Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah 2020. I am not Jewish, but am appreciating a little surprise gift all the same – a layout draft of my poetry book, Old Stones Understand, with some graphics and the fonts chosen by my editor at Shanti Arts Publishing! As many times as I’ve read, revised, and viewed these poems, the experience brings a freshness that I wasn’t expecting. That surprise was invigorating.
Yesterday, my mother reminded me of a poem I’d written that is in the collection, which should be out in Spring 2021. Back when I wrote it, she tucked a copy of it in a card for her friend, Marlene, who lives in her building and celebrates Hanukkah. I hadn’t known that she did that, and thought it was a sweet reminder that we never really know how far, or where, our words can reach. I thought sharing it here would be a nice gift for those of you celebrating. Enjoy!
One vial of oil
If one vial of oil can last for eight nights, endure and light and fill hearts for seven extra days of hope – well then, how long can one shred of patience last?
How little space is needed on a ledge, for one toe to grip, to hold the rest of me safe until I can gather strength to push off to the next ledge, and the next and the next?
What if the match that I am, nearly burned down, charred, curled, almost no light left, what if at the last possible second I brush against one dry twig that smolders, flickers and then bursts into the biggest warmest grandest blaze of all?
One injured goose left behind at Third Dam no flock mates in sight she swam through the gloam right wing splayed, not tucked in, head down as a plane flew over and I said a prayer that she recover soon fly off, find a new flock, or become a lucky break for a young coyote learning to hunt, wishing either outcome swift. November’s night shadows lengthen November’s days grow shorter on mercy reserving grace for those professing gratitude – instead I offered a bargain. Some of my blessings for an end to her suffering. A slender aspen quaked reproach “You know that’s not how it works.” And I grumbled back, “I’m just a human. The only thing clear this year is that we know nothing.” And to this, two hemlocks creaked their approval.
A couple of weeks ago, my brain started trading in small poems again. Much like the ones from the start of the pandemic, they are a mix of daily events, moments and thoughts, bouncing from the horror of our days to the comfort in them. I’ll admit they are a nice distraction.
That strange looking tool? That’s called a seam splitter. It does what you would expect.
Hand me that skirt. Thanks. See? Here is a seam. I asked for this skirt because the fabric is still pretty, even though it is worn on that side. This side is still beautiful. Still useful. This is the hope of fabric.
You will be tempted to just grab on and rip. It is fast. It feels good. To tear is to feel quick power. And if all you want is strips for a rag rug, or to tie up tomato plants, that’s fine.
But – you probably know this already – tearing is not usually deliberate. More often it’s driven by pent up energy. Impulse needing release. Need can be blind, like rage. The outcome – a rag rug or whatnot – may not even be a thought in the straining or pulling. Most rips are unintended.
So, hand me that seam-splitter. Thanks. It satisfies in a different way. It’s methodical. When I work it along the seam like this, I can already imagine the potential I am creating. I might be planning a quilt. Or curtains. Or even another skirt with a pattern that I met in a dream last night, these very colors winking at me with purpose and knowing.
With luck, my hands might even contribute to what Dr. King referred to as our “single garment of destiny.”
We take things apart at the seams when we need to start over. When the material we have is still valued, still loved, but just does not fit any more.
You know already that I’m going to say that life is like this too, don’t you?
You have what you need. Consider it in a new way. Move forward with purpose and honor.
In late March, when New York State went into our “Pause” phase in the early days of COVID-19, I began writing and sharing one small poem each day. It lasted as long as my observations brought inspiration, through the end of April. Some are haiku, there were a couple tanka – some were just very short poems. All were based on snapshot impressions of the day in front of me.
That time of spring in upstate NY is notable for nearly-daily differences and changes in the world. I couldn’t get over the sense that nature – the weather, the plants, the birds – were just going on with their natural lives without interruption, and how that juxtaposed so sharply with the bewilderment and shock that the sudden change brought to our human existence. This picture highlights a few of them that speak to resilience.
For years, I put off having a blog for only my writing. In 2017, I started and co-edited NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology, but that has always been meant as a cooperative effort, for sharing of others’ work and ideas more than just my own. I’ve shared my own writing here and there, on Facebook, Instagram (when small enough and paired with nice graphics) and through readings, but have resisted a blog site, until now.
So here it is. There will be poems on another page, or in blog entries, soon. And announcements about my upcoming release, “Old Stones Understand,” from Shanti Arts Publishing! Because, let’s be honest. Necessity is the mother of invention, and having a book to share has made a web page finally feel necessary.
So stay tuned and send me a note if you like. And thanks for visiting.