Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: Poetry

PSALM OF PSALMS

1

the tension
of the harp
and bow-string

in the poet-king’s hand

taking flight
in the air

*   *   *

how many Psalms
expressed the same anguish
and trial

in the glorious regime

*   *   *

how brief the interludes
between exile

2

the Psalms are poems
or the Psalms are prayers

as if I could define either

*   *   *

prayer is not what I speak
but what my Deeper Self would utter
despite me

*   *   *

raise my shield, O Lord,
regardless of the outcome, and lift me

there’s nothing easy about love

3

New Zion

originally, Bible stories were chanted
rather than read and dissected in the rabbinical twist

hardened into bronze

even in daily devotion

in this quest of salvation
facing Jerusalem
tiring of the routine exile

where’s my power in this place?
my heart, ever so uneasy

*   *   *

patriots say Peace but mean Victory:
which is hardly the same outcome
or means

festering and darkening
drumbeats summoned
into crowds cheering
uniforms
or invoking the Holy One
the Prince of Peace
to their cause

*   *   *

even communion tokens
from Colonial-era steeplehouses
witness the contrast to our free-Gospel ministry

with their families, subscribing to box seats
squirming in this theater of pipes

so who exchanged coins
for their purity?

truly, how do you pay
with the psalter?

holy, holy, holy

in a constant delving for treasures
where others see nothing of value

from whom all blessings flow
over each stretch of turmoil

*   *   *

how many strands of history
and sojourn
converge on me
as I’m walking in prayer
and softly humming
a funeral hymn for comfort

some October night
shivery petals shall upend
a row of headstones, too

called to the cause of justice

4

counterpoint originates
in the descant over the cantus firmus

or maybe drumming
or the sound of feet dancing

or even droning under the chant

in the conflicted lines
of desire and pain

in the hideous bleeding wrists
and ankles

*   *   *

O Holy One
contrary to the ancient discipline
I country dance
and sing harmony

to once again crack the thick shell
I build around me

“in the gift of life is also the gift of time”

time, as a signature
for music
for the dance

O Holy One
bless the Singers’ Table
with its poets and musicians

free in the present
free in unity with the Holy Spirit
free in the disciplines we embrace

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

REHASH

the return of the Princess Wen-Chi

 400 years later I understand it wasn’t
my fault we never connected
but the hardness she’d become

with the curtain already up
when the lights took hold

unicorn and gazelle in repose

too weird, too impractical, too brash, too arrogant

hypodermic syringe on a porcelain teacup

favorite hardware
goof balls, golf balls

perhaps annoy or anger, delight
and so on and on. It never ends, does it?

above the treetops
astrologers, even witches

but mostly the aroma of freshly cut grass

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

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.

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.

PRELUDE & FUGUE 24/

there, in thick grass beside a slow stream
a Jersey heifer
wears telescope goggles to observe
a bragging rival

*   *   *

one with horns turns
to observe the huddled two Holsteins
wait for grain

three in thick grass beside a slow stream
four in a high meadow
four on a green slope, still

a Jersey heifer, a bragging rival with horns
turns to the huddled dairy cows awaiting
grain

three in thick grass beside a slow stream
four brown in a high meadow
along a green slope

a Jersey heifer wears telescope goggles
to observe a bragging rival
with long horns turns

the dairy cows, huddle, waiting
for grain beside a slow stream
and the high green meadow

the inertia, meanwhile, is extraordinary
waiting, huddling, bragging rival
mooing, with horns

turning to observe the inertia
meanwhile, a Jersey heifer wears telescope goggles
to stalk a bragging rival

four brown cattle in a high meadow
four on a green slope
two Holsteins waiting for grain

three in thick grass beside a slow stream
the inertia, meanwhile, is
brown, green, mooing, bragging

the wait for grain
huddled beside a slow stream mooing
in the inertia

meanwhile, a Jersey heifer wears telescope goggles
to observe another cow, its bragging
“meow”

~*~

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

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.

 

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.

REGARDING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

despite a full plate of crumbling renovations on hold
Squirrel adopts the Yankee attitude on old-house syndrome and its endless repairs
that is (lots of laughs) wait until something actually falls off
if you can survive doing so
until the savings recover
or there’s thawing

* * *

by late May, the soil firms enough
to get about removing an extensive box elder
for light to expand a space
for a 25-by-4-foot raised bed
of asparagus

in late September, with 20 raised beds of various sizes
boldly placed
the child moans she hates wood chip pathways
and would rather have a soccer field on a hillside

still Squirrel wonders who’s kicking next in their recipe
invoking a snaking rainbow, and is grateful

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

QUADRILLE

four theatrical scenes

1

thirteen dancers hold large butterflies, frogs, crabs, and fish
on sticks over their heads

on our pallet, everyone laughing and tickling

Christmas lights adorn a swan the size of a sailboat on the beach
surrounded by jesters and an undertaker in top hat

and don’t giggle much

tents with electrical lighting have encamped under a bird feeder in the library

late-night lime daquiris, with or without salt

a dozen dresses covering light bulbs
hang from a leafy tree after sunset

2

the classic marble trio upholding the blue orb
stands in three stages of undress

regardless, stay cool

3

behind the eyes and ears of her diaphanous gown
she wears nothing

she still has eggshells behind the ears

Salome, with her slippery hands

4

a surgical theater of the dead Romans and Dutch masters
with a sole nun present and in prayer

while the child skateboards through the kitchen

elaborate mathematical equations in icing on the wedding cake
as animal tracks through a universe

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