Poems

Rush Pond Trail / Kathleen McCoy

The other day my daughter showed mewater_lily_Rush_Pond
I had to slow her down so we could talk,
allow the woods to shield us from obsessing
on the news. She flicked her flopping ponytail

behind her, smiled—she’d meet me later
at the house—plugged in her music, jogging on,
knowing the trail but not which branch to choose.
My music came from red-eyed vireo and thrush.

Felled white birch bits rested in a bed
of ferns in a room with green couches
of mossed maple; then I saw the forties roadster
careened into a trunk and left to rust,

right door missing, now nest for raccoons,
rabbits, squirrels. Eventually I reached the bridged
marsh, largely green and blooming with water lilies
and the unabashed purples of swamp milkweed.

What pilgrims trekked these woods
before the path was cleared? Acclimated
woodsmen, sticky wood-wise children, herb-
smart women, broad aprons for sacks?

Today my girl is purple wildflower, floating lily,
hers the chatter of invisible vireo, ethereal
song of wood thrush reverberating in the pines;
I, the rusty car, part of my right side missing,

open to air and moss and the steady passing-by of life
in all its forms. Tomorrow I will be the bed of ferns,
the green couch greeting her upon return
from her shadow-laced trail of song and surprise.

For Alva McCoy

 Mama’s Proverbs

in memory of Eva Leah Robinson McCoy

Bite into the apple of love, enjoy its juice
and let the seeds fall all around you.

~
Lips and hands must measure
before they dispense their wares.

~
Set an extra plate for an unexpected guest—
someday it could be you.

~
What you most despise in your sister’s eyes
is what your own reflection reveals.

~
Darkness and rain
bring birdsong.

~
A stately house shrinks beside the simple one
whose walls vibrate with laughter.

~
To stand your tallest,
plant your feet on rock.

~
No one can schedule a natural birth
and it isn’t over when the cries begin.

~
Ask for your desire and when you receive it
offer it up again.

~
When the sun shines, focus its light in your body
and when the rains pour down, the rocks will gleam before you.

~
Take the hands of children for they fix their eyes on you
and when you grow weak they will scoop you into their arms.

~
The race goes to the horse
who runs for utter joy.

Kathleen McCoy

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Birches at Garnet Hill, photo by Kathleen McCoy

Birches in Snow

It’s not the falling flakes that halt me
but the quick gust that kicks them,
not tenacity of brown leaves clinging to the branch
but how the white shawl settles there,
not blackness bleeding on the porous page of the world
but the sponge of light that catches it,
not the hard, slick ground
but its gradual softeningso my every step leaves
an imprint that will only
last so long.
Image

Glen Lake, Photo by Kathleen McCoy

 

Simple Praise

For barberry thorns, curled tresses of birch,
seeds of pomegranate and grape, for awe
of threes, small miracles of knees
that bend and hands that scrape,
gesticulate, mold, touch—for a world
dressed in gold with cape and skirts of pollen,
then blue and white with shadow and light,
for querulous rodents nesting in our wood,
for the child who sheds her heavy pack
to stretch her willow arms toward sun,
for every branch-born song that descends,
for dry islands on slick glacier ground,
working muscles’ hum, hearts’ synchrony,

for a world gone green again, its aching presence,
resplendent in our pauses, for whirled
perception teasing at the edge of sight, Orion
loosening his belt to the tune of galaxies’ spinning,
for the black holes that vacuum up dying stars
and the white holes that whelp them,
corpuscular joy that erupts and leaves a spiral trail,
for singing, clear or raspy, from belly and eyes,
for your fingers laced in mine,
for pink streaks at dusk, for rain made
of cherry blossoms, for darkness, for hail,
for swimming together in silence, in words—
praise for the litheness of limbs, lines

around a pensive mouth, cool crispness of cotton,
for your salt tongue, the black
forest of your chest, our bodies’ blur, praise
for the way your steps sound sure and tentative
at once—praise for ignorance,
praise for bliss, for I know nothing
but long to learn love’s alphabet tonight—
praise for fire which, though it burn our house,
graces with clearing to start again—
praise even for urns of our dead, for ash
that can never contain us, praise
for fluidity on the horizon of our days.
Just praise.

—Kathleen McCoy

 

In the memory of Adrienne Rich, one of our country’s finest poets who died last week, I offer the following poem, penned a couple of decades ago and revised very recently:

They led a writing workshop together in Austin...

They led a writing workshop together in Austin, Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The New Androgyne

Kathleen McCoy

She will be like the deaf mute                                                 turned composer:

ink will pulse               through her veins the color

of half-lit midnight                  when grass sways slightly

By turns she will be            gardener and stargazer                  peasant

and prophet                      bag-lady                                   and carpetbagger

pointillist                                                                 and modern dancer

delivering mother                                and midwife delivering

the mother                                           and her child

You will see her                           gradually

rising with the sun                   her origins uncertain

her language                        raw and bold                       her hands stained

strong-boned                                 her eyes deep                    as Andromeda

She will take                                   by the first two fingers

anyone who will                             enter the labyrinth                               listen

to the crackling of leaves                     as she infuses them                with breath

and witness                         her gypsy dance                as she steadily

wrenches                                 an arc of bone                          from her side

(published in a longercreative dissertation, Losing the Rhythm for Holding the Notes, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1991)

Bells for the Hibakusha

for Setsuko Thurlow

Kathleen McCoy

The flash is mabushii, dazzling as the sun,
so real it cannot be believed, just felt,
a bone-crushing tsunami, pink heat

with no jihi, no mercy. Lucky to be
inside? But inside is instantly outside.
So often it is that way.

In memory it’s happening today as I,
a teenage decoder, am obliged to solve
puzzles of war for the emperor.

Shall I tell you of the walking charred
who shuffle to stationed barrels to guzzle
water that kills from the inside out?

Of the outstretched arms of thousands
whose flayed skin clings to cuticles?
Of the nukes we’ve buried that won’t

stay down all around the flaming world
and the many who trade in blood?
Of the kanenone, the peals of bells

real and longed for, bells for the dead,
bells for my sister’s body stirred like pork,
bells for our youth, for a world without jihi?

Around this burning world bells ring for us,
Bells for aijou, love. Bells for this
love poem, rennaishi. For peace, wahei.

(Published in West / East Poetry & Art, ed. Sheldon Hurst. Queensbury, NY: SUNY Adirondack, 2011.)


In my meditative poems I try to convey a sense of  struggle all seekers share. Here’s the most recent product of this quest:

 

mareandfoal

Thoroughbred Mare and Foal, courtesy Photobucket.com

The Slim Blade

Kathleen McCoy

Along the slim blade that divides
time from timelessness,
a newborn foal rises, cross-
legged, collapses and rises again
to fall again and again until,
unstopped by fear or thought
of failure, he pulls himself aright
by sheer belief in uprightness:

not transcendence, not some heady
levitation over wracking waters, but
stillness and movement congeal,
transfigured light vibrant
as anchored sprouts
of orange maple leaves.

–Kathleen McCoy

(Published on Poetry for Peace, December 2011)

One thought on “Poems

  1. Kathie, your poems are exquisite! I am so happy you are now sharing them with the world. I didn’t think I had a favorite among these until I got to the end because they are all gems, but you know me and horses.The Slim Blade especially touches my heart. Also, I did not know you are an accomplished photographer as well.

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