Category Archives: Poetry

TALKING WITH CROWS

By Nyssa Shaw-Smith Gendelman

By Nyssa Shaw-Smith Gendelman

I love it when the crows talk to me:

They know the comings and goings along the road,
why the blue jays are shrieking
and the sparrows have grown quiet in the bush.

Crows tell of the hawk’s shadow skimming the treetops
the silent owl on the hunt,
the bat looping the lawn.

They know the house wren’s hysterics
mean the house cat is slinking
through the grass, they know

there’s a bear feasting in the black cherry,
a dead snake on the road
and the turkey vultures are circling.

Crows—all eyes and ears and voice,
And they know that I am good
for old crusts of bread and gossip.

THORN

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Amazing how the tiniest thorn
can distract you–
that pulse point of pain
on the index finger
a sharp reminder
each time you pick up the pen,
the spoon, the book
of the briefest encounter
with a wineberry bush,
your hand snaking
into the undergrowth
to pluck the plumb berry.
And now you’ve dug
into the pad of your finger
with an old pin,
exposing the culprit
and teasing it out of the flesh.
You marvel how
such a sliver could cause
such aggravation,
till it lies
ridiculously insignificant
on the palm of your hand.

COMMUNION

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The orb of light crests the ridge,
I stand facing her at the high point of the meadow,
my back to the full sinking moon,
and my heart leaps as always.

Planting the souls of my feet on damp earth
I stretch up, drawing in that healing energy,
letting go of the knotted muscles, the clenched jaw,
calming my agitated heart and restless head.

The amphitheater fills with birdsong,
setting the tone for my morning spiritual.
Feathery grasses burnished with dew
echo the colors of the sun’s rays.

I breathe cool air full of green and swaying life.
A flock of cedar waxwings flit across the blue dome,
A rufous-sided towhee shrills a benediction.
I listen and bask and absorb and hum with the earth.

My body sways, finding its center
acknowledge the power within
and fueling it with the sacred moment:
this is my choir, my cathedral, my communion.

I pick a small posy of wildflowers.
The scent of dried yarrow and lady’s bedstraw
will be the memory incense
to conjure up this temple moment.

TO UNDO A SPELL

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Crow, why did you have to strut across the road, swaggering your tail feathers at me, one beady eye twitching?

I only meant to ruffle your skirts, take some of the smug off your bold face—call your bluff

but I was impatient, eager to get home, and didn’t see the scree of gravel on the road

for a blustering fellow, you made such a small thump and crunch under the wheels of the car

I winced, smiled reassuringly at the child in the rear view mirror, his face turned out the window looking for damage

inside, the sinking feeling, the consequence of misplaced emotions embedding in my gut

ever since that moment the bone china jumps out of my hands, slippery as wet soap, and spangles the kitchen floor with a cymbal of sound

milkjugs of seafoam green and eggcups by the dozen—tiny smithereens the lot of them

I want to blame you crow for putting the evil eye on me, make you carry the burden of my guilt

but how ridiculous is that. This morning it was the teapot—my grandmother’s—and I vowed it was the last shard

to unwind a spell you must pick at the knots, teasing with your fingers, like unraveling an old sweater

each knot an undoing, paying back the threads, unlearning you crow and asking forgiveness.

PALACE OF THE BOYNE – Brú na Bóinne

Dawn watchers exhale
steamy breath as lick
of sunlight passes
through a small opening
creeps down
a stone passage on
winter’s equinox bathes
in solstice light
the tomb that echoes
with faith and ritual

Five thousand years
the stones have held
the secrets of unknown
builders to capture
the wild stallion of the sun
unfettered marker of
the season when
to draw forth the plow
when to sow and reap
and how to hope

Homage paid with
stone hammer flint
picking swirling impressions into
rock tributes placed
offerings of bead and bone
in crevices carved
granite basins to hold
charred remains of
those that had the gift to see
the future bring prosperity

To connect living to dead
life to death light to darkness
sacrifice frost on
early morning grass shivering
attendants brown cow bellowing
in acknowledgement of
steam rising off hot blood in
cold winter sun to heat
the earth and draw
the soul of a new year forward.

"Newgrange Eingang Stein" by I, Clemensfranz. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg#/media/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg

“Newgrange Eingang Stein” by I, Clemensfranz. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg#/media/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg

 

 

MOVING TOWARD STRANGENESS

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The first time she ate snow
She was forty-nine
Burrs in her heavy dark hair
Dusty as a horse’s hide
But beautiful

She strode out onto the plain
Crushing rock and exoskeletons
Beneath her boots
Her sights set firmly
On the lights in the northern sky

Her wild child curled within her bone cage
—a glowing coal—
Sleeping carelessly
Ready to spring up from the purple cushion
And sway to the beat

She relished the roll
Of whiskey on her tongue
That strut—blowing dust off her pool cue
To the jukebox
Thumbing through a lifetime of songs

When snow blotted out her vision
She ate her way through the blizzard
One faceted flake at a time
Drawing sustenance
For the journey

She picked her way along the seashore
Weighing her pockets with
Salt-encrusted stones
Footprints erased by the galloping tide
She knew the way home

Pressed her fingers to the glass
Feeling the sharpness of cold rain
The wind called at each corner
Of that solitary house
Wearing them smooth

The sweet curve of the bay
Cradled her gaze
Buoying up the storm clouds
And those sunsets to die for
Strut and retreat.

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THE SOUND OF STONE

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The man stands pondering
His next move

Turning the dull clunker
Over and over in his hands

Feeling for the bone of it
The marrow at its core

Over and over in his hands
He turns the stone

Listening for the dry chalky sound
Of rough against rough

He holds an eon of coiled energy
Latent In his hands, over and over

His feet draw up
The potent heat of the day from the rocks

Words form in his mouth—
Manipulation, transformation, reverence

Small pebbles of evidence
Are sculpted by his hands, over and over.
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Recently I had the privilege of watching Scott Woolsey, an artist who lives in New York’s Catskill region,  build a stone cairn on the banks of the Neversink River.

Tuesday, April 21st, 1.45 pm

DSCF3115Color has thrust itself on the landscape
In quick short jabs—hyacinth blue, daffodil yellow, robin red
If I had a net I could reel in the clouds like a flock of white doves
The mantra begins—mint oregano raspberry sage

Sitting amongst dandelions
I dream of wine, mellow and ripe
The sweetness of honey on my tongue
And an orange tree grown from seed.

I feel the upward thrust through the soles of my feet
First rhubarb nubbins pushing out of the dirt
First purple violets in the lawn
First handsome dandelion by the garden door.

The old cat knows it
She’s been prancing up the black walnut like a skittish kitten
Squirming luxuriously in the new grass
Rubbing her chin against some smell that I can’t even get a whiff of.

The calm air is painted with birdsong
Sun dries the ink on the page
The tug of war between Sun and Moon
Pulls the slow earth from winter to spring.

 

SPRING BREEZE

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A wind came in the window.
Like a small feral creature,
It took a turn around the room,
Tossing birthday cards upon the floor,
Chasing stale air out of corners,
Whisking dust bunnies off the stairs.
In its wake it left an invisible trail
Of greenery and fresh earth,
Buffeting me from my lethargy.
How could I not step outside and join
Such a boisterous playmate?