Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: New England

TWAS EVER THUS

Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.

~*~

  1. The anticipation mounts when we espy our first asparagus shoots. At this point they express their kindred alignment with ferns, but we know how incredible the spears will be cut minutes before cooking. Forget what you buy in the stores or restaurants.
  2. “Twas ever thus,” as my Mr. Natural tee-shirt still proclaims.
  3. With a sticker covering part of the box, what I read was “Rock Pot, the Original Slow Cooker.” You know, like back in the Stone Age.
  4. It wasn’t in the plan when we decided to dine in Manchester, but I wound up leading a tour through the city’s West Side, plus the millyard and overlook of the Amoskeag falls and dam. “That was as satisfying as having a destination,” she proclaimed.
  5. Pondering the Holy Spirit as Shekinah. Why not a female as holy lover? The Kabbalist perceiving sparks (holy Light) everywhere! Consort of God as feminine action. As for Lillith? Ah, yes, what of her?
  6. Trying to translate from one era or culture to another presents a host of challenges. The term “kingdom of God,” for instance, can convey both patriarchy and monarchy at odds with contemporary American outlooks. I like the “commonwealth of God” instead, though there’s nothing common about it.
  7. How I’ve come to enjoy any stay-in-my-sweats day, one where I drive nowhere. Soon it may turn into slip into shorts and sandals, but the effect’s the same.
  8. How does that big city newspaper get the partygoers to look so good in its weekly charity events page?
  9. I hate “small talk” – or at least struggle with it in many social settings. Any suggestions?
  10. What do I crave? Lust for? (As for you?)

~*~

Virtually all of the rail traffic to and from Maine and the rest of the nation passes along these tracks in downtown Dover, along with the four Amrak runs to Boston and back each day.

Virtually all of the rail traffic to and from Maine and the rest of the nation passes along these tracks in downtown Dover, along with the four Amrak runs to Boston and back each day.

For my slideshow of Amtrak’s Downeaster in town, click here.

POWERING MANUFACTURING

At the Slater Mill ...

At the Slater Mill …

The modest Blackstone River flows through Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where it powered the birth of America’s industrial revolution.

The stream reaches to Worcester, Massachusetts, the second-largest city in New England, and once ran many factories along its way.

My fondness for old mills, by the way, did prompt a novel, Big Inca.

Just upstream ...

Just upstream …

 

Viewed from inside the Slater Mill ...

Viewed from inside the Slater Mill …

 

WITH AND WITHOUT OUR MASKS

Behind the masks of public life – our occupations, religious affiliations, social status, economic positions, family connections, educational accomplishments, and so on – each of us engages in another struggle, an attempt to find inner balance and direction for our own life. As we do so, we soon face a plethora of interior and exterior forces that must be reconciled. We get glimmers into this struggle – both within ourselves and within others – in statements that begin “I am” and “I am not,” as well as “I have been,” which recognizes the history and habits we accumulate and carry with us. There are also the voices – “he remembers” or “she insists” – that also recur in our lives, defining and redefining ourselves both within, as conscience or the angel or devil on our shoulders, and without, as any of a host of authority figures and friends or family members.

~*~

Village of Gargoyles

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

TAURUS, TENDERLY

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. Daffodils and rising scrolls of ferns are two of my favorite proclamations of spring. Last year a sharp drop in temperature cut the daffodils down just as they were starting to bloom. We were so disappointed. (The same snap also wiped out peaches across New England.) How quickly, too, can a vibrant patch go scraggly if you don’t divide the bulbs every few years. As for our ferns, I now feel vindicated for all the ones I transplanted in futile efforts that first decade before they took hold here.
  2. Likewise, hold true to a vision of progress, of a more just and loving society, a realm of selflessness over selfishness.
  3. Hard for me to believe I composed Village of Gargoyles while living in an apartment complex atop the highest hill in the biggest city in the state – before moving to the smaller city where I now reside – a place more befitting the village of these poems.
  4. Need to get new Tibetan prayer flags. The old ones are totally frayed.
  5. Has anyone else read Ned Rorem’s Paris Diary or its New York sequel? Saturated in the self-centeredness and self-indulgence of youth, they’re deliciously juicy and fun reading, though I could never be snide like that. Besides, if I did it here at the Barn, you wouldn’t know anyone in my circles. They’re not even celebrities, even of the minor sort. So much for the gossip on my end.
  6. While assembling the hammock, I heard a squirrel overhead scolding one of the neighborhood cats, likely the one we call Spooky. “Get it,” I urged the cat. Whereupon an empty Nutella jar landed on the table, barely missing me, its lid neatly chewed around. Something the squirrel had pilfered from what one of the kids had likely hidden in the barn sometime over the winter. I looked around but saw nobody to confirm was had just transpired. Trust me.
  7. My emotional wall just may be a shell, too.
  8. In my first moves, all my goods fit in my car.
  9. During the American Revolution, the village center that served as Rhode Island’s capital changed its name from King’s Town to Little Rest, with its delicious double meaning.
  10. Yearning for a renewed feeling of bliss – the holy ecstasy – something I wish she, too, would experience, however foreign it might seem now.

~*~

By my side at the moment. My coffee mug's on a shelf above it.

By my side at the moment. My coffee mug’s on a shelf above it.

TAKING HOLD, AS A VENTURE

I’m not that young, even to be this foolish
and this time, a month of rainfall starts
with fireworks, of course, viewed from our second-floor deck
before consulting a plumber about a bathroom
and heating for the barn
or a boiler replacement in our cellar, connecting
natural-gas appliances and restoring the downstairs toilet
and shower to use in a house

before drafting radical views of both the Garden of Eden
and Gethsemane and then the doctrine of Inward Light
alas, by year’s end, both would flower to book length
or, should I say, all? this time around, getting serious
as connecting the dots in a seedbed

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
For more,
click here.

ROLLING WITH WHALES

on the way out, a fifty-year-old shrimper from Louisiana –
originally from Gloucester, where he’s visiting his sister –
tells of the Gulf’s particular brutality

how crews typically go out twelve days
till the hull is full . his boat with three Rolls-Royce
engines so loud harborside residents complained
he hesitated to open full throttle
unless the water’s churning was especially rough

rocking at the jetty-mouth sandbar
like Canobie Lake’s pirate ship ride
three delighted school groups shriek

when we top twenty-one knots – his boat, twenty-three
yet his went down / couldn’t salvage any gear
lost two crewmen with him five years
he himself now limps
wounded in the knee by a barracuda,
and it’s not healing right . he hobbles along
with a cane, wondering if it’s time to quit
the shrimping in his blood
run an excursion boat instead

“and you, sir?”

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set of seacoast poems,
click here.

SPIRE OF INSPIRATION

Old North Church, in Boston's North End.

Old North Church, in Boston’s North End.

Lanterns in the spire of North Church signaled directions to Paul Revere and other riders at the outbreak of the American Revolution. The race to Lexington and Concord was on.

Boston is a rich and varied destination – the Hub of New England, or the Universe, as they used to say. Living a little more than an hour to the north, we’re well within its orb.

 

ALONG WITH A BREAKTHROUGH, FREE TO PLAY AND TINKER

Somewhere in writing poetry I turned to the concept of “working in series.” Quite simply, this meant investigating a subject repeatedly, often in a similar form. The process allowed multiple takes from different angles and in different lighting, as it were. In music, it could be seen as a theme and variations.

As I recall, the practice for me originated with Braided Double-Cross, itself inspired by The Sonnets by Ted Berrigan, and quickly led to Blue Rock and Long Stemmed Roses in a Shattered Mirror, each with its unique structure and inspiration. (Anne Waldman, for the former; Diane Wakoski, the latter.)

Village of Gargoyles is the latest, often with a specific structure for each of the 10 sections. Some forms run longer than others, which introduces variety. And within each, I’m free to play and tinker.

Admittedly, the 200 poems of my Village fall short of John Berryman’s colossal Dream Songs, but it’s still a prolific output.

~*~

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

 

STANDING BESIDE THE PROUD MERRIMACK

The clock tower of the Ayer Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, overlooks the Merrimack River on the other side of the wing to the left. It's an impressive sight.

The clock tower of the Ayer Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, overlooks the Merrimack River on the other side of the wing to the left. It’s an impressive sight.

While water-powered mills sprang up all across New England, thanks to its abundance of falling waters, the riverbanks of some locations became jammed with factories that employed thousands. The Merrimack River, for instance, had major industrial clusters at Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire, and Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, all relying on the use and reuse of the same water carefully shepherded downstream.

Many of those landmark buildings have been lost over time – fire, neglect, and urban renewal have taken their toll – but those that remain can be truly impressive, especially now that they’re being repurposed and renovated into charming, flexible centers of entrepreneurial innovation and center-city living.

Lawrence, with what was once the biggest dam in the world, is a prime example.

Hard as it is to imagine, this group of mills was once dwarfed by those on the other side of the Merrimack River as it rolled through Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Hard as it is to imagine, this group of mills was once dwarfed by those on the other side of the Merrimack River as it rolled through Lawrence, Massachusetts.

YANKEE

1

don’t presume the ocean is smiling
or the gulls enchant
the spire warns you

especially in New England

to step
back from the wreckage
or unexpected nor’easter

2

gales and furies
sweep up and disappear within hours
behind placid indifference

raise public duty

expense and craftsmanship
defining coastline
signatures, on the dotted line
in the clearest conditions

3

pointer / referent / rhythm of light / solitude or
loneliness / romantic illusion / high-maintenance history
lightening bolt / flicker / flare / discharge
beer can or wine bottle uncorking or blowing its cork
tourist magnet / spike / whistle, horn, upturned bell
observatory / night madness / memorial / first end of the sea
fist of defiance / ordered rock on rocks / spiral staircase to sky
to the horizon / a hollow tube / a composition of lenses
slivers of glass / slivers of crystal / a glass circle carousel
a hermitage / pigeon roost / billboard / thumbtack
anchored ship’s bridge / silver cup tilting / upraised finger

4

Boon Island, flashing white every five seconds
projects nineteen miles out to sea

Goat, faintly to the north

to the south
White Island, out in the Shoals

and Whaleback, would be double white flashes every ten seconds
just over the trees

way off, Thacher Island Twin Lights
(aka Cape Ann Lights or Rockport, Mass.)
project seventeen, but viewed from up on rock

at Nubble, some extra distance
on a rare night

of calm
antiquity

joining the squat red beam
and strobe flash
each one
proclaiming liberty
over any face of oppression

the tyrant sea offers

Poem copyright 2016 by Jnana Hodson
To see the full set of seacoast poems,
click here.