RACHEL CASTOR ≈ 3 poems and a letter

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WHEN HAPPINESS RETURNS

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it is a blossoming jungle spring
with hot rain for days
and sunshine breaking through.

The sadness stretches behind you forever
to the beginning of time like a grey storm
with fog horns low across the deep and churning water.

When happiness returns
it is a waking from half-sleep
a birth
and everything
every mating moth
every star reflecting on water
every fluttery aspen leaf, green in the sun
is for the first time.

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FOR ALL OF US

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What is the name of the breath
I will take over and over again,
for all of us?   – Mary Oliver

We shook dust from our garments
and combed bewilderment like twigs from our hair.
We abandoned the woods.

I am determined not to fight shadows anymore
or sit like a whittled old woman
sorting guilt and blame.

I don’t know where to send my sorrow,
which senator to write,
which box to file my disenchantment in.

I could pull out my hair, as I once did,
but that will only lead to a bitter, bald woman,
alone with her tenacious sorrow.

Instead, taming my sadness like a broken bird.
I kneel in the grass, or bow to the trees,
or breathe again and again and again.

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COAST STARLIGHTER
Amtrak Train #507

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I don’t know where I am
but there are hills.
Under naked trees
there are crumbling white barns and shacks
hidden in the tall, tufted swamp-grass.
The water deceives,
reflecting blue sky
when the light is low.
But when we cross a bridge and can see down
into the river,
the murky brown reveals itself,
cannot hide.

We do not travel more than a length of the train
without seeing water.

I see the shacks, wood frames covered with grass,
plastic and blue tarps,
towels and bright colored clothes
strung up on the line
like an insult to this wild misery.
The woods, dissected by a million muddy streams,
later give way to yellow grass,
and a new tattered breed of tiny shelters
built of reeds and brush.

I feel sure I could not live here,
could not survive this:
the brown, flooded forest,
the summer hum and gnaw
of a million tiny live things
underfoot and overhead,
the houses sinking and leaning,
the decaying smell of mud swallowing me whole.

And then
I doubt this sureness,
doubt that the unfamiliar
could not become familiar.
The body can surprise with its ability
to thrive,
with its knowledge.

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April 23

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    My Love,

How do I explain to you, my love in the cold city, that today, in the sun and melting snow, ten kids pushed their noses up to the charred and dusty-red bark of a ponderosa pine tree.  They breathed the air inside the shallow crevasses, and imagined they smelled the sweet summer smell I was describing; and smiling, sniffed again, though we are two months early for the thick vanilla perfume I love.  How can I explain that they put their noses in the tree, and smelled, and smiled?  And the sky was ridiculously blue with wisps of clouds just painted on.  And the pine tree swayed slightly in the wind, hundreds of feet in the air.  How can I tell you?

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