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As kids, we skated across
Iridescent, frozen ponds
And pretty Sherman Lake,
All 200 acres, two miles long.
We’d pack a canvas tote bag,
Bring hot thermoses of cocoa,
Join other families, play tag,
Crack-the-whip, or skate solo.

My dad pulled my little brother, Tad,
In a sled, while I attempted figure eights,
Even though I was only seven, I felt agile
And athletic in my ice skates. I’d graduate
To wearing Velcro pond-skates by thirteen.
One year an older boy fell through the ice
(It wasn’t deep) After his family saved him,
Everyone else kept skating, just avoid the hole
And warnings of thin ice near the dam.

I glided over deep, vertical cracks;
Didn’t linger long to peer down and react,
But dared myself to push into the unknown,
My cheeks flamed magenta from frostbite.
I’d picture the Olympic figure skaters glittery gowns
When they jumped into a spin and danced around,
As I made “Ls” to pivot and propel my purple parka
Into loose, wobbly turns, tilting my curly head back
To see the cold, boundless winter sky, ‘til I got dizzy,
Dug my toe-pick in a nick to regain my balance,
But tripped anyway, then got back up again,
Mitten-to-elbow-to-knee, bruised but not broken.

Twenty years later, a rogue tidal surge
Took the dam out by force; then a team
Of civil engineers, and road crews, merged
The river with the marsh, so the lake emptied
Into the ocean for the first time in 71 years.
The sudden shift in the landscape ricocheted,
Shocking locals, whose lake they knew,
Where they’d put in canoes, and fished—
For decades, had been restored
To a saltmarsh, naturally; it just
Reverted to that system eventually.

If you’d been a fly on the wall,
Heard the talk at the town hall,
You’d have believed it was a disaster.
But it’s the destiny of waters to change,
To transform over time from one
Body to the next, from wetland to pond
To lake, then to marsh again,
Shape the wet soils,
Crackle the saltgrass
Along shallow creeks,
Flow through channels
Fifteen feet deep,
Smallmouth bass, splake
And minnow
Play hide and seek, flash
Rays of sunlight
Calling the eagles
Back to the pines
To build their nest
And raise their chicks.

LCS

Poet’s note: This brings a conclusion to my role in the Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge to raise funds for the literary press. But there is no time limit or deadline on making a donation. If you come across these posts after January 2014, please do consider making a donation to the nonprofit literary press. Readers may also want to see the work of the other poets participating in the challenge on a month-to-month basis. Their work, and more about the project, can be found here.  Thank you all for reading!

A Finger in Every Pie

For months, since July, I keep dreaming of a muscular guy
Who wakes me up talking; I see strong-willed arms wrap,
The kind with sleeves like loosely-rolled maps, ‘round my
Waist. He’s brought a chair (literally, it’s a ladder-back)
He collects furniture and information—a curious mind.

With each segment of the dream, I get an added sense
Of who he is, but not superficially speaking. I can feel
That he radiates warmth like a woodstove, an intense
Drive, deep and unwavering affection; it seems real.
Not one to be pushed around, he’s got presence.

By morning, I remember words exchanged
In my dream (he comes alive one-on-one); for
Example, he talks of how he would rearrange
The world, and he defends opinions with ardor.
I love a good mystery; he’s a problem-solver.

Other people move around us in this recurring dreamscape,
If they get too close, he gets cagey; the familiar—that’s
What he values most: constancy. When we make our escape,
Onto side-paths, if we’re stopped, he’s an artful negotiator,
Adept at fitting in (where I stand out), he loves a debate.

In fact, it seems to me, based on vague interpretations,
This man invests pride in his work, an interruption of his will,
Restless, a veritable expert at smoothing over altercations,
With a mischievous humor, well-developed sense of smell
And easily bruised ego, leonine and loyal in his actions.

In my dreams, I feel whiskers tickle the nape of my neck,
He craves intimacy, calm energy and doesn’t chase me;
Instead, he makes slow, deliberate advances, little checks
To mark his progress; a stubborn streak, natural-born vitality,
What qualities draw me to him—headstrong and passionate.

The dream man is full of contradictions, e.g. deeply
Rooted in his comfortable lair, his instinctual thirst
For safety and all that’s earthy—he learns quickly,
Perseveres; but he’s changeable, easily immersed
In the news of the day, odd people and water.

When I look down to examine his hands, I see the fiery lines
Hard-scrabbled and stable, his love for adventure, the outdoors,
An ability to handle equipment, gear of all kinds, the art of tying
Flies to fine fishing line. His agile fingers lead a sensual tour.
But for all I know, outside of dreams, he’s got a finger in every pie.

                                                                                

                                                                          ~Leah C. Stetson

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East Side Road

You built a fire for me
With your hands in the flame
“Used to the oven’s heat,”
I winced at the idea of pain.

You dove into dark water perfectly
Unafraid of touching bottom;
I sunbathed self-consciously,
Fins forgotten.

You carried me to Greece:
Flat rocks in the moonlight
(Made me imagine it at least)
And kissed me as I thought you might.

You rescued me from my secret grove
And we drove away in your mustang;
Now I strain to hear that engine rev
On a road miles and miles away.

LCS  TP Subscribe

New Moon Tiger

When I was little, big cats were my favorite.
I liked nature programs on PBS, picture books
Depicting lions, tigers, cheetahs, and ocelots.
Once, a panther prowled through our yard
We looked out through the windows (my cat,
And I, safely inside) at the predator, whose
Shoulder blades worked like perfect gears.

Now I keep dreaming of tigers, the great
Healers of the animal kingdom. My dream
Dictionary tells me tigers represent innate
Feminine power, raw emotions, intuition,
The ‘shadow part’ of me, and sensuality,
My will-power, courage and strength.
She symbolizes ‘yin’ and moon energy.

In my dream, I walk beside her, this bengal
Tigress, black-striped, electric-wiry orange
Fur swallows my fingers as I pet the beast.
She chuffs, ears pricked and muscles flexed
We are hunting –primal instincts act fast.
Our taut muscles hold quiet power; in tune
With the mangrove, the dream-jungle forest,
Nature’s rhythms, my lineage, acute senses.

According to Chinese wisdom, the female tiger
Comes to the mystic dreamer on a vision quest
She casts dark moon spells and augers fertile
Desires in a ferocious-hearted breast; a spirit
Animal like this, gnashes her teeth, a vital
Sign, secretive and solidified—these truths
Tell a deeper story—how to trust, how to fight.

I was born the wintry month of water tigers,
The daring daughters of the zodiac, often
Found among extremely prolific writers.
She remains calm, swims through calamities
An appetite for life and a long polished tail,
Her coping mechanism, and it’s a good one
Triggers hidden aggression, coaxes the male
Rolls around for three days of mating rituals.

When I wake from the recurring dream, I realize
There was no danger; I was unafraid of the tiger,
Unpredictable she may be, I know she personifies
My spontaneity and super-adventurous vigor;
Sure enough, it takes guts, I crouch beside her,
My dream-deity, subterranean patient part of me,
Tigers don’t walk for exercise; we are hunting.

We are hunting for the dragon, the ‘yang,’
Sun and fire chi, that waits, hot-winged,
Smoke-mouthed with gleaming fangs;
The solitary tigress—in dreams,
Shows the way to sanctuary.  

Leah C. Stetson

Poet’s note: This is a work-in-progress and part of the Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge to raise funds for the nonprofit literary press. Please mention my name when you make a donation. Thank you for reading and following my blog. I also encourage you to read the fine work of my fellow poets on the Tupelo Press’s 30/30 blog page here. TP Donate

Because, A Sonnet

Well, just because I loved him nearly
Enough, at least, that I could hardly bear it
Rose-colored glasses off, I now see clearly
For none will stop me, ‘though I fear it
Like a virus, ‘ready slipped beneath my skin,
Not living, nor dead, it spread the symptoms,
By what means it had to send a sentry, alien
Scout supplied the nerve to mimic phantoms.
Gulp down the medicated tincture, antigens
Take time to permeate the known pathologies,
Draws blood, the Ace of Swords, a surgeon’s
Steady hand could not sew shut, nor slice
My byssal thread-bare adductor muscles
Tenuous tissue he holds-fast to my cells.

Leah C. Stetson

Poet’s note: I have been writing a poem a day for the month of January to raise funds for the small nonprofit literary press, Tupelo Press. Please consider making a donation to this wonderful little press, which accomplishes so much and depends on the generosity of donors and lovers of poetry. TP Donate

An E-Mail to a Poet

So, what more do you want to know?
Venus causing mayhem and shit? She’s going backwards in orbit.
This isn’t a common occurrence, but when she does this, everyone
Looks back on their relationships (and finances), re-evaluates their debts
(Both kinds) and sometimes gets back together with an ex (or just fucks
With them). What’s worse, in this particular scenario, Venus and Mars
Have been at odds (the technical term is “opposition”) with one another,
So their influence brings about tiffs, arguments, break-ups, divorces, tension
And “un-friending” in various manifestations. She’s in the 12th house—that is,
Venus, and the 12th house rules behind-the-scenes shit. Clandestine relationships. Affairs. Telepathic or empathic communications with a lover, a former flame, or a soul mate from a previous lifetime. This lasts until the New Moon in Aquarius on the 31st, then Venus moves forward on February 1st.

I think of astrology like playing a really complicated video game
Based on quantum physics and deeply-embedded psychology from
Major religions and civilizations spanning centuries.

Except, you get free will instead of a joy stick.

~Leah C. Stetson TP Donate

Poet’s note: This is the 21st installment in the Tupelo Press 30/30 Poetry Challenge. I am writing, along with 8 other poets this month, to raise money for the nonprofit literary press. If you contribute a tax deductible donation, you’ll be a vital part of enabling an important nonprofit publisher to keep poetry alive, to provide 12 new homes  in books for emerging poets, to run innovative projects like the Million Line Poem, the world’s only open source poem, and to continue offering educational seminars for serious writers around the country. To donate and learn more, click here.

Stories of “Leah”

Dante’s “Leah” in a dream of
“Purgatory,” pleads, “Whoever
Asks my name, know that I’m Leah.”
She gathers a garland of flowers.

At 36, I learned the significance
Of my given name in Hebrew
While eating vegetarian pizzas
And sipping Californian pinot
With Isaac, from Israel. “Leah,
She’s one of the four mothers
Of Judaism,” he said, a contrast
With all that I had grown up
Believing, based on history
Teachers, my father’s sermons
And interpretations of the story.
I’d heard of the ‘weary-eyed,’
Or blue-eyed one, and ‘homely.’

In Arabic, my name means,
“Warrior princess,” certainly
Preferable to “tender-eyed,”
A reference to weak eye sight.

In fact, it blew my mind, this new
Take on something I’d already
Accepted about my ‘story;’ to
Re-ignite my curiosity, the study
Of linguistics and narrative,
Cultural anthropology, my love:
The language of reinvention,
Pronouncing, announcing,
The way the acting coach
Commanded me: “Leah,
You’re an actor; start acting
Like it.” I performed a scene,
Let go, I spoke in tongues.
It’s all relative, to say
Nothing of “Star Wars.”

Leah C. Stetson

Poet’s note: I came across a writing prompt to take a piece of fiction (that I wrote) and attempt to turn it into poetry. Let me know what you think.

Blue Dog & the Sea Fan Girl

Most of the beach-bums packed their vans
And kids, to leave Scarborough at happy hour.
Blue Dog carried his longboard down a path
Sharply netted with the shoots and sour

Blades of dune grass. His stocky form
Read like a rap sheet, pale pink scars
Cave diving, rock climbing, surfing
With the big boys off Alaska, Hawai’i.

He didn’t wear a wetsuit, or own a car
(Commandeered a bike, or hitch-hiked)
An old shaper taught him how to carve,
Make his first board out of balsa scraps,
Coat it with resin, smooth as shark skin.

Leans into his element, a bird on a current,
High in the sky; waves, wind—he needs.
Body limp, arms held down at his sides,
Loose and controlled at the same time,
Pressed into waves like palms to wet sand.

Shoulders rolled as though waves themselves.
For fun, sometimes he let it pummel him
Into tunnels of clashing tides and flow
Of the undercurrent. Or else he might fly
Down that blue slope, rope left, tilted low
Leaning to let go, his deep ecology.

In a swoosh, Blue Dog flipped
His board, suspended upside-down
Red hair coiled, hanging jellyfish
Tentacles off a translucent face.

She moved so fast it looked to him
As though she had the tail of a fish
But kelp trailed behind her legs,
Kicking together dolphin-ish.

She smiled at him. This wasn’t
The typical reaction he got
From females; when he tried it,
Blue Dog was too aggressive, not

Good at flirting. Here was Asrai,
Waving flat coral, a sea fan to signal
One thing or another, mermaids always
Expect others to have the manual.

She snaked his waves, for once
He didn’t care; impressed
With her telehydrokinesis,
Tripped over her jets, crushed.

A sea-lust mates of another kind
Neither man nor woman satisfied
In the dark of night, at high tide
He found her in a pool, lying

In her throat, flecked mussel necklace.
His half-moon went taut, his claspers,
Stiffened. Her scent drenched his snout
As if she’d been riding on top of his head.

Asrai splashed. Suddenly he slid upon her
Scaled curvy figure and thrashed as his nose
Broke the surface. Half in the water, half out,
The shark lover rolled over, then rough-shod

Four limbs to hold her, a mouth
To kiss, not rows of teeth for a spine,
Not some island nightmare myth;
But Asrai had other treasure hunts
In mind.

Leah C. Stetson

My Woods In Winter

When I settled at Nixie’s Vale, a nod to Tennyson,
A small cape at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain,
Rare blue butterflies flit from a black ash seep,
An ecosystem valued by the Wabanaki people
For the basket-grade texture of the trees’ bark;
I studied economic botany in college, but then
Distracted myself with conservation plans,
Policies and “best management practices,”
And the accompanying fact sheets, which
I posted online (to save paper).

In winter, without leaves, most of my trees
Lean in white arches, doors to other worlds,
Witches’ brooms at an imaginary threshold,
Or so I liked to believe, as a child of whimsy.
Since living here beside a freshwater pond,
I’ve learned about the vortex, a crossway
For the spirits of warriors and healers.
A perennial stream carries rainwater down
Off the mountain, through underground
Tributaries intersecting in a fern-filled gully
Spilling into what was once known
As “Little Rattlesnake Lake.”

Like my trees, I am a pioneer, and thrive
Even in disturbed areas, and I somehow
Hold the sunken soils together and live
Protected from storms, my curly crown
Golden-rust-colored and silky, hairy tips
And tapered branchlets like fingers run
Over pale conspicuous scars, ripened cups
Whorled and heart-shaped shields, sun
Dried, revealing the broken-off ends
That once supplied water to downy buds.

I am broad and thornless, a windbreaker
My father raised me to nibble wintergreen
And build lean-tos; I cool the temperature
Dangle catkins, a snowy, pine-needled scene;
Write a ragged understory, which needs cutting:
It’s taking seed—overgrown, too pendulous,
In the pithy soft inner core of me, all foreseen,
Long foretold in pages I once loved to read—this
Sturdy soul’s rooted in Hawthorne’s hometown.

-Leah C. Stetson

Poet’s note: This poem is part of a 30/30 Poetry Challenge in support of the Tupelo Press. Please consider making a donation or subscribing to one of their fine publications. TP Subscribe

Night Boys

Night boys
revving and rumbling
‘round the lakes,
curvy back roads
empties tumbling
last lap, another pass by
that curvy ex-girlfriend’s
he used to pull in, cry
flash his high beams
like he was jacking deer
just to see her; he dreams
the shifty rites of coydogs
tilted heads, truck howls
farther from the city,
the louder the engine
mostly for show, mostly
testosterone, bravado
when each is on his own
safe among the familiar,
bearded, the evening air
cloaks them like flannel
the skin of their kin
—but in these rural
open parts, the alpha male
leads his pack of boyhounds
to lay claim to territory,
mark their mates, the females,
defend their hunting grounds
delineated on a mental map
instinctual, his birthright.
Everybody says it:
but they’re good boys.
Hey, they got a permit.

The sexual anthropologist
compares: the urban kind,
who can’t stand itchy fists
confuse boundary lines
blocks, streets, city limits
quell the pseudo-wolfsong
sweaty stench of cowardice
make mischief out of some
dark gut-wrenched wrong
a restless yearning
for hills and fields
streams and ponds
sends them wilding
in sharp back alleys
abandoned buildings
a taste for the tally
tall teetering girls, homeless,
elders, a sally—the night boys
keep score like sports fans,
in athletic pants, too baggy,
they lope through the shadows
a trail behind them that mimics
their every move, the marrow
that gnaws back, a raw sickness,
thick with fur they shave off
to hide their otherness,
even from each other
take turns maiming
after-slaps, fraternal
caresses, a primordial
taming of the running shoe.

The scent of gunsmoke
hangs in the midnight mist
descends on the Mainiacal ones
who know whose buckshot
narrowly missed
deep in the belly
of the forest.

~Leah C. Stetson 

 

This poem is part of a 30-poem series in support of the nonprofit Tupelo Press. Please consider making a charitable donation (tax deductible) to support this wonderful literary press. When you donate, please indicate that the donation is “in honor of” or mention my name in the notes field on the PayPal page for your donation. That way the staff at the Tupelo Press will know that it is from this 30/30 poetry challenge and my fundraising efforts. Thank you!TP Donate

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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