In time for Chinese New Year

Holding cup atop a crate of books.

In past years, we’ve had Chinese college students stay with us during their term breaks. They were in Dover and nearby communities to work volunteer internships, usually a month long, and the New Hampshire Children’s Museum was a popular choice.

They would often bring a gift, typically fine green tea, but this one initially perplexed me until it was pointed out that it’s a holding cup for things like pens and pencils and is inscribed with four popular poems.

Cynthia later transcribed them, with translations in English.

She had no idea I am a poet, or that her gift would be so appropriate.

With the Chinese New Year on Friday, we’ll be thinking of her and the others who have brightened our household.

Here’s what she wrote out:

Page One
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
And the cup itself, all forming a kind of scroll here.

One way I kept my unconventional sanity

I relied on writing poetry and fiction in my spare time as a discipline to counteract the conventions of newspaper editing, my professional career.

The job could feel quite dulling of any aesthetic awareness, and quite confining.

Still, some of the qualities between my vocation and avocation overlap, including an insistence on factual observation.

And now I’m free to focus more fully on my literary aspirations. Surprisingly, my focus has been on the fiction, rather than poetry. Could it be that without that dual tension of before, I can now steer a route between them?

How do you stay mentally sharp?

 

My wellspring in poetics

For me, poetry springs from quietude and meditation. I began to resonate with what I was reading and then started writing poems seriously only after I had taken up yoga and eventually moved to the ashram. My Quaker practice in the decades since has sustained the practice, even while working in chaotic newsrooms or dealing with passionate relationships.

If you’re “into” poetry, either as a poet or reader, what’s the prompting for your own interest?

 

FAMILY VALUES

Mrs. Richardson had been yelling at the kid
the fifth-grade girl who came around to our door
begging money to pay the babysitter

Mrs. Richardson yelled at the grandchild
for three days, and spanked her

then they were crying, in different parts of the building
all the while, their phonograph repeated
“the angels sing, glory to the newborn king”

~*~

Mrs. Richardson was pale as death
her face, hollow as a skull; hair, powder gray
her lips were chalky, and the eyes barely moved
she was thin as a broomstick

her son returned, with a cardboard suitcase
and cowboy boots
he wouldn’t stay long, if he could help it

To continue, click here.
Copyright 2015

 

PRELUDE & FUGUE 28/

an elephant with flowers painted
around the eyes and painted toenails

four zebras sipping water

*   *   *

luxurious green tent on safari white bone
ornaments through noses armed for the hunt
and cocktails already served
three African bushmen in a field of wrinkled flesh
eyelid (the elephant) the rain
is needed, sticky or no sticky (unlike the rhino)

zebras, black and white in a splash of vibrant green
with netting over the bed
luxurious green tent on safari white
bone ornaments through their noses
armed for the hunt and cocktails
already served three bushmen in a field
of wrinkled African flesh, an eyelid (the elephant)
the rain is needed, sticky or no sticky
(unlike the rhino) zebras, black and white

in a splash of vibrant green            with netting
over the bed’s luxurious green safari tent
white bone noses armed for the ornamental
hunt cocktails served by three bushmen
in an African field of wrinkled eyelids needing rain
sticky or no sticky the elephant (unlike the rhino) or
zebras, black and white in a splash
of vibrant green netting over the bed ornaments

beasts leaping from dust into a tropical river
before a tiger atop a car spirals between
four zebras sipping water the way
a camel’s nose runs ahead of its mouth:

the hairy trunk and mouth of an elephant, so spotted
forages on hind legs, trunk and tusks upraised to the tree

the elephant with flowers painted
around the eyes and painted toenails
still leaps from the dust into a tropical river

a camel’s nose runs ahead of its mouth from hind legs
upraised to the tree in front of the tiger
atop a car of spiraling spots

the hairy trunk and mouth with flowers painted
around the eyes guarding four zebras sipping water
and the foraging beasts leap from dust into the river
running ahead of its mouth

a camel on hind legs, the tree painted with flowers
and toenails a feeling of life finally coming together

atop a car, four zebras leap from the dust
into a hairy river and forage
a feeling of life finally coming together these days

~*~

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

CURTAINS

to embrace something with the wisdom of the final round

people crowding the boulevard in Baltimore
to watch Robert Kennedy’s funeral train pass
overhead

in that portrait of seven famed figures
Annie, turned to stone under a blue-jay feather

how that small town in snow looks more like Pennsylvania
or Midwest
than New England

Blake, the Muggletonian and lithographer
the surviving Beats portrayed
as Ginsberg tying a shoelace

would see something with the sharpness of the first time

all that baroque light over a cathedral altar
the cumulus effect
enveloping a solo deer

naked
in the garden
awaiting snowfall

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

PRELUDE & FUGUE 48/

with fiddles and crows
tracing a map of yellow leaves

*   *   *

on a map of frosted snow
three crows with their fiddles
in the crown of their living

of a rock face map, frosted snow
three crows with their fiddles
in the crown of their living rock face

on a map, frosted snow, three crows
with their fiddles in the crown
out of their rock face, tracing some life

 atop scree, another one at the bottom, wintergreen

~*~

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