love.
It is music, or time.
To explain the pleasure I take
in loneliness, I speak of privacy,
but privacy is the house around it.
You could look inside,
as through a neighbor's window
at night, not as a spy
but curious and friendly.
You might think
it was a still life you saw.
Somewhere, the ocean
crashes back and forth
like so much broken glass,
but nothing breaks.
it is quite powerless.
Irises have rooted
all along the fence,
and the barbed berry-vines
Unpruned and broken,
the abandoned orchard
reverts to the smaller,
harder fruits, wormy and tart.
In the stippled shade,
the fallen pears move
with the soft bodies of wasps,
and cows breathe in
the licorice silage.
It is silent
where the future is.
No longer needed there,
love is folded away in a drawer
like something newly washed.
In the window,
the color of the pears intensifies,
and the fern's sporadic dust
darkens the keys of the piano.
Clouds containing light
spill out my sadness.
They have no sadness of their own.
The timeless trash of the sea
means nothing to me—
its roaring descant,
its multiple concussions.
I love painting more than poetry.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
He’s the killing floor for all your best desires
The place your dreams go to wither,
To drink Southern Comfort straight from the bottle,
And spend their last days hungover and scared.
He’s the excuse you make for the things you run from.
He’s the lost heirloom you were careless with
When you were young and foolish,
The one you swore as a child
You’d always take care of.
He’s in you,
And he’s in the way you see the Others
Who run your life,
Or try to.
He’s every mean teacher you ever had
Who didn’t see how sad you were
And yelled at you
Because you forgot your homework.
He’s the bully who was your friend in
And who went fishing with you,
Or taught you about Ollies and
The glory of skinned knees,
But who beat you up come September,
When everyone else was around to see
How tough he was.
He’s the overdue bill, the one you
Keep meaning to pay
And resent even having to deal with.
He’s the fear you have even now
Of your best
Than it should be.
The Devil is sometimes
A face in your dreams,
A blues imago with a way of smirking at you
That doesn’t quite wake you up
But gives you shadows
Under your eyes
He is also
The ones who transact blood for
And pillage the wilderness for more
Of what they make us need.
Might help you
To walk free,
To dream about the Ferris wheel in the city park
Or nothing you remember
Instead of him.
If you open up your mind
And let him come on in
And roam around,
Just bitching, insulting you,
And eating pork rinds out of the sace,
He might just ask you for directions
On down theroad.
By that time he’ll be just a goofy
Caricature of himself,
A cracked shard of what he could have been,
His shoulders slumped
In the face of all your kindness.
July 2, 2007
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Is pretending to be still.
That soft fever
I get in these woods
Wells up blue
In my body. Its thump
Is only a piece
Of the life
It is going to be. A dead tree
Goes into its afterlife, a branch
Casting into the land's
Humming body. A bird stills
In the green hum,
And my body goes soft,
Greening up into
That reach of deceiving
Snickers bars make friends with those who need them.
Snickers bars get lost in the produce aisle very easily and then get in trouble for harassing heads of cauliflower.
Snickers bars go wild on the last day of school and instigate water balloon fights in hallways.
Snickers bars get queasy on Ferris wheels but not on carousels. They like to go sit between the wooden heads of swans and move around in gentle circles.
Snickers bars mispronounce the names of cartoon characters, particularly the ones they’ve known about forever.
Snickers bars are afraid of the red pens teachers use to grade papers. They love the smell of Sharpies but not the sound of fingernails on chalkboards.
Snickers bars carry grudges for a long time and melt down into rivers of chocolate when angered or opened too quickly, spreading across slopes of classroom desks into laps and onto sheets of notebook paper. You shouldn’t mess with Snickers bars.
Snickers bars take bets on how long it will take hot glue guns to perish, useless and sealed away from craftsy tasks forever.
Snickers bars get nervous at the tardy bell and sometimes start to melt.
Snickers bars enjoy the brightness of primary colors on classroom walls and often wish their drab earth colored wrappers were red or purple.
Snickers bars love Hallowe’en because they get to travel.
Snickers bars are foolish, made up of nutty whimsy and the salt of buried acorns under oak trees. They like to be party favors but only when the crowd is young and goofy. I once carried one around in my coat pocket for a week, until my hand reached in and it was gone. Inside the lining, though, I found an orange marble. I set it down on my bedside table and there it sits, beside a chewed up pencil and a tiny pink eraser in the schoolchild shape of a butterfly.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
This shell is like the head of a fox, a narrow triangle of clever insouciance.
This shell is a crown with broken edges. Its owner found it in a parking lot, a furl of paper with grease stains beside the fleur de lis.
This shell is a rubber stamp, an icon of ownership and approval.
This shell is a daisy, one of those big ones you see in the median of the highway, with a grainy, tousled center the shade of French’s mustard on a hotdog at a ballgame.
This shell remembers the time you went skinny dipping at Pismo Beach when you were eighteen and the moon was just past being full.
This shell has a way of catching fluorescent light and making it softer.
This shell knows what you had for breakfast, because it was sitting there on your table as you added raisins to the sweet cinnamon soup of your oatmeal.
This shell laughs a lot and was found by a child in a good mood. It needs to be around people who tell jokes.
This shell is like a statue I saw last week, a cherub standing on a pedestal in a garden, his belly round and dark in the afternoon sun.
This shell got chewed on by your Boston terrier and has a set of tooth marks embedded in it now.
This shell came to me in the middle of the night once and murmured something unintelligible to me under its breath.
This shell distracts me from doing my work with its pink luminescence.
This shell is a lava lamp waiting to brighten a very dark room with its tumbling pods of pink and blue liquid.
This shell got dropped on the kitchen floor but didn’t break. It picked up a piece of eggshell with its fine shellteeth though and they are shells of sorts together now.
This shell helps me teach because it looks like anything and everything.
This shell wants to be returned to the dunes. It’s lonely for lots of sand.
This shell puts out fires with the siren song of its contours and the momentum of its whispered wishes.
This shell resembles a Viking. It has that kind of ferocity about it, that invading soul.
This shell resists being mine although I carry it with me in my suitcase when I travel. I’ve nearly left it behind three times now, but I always remember it at the last minute.
This shell won’t pay my bills, but it would if it could.
This shell’s voice resists the kind of language we know.
This shell holds things together with its textures and edges in a way that surprises me every time I see it.
This shell is like an extension cord, a path from electricity’s source to an ear or a tool.
This shell is either a ghost or a wicked witch. I’m not sure which yet.
This shell has a shine like a Coleman lantern inside a tent.
This shell is like rust, a slow devouring of surface, a pouring of bloodtint into what used to be a mild field of plain gray metal.
This shell came from a thrift store and hasn’t been near the ocean in a long time.
This shell is Neil Young’s rusty harmonica, lost among model trains, waiting to buzz its owner’s lips again at the start of a song.
This shell is a place where something small and salty once lived.
This shell holds many stories, each of them a curve of voice and water, a trajectory of imagined seaweed and the remembered currents of fish traveling past.
This shell needs your eyes to do its job.
This shell sounds like the passing beam of a lighthouse moving muffled through banks of Atlantic fog.
This shell is the birthplace of a small mollusk.
This shell won’t tell any tales out of school.
This shell belonged to my cousin Ruth but then she gave it to me when I said I admired its shape.
This shell has an accent all its own, a pidgin burr that makes up its own words.
This shell is a paperweight, and students like to pick it up and check it out. I keep waiting for someone to drop it.
This shell is a way of seeing, a spiral of narrative continuity in the soulspace of my classroom, a harbor for writing prompts, and a way for me to lose myself in daydreams of Monterey and Cumberland Island.
This shell is a gift, a coin, a piece of currency from me to you saying: be still. Hold out your hand. This is my heart, and if you listen, you can hear it beating through the whorls of chitin, a lonesome percussion that needs no turn of phrase or metaphor to give it life.
I wrote this poem during preplanning in August of 2007 after reading a lesson plan in a book by George Hillocks, Narrative Writing, which was about using a bunch of seashells to teach figurative language. A couple of hours later, during lunch, I found in the teacher workroom a brown plastic bucket of seashells that another teacher had evidently collected over summer vacation. I may use them as part of a creative writing exercise after standardized testing is over and I am freer to do such things.
© Laura Sorrells 2007
all rights reserved
Monday, March 29, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
This evening I went for a walk in my thin place. It's a badly paved country road swooping along a slight incline with stretches of meadow on either side. I approach it by a wooded side road that cuts over from where Main Street has just turned into Refuge Road. When I come into this place I move into this thinness, this twilight mind. Red winged blackbirds call and fly and gather in a tree snaked in winter with dry strands of encroaching brown kudzu. The kudzu is green and dense in summer but I always remember it as winter brown when I think of this place. Before I come to the meadow I notice by the roadside several spirals of thick treebranch gone to vine, dangling out into air like suspensions of forestborn walking stick. I have one of these in an old clay churn at home. My mother brought it back from the woods because she liked its shape. I might have too, I guess. I see foxes here often, sometimes darting pale and fast into weeds and once trotting dark and bold along the upper road from town. That was a bright summer day and I called out to the fox, thinking it was a little dog. It came on with its feral trot, curious and fleet. I felt a pang of fear for a moment, as there had been a very determined rabid raccoon attacking car tires at the single red light over in nearby Talking Rock a couple of days earlier. But the fox turned at an angle and slipped into some weeds. No fox sightings tonight except for a black and white decal on the back window of a big truck parked in front of a house on the way back to town. Tonight too I find a movie ticket stub from 2005 in the ditch grass. (A rather bad comedy. Child and senior.) A tallish conifer has fallen in the yard of the little gray hermit house that sits across from the lower, wilder meadow. This house never shows any sign of life aside from the garbage bin out front and the array of planters and gardening tools on the porch. The tree is split just below its lowest branches, doubtless by Friday's wild tornadic storm. There is a little statue in front of the house. Just a small gray girl, I think. There is an enigmatic stillness there, like that I imagine a witch's cottage in the woods might have. A wildness in the order. Neat brown stacks of firewood in the yard. An old push mower just inside a little shed. A man must live there, I think, but there is a feminine sensibility to the place too, evident in the gray stone girl and the queue of windchimes that hangs from the porch rafters.
I see a groundhog in the thick wild grass up on the hill near the abandoned shacks. It scurries and stops, a wedge of fat tawny fur hurrying and then ducking down fast. Further on there is the still brown marshy water by the wild meadow. My friend and I are talking of ceremonies of acknowledgment and passage and my mother's childhood in this town and hermetic revelations of goddesses. Sun setting like water, liquid silver in clouds. A parting of that heavier air so that vision is freed up? I remember the phantom blues music of late last night, something that was subtle like the tinny buzz of a distant radio but persistent. I had wondered if my friend was listening to music downstairs but he told me later he had not been.
I feel that old restlessness here tonight. Lots of fallen branches in the road, both large thick ones and small ones more like big twigs. I remember the previous Friday's small tornado and how it came on quickly, the air turning green and little limbs beginning to snap and fly. We didn't see it but the next day as I was out walking in town I saw the horizontal trunks of many tall uprooted trees in people's yards and then one in the ravine behind my house. I thought too of yesterday morning's wild violent Monday morning dreams, of sunny Easter and the hinge of absence into presence. As we walked tonight I talked to my friend about a Hallowe'en party I had been to several years ago and how my small-town lawyer cousin had surprised me by referring to the occasion as Samhain. Pronouncing it right too. These things have been with me quite a bit lately. The notion of thinness, of places where worlds shift into each other and thresholds open. Portals. Passage. I think about how I want to extrapolate something coherent and concrete and definitive about what this place means to me. How it holds liminality. The space of running foxes, walkers between worlds. The quick flush of fat tail and narrow vulpine body into underbrush. What is not quite seen but felt. The need to flush it out and know it. A nod to an imagined reconciliation between that need to see and letting that animal hide. Letting it be known some other way.
Brownness of barbed wire fence and blackberry bushes not budded yet. Thorn tree dark and fractalled against pale sky. The creak of its dangling storm-damaged branch, not quite fallen but not connected. This is a reminder for me of the scrapey rasp of that big pine that day at the ballground pond last month. That last pond day before a leavetaking. That other tree was growing bare and dying, its red blond inner wood moaning like the rafters of a house in wind: a tree not house yet but still tree, still with itself all of a piece despite the rift. I sat under it and looked up, listening. Seeing. Pocks and holes of missing wood where woodpeckers (?) had been. Termites, too?
What do I want to take away from this walk along the meadow road? That Robert Duncan poem I found in the battered old Norton anthology one day reminds me of this space. Often I am permitted to return to a meadow. I always want to pull everything I feel here into my arms. Even the trash, the detritus, the ugliness of shed paper and plastic by the side of the road. Of course I want it gone but my heart does not completely shut it out. The cars rush down through this place so fast. I always have to walk in damp red roadside mud when they come by. Once I ran into a couple of slow walking Latino boys, two teenagers with low hanging jeans and slouches. They smiled and nodded, silent, courteous. Their faces shadowed. Sometimes there is a big yellow shaggy dog capering in the meadow, a chow or collie mix I think. It doesn't bark but watches. In summer there are thistles everywhere, a density of white pinwheels of thistlefuzz and those thick-faced thistle blossoms, some bright pink and some a paleness almost white, some striated green and cream and bloody red. The air is full. In winter there is a mammoth made of kudzu rearing to greet what could be another mammoth but might also not be. A heron sometimes hangs out in the funky smelling marshy part of the creek but I haven't seen it in awhile. I miss its angly lift of leg and wing. Red-winged blackbirds call and perch and gather in that bare tree up on the hill. Doves make noises like we say grief sounds. They perch on the powerline beyond the marsh, plump clichés of benedictory witness.
I kissed a man I loved here one night in late November a couple of years ago, just before Thanksgiving. Somebody called down the hill from that big ugly new brick house to ask if we needed anything. A warning, really. I had been taking pictures of us and the flash gave us away. The man I was with, Ron, played at emerging from the spectral autumn kudzu on the walk back. He was wearing an orange plaid thrift store flannel shirt I had given him and we laughed. I remember a small herd of deer playing in the wilder meadow last May when I walked there with him. The air was pale and full of things emerging but I sagged with a paradoxical restlessness.
And I remember this past October on this road. Samhain. Bright and sunny, night moving in slow. I waved to a neighborhood woman, a kind-faced African-American lady who sat dressed as a black-hatted witch on the porch of an old house up on Refuge Road. I felt peaceful and strong but shadowed too. The light was turning a tall dead pine a sort of flaming auburn on the road just above. Its spiky branches stood out at angles with dead needles catching the sunset. A hang glider moved along slow just above that tree and I took a picture. It seemed to pause when I did.
In solitude it is best here. I go far inside and yet am turned all outside in as well. I remember a Bob Holroyd song I listened to here, running, the song dense and alive with percussion and the throaty thrum of didgeridoo. Awakening the spirits, or reawakening them. A trance state, really. Moving along faster than usual and noticing so much but not naming it.
Not tonight but many other times there has been a big bull standing up in the tamer meadow on the hill. I seem to see his horns first, their length and tapering sharpness. They hold a wedge of big twilight sky in the cup of their curve. A wide meadow gate leads into the field and just beyond it are several rather singular trees that sometimes shelter the bull and cows as well. There are also some stumps in the grass there on the way back towards town that always seem like small ground mammals to me, about to move towards or away from me. Suspended in motion, creatures of burrow and tunnel.
The first time I drove along this road was in 2003 and I was listening to a Joe Henry song, Go with God. I told a friend about it in an email later. It seemed odd to mention it then. The bull was there that first time through, his big horns turned towards the road. Standing still and solemn. The sun was going down and the field seemed rapt with its brassy light.
I have walked out into the wilder meadow along that little road a few times, till I felt the woods beyond get closer and my knees were in the grass. It always feels as if I'm walking out into the spread of something holy, a ceremonial plain or something wilder than a table but somehow rather like one.
Tonight the air smells like snakes and I remember a song with those words in it. The grainy flush of dusk comes on and the shapes of things go silent as I walk up the hill towards Refuge Road.
all rights reserved 2009
Friday, March 26, 2010
This time it’s a sliver of light, a headlight blooming blue through the bottom of the doorframe, bouncing off glass and catching on the starry brownness of my inner eyelid. The other night it was a yip, coyote probably, over near the singular prick of light down near the right hand corner of sharptop’s pyramid. I get up and bash around in the kitchen, gnawing on a banana and pouring myself half a glass of orange juice. Tonight I guess I’ll hang out with Thomas Merton in Alaska, resolving to keep a better journal myself, admiring the brisk energy of his wry hungry punches of haiku. When I was ten I couldn’t sleep one night and lay on the rollaway bed out on the screen porch, watching the horses’ shadows rub their shedding spring haunches against the gate, hearing the first tags of cricketvoice in the woods. Another time in winter I lay on the parquet floor of the living room and warmed into the pop of the melting logbark as the night’s fire died. I was sad and the blue window-triangle of constellations holding onto the big old ceiling beams up above me made me sadder. I pushed through the sorrow and named the pricks of star, lining them up into sunburned shoulders and deer rifles, fallen oak leaves and chimneys spumed with smoke, horses’ newly combed manes and the frayed edges of patchwork quilts. This has become a habit over the years when the puddle of blanket and pillow sends me into other rooms just to be in a different space. Sometimes I have the same formations of planet and distant sun in my head for years but then it feels like it’s time for something else. Right now I have an old rusted out hoe I found in a corner of a shed, a stray hound dog’s notched ear, the furl of a koi fin I saw in my father’s pond, the silhouette of the checkout lady at the Piggly Wiggly who also works at the elementary school caferia, and a teapot shaped like most of a diminishing moon. These trails and squares, spikes and circles, pentagrams and blips fall me asleep when I can’t get there alone. They have their stories, or sometimes just the start or the middle of a story. Seldom just the end. I let them hold onto my pettiness, the trembling earnest giddiness I find it hard to share, my still sometimes unutterable grief, my remorse, and my whispers. I won’t tell you the names behind the shapes. Make up your own where you see them. Listen for the sounds they need and meet them where they live.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Empty as the taste of ice or water, the wheel of Mind I’ve spun and tossed like a rigged carnival wheel or a bent penny posing as an I Ching coin has rattled into stillness: a mandala waiting for a big hand to push its branches of sand together. Fearless in the disappearance of all its shapes and patterns as they disintegrate like crumbled cornbread will in a glass of frothy buttermilk. A silver bowl holds light where Mind’s wheel once whirled and clattered: a chalice of connective circle, whole and intact. No path, no map, no distance, no compass. No setting forth nor travel, no leavetaking. No coming home.
©Laura Sorrells 2010
all rights reserved
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I am full of a shining,
lost in a forest of sun.
The sound of snow is
a trickster's scatter,
a raven's icy thought.
The air is making the quiet
and the bones of its wings
young and strong
as it flies.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
A scrawl of smoke to the west travels outside the forest at night. Sitting next to the fireplace, I listen for small noises. The sounds that I know best are the whisk of a homemade broom across a dusty floor, the whisper of a chilly wind through the tops of tall trees, the susurrus of Southern rivers.
These are not ordinary playing cards. Soon you will be expected to speak their disappeared language. To parse words from faces and numbers, from three colors, or four. To talk about the spy's incomplete mission, the village of subterranean ninjas, the soldier's tattered coat: a dark and somber shell with its wool lining shrugging loose from buttonholes. The varmint in the garden.
The horses' hooves have trampled the high meadow grass. They will be here soon. We plunge toward the future without a clue, dribbling a hapless trail of words behind us, a glossolalia of fear and retreat, as he closes the distance between our slow caravan and his fast stallion. When he arrives, it is a day of silences. The crickets, too, seem puzzled.
He has to spend all his time managing this place. Some of his answers have satisfied our need for a perfect story. Still, he mesmerizes us with his telling. It despises the brassy sun and loves dark, damp places, crevices of secret richness and loamy wealth. Me, I'm a moss kind of person, so I listen good.
Milkweed grows in places where it is not always wanted. You could call this a home or a shack. The vines are all you can see from the road. Still, it has some running water, and a place to hide out when funnel clouds tear through the lonesome pastures.
I also sought a beloved meeting place in the village. For years he lived alone in sparsely furnished rooms. But he comes out to be with us whenever the sun shines directly on the longleaf pines. Once, he brought us a fistful of mica and a few slippery pumpkin seeds. This was during the time of the abandoned marigolds. Unexpectedly possessed by some urgent instinct, I suddenly felt a new connection with everything alive and breathing. Walking through the sleeping house, I saw that ferns grew everywhere there.
Some of us liked to play a game. The sky was slowly darkening, and I heard my pounding heart in the blood of my listening ears: tiny books made from old newspapers, powder horns full of the sift of ancient narratives. I tried to write them down but couldn't.
Every year I think it may not happen. While the light is still new in the morning, the ceremony in the old garden begins. It is the keeper of our mysteries. The unexpected colors clash and then blend.
I only wish I could stop. It's never enough. Somehow I always leave things out: the ship in the bottle, the branches of winter blooms, the pestle and mortar I found in my great-aunt's attic, still dusty with someone's private work.
Behind him was his other world. When would he have had time to build this bridge? When we are trapped in the world of a story, a gathering of imaginary friends reminds us that we should not say a word.
Today, he smiled at me for the first time: a scent of citrus, like a freshly sliced lemon.
The shamans arrive, and then the young detectives, washing away the colors of everything that slowed me down. The power lines above my head spit and sizzle with electricity and solutions, alchemy and healing. Maybe just one more day, here. You know the way that light can make you dizzy, its voice a secret you used to know the name of.
Our mother was once a dancer, before the time we live in now. She showed us the shadow side of the quiet cove. But the knees of the swampland's cypress trees had their own brilliant ideas.
We made our wishes on Mars and Venus, and the next morning, before any other light could greet us, we woke up floating. These woods, he said, are yours. What is said is not always what is heard.
--lks November 2009
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- I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.