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Late May at Nixie’s Vale is lovely. I lucked out in the fly-catcher department: phoebes swoop, dragonflies buzz around (by June) and nocturnal toads set up camp beneath my deck. It has been a few summers since I’ve spotted a bat, sadly, but my woods are a sanctuary for birds. It was sunny today, and I went to the seamstress to pick up a few items that she transformed for me: It’s like getting a whole new wardrobe of clothes that I already love. I’ve gone from a size 16 to an 8-10, down to 162lbs., with a 29 and a half inch waist, having lost forty pounds over the past year. I’m just getting back to my natural shape and feel like myself again. Hurrah! My best friend from high school said I look “high school skinny.” Well, I’m wearing the old blue jeans I got in Wyoming with my cousin, Tara, in summer 2002 when I was 26! (I’m now 38, so this feels like a magic trick.) Besides feeling fit again, I feel inspired.

20150612_143934-1

Almost every day, I walk my dog through a wetland or along the road by the pond and back, swim in the lake (it’s warming up!) and do a little housework. Today I cleaned the kitchen, made a delicious lunch, which I ate while sitting on a bed of moss in my yard, overlooking the grove in my woods. I love the woods. But my new indulgence, thanks due in part to Matt’s handy work, is my hammock. It hangs between two trees at the base of a mossy slope at the far end of the yard. It’s the quilted kind of hammock designed for two people but I fit perfectly along with a notebook, water bottle–and sometimes the dog will join me and sprawl across my legs. A lush breeze sneaks through the trees from Raymond Pond and I look up at the silhouettes of tree branches, patches of blue sky beyond. Rays of sunlight pour through and fill me with optimism, hope and appreciation. 20150802_152908I feel so blessed to live here, to call this little piece of land my home. I call it “Nixie’s Vale,” but in truth, I’m just a temporary steward of the land. This spring I planted a garden with my father and I will tend it this summer, hopefully producing some vegetables. In between swims, gardening and hammock naps, I barely have time to write. Admittedly, I keep thinking of lines of poetry; I might sketch them in my notebook, but then feel more motivated to swim-walk-hike-weed-swim-cook-walk and make iced tea.

The trees at Nixie's Vale

The trees at Nixie’s Vale

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

Just a little full moon lunar eclipse poetry…

Lunatic

Those devoted to hunting Big Foot
Under the dark New Moon in Aries,
The full-bodied nighttime hunts,
When lunatics lurk and veer
Toward some fallen staccato,
In the black ash jungle
of their father’s youth.

Half-cocked, half-blocked
By an impatience to prove it.
They head for dark. They duck.
They dive. Winds whistle and howl.
Tree branches lumber low
Like large hairy arms.

They set the trap.
They wait.

‘Shall each beast have his mate?’
Pondered Shelley’s tall Monster;
Wolfman couldn’t contemplate
His cursed life without her;
And Lovecraft’s lone Outsider
Didn’t go to the dinner party.
It’s an unusual girl, a fighter,
Firefly-eyed and moonstruck,
Who sends the invitations.

And then she’s late;
Hence the ruckus.

Wearing her strangeness
Like a charm necklace:
Shark teeth, broken
Turquoise rings,
And a paua shell heart.

She waits by the gate,
Inhaling wild grapes,
Plump on tangled vines.

She dodges dragonflies
As they metamorphize
Into fantasies, her prize
Mate of another kind.

LCS

 

Working on a new poem. This is too long and it’s a draft. But in honor of April being National Poetry Month, I’m trying to keep up with Mike Dockins’ plan to write a bunch of poems this month. So, here goes.

                                                  Hiding Juniper

Would it be a nightmare if I dreamt
I climbed upstairs, my grandparents’
Old yellow farmhouse, where I spent
Vacations and holidays in childhood,
Played board games and invented
Some of my own; knew the secret
Hiding places: Nana’s sunny ledge
A pocket amidst the juniper hid us
She pretended to be an owl, eyes
On the birds all around her, and I,
A little fox, bounding and blonde,
Skirting the fields and meadows,
Beyond their borders into moss
Havens, emerald rock shadows.

Nana brought me on the odd errand,
Trips to the “Stump Dump,” or attic,
Crossing a stream, or walking Sally,
Their yellow lab-retriever, whose
Antics included a wide sheepish
Grin, when embarrassed, down
The Woodman Road to Uncle John’s
House. We’d push the drawbridge
Upward, to enter the attic—full of
My mother’s memories, four decades’
Worth: the Nancy Drew collection,
Paper dolls (I added to the designs),
Sewing baskets, the one scary box
With the green rubber spider mask
(The precise location of which,
I was all-too aware), and full jars:
Coveted crashed glass marbles
In a spectrum of colors I liked—
Blues, greens, pinks and purples.

Would it be a nightmare, if instead,
I mounted the stairs and found: parked
At the top, your grey Toyota 4Runner,
Its front end blocking the attic door,
My escape hatch in any dreamscape,
No matter the origin, or fear, I fled
From monsters or unknown enemies,
And found my way to Nana’s secret
Hiding places: the juniper ledge,
Mossy Stump Dump, or the attic—
Especially the attic, where she once
Described a “safe room” that Grampa
Engineered: a sliding wall, or partition,
That offered a place to hide valuables
And their children, if ever necessary.
Contrary to this, my mother told me
That I imagined this, that the hidden
Room did not exist (except in Nana’s
Over-active imagination). She and I,
Both dreamy Pisces, also both had
Mercury in quirky Aquarius, Venus
In feisty Aries and nature-loving
Earth moons. So, I don’t doubt,
Nana and I conjured safety
In the simple architecture
Of our bond, hand-in-hand,
An automatic intimacy,
Hiding in the juniper.

Would it be a nightmare, if I told you,
I was frustrated to see your silver truck
Parked in my path to the attic stair,
Something, or someone, slammed
A door downstairs, in my dream,
Your truck fit in the doorframe
Of my grandparents’ bedroom.
I could not maneuver around it.
Suddenly, I found myself running
Down the hall toward the fire
Escape, only to end up in the garage.

A young man in a plaid shirt and cap
Leaned over sundry yard equipment,
He held a weed whacker in his hands,
Examining the controls. Fearing that
He would cut off my arms with it, and
Seeing nowhere to hide, I searched
For a weapon to defend myself,
As I might in any other nightmare.

I crouched low to the concrete floor,
Studying a chainsaw that resembled
My vacuum cleaner; its cord wrapped
Around an attachment, but I trembled,
Terrified, not knowing how to wield it.
Then, jean-clad shins and hiking boots
Appeared in front of me, knobby hands
Held out at his sides, an offer? A threat?
I picked up the chainsaw and pushed
It hard into his legs out of self-defense
And ran out through the open bay,
Out onto the dirt driveway. I mapped
Diversion tactics to no avail and he
Caught me by the hand, and carried me
To the 4Runner, which was now sitting
Where it belonged, realistically.

He put me in the passenger seat.
My dream self slumped, played dead,
Like one might do with a grizzly bear,
So he’s less inclined to kill (or eat).
The dream guy steered and talked,
His voice muffled (I was dreaming)
And handed me a bag he’d packed:
My odd childish hobbies, favorites,
Heirlooms, romantic novels,
The right cosmetics.

Would it be a nightmare, or
A wonderful dream, if he were real,
If this happened, and the helpful
Man with knobby hands came
For me, and found my hiding spots,
Parked his chariot by the drawbridge,
Took the time to meander awhile
In meadows while I slunk afoot
Lichen-covered granite ledges,
A blonde fox in the juniper.

For G. 

LCS

 

This is an excerpt of a poem by Eugenio Montale (1896-1981), translated by Robert Lowell (1917-1977). Lowell’s translation has been questioned because it does not match up accurately with other more literal translations, but I think it’s the translator’s duty and, naturally Lowell’s own craft, to interpret, rather than to simply produce the literal translation. In any case, I find it lovely.

The Eel

The eel, the North Sea siren,
who leaves dead-pan Icelandic gods
and the Baltic for our Mediterranean,
our estuaries, our rivers–
who lances through their profound places,
and flinty portages, from branch to branch,
twig to twig, thinning down now,
ever snaking inward, worming
for the granite’s heartland, threading
delicate capillaries of slime–
{…}
the eel, a whipstock, a Roman candle,
love’s arrow on earth, which only
reaches the paradise of fecundity
through our gullies and fiery, charred streams;
{…}
and a tree, where my carved name quivers,
happy, humble, defeated–
or, perhaps only for the phosphorescent wake
of your almond eyes
for the craft of your alert panic
{…}
if they likened you to the blonde lioness,
to the avaricious demon of the undergrowth,
{…}
it is perhaps because the blind
have not seen the wings
on your delectable shoulder-blades
{…}
if they can only think of you
as a weasel or a woman,
with whom can I share my discovery,
where bury the gold I carry,
the red-hot pot-bellied furnace raging
inside me, when leaving me,
you turn up stairs?

****************************

Doesn’t that make you want to go for a night swim? Shiver me timbers. I do.

I’m experimenting with a poem that I didn’t like and sitting with it for a bit.

Kelp Nets

Sea otters dream in the dark tide,
Curl up in kelp streamers to hide,
Disguise their pups when tired
In between swimming lessons.

My mate studies the path of water,
It carves canyons and shapes streambeds.
I am resilient and cope with pressure
But susceptible—too easily contaminated.
He seeks to define the limits of my aquifer,
A leaky bucket of beach sand & sea glass,
Tumultuously tipped by man’s hand.

I am ninety percent like the otter
Made of fur and snout and salt water,
Swimming five months in the rivers;
Beneath my coat, I am a nymph
Mending the kelp nets torn from tillers.
Fins side out, I am a fish instead
Darting hyper-vigilant,
Then drifting half-dead
In the churn of sediments
the mouth delivers.

Granite bones
Inside this squishy island figure,
Curved by glaciers and hormones,
The Gulf Stream—tempt his geological
Urge to measure the reversible current
Push-pulling me along a coast
Without houses I dream.

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

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

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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