Monday, November 28, 2011

New Poem: Old Road



It was not long ago I wore
my hair in braids
like twisted rivers falling softly over my shoulders,
or smooth vines held in place with green satin ribbons.

No longer a child, I’m too old to wear braids now
too old to wear above-the-knee-wrap-around-silk-skirts and 
French-cut-bathing-suits, or
form-fitted-knit-dresses that reveal every imperfect curve.

The young ones no longer look me in the eye or hip
perhaps the swing is gone, they see no use? though
I pay my taxes faithfully-feed-the-chickadees that flock the trees,
rub away enduring dust
cook a meal they hastily consume then with a tart shove, push themselves 
away from the table. 

They don’t see me walking the old dirt road
or the deep lines of my forehead covered in a hat made of spun llama
soft and supple as new lamb
To them life is a horse race.
my mother used to say wear your hair piled up high,
she liked it that way 
but no, I’ll wear braids again at the end of the road when 
the holy-bound dream is to die-young-of-old-age.






Monday, November 21, 2011

Stepping Out and Dr. Zhivago


     Stepping out and walking up the hill over
     ice-crusted snow and through the blessed darkness,
     Colored tree lights shine and blur the edges of girls
     with their crayons hunched over paper, boys
     with blocks and toy trucks scattered across the floor.
     Talking menu, the women drink tea and
     hug the little ones 'tween their petty sufferings
     Swigging home-brew, the men speak of glaciers
     and shipwrecks and skillful hunts yet to come.

     On our way back down the hill
     when round flakes of snow sway to the ground without shattering,
     memories flood our moonlit minds.
     We see a future shorter than our past,
     knowing each new amusement and every stale resentment
     will shiver away and die suddenly, as though we never expected it to,
     in one miraculous breath of many.

     It is fitting that tonight we watch a movie, Dr. Zhivago
     a decades long fairy tale of sorts
     where good and evil and destiny and all reconciliations
     awaken the human dramas that unfold
     from birth til' death.
     we claim the paradox.
     we make love and feel the sorrow, taste the gladness and
     we share the disappointments
     shamelessly, of our own diminutive lives.

Writing this poem awakened an old memory of the song, Mother Russia, by the band, Renaissance. A beautiful classic; almost 9.5 minutes long, but worth the time to fully appreciate Annie Haslam's legendary clear and elegant vocal range. Mother Russia and  I Think of You are both from the Renaissance album titled, "Turn of the Cards". I wore out playing I Think of You in the early eighties when my husband was away from home for long periods, working on the slope; however...you can't really wear out a song as gorgeous as this; books and music and art are meant to be worn thin...that's how they heal hearts.




Sunday, November 13, 2011

Eureka. Nelchina. Mendeltna.

     I am fascinated by the names of small towns and villages in the Copper River valley area and beyond; places like Gakona, Chistochina, Chitina...many from the Athabascan Ahtna Indian language. It is 150 miles from Eagle River to Tazlina, and I share the road with very few people, with the exception of truckers delivering goods to the Eureka Lodge, Sheep Mountain Lodge and many other small stops, ultimately arriving with major deliveries in Anchorage. I have driven this road hundreds of times and never tire of the myriad details the land reveals under changing weather and light conditions. The light may assume a different bend or quality as you sweep along the flats of the Matanuska River or sail down and around escalating mountains that a few miles prior created an entirely different character of  shadow and luminence. It is fascinating, nourishing, and humbling to behold. Quinn doggy loves it too; never missing a chance to spring like a rabbit in the snow and nuzzle frantically for voles running around under thickly laid grasses covered by the warmth and insulation of ten inches of snow. He delights in his game.
     Gulkana. Chisana. Salina. Nabesna.
     And I delight in mine. The way words sound in the quiet air when I say them aloud, to myself. Still. Delicate. Austere. Like the land.










Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cabin Notes #1



This morning a half moon hangs in the sky.  I take my walk along the river at around 10 am, when the sun breaches the horizon. The river is consumed by clumps of noisy ice, bouncing and swishing in the current; the temperature is 5 below. Ice is beginning to form on the river’s edge, creating swirling patterns widening out from the bank. I walk along in the stiff morning wind, and notice snow drifts sprinkled with silt from the nearby sandy cliffs. Being alone out here in the quiet of the woods can be a very productive time for writing; I also make time to visit friends in town.
Tonight Lucille gives me a book called Our Side of the River II, by Sis Laraux who was born and raised in Akiak, a village along the Kuskokwim River. I am captivated by her stories of childhood tales and lore of Alaska and finish the book in a few hours.  This leads me to a host of books on our cabin bookshelf published in 1978; each one an autobiography of an individual from a wide variety of villages, told in an oral, storytelling style (out of respect for the person’s native voice), compiled from many hours of taped interviews. They’re unedited and best read aloud so that you can listen for the sound of the spoken voice. I’ve had these books for years, and have joyously re-discovered them; autobiographies (now called “memoir”) have always been a source of great interest so off I go, reading late into the quiet night.
Lucille and Arnold are our long-time friends, of Athabascan lineage. We’ve shared a fishwheel for years, and I remember once when Arnold and my husband were building the wheel (which is constructed with two large baskets into which the fish swim), Arnold said the “Indian” side would catch more fish than the white guy’s side, and we all got a good laugh out of that. Lucille is a great cook and baker, and tonight she sends me home with a new “easy” recipe for cinnamon roles and I remember one summer evening (when the sun never sets) staying up until 2 am after harvesting fish, when we ate a whole pan of fresh baked cinnamon roles while telling stories (some comic, others tragic) of times past in the Copper River valley.
So many stories…and we’re creating our own…with the ever-turning passage of time.
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