Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Poem: Red Pines


Red Pines

Every day I drive to work
and it is the same thing. Listen
to two minutes of political news
or economic disaster. Turn it off. Sail
past farmlands with birds.
Sit at my desk, answer, type, question.
Drive home between the same
houses for sale. Work to Friday.

On Saturday the sun shines down
on the oasis of meadow and I get up
to walk the still-wet grass into the end
of summer. Sunflowers fall away
from the sun, petal-stripped but big
bellies of seeds still feeding the traffic
of chickadees. Goldenrod and Canada
thistle sputter in ragged frizzles out of
dirty brown stems; royal pokeberries
droop down down down like antique
necklaces from the necks of dowagers.

Long they stood, these thin strong
spines, day in and out. Would I
complain in their constant stillness,
rejoice in the skyslide of a storm?
So slow ! this meadow watching, and yet
too rushed the machinery of what I live.
Now they fall headlong, tassels touching
each other over the path, weaving a baldachin
over half-moons of egg-yolk mushrooms.
Orbs of green walnuts revolve around them
in planetary randomness.

Rain on my glasses blurs sight:
My favorite red pines in a long row glowing
and backlit — Are needles dying among
the soft green plumage? Tenderly I pull
a cluster, and without resistance they release
and fall into my palm, spent. Some blight
is taking the trees. O Beauty, where to?
I am always at the edge, this side of that. A fly
flies in and out, drawn to some heat
in me, or scent: the other. I am apart, skin
side out, embarking or disembarking
onto the path whose current pulls me
into the fields like kindness.

What honeyed dark energy sings
from the yellow soybeans in the field
next door as the beans dry brown, harvestable,
the green leaves going going almost gone?
Can the farmer, scientist
or economic analyst answer:
No matter the speed of matter,
no matter where we are falling,
what makes the heart keep accelerating?

Poetry should be heard.



Louise Gallagher said...

I am there with you my friend. Wandering the meadows, slowing the speed of life, witnessing autumns descent into stillness.

And still, the pine trees die. Their trunks eaten by a tiny beetle chewing its way into oblivion.

And still, time passes and life continues and we search for answers amidst the chaos of news reports of a world gone mad.

and still, I know, Love is all around. Love carries me there, into the meadow and holds me, still.

Thank you my friend for sharing your beauty and soul this morning. I am refreshed in the fall of autumn leaves turning gold and brown.

Grandmother said...

It's a world you paint- work that takes up five of seven days, news only reflects one side of things, weekends are to wander and notice as we want, be awake and grounded, witness the death of favorite trees. Makes me remember the advice of a mentor- slow down to the pace of earth to be inspired.

Nelson said...

I'm captured by your suggestion (?) that the paths of life are like creeks whose currents kindly pull us out of our skins....we cannot be only observers, we cannot stand "always at the edge."

"Every day," willy-nilly, we embody the honeyed dark energy of the universe. We drive and we walk, we listen and we watch, we sail and we languish, we work and we sputter, we stand and we fall, we droop and we rejoice, we pull and we push, we plant and we harvest, we wonder and we try to find answers....

No wonder that we find meadows inviting, especially at the end of summer....

Montag said...

The heart accelerates to diminish the ever increasing distance between loves:

Fixed copper may soothe the tree,
so cuprous bathe by hand,
but there is no balm for thee...
nor Gilead nor Beth-shan.

Sorry. downer.

hedgewitch said...

This is indeed a bit longer than your usual, but I can't feel that as anything but a bonus, when each stanza sings like this of life,death, the balance and beauty of the natural world, cycles of time and energy and our place in it all, however confusing but sustaining. The opening, where you type, answer, question, seems to set up the walk, where you look, answer, question...tying it all together, both lives, the natural, the apart and other feeling we never can quite lose. AFA the red pines, some needle loss is normal in fall,(usually last years or the year before's growth) but it will be old needles, looking like the pine is wearing a green cloak over a yellow shirt...if new growth, tips or entire limbs are dying, then you do have a disease. We have a horrible one running rampant here in OK right now, a pine wilt spread by insects, incurable, and the tree dies within days. In another year or two, there will be no Austrian, ponderosa, Scotch or Jap Black pines left here, just slash and loblolly which are resistant. But that's nature. Sorry for the hort babble!---this is a strong and concise poem with excellent movement and coherence. Also, beauty.

The Solitary Walker said...

Some lovely stuff here, Ruth. 'The sky slide of a storm.' 'I am always at the edge, this side of that.' '... into the fields like kindness.' Luscious. And my heart accelerates.

ds said...

O Beauty, where to?
Here, right now. This (skyslide, honeyed dark energy, baldachin--weaving, Turkey--walking to the end of summer). You. And your accelerating heart.
Thank you.

George said...

I read the first version of the poem before you pulled it down, and I remember a few of the lines I liked best, most especially "the skyslide of a storm. . ." Without the original before me, it's impossible to make a side-by-side comparison. Instinctively, however, I feel that the new version has a better flow. I love the crescendo from pedestrian activities to the sublime, to the place where one must ask with urgency, "O Beauty, where to?" And then, of course, you come to the ultimate metaphysical problem, the problem that lies at the heart of all religion and philosophy, specifically, that we are "always at the edge, this side of that." So "what makes the heart keep accelerating?" Perhaps it is to get beyond "the other," to get beyond the this-that duality, to know and become a part of Oneness before we die. Whatever the case, you have given us much to reflect upon. Well done, my friend, and rich with magnificent imagery.

Nancy said...

Oh Ruth, you have no idea how much I needed this poem at this moment in time, as I struggle with what seems like unrelenting acceleration of the unpleasant...with hope and kindness so far away. This poem made me cry, but also made me think that as I drove home in the California version of twilight, that kindess is all around me. Thank you.


erin said...

no, they do not know the answer. perhaps only the poet knows the question, and perhaps even he does not know the answer except to say that which keeps our hearts accelerating is that beat which moves between here and there.

i startle time and time again, how the natural world holds all meaning, and how we do our very best in this human world to drown her out. are all the poets dead? are all of the farmers economists?

i seem to want to go into the forest or field and walk, never to come out. why do i come out? my children, i suppose, this machine of life.

a truly beautiful piece. i would love to see the unfinished one aside this one. i was rather excited to read you unedited:)


who said...

It's a great poem Ruth, I don't think I should be giving out suggestions for changes but for some reason I want to say "spent" where your poem reads "dead" after "fall into my palm"

As for why the acceleration, if your heart were on a pendulum called life that only traveled out and came back once after falling from a tipping point or peak at birth, you haven't swung past equilibrium yet but your headed there.

If your heart were riding a galloping horse, over steep rolling coastal foothills your heart would have to be in synch with each lunge of the animal. A push, stretch or flex then pull back. You'd know it if you were, because with the deceleration the flex and releasing beat you kept, would also slow as the two of you climbed each hill. In the slowing you can feel the horse ache, more and more as you near the peak which is when the beat seems to give way to collapse. But the horse's death of a groan turns sigh as it crests, picking up speed, again quickening the beat into a gallop again accelerating through equilibrium.

but then the climb begins again. Some people enjoy the slowest peaks and are thrilled by the racing rush past hill bottoms. It's not bad to not favor one over the other or ask why it happens. And if you do, the only thing you can do is just keep it up, keep at it, until you figure it out.

Ruth said...

Louise, how many of us are here, together? If more were here, the world might not be so mad. I read William Blum the other day, who said this:

Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire. FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as usual, used words like "insane", "twisted mind", and "absurdities". Bennett felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in World War II had taught him that "war is the lowest form of human behavior." He said there's no excuse for terrorism, and he added, "I'm sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my country." (NBC September 21)

And I thought, Tony Bennett is here. Why are other men not, why do they keep fighting wars? How can this be?

Thank you for being here.

Ruth said...

Mary, your mentor sounds like my mentor (the earth). How intelligent! Thank you for reading through two versions of this poem. I'm surprised at myself, that I actually revised it, much in thanks to you actually.

Kanelstrand said...

Thank yo for taking me back to MY world of poetry. I believe you will inspire me to revive this part of myself. Reading your poem took me away from a busy everyday in a subtle and mellow way.

What I loved particularly was the notion of sunflowers falling away from the sun... this struck hard with me and I found all humanity in a similar stand.

Thank you for a moment of silence under the red pines.

Ruth said...

Nelson, I'm glad that you hear that in this poem, the suggestion that the paths of life are like creeks whose currents kindly pull us out of our skins. I had not thought of it that way, but you are welcome to it. I also like your inference that we embody the honeyed dark energy, that the path, and the meadow are within us. I don't know why or how it is, but I know that I go back to myself, my soul, when I am in nature. The stillness (or equally, the storm) cleanse me of all that other doing you listed in your middle paragraph.

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Montag, there is beauty in despair when you write such a verse. The balm is this praise, of what can be found, even in the misery. So I have to disagree with you: there is a balm for thee. At least there is for me, in you.


Ruth said...

Hedgewitch, you can hort babble any time, I love it. But I hate hearing about losing those pines. I do think something is amiss here, because there are whole pine trees gone cuprous (Montag's great word). My husband tells me there is a new herbicide used across the country called imprelis on lawns that is taken up through the roots by pines (you must know that the shallow roots of pines are susceptible; by contrast, Roundup is not absorbed by the roots, but through the leaves only) and is killing pines. Sad stuff.

Thank you for your close attention to my poem and for finding it "strong" and "concise." You did not see the previous version, which had a whole other metaphor of the sea, which I think did not help at all but only muddled things.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Robert. I benefit when your heart accelerates. I am looking forward to hearing more about that on your Via Gebennensis camino.

Ruth said...

ds, thank you, my friend, thank you. Yes, turkey-walking ...

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, George. Well I'm glad I kept what you thought was good stuff from the first draft of this poem. I rearranged lines and stanzas a bit, and mostly I lost a metaphor of the sea, which only complicated things unnecessarily. Thank you for reading both. Yes, I long for the Oneness before I die. It is something to live for, to see as possible, even when it does not feel like reality yet. I believe that we are whole, even though we don't feel it, except for sometimes in fleeting moments. Thank you for your kind words.

Ruth said...

Nancy, I am very touched by your comment and experience from this write. Thank you.

Ruth said...

erin, perhaps only the poet knows the question . . . are all the poets dead? are all of the farmers economists?

These are good questions. Essential questions. We must maintain a seeing that is above, around, in back of, in front of and utterly inside. It's our duty! It is about thinking, and not thinking, doing both. Believing everything and believing nothing.

I was going to edit my first draft "in front of you" at Grandmother's suggestion. I like the idea of doing an edit publicly. It is helpful for the writer and the reader, especially the reader who writes and wants that modeled. I was going to ask for feedback on the poem for the next draft. However, I felt that this poem was too long for the exercise, asking too much. I would like to do it sometime. As for putting the previous draft up here, it's an interesting thought. I mostly lost a sea metaphor that only complicated the piece without bringing clarity or insight.

Thank you, always.

Ruth said...

Dear Dusty, I like your suggestion so much I changed "dead" to "spent." What a great ear/eye you have, for that is a perfect edit.

And how can I thank you for this image of the heart riding a galloping horse? It is like what Grandmother said in her comment, to slow down to the pace of the earth. To calibrate the heart to the pace of the earth, or representative of the earth, like the horse, is a brilliant conceit. It's a prose poem you wrote. I'm so grateful.

Ruth said...

Sonya, that is wonderful! I'm glad this poem took you there, especially that you feel inspired to re-enter your poetry writing. That very thing happened to me, thanks to blog poet friends.

I love that the image of the sunflowers falling away from the sun struck you, as it did me.

Thank you for such a kind visit.

Brendan said...

As Wallace Stevens said, the poet somehow has to resist reality almost successfully: always the pressure of reality must be confronted with the shape-shifting power of poetry. And yet the balance is always there and perilous. Else why would the poem find its privileged chapel in the woods? The acknowledgment of both worlds is present here; and if we listen to the radio too much, the red pines will disappear: But the sanctity of that grove has grown too great, because of whatever dark matter is in nature that makes the heart accelerate toward it. The resulting harvest here is so rich -- Fine fine poem, Ruth. I'm thus pulled into the same kind fields.- Brendan

Ruth said...

Thanks a lot, Brendan. It seems that we are gifted with almost and tipping back to what isn't, to the hoped for, the dream, the whole kaboodle we are missing. Thank the gods for it, for all that's gone wrong, that we can at least try to make right in a few lines.

lorely said...

You are wise to leave the news to 2 it blocks out the poetry needing to be heard...thanks for challenging me find the words...unencumbered...beautiful write.

Oliag said...

I have read this at least six times now and each time there is something new that I am savoring...

I do NOT savor the news anymore than two minutes at a time either...just can't take it!

Ginnie said...

Are needles dying among the soft green plumage? I wonder how much around us is dying, Sister, and if Life and Love will overcome the darkness. I do hope so...I believe so....

Miss Jane said...

This is really a treat! I enjoyed the walk with you, seeing your world and then reading all the beautiful comments from your readers. Lovely.

I love the cadence and occasional internal rhyming which makes for a rollicking read, rolling us along with the machinery. O, please don't hurry it, but it seems that we can't help but rush a little, wishing for the next thing, pushing to somewhere even in the daily sameness of our routines.
Anyway, I like this lots.
My little edit suggestions:
"Every day I drive to work / and it is the same: . . . " (excising "thing") "Work until Friday"?
The next stanza is a knock out except I would cut "from the necks" as that is wear necklaces normally reside.
In the next stanza, I presume you are referring to the pines, but I was unsure. Perhaps a little clarification on this by directly saying trees or pines in the first lines here? (I often think of something similar--how can trees stand in the same place night and day for years and years?)
Huge Yes-es to the imagery and thoughts in the last three stanzas.
"So slow! this meadow watching, and yet too rushed the machinery of what I live"
"I am always at the edge, this side of that."
And the idea that you are never content to stay in the current, but getting in and out--an edgy fly, as well?
And, yes to the yellow soybeans--they glow so brilliantly now even as the plant is dying.
Really great stuff, Ruth. Thank you.