Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: Literature

ALONG WITH HIGH STYLE

Rouge on lips or toenails, the glimmer of gold jewelry or a gemstone, the glossy photograph or the slick magazine, the light in a drop of costly perfume, the shimmer in a particular weave or pattern of spectacular cloth, or the haute (hoity-toity) air of a trendy boutique: each reflects eternal desires and feminine intrigue. The interplay of status-seeking, gamesmanship, the swift-changing hunt, and the theater of fashion spreads out far from its urban epicenters – and crosses nations, languages, continents, and ages. How quickly a little girl insists on her own definitive style! The poet and poetry are not immune, either, infused with their own tastes and passions. Where a dictionary observes  gloss as “the luster or sheen of a polished surface,” there is also the danger of “a deceptive or superficial appearance” as well as “an effort to hide or attempt to hide (errors, defects, etc.).” Still, a gloss may also attempt to interpret or translate. The curve or the motion, the smile or the gaze, skin itself, or hair in sunlight or moonlight, each concealing while hinting of revelations. So often, awaiting next month’s editions.

These are the poems that conclude my newest collection, Foreign Exchange.

~*~

Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

COLONIAL LINES

Facing the street ...

Facing the street …

Novelist Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) was born in this 1774 house owned by her grandparents, which she would inherit from them. The site, sitting in the heart of South Berwick, Maine, just a few miles from us, is now owned by Historic New England and open to the public.

Like many New England houses, additions have kept growing to the original structure.

Like many New England houses, additions have kept growing to the original structure.

PRELUDE & FUGUE 29/

such a beautifully speckled trout
balancing on its head

*   *   *

n June
swirling
a long fish
a fish as long as the boy

a boy balancing a large fish on his head
in June swirling a long fish

a fish as long as the boy
a boy balancing a large fish on his head in June
swirling

a long fish as long as the boy
balancing a large fish on his head

red, yellow, blue, and green
under a decorative fish such a beautifully
speckled trout of a man running
back with quahogs and a tan Beyond Frog Hollow
tours halibut? red, yellow, blue, and green
man running tours under a decorative
fish back with quahogs and a tan
halibut? such a beautifully speckled trout
Beyond Frog Hollow red, yellow, blue, and green
a man running tours of halibut?
I really do need to get to know fish:
how to identify them under a decorative
beautifully speckled trout
red, yellow, blue, and green back with quahogs
and a tan Beyond Frog Hollow man runs
tours under decorative quahogs and a tan halibut or
such beautifully speckled trout Beyond Frog Hollow
I really do need to identify

~*~

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see all 50 Preludes & Fugues, click here.

LISTENING WITH HANDS AS WELL AS THE HEART

People typically listen with their heads, attentive to logic and thought, or with their hearts, to feeling and insinuation. But there’s also a frequently untapped ability to listen with one’s hands, as I recognized at a Susan Stark concert in Brunswick, Maine. There, two Quaker pastors from Kenya (themselves excellent, forceful singers) sat with arms flexed out before them, as if each held an invisible beach ball squeezed slowly. They were appraising the vibration of the room, the presence of Holy Spirit moving. This time, the current was plentiful and active. Try it, in public – at a governmental hearing, a poetry reading, a concert or play, a sporting event – and you, too, may observe how the sense of each occasion may differ. Watch a master carpenter or a first-rate baker, as well, to see how hands ponder a task, running ahead of mental comprehension. A musician often seems to hear music through the fingers, as if playing, even when no instrument is present. Perhaps a surgeon does the same with medicine.

The impression shapes the central section of Foreign Exchange, my newest collection of poems. Please feel them for yourself. These poems celebrate  movement perceived through a Third Ear, between the hands. The tactile response.

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

 

TURNING FROM OIL TO LIGHT

Many of my years as a newspaper editor included handling the business section. The daily markets tables included not just stock prices but other items, some with exotic titles. “Bright Sweet Crude,” for instance, is a grade of petroleum in the futures trading. Well, why not transform it to the renewable energies of the Animal Kingdom, as I have in a collection of poems by that name?

Foreign Exchange is another, based on the floating rates of currency transactions. This time, as my newest collection of poems, “foreign” can be anything we encounter outside of ourselves, and the “exchange” can be the experience of discovery.

Just wait till you see what I do with Composites Update, Rough Rice, or Chicago Eggs a year down the pike.

For now, consider a brief flash. Something that sparkles or shimmers. A half-seen motion, perhaps recollected later. Illumination. A beacon. A guide. A break in the night. Sometimes, this is something even the blind perceive. A word of truth. Prophecy or healing. A vision of eternal mysteries. A star or hint of coming dawn. And then, as James Nayler instructed: “And as thou followest the light out of the world, thou wilt come to see the seed, which to the world’s wisdom and glory is crucified” (Journal, 349). Everything is transformed and made new. Mind the Light.

And then touch it, a Foreign Exchange, indeed.

~*~

Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

PRELUDE & FUGUE 39/

a dingy moored on still water
dancing to Bix tonight
in front of the boulder and island

*   *   *

in front of the boulder and island
moored on still water
spires, houses, and the brick millyard
red between granite

a dingy in front of the boulder and island
moored on still water spires,
houses, and the brick millyard

red between granite
a dingy
in front of the boulder and island
moored on still water

spires, houses, and the brick millyard
red between granite
a dingy

dancing to Bix tonight in a blue lake
against mountains reflected foliage
along a green river moose drab
on a sandbar amid dancing to Bix
tonight foliage along a green river
in a blue lake against mountains moose
amid reflected sallow dancing tonight
foliage along a green river, Bix on a sandbar
looking down from the hill in blue
lake against mountains dancing
to Bix tonight moose dun foliage along
a green river sandbar in blue mountains
against moose reflections looking down the hill

~*~

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see all 50 Preludes & Fugues, click here.

BEWARE OF THE PROSPECTOR’S STAKE

Belying its penchant for right-wing political rhetoric, the American Far West subsists largely on federal government services and facilities. Many of these necessitate large tracts – spaces reserved for logging, prospecting, and mining; hunting and trapping; open livestock grazing; the collection, storage, and distribution of water for agricultural irrigation and for varied metropolitan usage; hydroelectric production; military field operations; Native American enclaves; recreation and tourism. A largely unpopulated Interstate highway system links far distances, again with federal subsidy.

The innate tension between collective action and freewheeling – even reckless – impulsiveness animates this collection. Just as spectacular panoramas more than intricate particulars dominate a Far West vision in my poems, contemporary actions are cast against a vaster background of ancient understanding. An uneasy interplay permits the game herds to thrive within modern society while also celebrating timeless hunting rituals and practices. Traditional Native American and science-based thought systems stand in sharp contrast as they probe conflicts of sexuality, family, and age. Patronizing bureaucratic language addresses urban side-effects arising as visitors swarm over public lands. Like trendy restaurants, national parks post “Reservations Required” notices. Even so, as other pieces attest, a resourceful person can still hazard boundless mountains, rivers and lakes, free range, and clouds looming in solitude and release. Just watch out for the prospector’s stake. He’s likely to shoot before asking questions.

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE ‘ANIMAL’?

The attraction to powerful animals is universal, a response to the mystery of who we are, as humans, as well. To perceive and honor their presence – in the wild, especially – places us within an ecological harmony and health.

But what characteristics essentially define animal life, as distinct from plants? The reliance on oxygen, rather than carbon dioxide, for one, and self-locomotion, for another. At our core existence, each of us may proclaim: “I breathe; therefore, I am.” Thought and emotion come only later. To inhale, moreover, sparks an associative leap – from air to spirit, with its dimensions of inspiration, literally, “breathing in.” Or God, breathing into the muddy nostrils of the first human in Eden.

In general, the animals in these poems move through places where I’ve lived or visited repeatedly – sometimes surfacing through Native stories, sometimes as chance encounters, sometimes by evidence they’ve left behind. (Once, while handling what I thought was a large, striated rock on a friend’s fireplace mantel, I was told it was a mastodon tooth he’d found on a mountain many years earlier.) Who will regard these creatures intently and not marvel at their distinct intelligence and grace? (Let me confess some others, not included here, defy any admiration I can muster; who has heard wondrous tales of garden slugs, for instance?)

Bears and whales – giants of the forest and ocean – appear early in this sequence, along with the sense of awe they instill. In her book, Fishcamp: Life on an Alaskan Shore, Nancy Lord argues, based on her own neighbors, “The bear is like us yet is not us. Perhaps the bear is our connection back to something lost and still treasured, another way of knowing. The bear is nature and culture, together.” The whale, on the other hand, reminds us of deep mysteries we may never penetrate and places we cannot venture unassisted.

We cross over from a commonplace understanding of animal – “pertaining to the physical rather than the spiritual nature of man; carnal; sensual; animal appetites” – and move instead into meetings in which the other creatures sometimes enlighten humans. Here, then, nature fits both the heart and fundamental qualities of each sentient mobile organism. Observe their movement closely, and periods of play and even unrestrained exuberance, as well as caring, become evident. The word nature itself arises in the concept of “giving birth” or “being born,” and easily extends to the working of natural law as well.

We will recognize that animal nature is always complex, and always holds more to discover – around and within us.

~*~

Bright Sweet Crude

Bright Sweet Crude

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

HOT TUB ORACLE

I never intended to live there as long as I did, in the rented townhouse in what I sometimes called Yuppieville on the Mountain. But it must have suited me during that decade of waiting and searching, my anticipating true love and a long-desired relocation into permanence. Besides, it was convenient to the office. Admittedly, I enjoyed using the whirlpool in the clubhouse, soaking in the hot water while watching snowflakes drift down on the other side of the display windows; besides, at that time, the complex was still surrounded by woodlands. Lest it sound too idyllic, let me also acknowledge the dumpster parked beside my unit was frequently overflowing.

The poems in the resulting collection arise in that experience of transient proximity, which has become so much a part of the American landscape. The poems themselves are a kind of side street from other works I was drafting and revising during this time. Still, they make me examine what was right in front of me, all the same.

The series closes my collection, Rust and the Wound. To read the free ebook, click here.

WITH CREATURELY COMFORT, TOO

Universally, people look to the larger animals – in some cases, not just as a food source but with recognition of greatness as well. Even the names of professional sports franchises reflect this reality. I believe the myths and tales of ancient peoples arise in this other way of knowing and soon lead us into an awareness of the abundant activity found in any healthy environment. In these poems are flashes from Amerindian, Biblical, and Buddhist voices – and hints that reach beyond my own observations in the American Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Eastern Seaboard, to touch Africa and Asia as well. Soon, even the smallest creatures we can see have a story, as do imaginary monsters, with their fabrication from living animals.

Sometimes we are affirmed and comforted by other creatures; at other times, vexed, as happens with household invaders. Some remind us of liberty and potential. Others produce essential food, hides, fabric, and more. Because each species requires specific and unique qualities for its environment, there’s no escaping an awareness of place, either. Particularities of water, air currents, soil and rock come into play, as do plants and fellow species.

In this alternative way of knowing, the dialogue turns from being simply about animals to our own interaction in their universe. Obviously, we have much to discover there, about ourselves as well as about them.

The brute – even the bestial human – may ultimately learn table manners that allow sharing in the feast of life.

Join in the circle of Bright Sweet Crude, my newest collection of poems.

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.