Goodbye to John Prine

lyrics that echo through red rock canyon

colorado country salina kansas alabama small town theatres

crowd waits for the bull in the chute

and roars when the he charges the arena

and we are on the edge of our seats

breathing the heavenly dusted earth

kicked, stirred up

nothing tame about it

even the grand finale is a wild boar

exit dance around his old guitar

&

…coronavirus journal entry

essential bakery down the street

where I buy fresh sourdough, German rye

Thursdays and Saturdays a cinnamon raison loaf

&

Saturday afternoon haikus!

I. wildflowers, tall grass

what would running through a field

feel like? sensual

II. quiet neighborhood

all the children are indoors

spring calls out to them

butterflies for Ghana

I will be traveling to Ghana soon,
the first trip in awhile to give me butterflies.
That in itself is a reason to go,
adventure, the unknown.
play it too safe and the color washes out.
I long for bold.
Required immunizations:
yellow fever
typhoid 
done.
and more
polio
meningitis
hepatitis A and B
I will take malaria pills.
I'll be missing the Christmas hustle and bustle,
the last minute rush, mad dash
to finish up and put the bow on the last gift,
the bright lights of home.
I'll be traveling to Ho, close to the Togo border
where it's hot and humid
5 degrees north of the equator
dreaming or lying awake under a mosquito net.
will the vendors at the local market wrap
my purchases in banana leaves?
I'll be volunteering in a school
seeing new faces, meeting students, greeting them one by one
hoping they are as excited as I am
What will they learn?
What will I learn?

The Portrait and the Artist

My father painted Satank, Kiowa chief with the piercing
eyes.  I have seen him in my dreams
under the moon over Medicine Bluff
   riding the silver horse
stealing mules  signing treaties
resuming the fight (he lost his son in a Texas raid)
   Arrested,
dragged in chains,
Satank breaks free,
one last wild gesture before defeat.

In his air-conditioned studio sweat
pouring from his forehead my father
clutched his painter's brush and held
the arrow to the canvas.  He struck the face
of the aged warrior, bull's eye, to keep the memory 
of Satank, Set-angya, Sitting Bear alive.

I see the staring eyes of the portrait and the artist,
I hear their incantations,
spirit songs of the freedom seekers.







Dog Dreams and Democracy

Willie, a seven pound toy poodle, runs into the dog park like a third grader hits the playground 10;30 freedom after spelling.  He’s catching the fast train to Paris.  Les chiens sont permis.  Here democracy exists where the smallest dog is on equal ground with German Shepherds, a Golden Lab, a Great Pyrenees.  The pack huddles together on a big expanse of land.  If it were hot august summer, he would be the sunburned boy revving up at the edge jumping cannonball into the pool hungry for the sting, the spray, the smell of water.  Instead he’s stirring up the settled dust rolling over and over with joy his curly coat covered in dirt.  His master watches in the shadow while Willie reverting back to wolf walks and wanders without a leash giving up his solitude and long daily naps where he dreamed of going to Pamplona once and running with the bulls.

photo(1)

Paris in December

Place de la Contrescarpe

Place de la Contrescarpe

Like a woman telling secrets behind her hand-held embroidered fan, Paris whispers make a wish as I sip wine at the Place de la Contrascarpe.  A light drizzle in the air glistens in the dusky light of gas lanterns.  I think about yesterday’s discovery, the Strada Cafe on the corner of Rue d’Arras and Rue Monge where I relished a flaky croissant.  I slipped away to the Picasso Museum with my ticket in hand so I could enter into rooms of paintings and sculptures and ceramics, climb staircases, wonder from gallery to gallery without waiting, without standing in line.  Once inside I could pause. I could catch my breath.  I could stop at Cat Catching a Bird, 1939, and notice the white teeth clutching the bird’s wing, gaze stunned at Massacre in Korea with guns and nudes in black and white, pause at Portrait of Dora Maar, 1937-I have seen those long red fingernails before, smile at Child Playing with a Truck in his blue striped shirt like a young imaginative Picasso.

Back home my sister and neighbor spread kindness to Willie and Woodrow, feeding and tending to the animals, letting them curl up in comfort, one with his primal purring, the other wagging his tail with every sign of attention while I am away in a Paris making wishes.

Snow in the Wichitas

imageToday a light snow in the Wichitas,

subtle and beautiful.

It won’t last long.

It will disappear and make way for  the naked branches

and amber boulders.

Winter steps in gently and quietly.

Would a photograph do you justice?

If I wrote about this moment,

could I possess you like an object?

Or I can close my eyes and remember.

Yes, I remember how

the elegant soprano whispered

the high note in the crowded concert hall.

I left that night dreamy

in a powder of snow,

Berlin, 1991.

Or when dolphins performed

a stone’s throw from the beach,

Baja Peninsula, summer of 1988.

That was the same time I tasted prickly pear cactus.

Summer of 2011, I was among giant ancient trees

with rays of sunlight shining through big leaves

for one brief afternoon,

Sequoia National Park.

I heard John Coltrane play “My Favorite Things,”

eleven minutes of a soulful saxophone,

on the car radio, road trip, 2006.

It’s the same with the dolphins, the trees,

the soprano,

Coltrane,

the snow.

I remember you until you appear again for one fleeting moment.

Why I Love Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie’s music stirs in me that restless feeling to get on the open road.  What better way to celebrate his centennial than to throw a few things in my backpack, book a room, drive east on highway 44 and buy a ticket to the Woody Guthrie Centennial Concert in Tulsa, OK.

I arrive early enough to mingle with other Guthrie fans before the concert that will honor his music, his poetry, his spirit.  And for a few hours John Mellencamp, Jackson Brown, Roseanne Cash, and Arlo Guthrie will sing his lyrics and tell his stories.   The audience hangs on every tender and harsh word of his ballads.  Bound for Glory.  This Land is Your Land. The date of the concert  is March 10, 2012. Post 9/11.  A recession.  At war with Afghanistan.  And Woody still manages to bring a message of hope and optimism, but not without a struggle.  His ballads tell of the plight of the dust bowl refugees and the migrant workers.  I can’t help lovin’ his ode to his guitar, ” This machine kills fascists.”

I listen to Mexican boleros on the way home, music of another place and era.  But I can’t get Woody’s ballads out of my head.  He evokes in me the romance of the road and the places that I’ve  yearned for.  One is Paris, the city that I studied and got to know, the place that got under my skin.  The other is my home, the place I always come to for comfort, for family, for friends.  I’m reminded of a line from a different poet, William Stratford, who wrote in his poem, “Love in the Country,” we study to deserve what is already there for us.   The sculptured Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris will soon be dressed formally with tulips.  Here the pastures will be alive with wild buffalo clover. Woody said,”Don’t swap this raw sunshine for too much stage light.”  Springtime in Paris makes me smile, but so does the raw Oklahoma sunshine.  And so does Woody Guthrie.

Summertime when the livin’ is easy and remembering Mother

My mother looked like she belonged to summer.  In  June and July her smile was softer.  Her laugh was louder.  Her eyes were brighter.  Her body loved the feel of shorts and sundresses.  Casual.  She looked picture perfect on the front porch steps.

I still get to enjoy her spring onions, garlic, and grape hyacinths in the backyard.  Now when I think about her and early summer plants, gardens and flowers, I am immediately drawn to knockout roses.  Red blossoms in early summer.

On summer mornings

Under a January moon, my mother slipped away

from winter’s slumber to take the stage of summer.

the little dipper lights dim

as the curtain of early morning rises

to the woman sipping coffee on the back patio

before time slips away.

I hear

the sound of the screen door

the sprinkler on the herb garden

where 15 years later the garlic still grows.

the rustle of the newspaper being read

with all those words not needed now,

only the simple “I love you” inside my head.

the morning after a Wichita mountain thunderstorm

she plucks the petal of a marguerite,

“he loves me, he loves me not,

he loves me passionately,”

a bouquet of wildest dreams she offers me.

“If that mockingbird don’t sing

momma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”

she’s woody guthrie poetry.

notre dame is a beautiful woman,

her bellringer is a rebel.

she and quasimodo.

he sounds the bell

the horse runs free.

Migration

a monarch butterfly

atop the lantana bush

spreads its wings like a curious child

ready to open up to the cool green  adventures.

lift

lift

land            land

It will move on to the creek’s edge  vibrant orange sun framed in black,

a small flame in a van gogh field that will make its way to the next flower.

Why poetry?

Poetry challenges, revives and enlivens me.  I am a lover of American, French and Spanish literature.  Poetry is an art form that draws me closer to others and myself.  The power of poetry breaks down barriers, those roadblocks that occur within us and around us.  After living in various places around the globe,  I have returned to my hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma, middle of the Great Plains.  The poetry of N. Scott Momaday resonates with me in this wide open country.  In The Telling, he writes, “we will be gone, but we will have seen Eternity in the sunrise and the image of God in clouds on the mountain…”  The Wichita Mountains are a magical place.