All Souls Day
comes with visits to the graveyard and flowers ~
a topiary bear wears pink carnation eyes,
scattered flower heads mark a child’s grave,
walls and mausoleums are submerged
by wreaths and bouquets in a living garden.
I take the afternoon bus from Antigua, Sacetepequez
to San Antonio, Aguas Caliente in Guatemala, get off.
The uphill path is dirt, I enter through a stick gate.
Quiche Mayans gather in the cemetery,
dressed in festive best to honor the ancestors.
Women kneel at gravesides,
their long skirts topped by woven huipils in primary colors,
men squat, feet bare or in rubber tired sandals,
clad in black pants with a plain white dress shirt or bright camisa,
Little boys on the mortuary’s tin roof oversee comings and goings,
they hold handmade kites made of crepe paper in flower colors.
Earlier that day, the children flew kites in the cemetery
to dance on the wind with the dead.
Picnicking and dancing to marimba has ended.
Families sit vigil.
No breeze mars the silence.
In deep twilight I catch the bus back to Antigua.
I leave behind villagers clustered at graves.
Each group circles a monument woven of palm leaves
to form a green church, incense and candles burning inside.
I smell drifting smoke that weaves in grass and floats.
Before I enter the bus, I glance back.
It’s too dark to see the people, too black to see the hill.
Light hovers where ground had been
as if stars had come down from the sky
to join wavering candlelight.
No division exists between hill and heaven,
starlight flicker covers it all.
The dead walk free and visit tonight.
At the back of the house, I wait for sunrise.
Far out on the ocean, water ripples silver,
closer, it shimmers mercury.
Near the shore, black breaks come and go,
more jags appear and vanish.
I look for black spots and find
three dolphins behind the bulwark,
their black fins cut dashes
in the still surface.
A giant sun leaps out of the sea, into the sky.
We watch daybreak together,
then the dolphins swim north up the coast.
I watch them go with joy and sadness
mixed like bubbles in carbonated water.
One dolphin returns to the pier.
She twirls her body over and over,
swims a languid dance
long sleek and wet
and tracks a perfect circle.
She scribes in water
with ebony flippers and fins,
her stanza a seamless orb
in rhyme to daybreak.
Her circle complete,
she dives and disappears.
These words on paper
are a dolphin’s poem.
Jersey shore kids play a game called first one to see the moon,
I never played it until tonight at Stella Maris.
“There,” a woman cries, and points to the eleven o’clock position.
All around me, the cry is repeated,
followed by the silence of a lightning bolt without thunder.
The full moon rises out of the great mixing bowl.
A red sliver of light etches the horizon,
emerges to giant fullness,
then pauses, reluctant to leave the sea and go alone into the sky.
Tide’s tug holds it in a watery embrace.
A ribbon of light shimmers on the surface,
the moon ascends, shrinks,
fades from bright to branding iron white,
and casts a river of beams.
That’s the only time I ever saw the moon rise from the ocean.
In the woods where I live, you see the moon after it clears the trees.
I long to see the back of the moon, wonder if will be blue.
Sometimes it takes one woman’s eyes to open another’s.
Sun & Light
rock piled sea rim
the dam of day bursts open
sun fire fault lines
on black clouds
sun washes through
water carved rock
morning no shadow without the sun
what hides inside
dapple shadow caves
under the trees
stretch deep green
in late afternoon
Seurat’s pointillism ~
fuzzy pin points of stars
mat gray fades black
two ends of day
silent light clap shakes
coming and going
in a ballgown
bare wet feet
footprints in silver grass
diamond ring ~
dancing with a firefly
on my finger
firefly jar bedside the bed
summer star shine
fog up to my knees
legs and feet invisible
floating down the road
hayfield in summer
under rolling green waves
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty unfurls and rewinds with the passing seasons. I gather up nature images in poems the same way I pick up acorns or pebbles that call to me on the beach. This selection of poems gathers the stars on the hill on All Souls Day, a dolphin watching sunrise with me, the red moon rising from the ocean, how each day comes and goes and the childhood thrill of discovery. The landscape of these poems is the Amish country of Pennsylvania, Guatemala and Stella Maris Retreat House in Long Branch, New Jersey. To find beauty I step outside and stay open. I walk, tend wildflowers and vegetables, feed the birds. I watch and wait, then go inside and write haiku and Japanese short forms. I find consolation in the beauty and grace of nature. When I see something beautiful, I want to share it in a poem.
Date published: April 17, 2017