Friday, July 24, 2015

Dragonfly visitation 3

The next evening, as I sat having dinner with Miriam on the deck, I saw another dragonfly dive through the airspace over our backyard.

"Dragonfly!" I said.

She turned to see it swoop, same chartreuse helmet and striped tail as last night's visitor.

"The cats killed one yesterday," I told her, not naming the perpetrator.

She scolded both cats. "Hey, why'd you do that to your brother?"

I pointed at the perfect-looking carcass still lying at the edge of the deck.


"They didn't even eat it!" she said. "Bad kitties!"

It does seem especially pointless that the cats hunt for sport. That they live out compulsions they can't control. That they swipe sharp claws at a flying creature before they even knew it happened.

I told Miriam about my conversation the night before with Markus.

"Of course it's Simon--why else would the dragonflies be showing up," she said.

I asked her to shoo the cats and scare the dragonfly off. The cats startled, and the striped body cut its way up and over the bushes toward the next yard.

Not much of a visit, if we send the creature away. But imagining it free is better than watching it get plucked from the sky.

Markus was late coming home. I tried not to imagine him somewhere on the bike path between the office and here, lying on his back with legs churning the air. I checked every bike approaching through the dusk on my walk.

Tuesday's sunset
At home I finally called his office. It was after 10pm. He answered. Another half hour, he said, the same thing he'd said two hours before. He'd gotten a new laptop; there was a lot for tech support to set up.

Markus biked safely home.

Previous dragonfly posts:
Dragonfly visitation, August 8, 2014
Dragonfly visitation 2, July 20, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dragonfly visitation 2

A little before dusk this evening, Simon-the-Cat is crouching alertly next to the backyard sculpture.

"What's he up to?" I ask Markus, who is reading on the deck.

"Dragonfly," Markus replies.

We watch the creature make neat lines across the backyard about two feet above ground. I've seen the cats take interest in bugs before. They always look so surprised when they eat their catch. We rarely see dragonflies around here. When we do, they usually fly off to safety as we cheer them on.

"Suicidal," I say, as the pale speck continues to fly low next to the bushes.

The cat pounces, his sleek black body diving into the brush, bell jingling. And that is that.

"If the spirit of our departed son was hitching a ride on that dragonfly..." I say to Markus. Why else would it come into our yard like that and fly so close to the cat who shares his name?

"...Then he goes into his next incarnation," Markus says, glancing back at his magazine.

The exchange is somehow good-humored. Our son Simon was enamored of nature and of dragonflies and damselflies in particular. As I've written before, it's always easy to picture him somehow inhabiting the sleek body and filigree wings.

Dropped from the cat's mouth, the dragonfly lies supine in the grass, churning its bent-wire legs. Both cats sit nonchalantly nearby. I hope there's a chance the creature will recover, and I grasp its camouflage-striped body-tail so I can place it right side up.

The body sticks strangely to the grass, but I am able to right the creature and place it on the edge of the deck. I watch as it revs what must be fang-pierced wings. Pity.

I leave it on the deck plank, hoping the cats will show some respect and refrain from a fatal bite. Perhaps the dragonfly will rally.

I will check in the morning. Wouldn't it be great if the spot is empty because the dragonfly has recovered and flown away?

But, twinge of hope aside, it feels like another lesson in nothing else I can do.

Currently reading: What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas, master of micro-story and the written (psychological) moment.

Previous post: Dragonfly visitation, August 8, 2014

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Learning to break

I'm trying to learn how to break
a line and how long to let a line be 
one of poetry's puzzles
along with assonance
consonant consonance
stanza length
I'm on the outside of a cabin
built of rough-hewn slats
looking in through the gaps
catching glimpses of fire
and sometimes a word
a line
an image
takes over 
and I believe the poem has its own way to be 
the learning is learning
how to follow
I wrote most of this poem yesterday while walking past the fields near my home. My phone battery was nearly dead, or I might have voice-recorded or typed the phrases that came to mind. Instead, I saved my last 3% for a possible incredible photo. I checked in my mind. The opening lines stayed with me. Aha! I thought. Perhaps that's one way to know I'm building a poem. I wrote the lines in a notebook when I got home and made small changes today.

Harvested field with hay bales, July 2015

Harvested field with geese, July 2015

In 2008 I enrolled in my first semester-long writing course at the University of Utah: Intro to Creative Writing (English 2500). The instructor was Timothy O'Keefe, a PhD student at the time and now on faculty at Piedmont College in Athens, Georgia. Tim is a poet, and although we read and wrote fiction as well, our class got a solid dose of poetry writing. When you hear me say fiction, you have to  assume my prose was usually memoir/nonfiction instead. Interestingly, we don't hold poetry to the same split between fiction and non.

Tim was the person speaking to my adult ears about poetic devices like "enjambment", which I would have sworn I had never heard of before. In fact, when I cleared out my high school notebooks from my parents' attic last year (class of 1981), I found plenty of proof that poetry had been taught to me previously. Still, I often think of Tim when I wonder about how and when to break a line. I've just thumbed through my binder from his class, impressively well organized by both Tim and me. I was looking for the notes I'd taken the day he put a poem on the board to help us comprehend what a good line break can do.

I can't find the note. I see how I marked the margins for "pity" and "tragedy" in Nabakov. How we analyzed Jack Gilbert and Luise Glück. How I wrote my first ekphrastic poem about Warhol's silkscreen of Mao. But apparently I wrote nothing down about the line break on the board that made me gasp and finally "get" something about the possibilities of meaning through breakage.

Fortunately, I have remembered the lines well enough to locate the poem. It's James Wright's "A Blessing". I expect the particular moment will be clear to you if you follow this link and read it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The kind of heat (flash post)

We're back in the kind of heat
that bakes the days and leaves
the air trembling even after
the sun has fallen to the west.

Every action, every thought superseded
by little tasks to keep the heat
out--window open, window closed
blinds down, awning out

stumbling around the darkened rooms
working in the computer's glow
with lights off all day. Along
with the heat I have banished

circadian rhythm in a trade for
air that moment by moment
loses the cool we coax inside
in the hours around dawn.

Outside, when I dare, fries my skin. Precious
shade is indispensable also for my car,
which suddenly I love--my one and only
possession that can blow cool air.