Wednesday, April 1, 2015

22,000 Square Miles


22,000 Square Miles



The lake and I had
an understanding; I gave her
seeds and roots, the stranded dead, rocks,
and the things that are broken by rocks
and she would dissolve me
off that poisoned shore, re-
place me, suspend me, teach

the words
to her lullaby waves, croon-
curled by a mother's hand,
each replicant stroked singular
from the fleeing horizon,
forever a promise.
I had her mutable

possessing sky
wind for a towel, a piano,
a  thick book of tales
written in lettering twisted invisible,
drawing the silence of dusk and dawn,
star, sun and moon
so I would know its name.

There where wet air 
whisked whispering to peaks
white as cream--beaten, soft
yet standing, standing--
where light and shadow painted
their example,

though I was not water, to live with her
ninety-nine years, though I could not 
foam twenty-two thousand miles,
I had my time of knowing
what to do.
I learned all my imperatives
and then I flew.


~April 2015




posted for   real toads


Challenge: What Sparked Your Poetic Heart
The buoyant and gifted Magaly Guerrero asks us to tell of a poet or work of art that set us on our poetic road--I have written that poem already a few times ( Caryatid, The Farewell Book) so I chose to show another departure point, how finding the power of something not made by man influenced me, and in fact, saved me.




Process notes: Lake Michigan has a surface area of approximately 22,300  square miles . The residence time of its water, ie mean time the water spends in any particular lake, is 99 years. For more information on the lake I grew up with, see wikipedia




Photo: Lake Michigan -Waves Off Zion, by Andrea Jaeger Miehls, Source

25 comments:

  1. What an intense moment, made more powerful by the majestic nature of all involved... I love the idea of the exchange. I wonder what the ocean's poem of the relationship would read like...

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  2. The word that came to mind as I was reading your poem is 'elemental'. It is not every person who is able to feel so strongly connected to natural features as to feel their kinship, but I get that sense most strongly from your opening lines:
    The lake and I had
    an understanding... to your portrait of lake as mother, teacher, benefactor.

    You deliver what D.H. Lawrence asks for: 'I wish men would get back their balance among the elements' (Elemental).

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    1. Thanks Kerry. It was the only place I truly felt comfortable many times in my adolescence. Love the DH Lawrence reference. Elemental indeed--he certainly was good at it.

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  3. "I learned all my imperatives and then I flew." What a wonderful teacher pupil relationship.

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  4. A brilliant write, my friend, full of your always-new and felicitously unexpected imagery.

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  5. I grew up along Lake Michigan too. This makes me want to go back and stand on the shore and look out, across her again. I love that you added the detail of the water staying for 99 years. And I love your final stanza too.

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  6. I didn't know of your connection to Lake Michigan but after reading this I'm sure it continues to nourish you. I'm glad I got to glimpse it once--deep, dark, cold, stony--so different than the Gulf of Mexico I'm used to or the Atlantic City shore I visited as a child.

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    1. Yes, a lake that size has its own climate, and it can be a very alien sort of place--I felt that way about Lake Superior, a bit depressed and afraid almost, standing looking out--stony cold is a good description. But Lake Michigan and I...well, that understanding we had made everything safe. Thanks, Mark.

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  7. There i a completeness about this for me--and I love that the lake is a teacher

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  8. water and trees. There's something special about both.

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  9. Very fanciful. I liked the lake being a teacher, a mentor. Very wise.

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  10. You have a way with nature, Joy! This one is gorgeous~

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  11. Lovely-- kind of breath-taking--I like the idea of "re-place" me especially as seems to have a double meaning here-- in terms of literally place you some place else, but also you know, make you something else. The idea of the permanence of mutable sky also so beautiful, and the mothering--and, you know, being someone who swims in cold water in a rather impromptu fashion, I know that wind towel--ha! k.

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    1. Yes, sometimes the only one handy! Thanks, k.

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  12. This caused me to sigh, Hedge. Wow...what a gift you have...channeling the amazing power of this body of water. Thank you for the back notes...so amazing...I'm in awe and the relationship in this poem...I love it...for lack of better words to explain...LOVE it.

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  13. Your intense kinship with nature gives you such a unique voice in this poem. Your opening lines are so powerful...a bargain made with the lake. Beautiful piece

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  14. there is a lulling here, but beneath every wave - and line - lies deep power.

    and so the 30 (million) day cycle begins again... ~

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  15. Such wonder here, Hedge, a tough, weathered, wintered sort of magesty wombed in the difficult ... an bitter alchemy, yes, but also something shamanic in the initiation to this wild sort of water, huge and deep enough to ferry one's rage and return it with song. A second mothering, like that second baptism of fire, allowing one to mother one's own poems ... I used to wander down to the shore of Lake Michigan in winter -- such a hard place to go -- and vigil on a park bench, watching that grey faceless fullness grieve the city's shore. The dead were surely there--wombed in a fullness, yes, but still latent, distant for me ... I had to leave Chicago and go far inland to where when the sea rose up in me I would know it came from a vast singing interior. Fine homage here; and as one of that clan of the great water, wearing its votive singing waves as its singing-cloak, you do great and necessary work here giving credit where it's due. As water-hymns go, I hear the blue bellows working notes below our vox humana.

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    1. Thank you. I don't know about great, but I do think the work is necessary. And doubtless that kinship I felt with the lake and sky has helped me understand some of your own sea-muse, B--there is just something about so much water--the smallness of self is overcome--by its smell, its stretch, its sanctuary...and other things speak. I have much gratitude that we always lived within walking distance of the lake, or I might never have heard it.

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  16. You let nature do the most wonderful of things....

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  17. Wow, what a teacher; the best, even knowing when, finally, to withdraw.

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  18. Yes, nature is a powerful muse (and, as Fireblossom says, teacher). You have done your lake more than justice in this magnificent poem. Flying hgh!

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  19. Brought me back to a time of intense meditation on the beach of a great sea.

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  20. This is a master work, perfectly conveying the majesty of water.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg