POEMS OF THIS NEW YEAR

One never knows, withe the Poetry Muse — when she’s going to be with you; when she’s in elusive mode.  And sometimes, when she’s taken herself far, far away — and you begin to be certain she will never return.

Despite all worldly, chaos, the Poetry Muse has been intensively present lately.

I’ll share a few new ones with NJWILDBEAUTY readers — for whatever is wild in these words, and whatever beauty they may convey, they definitely unfurled in New Jersey.  No one has heard them, nor seen them, but you.  May they generate voyages…

 

In this tumultuous time of America’s turning its official back on people of other nations, I find this one written on last year’s Summer’s Solstice, startling, even prescient…

 

“WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON, ANYWAY?!”

 

in the fluttery darkness

of childhood Westerns

my sister and I were always

set apart

hugging to ourselves

our terrible secret –

 

as Indians spilled over

the crest of any hill

each of us silently

rejoiced

 

longing

to ride off into sunsets

with our true brothers

 

***

 

Mary Oliver is my forever catalyst.  Once, in Princeton Hospital for hip replacement (so I could get back OUT on those TRAILS!) I took only Mary’s collected poems for post-op, then rehab reading.  Many of my own were triggered by her electrifying consciousness and attentiveness, to say nothing of always stunning excellence.  Recently, I suffused myself anew with Mary.  Her very personal interaction with bears brought this into being:

 

INSIDE                                 after reading Mary Oliver on Bears…

 

you live within my being at all times

your paws curling my own hands

strong feet propelling my too-slender ones

 

our legs

go on forever

 

your heart

the larger

 

you know

absolutely everywhere

where you are going

 

such large eyes do not fit

within my small ones

 

there is scarcely room

for your fine head

–emperor’s on coin

 

ah, but our wondrous grin

that remains

identical

 

***

 

I never know where the Muse wants us to be.  Two recent poems demanded mental transport to Hawaii:

 

HANA YEARNING

 

I see us along Hana’s highway

–you at the wheel I last wielded alone

curving from waterfall to waterfall

 

their long thin threads

like spider floss

or glycerine spun out

by some Hawaiian deity

we can feel, not see

 

plunging in virginal straightness

into alluring dark pools

mist captured in tropical branchings

of ginger, plumeria, ti

 

one-handed at the wheel

you’re laughing at this ceaselessness of curves

and so many misleading one-way signs

 

we dip into inky ponds

up to and over our necks

laughingly dwarfed

by towering verdant damp ferns

 

you reach both hands

to guide me out of each fall’s sacred water

leaving double footprints

on black sand

 

***

 

…or, what time-frame the Muse may require.  This goes back to early childhood, visiting my favorite uncle (actually, my favorite person — rarely equaled), Donald E. Graham, my Uncle Dutch.  He had been an ambulance driver in World War I, because he would not kill.  One time, the sergeant ordered him to steal a horse.  My very honest uncle was devastated, as he obeyed.  Picture that weathered flag from something like 1918…

 

PATRIOTS

was anyone tender
with me, save Uncle Dutch?

swinging me high
onto so-broad shoulders

marching the two-but-one of us
down steep wooden stairs
into their plain concrete cellar

where his thick broad flag
from World War One
did not have the right
number of stars

still, we honored it
singing “My country, ‘tis”
at the top of his grown up, and my
very little lungs

just before turning
to re-mount the stairs
I, with my small hand
and he, with his huge
would very smartly salute

***

Words, not pictures today.  A different kind of journeying toward various forms of wild beauty…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Oliver, Poet, “The Soft Animal of Your Body…”

Sometimes I think I should just give UP writing about nature and turn this entire world, not just NJWILDBEAUTY, over to my Ur-Poet — Mary Oliver, formerly of Provincetown, Mass, bard of the sea and the dunes and the wild creatures.  She describes her life purpose as “trying to write about nature so that anyone can understand it.”  Needless to say, she has been my mentor for decades.

Port in All Storms Provincetown

Provincetown, Mass — Port in All Storms

My computer didn’t compute all weekend, so I luxuriated in every Mary Oliver book, –prose and poetry–, that I own.

 

Mary Oliver on Provincetown Beach

Mary Oliver on Provincetown Beach, from Internet

The greatest tribute I can give to this Pulitzer-prize-winning poet is that hers were the only books I took to the hospital and rehab when my failed hip was replaced with a kayaker’s hip, on 11/11/11.  As Dr. Thomas Gutowski teased me, “You may like it better than the original.”

cfe kayaking I B b and wh IMG

Carolyn Kayaking on Barnegat Bay, the Sedge Islands, in August, 2000

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know that I make the most of this new hip, on trails and in the kayak.  I moved everything aside to kayak twice in two days a weekend ago, out on the canal, and writing of it for Rich Rein and his array of lively local papers.  My ideal, of course, will be a ‘trifecta’ – Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the water — but the weather gods will have to cooperate.

Provincetown Mac Millan Wharf Rowing Home

Provincetown, Returning Home

When Jeanette Hooban and Carolyn Yoder and I were in Provincetown last Hallowe’en, my favorite part (beyond the food! o yes, and the whale and seals) was the library, where everyone knew Mary, where her garden had been, how marvelous she was at readings and what a quiet force she was in that unique town..

Classic Provincetown from Mac Millan Wharf

Provincetown Central

Here is my all-time favorite Mary Oliver masterpiece — make of it what you will!  What does it stir in YOU?  Tell me in comments!

smiles, Carolyn

This came from a blog called Home Thoughts Worth Thinking, when I Googled, “soft animal of your body.”

They do not attribute the painting — my guess is one of my all-time American favorites, Winslow Homer.  What do you think?

cfe

“I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination.” — John Keats


“WILD GEESE”
by Mary Oliver



You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

 

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

 

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely

the world offers itself to your imagination

calls to you like the wild geese — harsh and exciting —

over and over, announcing your place

in the family of things

 

geese pass moon by Brenda Jones

Wild Geese Pass the Moon, by Brenda Jones, Fine Art Photographer

VETERANS’ DAY — A QUESTION OF FORGIVENESS

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

Hawaiian Lei of Double Orchids

In the 1990’s, I was asked to read my poems on Hawaii to a friend’s class at Chaminade University.  Little did I know that her classroom was on Pearl Harbor.  I had been a child when that horrific bombing took place.  It was December.  I had a newborn little sister, soon to be part of our family Christmas that year.  It was the Christmas that never came, –our beloved America having been attacked, the world at war, so many wars.

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

U.S.S. Arizona Burning, Pearl Harbor, 1941

We were all taught, as the South Pacific song insists, to hate.  Especially to hate Hitler, Mussolini (“was a meanie”) and all the “Japs.”

When you’re that little yourself, those teachings go deep.

No way could I have imagined taking steps onto Pearl Harbor, let alone to read poems (some of which were anti-military, as in “when are we going stop bombing Kahoolawe?”), to soldiers, –to men and women in uniform, at that sacred site.

Hawaiian soldiers taught me, in that room, in that class, “We don’t bomb Kahoolawe any more.  Each weekend, I lead a detail, removing materiel from the island….  When we are finished, we will have a healing ceremony.”

So my poem, with its longing to wrap the stafed, yes wounded, exposed red flesh/soil of that beleaguered island in white gauze, to comfort her, brought a happy ending.

The next morning, my friend (Bernadette Thibodeau, a year older, with whom I’d grown up in Michigan) and I returned to Pearl to make our own ritual visit to the Arizona, still beneath the waves, still holding its dead since 1941.

The black and white films of the bombing did not work that day.

We filed out of the theatre into searing sunlight, joining a long and silent line of mostly Japanese men.

They were all wearing leis.

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

Hawaiian Lei of Green Leaves

No one spoke.

We walked onto the memorial above the doomed ship.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

The Japanese moved, one-by-one, to various parts of that structure.

Each one, alone, observed a time of silence.

Then each one removed his lei and softly tossed it onto the waters.

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

Hawaiian Plumeria Lei

The leis mixed with rainbows from still-leaking oil.

My healing with regard to that country, whom we so wounded, commenced as those leis began to fall.

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona

Diver Touches Drowned U.S.S. Arizona

PRINCETON MAGAZINE: POETRY and FLOWER MIRACLES

I wish I could block and copy the article for you, so you could see Andrew Wilkinson’s stunning floral images  However, my two poems from my own files are at the end.  May these bring you the seasonal joys for which we have all been pining!

http://www.princetonmagazine.com/category/features/featured-articles/  You may ‘paste this into your browser; scroll down to flowers and poetry.

Those of you who live in and near Princeton have seen the new issue of Princeton Magazine, hefty and glossy and impressive, one of Bob Hillier’s projects, along with Studio Hillier and that rich, ever expanding, ever teaching newspaper of our town — Town Topics.

It was a joy to open the issue with Ilene Dube’s magnificent Michael Graves story, and find that Linda Arntzenius, fellow poet, had seen to it that two of my poems appear in a glorious spread with flowers by Princeton-area florists.  Long ago, I knew Bob Hillier’s mother, who seemed to own all the flower shops we frequented in my earlier Princeton life.  This is a tribute to that impressive women.  It honors Poetry Month.  And I know four of the five poets — tremendous honor to be in their company, in those impressive poets.

The impeccable, imaginative floral art is by Andrew Wilkinson, one of our major D&R Greenway supporters on many fronts – and a spectacular fine art photographer.

The poets with whom I am privileged to share these luminous pages are Sharon Olson, Betty Lies, Vida Chu and Carolyn.

 

This took place at Island Beach in June:

IT ALL STARTED

 

when we came upon

carpets of stars

cranberries in flower

trembling white below

the ice blue sky

 

along the hard-packed dikes

slumbrous bees

formed golden pyramids

on gleaming amber boxes

 

dawn’s pollinators

here to burst all bonds

course among broad acres

of waving stamens

 

at day’s end we stood on tiptoe

plucking first blued berries

from among the mauve and pink

at the tips of overarching bushes

 

tucked among hollies and sheep laurel

through thickets and tunnels

we made our way to the sea

mouths awash in warm berries

 

DEFIANCE

 

I would be unruly

as these sprouting bulbs

 

surge and burgeon

though so slightly rooted

among the celadon stones

 

open swirls of hope

spurt voluminous white

spill gilded light

 

emitting spring as fragrance

even as winter

tightens his gelid grasp

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

“Sarah Palin Says It’s All My Fault” and Other Political Poems

American Flag at Stern of the Twilight Steamboat on the Mississippi

American Flag at Stern of the Twilight Steamboat on the Mississippi

When friends and I were furiously fighting with Princeton University to preserve the hallowed Princeton Nursery Lands in Kingston, I lamented to one of them that night, “But I’m a poet!  What am I doing at the barricades?”

The friend brilliantly retorted, “But Carolyn, poets BELONG at the barricades.”

I returned, chastened, to the battle.  Ultimately, we saved a handful of acres, and the Friends of Princeton Nursery Lands was formed and thrives, leading informative trail walks, planting Flemer Nursery trees, sponsoring annual clean-ups, such as the very successful recent one on Martin Luther King Day.  FPNL aims to restore the classic nursery buildings, stalled now by insufficient fundings.  NJWILBEAUTY readers can assist by going onto the FPNL website and donating, and coming to their enriching events.

In the intervening years, in amongst nature poems, which I share with NJWILDBEAUTY readers, I have increasingly written political poems.

My fury over the indifference of politicians to the plight of the planet, results in my deciding to share some of the more radical political poems of recent years with my readers.

“Sarah Palin Says It’s All My Fault” won on-line publication at the time of the Gulf Oil Spill.  Now politicians, including the the President we thought knew better and would prevent profanation of the planet, want to drill for oil off-shore, in already imperiled New Jersey, and also puncture her north, south, east, west and especially the Pine Barrens for the spoils of Fracking!

Do what you can, readers, with your legislators, wherever you live, to arrest despoilation of the Planet.  

Pipeline! Along D&R Canal south of Princeton, Our Historic Bucolic Waterway, Our Water SUPPLY!

Pipeline! Along D&R Canal south of Princeton, Our Historic Bucolic Waterway, Our Water SUPPLY!

Here’s my Sarah Poem.

POETS FOR LIVING WATERS

Creating venues for poetry in support of healthy ocean communities

DEAR SARAH PALIN, by Carolyn Foote Edelmann

Posted on June 21, 2010 by Heidi Lynn Staples

DEAR SARAH PALIN,

I understand it’s all my fault
–this Gulf oil disaster, I mean–
not only all that fire
bodies catapulted into air
then drowned
soon likely shark bait
but also this volcano of oil
spewing interminably
into our blue mantle

Sarah, you say
I did this
all of this and more
now some six weeks ago
with no end in sight
and no businessman
politician not even a general
let alone you, Sarah Palin,
knows how to stop
this tornado of oil

it’s also my fault, the oiled birds
Northern gannets
–pristine as Josephine
in her Empire gown
frail white silk
adorned with gold
though not quite bees
dark eyes snapping
as she becomes increasingly encased
in ‘my’ oil
more abruptly than all those mastodons
in La Brea’s tar pits

now slender cormorants
who, everyone is sure, are drowning
as they swim along
neck barely afloat
no one realizing
the genius of cormorants
who can fly/swim 30 miles an hour
underwater
when they are not oiled

about the mpg of my car
my old car
for the ownership of which
I am quite guilty
for the replacement of which
I have no means

cormorants
must wave both wings
after every dive
to dry them
so that they may
dive and dive again
–no wave strong enough
to shake off ceaseless poison weight
of oil

it’s my fault, the reddish egrets
you know his own epitaph
written by photographer Ted Cross
for his own recent death
describing his multi-faceted self
on the Other Side
“still searching for the perfect photograph
of the reddish egret”

Ted did not have in mind
this soiled oiled specimen
trying, unsuccessfully
to lift newly leaden
legs wings and feet
out of Gulf mud muck and oil

it’s all my fault
and not because I use the wrong lightbulbs
in a couple of fixtures
nor because I do turn on the heat.
inside, in winter, sometimes
although I’ve been doing without air
conditioning so far this troubled year

it’s my fault
because I am an “extreme environmentalist”
because I think there should never be any more
drilling for oil in our country
because I deplore petrotyrrany
the privatization of profits
socialization of poverty
because I think we should start with the auto companies

well, what do you expect, Sarah?
I grew up in Detroit

I’ve never seen a wolf in the wild
as you do and deplore
–these beings you condemn to bloody deaths
I would embrace

nor have I encountered
a single polar bear
let alone a starving female trying to find food
for her new brood
attempting to swim with them
toward vanishing ice floes

but that’s o.k. with you
Sarah
it makes the hunting
easier

it’s my fault, Sarah
for I am quite literally
a tree hugger

I believe that greed should end
America return to her original nobility
where people pledged lives
fortunes
sacred honor
remember sacred honor?
— ah, well, probably not, Sarah

I believe we are our Planet’s
Keepers

Sarah – who are you?

~~~~~~~~~~

STATEMENT
what everyone must remember, wherever anyone lives (not only those of us in New Jersey’s key migratory corridor, the only state with three coastlines) is that these are our birds, our waters.  Because of the Gulf Stream, this catastrophe is global.  We may have passed the tipping point.  We are all the oiled pelican.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

OK, that’s not the only political poem these days:

 

SHIP OF STATE

 

Roosevelt died again

— I can’t help it!

I keep reading histories/

biographies of WWII

 

and he’s there

at the helm

jaunty, sure

eyes all asparkle

despite Depression

war-on-two fronts

cigarette slanted

in that elegant holder

easy at the wheel

 

no circling shadows yet

dim those piercing eyes – nothing

forces the wide and reassuring grin

from that dashing face

— emblem of my childhood

 

he can sail forever

circumnavigate

this imperiled globe

that was so much less imperiled

in his hands

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

January 2015

 

Here may be my most radical ever.  I see Edward Snowden right up there with our Founding Fathers and Thomas Paine, yes, at the barricades, willing to give lives, fortunes and sacred honor so that our noble country can live, thrive, and persist.

 

Pole Farm, Lawrenceville NJ, America The Beautiful

Pole Farm, Lawrenceville NJ, America The Beautiful

 

REVOLUTIONARY HEROISM, 21ST CENTURY

 

I understand you, Edward Snowden

you find a country

notorious for terrorism

safer

than your own

 

you love your own

enough

to fight for its return

to sacred honor

blood-won rights

–privacy above all

 

you love your own

enough to give her up

hoping

that your sacrifice

will turn around

our country’s

despoilation / ruination

 

I understand you

praise your courage

 

wonder what it is that I can do

to turn the tide

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

January 2015

 

Preserved Farm, Essential America, Salem County NJ

Preserved Farm, Essential America, Salem County NJ