I am thinking of the hand I found in Indiana, epicenter of this naturalist soul-to-be. I was ten, younger, when I found the hand, laid it to rest in what I called the “dead box” we found in an ancient trunk in the loft of that massive red barn on the hillside where I watched cattle slain and ponies bred.
I was walking the fence line. It was summer. Dry weeds crumpled to dust along the foot and cow paths. And then I saw it. The hand on the ground. A perfect bone of a hand. A fairy hand.
Fifty-one years I have kept the dead box and the hand and everything else I have found. Years and years, in writing workshops, I have handed out each object to a stranger, never wondering why I trusted these beautiful things from the world past with people I did not know. But always there is this giving back and forth — those who share my awe silent over the changed deserts of their linoleum desks. I am always astounded how poetry starts anywhere and takes you everywhere.
Bird’s nest so perfect so round woven of mane and tail hair from my childhood ponies. Owl pellet and yellow mouse teeth and white bird claw and, oh, the mollusk shell open-mouthed where a petrified snail curled inside. And all the pale shells of blue and speckled dust I’ve lost and that Indiana flint with yellow crystal I found near the creek I barely remember now except a bulldozer tore that day its red dirt. And here the chrysalis from my father’s pond attached to a twig since I was the girl I will never be again– what I swing and tremble until it lives.
Poet Patricia Dubrava, in her blog, Holding the Light, posted a wonderful poem and poetry prompt and that’s what got me going! Hearing the Canadas.
My poetry chapbook, Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic, will be published this spring by Finishing Line press. Just received the contract. More as I know it.
I just learned this week that my one and only chapbook, Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems from a Pandemic, will be published by Finishing Line Press as a semi-finalist for its Open Chapbook Competition 2020.
I wrote Flying Beneath the Dog Star in the first spring of our pandemic during National Poetry Month, using many of the poetry prompts offered by NaPoWriMo (napowrimo.net). These poems, written on the front porch of my cabin, are my journey through this strange and unknown world we are still living in. Who knew when I sought solace at 9600 ft amidst the birds in my little spot above the Arkansas Valley, grieving over the deaths of eighteen hundred, that almost a year later we would have buried almost a half million in this country alone, including my mother, my aunt, and my uncle?
Finishing Line Press received 402 entries and will publish the 14 poets who make up the list winner, shortlist finalists, and semifinalists. Congratulations to the fine poet, Maura Stanton, who won the competition for her chapbook, Interiors, and to all the other first rate women poets I will share this new journey with. And thank you to my sister, who was my inspiration for writing these poems that I hoped she would love, too.
I will share this publication journey as it continues to unfold. You can find the (almost) title poem of my chapbook at Kingsview & Co, published by the lovely Michael A. King, editor: To the Three Ducks Flying Beneath the Dog Star. Other poems in the chapbook (and a few of my bird photos) will appear shortly in the Raw Earth Ink poetry and art collection, Creation and the Cosmos: A Poetic Anthology Inspired by Nature.
Each winter until, finally,
barely spring, the black
angus cows returned
to graze the fields we rented
to our neighbor, to drift through our high
mountain meadows past glory
holes and the half-buried
barbed wire a homesteader
nailed a hundred years
ago to the trees. All month,
I have missed them, though
perhaps in the springs past
that we’ve had of days and days
of solitary jays and the tiny
mouse skulls that I pocket
to hold tenderly in my hand
and show you, this day is still
only the day before the day
of their coming, the day before
they will once again wander
up ancient paths, their hooves
chipping at the old cow pies
that our dogs, ash now, rolled in.
This spring, I think, far
into mid- summer, I will wish
for them, for their calves sleeping
midday in old winter
grass, tucked so quietly in
as if they were a dark blossoming
before the evening’s dream:
the earth returning everything
to us now, perhaps musky
and heavy with its clustered yarrow
and its blue harebells of grief,
One of the surprises, soul-saving surprises, of this pandemic has been the creativity and generosity of care shown by so many, including the artists and writers of this world. The Gatherings Project is the brainstorm of artist Lynda Lowe: 56 boxes painted by professional artists and then sent out into the world to see what gifts they would gather. The boxes have now been sold and the profits donated to arts funding organization/s with well-established relief funds for creatives. Here’s the story of one box.
A few weeks ago at the Arvada Center, my friend Trine Bumiller handed me a cardboard shipping box tucked into a ragged shopping bag. Inside that box was a beautiful gold-painted wooden box with an orchid (erotic, as Trine described it) by the painter Fred Lisaius
And inside that golden box was Trine’s delicate rendering of a pine tree, inspired, I think, by her current gallery exhibit in Alaska, In Memoriam
And a poem by the poet Todd Davis about his mother in a memory care unit.
And I could add anything I wanted to continue this cycle of receiving and giving during this isolation of a pandemic. And so I did from the poems and photos I’ve been taking during this pandemic. Here, the swallows I watch along the old gravel pits by the South Platte River.
There’s something truly beautiful about artist and writers collaborating to bring some solace and support in a time of sadness for so many. See all the Gatherings beautiful boxes. And go to the Arvada Center to see the inspiring Pink Progressions: Collaborations exhibit of paintings, poetry, sculpture, installations, videos, and performance celebrating the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th amendment.
Thank you to Veronica Patterson, Loveland’s first poet Laureate, for sharing my two poems, “To Three Ducks Flying Beneath the Dog Star” and “Waking After Eighteen Hundred Dead,” as part of April’s National Poetry Month, on her Loveland Poet Laureate facebook site.
TODAYS POET ♦
Today’s National Poetry Month poet who read in Loveland as part of the Poets in the Park series is Kathryn Winograd. The poems presented are *TO THE THREE DUCKS FLYING BENEATH THE DOG STAR* and *WAKING AFTER EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DIE.* Of the latter, Kathryn writes, “This poem I wrote after the rising of the pink moon and one of our terrible nights of so many dead.”
TO THE THREE DUCKS FLYING BENEATH THE DOG STAR
So little you know, wild-winged and unshaken beneath a dog star, half-grazing the pines, the bare winter aspen I stand in the dark wash of waiting for the tip of a yellow moon. In Ohio, girlhood, these April stars circled a pond bull-dozed by my father, a raft of cattail where the red-wings spun their nests above the scrim of caught water. Tonight, in this near dark, so close my hand could circle it, Sirius hovers above the red factory lights of Pueblo and the Sangre de Cristo blue-washed in this hour. I am cold in this wind, in this spine of the Milky way, these blue white stars named for a bear or a lyre or a woman weeping her dead into a river. I think I was still half-sleeping in a field of grass, in a haze of stars, in a far and nameless country you care nothing about, burying and unburying those I love. Such quiet, the mining trucks to the north stalled and the little generator of a shed where no one lives in winter shut down. And then, your wings, almost, against the moon. Why am I always alone, searching for something beautiful?
WAKING AFTER EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DIE
Prayer began early before the sterling jays dove, then clattered at our window, flicked the blue dark storm of their tails. Our pale trees bow down secretly and a nuthatch teeters upside down from the post of the birdfeeder I buried with stones another spring, his thin straight beak tapping at the seed I leave out all night. My breath, how lightly it floats in this chill spring like a delicate frost of air I can walk through. I take the wood axe from our tool shed to split the old wood we felled and stacked years past. Last night I stood alone in the deepening dusk, in the silence, as if I could rename each splinter of star I did not know. And then the pink moon soft as the fingertips of the dead slid over the mountain and I lit fires beneath a moon of far blossoms. How long ago it seems, springs when we could just count the catkin on the budding aspen and step so carefully through the winter grass so as not to crush the white globes of the wind flowers lifting themselves from the cold earth.
~ Published in Colorado, Write On/The Colorado Sun
PROMPT: In her poem “Waking After Eighteen Hundred Die,” the poet does not write directly about this time of the corona virus. And yet the details and images of the poem embody it. Try writing about what you observe in the world now and letting the poem’s title, which the reader will return to, be an anchor.
Kathryn’s new book of essays, *Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children,* has recently been released. Here is a trailer for her new book: https://www.youtube.com/watch…
The Colorado Sun is asking all of you, anyone with the capacity and the willingness to commit your thoughts to print, to share your observations of the many aspects of this remarkable period. We’ll publish select pieces periodically — an ongoing time capsule of sorts — as we confront the challenges ahead of us.
I am learning the solitude of black tea citrus rinds and licorice roots, rosy finch, nuthatch and house wren quibbling at the copper feeder I hung just a day ago before the late frost air drifted through. I am learning the solitude of black tea citrus rinds and licorice roots, so I dry dishes at the sink, forget the days’ count since the last pink moon. The wood stove burns and unquiet sparrows gather in the gathering snow. I am learning the solitude of black tea citrus rinds and licorice roots, rosy finch, nuthatch, and house wren quibbling at the copper feeder I hung just a day ago.
I watch the squirrels plumped with our sunflower seeds for more than a quarter century in the cherry tree and its blossoms I planted to block the neighbor’s view. Even the dogs doze through the squirrels tracking our old fence tops and the boughs of a fifty-year-old pine tree I didn’t plant that each year keeps stretching through repeated air . Three squirrels dangle this morning from the crooked cherry tree I pruned wrong too many years ago to right or maybe underfed or maybe rooted too deep in manure-burn. Sometimes I want to take the pencil stub I write the grocery list with from the kitchen drawer and crosshatch the backs of bills and returned envelopes into something I’ll never see:
cherry blossoms floating down strange rivers, pink dawns when I cannot sleep for counting the dead and birds, swallows I think, tipped by expressive lines, by a haze of moon, by white volcanoes delicate and touching.