3 a.m. and taking the new puppy out to pee beneath a waning moon

one by one flowers open, then fall
Wang Wei, 701-761

moon snail shell

I suppose it was the 3:00 a.m. mewling, the new puppy nudging me into suburban dark and moon milk, that made me think of the moon snail propped on my study window sill between the photos of a moth orchid and the winter’s Wilson’s Snipe I fashioned into postcards. How long now has this moon snail gathered dust there, shifted my afternoon sun from light to richest shadow? I found it, nameless to me, at the edge of tidal spume and broken cockle shells, and carried it from the sea to here— a spiral in my palm perfect of nipple-brown apex and hollow umbilicus where once a foot and seven rows of teeth and feathered gill lay. Leonard keeps asking me why we are here. Why this cup of tea? Why this pen we write with beneath a soda straw width of galaxies uncountable? Nights, the predatory moon snail plows nocturnal shores, drills the shells of clams with holes we’ll string and wear. Or it lays a thousand eggs into collars of sand, shaped, we’ll say,  into ones our priests wear. And now this puppy, everything new to it: the curly cues of dried snail and earthworm it finds beneath the gutter spout. Or the blue bachelor button in sudden fall bloom it chews happy at the driveway’s edge. Once conjured with my camera into dark and shadow, this moon snail pixelated into swirls of pigeon-blue and rose-flesh: somewhere, someplace else, a constant sea rain of tiny moon snail and this moon I blink beneath.

Finding a Cabbage White Butterfly at Castlewood Canyon

unless Soul clap its hands and sing
—William Butler Yeats

Researchers found that the small cabbage white butterfly likely originated in eastern Europe and then spread into Asia and Siberia when trade was increasing along the Silk Road.

from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

I suppose it’s the name, not the butterfly’s, that caught me first, Silk Road. Then the butterfly’s, lowly cabbage-eater I keep imagining clinging, white-winged and green speckle-eyed, to a shining hem or a sleeve woven from a silk cocoon some ancient silk farmer boiled just before the silk worm’s emergence. That strand of silk, kept intact by that farmer’s boiling, spun longer than this walking path in a sunken canyon, itself millions of years old. And that Silk Road? Some seven thousand miles away and gone centuries with ancient dynasties and Ottoman Empires and Xanadu courts. Where was I now? With an ancient farmer eating a boiled silkworm and a cabbage white butterfly stowing itself away across worlds and tall ships and iron horses to be, here, with me. No wonder Leonard calls me from sleep at three a.m., no moon for a poet, to stand groggy and awed on a cabin porch beneath a universe called Observable, despite the billions of galaxies we still can’t see spiraling over the Milky Wayour Scattered Straw, our Silver River, Way of  Birds. And so. It’s the cabbage white butterfly I am thinking of because a Master Birder told me of beautiful birds in a canyon and I went, to catch in singing the White-throated Swift or the Lazuli Bunting or the Plumbeous Vireo I could hang extant in a simple black frame by my kitchen window. But all I could find was a butterfly, plain as a moth and hanging upside down on a purple weed. Instar is a molting, I have read, the cabbage white butterfly’s exoskeleton shed every time for something new. Now the head black. Now the yellow clypeus of the face. Now those tiny green dots I love.

cabbage white butterfly on flower blossom
Pieris rapae

Late Summer Wasps

One by one flowers open, then fall.
Wang Wei

My ears are thick with them, the yellow jackets levitating out of this vole hole to hover through our scarecrows of gold banner and harebell. Murmuration is a word even without the starlings’ imprint above this leaf light. It is almost too beautiful to write: the birds I cannot see clustering at night beneath the Milky Way, river of light, their absence silence, and then the wasps I thought bees vibrating over the wet leaves, the pulpy flies, the destroying angels I’ve walked through. These wasps fly in and out beneath the metal sky into the dark cupboards of earth, thousands, while I plunge my arms through bees snout-deep in late blossom, everything and me until the first glittering frost alive.  

Bee in Blossom
bee in blossom

On Beauty and Finding a Dead Flicker

[Beauty] compels awe, and awe
Is well known for its capacity to silence.

Louise Glück

       

I’ve been thinking about beauty and how these blue birds ahead of me keep throwing themselves off the aspen snags.  Like a hinge, the mind already calling them ‘beautiful” and “sky,” though I don’t know really what beauty is or how to make it so in a poem about a gravel lane I keep writing. Leonard never sees the bluebirds, though he wants to, but, every day, I walk into them, little chips of sky I might touch. When Leonard was a boy, his mother taught him to sing a song about pockets and falling stars and he sings it to me now, when we are happiest. In just this hour, fall has towed in its clouds like blue barges. Beautiful. And I am remembering the earliest summer morning, not in this here, not in this now: tree swallows flushed above the sedge and a guttering of flickers. And now this perfect silhouette in the dirt I thought to photograph at my feet because there was light and there were wings and nothing to grieve, door nor earth.

flicker impression in the dirt made of feathers

The Butterfly: Apiculus and a Poem

I found this on a flowering weed in Castlewood Park on a day I was looking for birds. Butterfly? Moth? To be honest, I didn’t know. And then I learned that the butterfly has a bulb at the end of its antenna, unlike the moth and its feathered one, and a hooked tip called the “apiculus.” The name of this butterfly? Such beautiful names to wander through: Swallowtails and Hairstreaks, Elfins and Metalmarks and Gossamer-winged. Just the names begin to find a poem. This little guy is part of the Grass Skippers Family, perhaps a Least Skipper, weak in the wings, or an Orange Skipperling, its eggs orange-ringed and its larva rolling up in a single blade of grass. I don’t really care which butterfly it is: I woke up and couldn’t sleep and now a coyote has wandered down the suburban drainage ditch a block from our house to sing and I’ve been thinking about poetry and found this poem by Pavel Friedmann, who wrote this one day in 1942 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp beneath a white chestnut and gave it to me, tonight, and now me to you:

The Butterfly

He was the last. Truly the last.
Such yellowness was bitter and blinding
Like the sun’s tear shattered on stone.
That was his true colour.
And how easily he climbed, and how high,
Certainly, climbing, he wanted
To kiss the last of my world.

I have been here for seven weeks,
‘Ghettoized’.
Who loved me have found me,
Daisies call to me,
And the branches also of the white chestnut in the yard.
But I haven’t seen a butterfly here.
That last one was the last one.
There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto.

https://www.hmd.org.uk/resource/the-butterfly-by-pavel-friedmann/

Octopus on a Sea Dock: New Poem at Split Rock Review

this lovely image popped up from Split Rock Review on Facebook
with the link to my poem

So another prompt-inspired poem, this one from an April 2021 National Poetry Prompt at NaPoWriMO:

“Go to the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows and choose a word to work with.” I chose “onism”: awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience, which seemed apropos for that past year’s solitude. And then I thought about imagination and memory and went places I never expected, certainly one of the joys of writing poetry.

Octopus on a Sea Dock

It floated out from a sea bucket
into the silver spilt water
of the sea dock we’d come to visit,
so quiet at our feet
that the fishermen nearby were oblivious,
their fishing poles . . .

Read the rest here at Split Rock Review


Pre-orders for Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic are open until November 29. Flying Beneath the Dog Star was a semi-finalist for the Finishing Line Press 2020 Open Chapbook Contest. The chapbook, fingers-crossed for a lightening of the shipping boat snafus, comes out at the end of January 2022.

Morning on the Cabin Porch

My beautiful visiting bee this morning reminded me of this poem I wrote last spring. It will be part of my chapbook, Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic, to be published this January by Finishing Line Press.

The hummingbird mistakes
me for a flower: something
half-wan and camouflaged
in a wild iris shirt.
The aspens riddle my slant
of sun like snakes of shade.
Far off,  past the pines,
a meadowlark trills
from the draw where, yesterday,
I found bear scat fresh,
flies swarming it.
I walked, clapping my hands
at the dark of woods
until they hurt.
Now the air stirs.
A hummingbird zips
past the porch, circles,
hovers, a tiny god at my face.
I am all blossom and sepal,
sweet petal and wing dust.
And at my feet, a tiny bee
crawls for the first time.

a junco eyes me from a slip of pine

and blue glass sings
in my palm, the sky engraved
with vowel and wing, so
much to hear, our bodies
speaking across great plains
of air. soon beneath
moons, we’ll murmur
something: me, on love
as a rift of stars, of broken
pieces i once thought
the earth waves past.
and this little junco? nothing
i could guess to know.

Morning Deer and Poetry

How to See Deer

Philip Booth – 1925-2007

Doe at Cabin
Thought to write my own poem on seeing this quiet doe at the edge of our cabin, but then found this already beautiful one by Philip Booth, How to See Deer. Seems like a good way to start the morning.
Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You've come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You've learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.


Last year, we had twin fawns here.

Thanks to Poets.org for its everlasting beautiful poems.

Publishing a Book in the Time of Coronavirus

I don’t know what it means to publish a book in the time of a coronavirus. What seemed large just a few weeks ago seems small now in a world of chaos and isolation and the loneliness of people afraid to breathe the same air. But today, on the official release date for Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children, I get to say that my book has finally arrived. Yes, the events and fuss planned around this book have been canceled or postponed, but Slow Arrow is, here, in this world.

The quote from Nietzsche that first sent me on this journey of the book feels as true now as it did then:

The slow arrow of beauty. . . which infiltrates slowly, which we carry along with us almost unnoticed, and meet up with again in dreams.

So many thanks  to Ruth Thompson, editor of Saddle Press, and Don Mitchell, Saddle Road’s book designer, for taking on Slow Arrow and making it  a beautiful book. Thanks to  friends Steve Harvey, Laura Julier, Tom Larson, Bob Root, and the late and wonderful Michael Steinberg for their kind words on Slow Arrow. Thanks to the many literary journals that published pieces from this book.  Thanks to the Cattywampus Club for its work on my website, kathrynwinograd.com, its author photos, its video book trailer, and marketing help. And to Chris Moore, who just posted the virtual, hands-free  podcast we recorded this weekend for the Situation and the Story. And to Inverted Syntax, which just posted the first part of a two part interview on Slow Arrow

Saddle Road Press lists the links where you can purchase Slow Arrow through Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Powell’s Books, and Indie Bound.   If you decide to buy Slow Arrow and you like it, please go back to these links and share what you feel. And watch this video book trailer by Cattywampus.


Starting the Journey to a Book

How did Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children happen?  A few years ago, I found a folder in my “cloud” named “On Beauty” under a larger folder named “Beacon.” Six years ago,  when my then eighty-five-year-old mother announced that she would be moving to Colorado to live out her last years with me, I had just decided to follow what our former poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey, had said about exploring history through its “gaps” and  set out to  discover what it meant to be a steward of a little high mountain meadow at 9600 feet Leonard and I had bought and built a cabin on,  and the land surrounding it that I  knew so little about.  

For a year, I wrote a monthly column for Beacon, a since defunct experiment in online journalism, using the land around our cabin near Victor and Cripple Creek as a microcosm for the larger world, both its beauties and the evidence of the environmental issues we face today. It was an exciting year writing those columns.  I often took my mother with me through this deceptively remote and arid landscape at the back of Pikes Peak to explore the gold mines, and the wreckage of drought-induced wildfires, and the sudden aspen decline and the fossil quarries where once the first butterfly fossil ever found was unearthed by a homesteader named Charlotte Hill. Each month, I was clueless on how the next column would come together and then I would find my way to an unexpected story, an unexpected fact, an image I couldn’t forget.

And then the journey of writing  for the book began.

Writing through the Collage

The essay, “Slow Arrow,” one of the title essays for the book, and the real start of the book, began as a collage — threads and snatches of prose I placed together on the blank page in hopes of puzzling together some momentary meaning.  Then the essay  unearthed itself from my husband’s Nietzsche books in the study, from the giant puffs of mushrooms I poked with a stick, and the unseen neighbors at that time in the little gulch below us staking out their territory, and from my born-again sister asking me the question that became seminal to the piece, “Why do you write of death?” But those threads only began to work when I remembered the bits of poetry lost in my journals and began to weave these lines of poetry through the essay. Then I discovered the form that allowed me not only reflection and experience, but to stumble  into one of my favorite “leaps” in my prose or poetry at the end of the essay: “Our breath,” I write my sister, “flies from us like small sparrows.”  

Slow Arrow proved to me, as creative nonfiction always does, the inseparability of poetry and prose. 

Creating the Braids

The writing of Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children, the book, was long and sometimes hard and sometimes beautiful.  After I finished writing the Beacon columns, I knew I had left placeholders in them for deeper, more personal journeys.  As I lead my mother in and out of this landscape, I found myself drawn into not just the history and science of these places but to their metaphorical connections to the emotional landscape and history of my family. The places I had visited, the facts I had learned, the beautiful images I had witnessed still felt resonant to me and filled with the possibility. So I set out to find the threads I needed to braid these “columns” into creative nonfiction essays.

Sometimes the journeys in my book begin with what a tree cutter claims to be a pronghorn caught in the shaky pixels of his girlfriend’s iPhone and lead me to the Path of the Pronghorns in Wyoming and to my Russian immigrant mother-in-law crossing the tundra when she was a young girl caught in the pogrom, and then to the “streamers”—butterflies and birds caught in the solar farm light of 300,000 mirrors that turn these travelers into puffs of smoke. Or I visit a fossil quarry where a ten-year old Ryan teaches me to skin shale with a butter knife to find the carbon imprints of a whole tapestry of vegetation, insect, and animal life that lived when ashes and lava flowed from an Eocene volcano  into a flowering lake long lost. And then I remember my father, lost to Alzheimer’s, his face pressed against the glass of the state psych unit.  Exploring the gaps of a place turned into the braiding together of these environmental issues I kept finding and what I felt were the sacred and profane intersections of family and personal history. The writing of Slow Arrow turned into a journey I never expected, of getting to know my mother  and to cherish her in this time of her life in ways I could never have imagined. 


The New Arrival– Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children