First I‘d like to thank the holders of BAP for inviting me to guest blog for a week. Thanks Stacey. I’m especially happy to be able to tell the world about the wonderful society in this blog title that has brought us JANES so much joy through literature and eating. Almost 20 years ago I met Anne (Jane) Caston and Laura (Jane) Orem. We had many things in common; mostly, we loved poetry, and we also spilled everything we touched. These endearments bonded us intermittently over the years, in different locales, randomly. Not long ago Maria (Jane) van Beuren entered our lives with her keen literary mind and Chaucerian table habits. (Now we had added a vegetarian.) We formed a virtual book club to share our own writings, and others’, because we lived variously in Alaska, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Hampshire. By cyber, we shared words, and when we met we spilled.
Soon Patricia (Jane) Gray joined the book club and offered her poems to the mix. Patricia Jane will be formally inducted on April 19, at the Bethesda MD. Writers’ Center Book Fair (at lunch.) We all knew her work but two of the Janes will meet her in the flesh for the first time at her initiation. There, Patricia Jane will have a chance to trade verbiage with the best while handling the sauce. We will see how she deals with spaghetti splashed on a white blouse while weighing in on Barbara Guest.
We four women are of varying ages, and of ages that vary. The purpose of the club suits any age, and that purpose is to keep writing. One of the “prompts” that seems to work as well for us as for college freshmen is to enter the poem with nothing but the stones of language. So as a jumpstart for a poem, each month, one of us supplies ten words, any words. In the classroom these words can be strung together to gather quite a lot of light from the nighttime mind, and jettison the narrative. There are no rules but to use one, all, or some of the words, to add words; so I guess there are actually no rules. The remarkable result is that the poems never overlap in style, tone, content, diction even with the same sprinkling of words. Here are last month’s words and here is what we did with them. (Poems in process.): temporary world heartbreak unmade different precious ceaseless darkness invention February
How Like Love The Night Sky Is
There's Venus again: first light
of these bitter, windswept February nights,
loitering there under the waning and waxing
moon, a lesser light. But she'll be
elsewhere soon and he, that fickle moon,
will go on as before,
bright with borrowed light.
And now, as if the world itself
were not enough to break our hearts,
outside the wobbling rubble of time and space,
some indifferent thing is traveling
ceaselessly towards us
and damned if anyone can tell us
what it is or its intention for us.
Let others call it as they see it:
black hole, End-of-Days, the Great Unmaking.
Let's call it reaping and sowing, hair of the dog
that bit us once, the grenade
of any almost-ordinary day:
pin pulled and the whole
thing waiting to blow.
- - Anne Caston
Here Is A Poem You Can Hide In
When you come to wherever
failed hopes go, turn
where my child’s voice is heard
in the night, still damp from dreams.
Talk of sweet surrender against the
February snow, and then turn inward,
where silver trims the bitter limbs.
I’m not afraid to mention
precious aspirations, and
all we know went wrong,
I’m here with you,
under the same sun and same moon,
right here, the source of prayer,
right here in my hand.
-- Grace Cavalieri
Aubade in February
Sometimes indifference slides into a marriage bed, and unmade love gets hidden in a musty corner, while outside a month like February breathes its moisty cold across the lawn, frosting grass and sticks and cracking thinnest branches. A shadowy heartbreak seems to wait to enter, is chased away, and lurks again.
On this particular evening, though, the hearthlight’s warmth and rich hot chocolate brewing begin their subtle pull. The couple here are weary of their plight, and so they stay up late to talk and talk, uncovering not each others’ weaknesses but their own-- plus fears they tried to banish as cats in litter
boxes might, shaking paws and going on.
Sometimes a single evening’s all that’s needed. Flannel sheets enfold their hungry bodies’ tangling, and when they wake in morning’s precious minutes, light dances on the clock, her lips, his nose, as they kiss and kiss again the temporary world
regained. The ceaseless darkness hounding them all but slips away, its haunches tucked--so quickly disappearing, it must have been (Or could it be?) its own invention.
February is meant for heartbreak – a chain
of disaster without end:
what used to be gardens unmade
beds of frozen mud , darkness
even in daylight, go outside
and immediately fall on the ice-glazed front steps –
really, a suicidal month of ceaseless depression.
Well, that’s February, and March not much different,
except for the tiny hope of daffodils poking their precious
heads up into the chilly world. Then, only then,
do we know what we’ve missed. Their green
relief is so exquisite, we say we’ll belong to winter
for a little while to feel it. As long
as it’s temporary, winter is forgiven
once spring arrives, as if winter cares
what we think about it, as if it were our own
invention to take apart .
This February, the news reported that, in Buffalo,
A Muslim woman who had filed for divorce
Had been beheaded by her husband.
I imagined her,
In a house without mirrors,
Raising her eyes only to examine what she cleaned or cleared.
Her world a ceaseless round:
No bed unmade, no mess, not even a temporary disarray.
As she polished the scimitar (minding its hellish edge)
She wondered if every home contained such instruments,
Or was each marriage, each heartbreak, sliced from flesh
With its own invention?
I was wrong about her.
Her world was larger than I imagined.
And I thought she was different from me --
Until I examine the precious objects in my home
And see the darkness that lurks behind
Every shining thing.
- - Maria van Beuren
And here is a photograph by my friend Dan Murano: