My mother, Carol Saling, died September 27, 2018. She was born in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1924 and would have been 94 this Christmas. Her dying, which was unexpected, followed a stroke that had occurred several days before. There was some lucidity for a day or two that brought about a rush of hopeful optimism among my brothers and me. But I think we recognized it for what it was and weren’t surprised when it proved itself short-lived.
Mom died in the hospital. But the house where she was living when she died is the same house she’d bought with my father 54 years before. It was the first house they’d bought since before I was born, and, for all I know, it was the only house either of them had ever owned. My father died in 1999, and for the 19 years following his death, she lived by herself in that house.
First, you’ve got to clear your head. Because your head just keeps saying things that aren’t true. Well they are true most of the times you’re saying them. But sometimes like last Wednesday, they aren’t true. That was the day I saw the biggest, most beautiful butterfly I’d ever seen….
It’s been a while, but I can’t not post anymore. Please take a moment to visit the Bacopa Literary Review Editors’ Blog and read the post for today put up by Mary Bast, the Bacopa Literary Review Editor-in-Chief. My story “Eva” was published in the 2016 issue and was the 2016 Fiction Runner-up Prize Winner. Mary’s been very gracious and generous in her comments to me about the story, and now she’s taken them public. I know it’s not nice to boast, but I feel very honored to have a blog post about my work that starts with the mention of Michael Ondaatje (The English Patient), Alice Walker (The Color Purple), Russell Banks(The Sweet Hereafter) andMargaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale ). And then while you’re there, don’t just look at today’s post. Spend some time looking around. It will be time well spent.
And now for something different…
The pigeons in the picture are not at the Frick. They’re part of a fountain at a former convent that now houses a school of art in San Antonio. The Frick is an art museum in New York. The poem below is a repost from a few years back.
At the Frick
In the museum, the bronze statuary,
Small enough to be held in hand, excites
You. The artist’s craft, his love of form both
Transparent, his hand invisible, his soul,
Poured like liquid stone, became these figures,
And we become the air through which they move.
Yet in a poem, I could give you more
Than these perfect bodies. I could give you
All of their warmth, all of their hue, and more.
I can give you the sun in a blue room,
Balconies with no way down, salt-laced rhythms
Of tides, sea birds unreachable. But still
I can never see nor feel in the cold
Dead bronze the things you see, the things you feel.
Check out this latest post at Roxi St. Clair. (And then spend some time roaming the site. You’ll be glad you did.)
It demonstrates an excellent understanding of the Haiku Sensibility and how to apply it in English poetry. The only suggestion I would make if I were editing the poem would be to consider the word “at” rather than “to” in the fifth line.
Over the next few weeks, if it doesn’t destroy itself and the sun doesn’t burn it up, Comet ISON just may put on one hell of a show. Enthusiasts have already called it a “comet of the century” and dubbed it a “Great Comet.” Within just a few days, this very small space rock — only about three miles across — will slingshot around the sun, traveling at .2 the speed of light and passing within 730,000 miles of the sun’s surface. Using only gravity as a propellant, it will dance across our sky with a show that, if the predictions are even remotely accurate, will dazzle, amaze, and stay with you for a very long time.
Perhaps you’re already watching. Some people who rise early enough — at least an hour before dawn — and have a clear view of the lower eastern sky and have been tracking the comet with the aid of binoculars or a telescope have already formed a bond with this visitor from the outer reaches of our solar system. I know I’ve seen several comets in my life. But the one I most clearly remember and feel connected to is Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997 that followed me half way around the world.
We saw the comet Hale-Bopp stand still
Above the ocean at Ka’anapali Beach,
Just like the crow we saw one morning rise
In Boston, a black knight errant, holding still
Against the wind, and flapping its wings to stay
In place while others watched then rode the wind
Up through the sky — first one, then three, while the first
Held still, then dipped, then rose along their arc.
Again in Atlanta, we saw Hale-Bopp
And watched its tail that arced above Stone Mountain,
As stony as the frieze on the mountain’s face,
The infamous past held lifeless there until
A laser called it back and thundering hooves
Like in a page from Faulkner roared inside
The head of a thousand Hightowers then died
When floodlights splashed against the granite wall.
I once saw black Ogunquit sea birds skate
Across the water’s surface with their wings
Outstretched and necks pushed forward like a horse
Gaining speed to rise up from the waves,
A white spray arcing from their tails beneath
The granite cliffs and slate New England sky.
The following poem was originally published in Birmingham Poetry Review, No. 31, Summer/Fall 2005.
(Try playing the video and audio tracks together; just wait for the music to start before starting the audio.)
From the Choir Loft
Singing is twice praying.
On alternating days we sang the Mass At seven, boys, then girls, then boys again.
Sometimes the only ones who’d show
To sing were me and Hal the organist,
And I could barely hum a note. Refrains
Eluded me, so Hal would sing it solo.
Now Hal had music in his hands and feet; The organ‘s pipes were a part of him.
But when he tried for music from his throat,
Well, Father said it sounded kind of sweet
If sweet meant scratchy, hoarse, and thin
And not unlike the bleating of a goat.
From Kyrie to Agnus Dei, Hal
Sang all the parts, sang treble, alto, bass
And never worried what the music said.
The words were all that mattered. Still somehow
He’d hit the final note then turn his face
And wink at me and proudly raise his head.
Hal quit the church when Kyrie became
The simple English Lord and anyone
Who wanted stood and strummed communal chords
For masses where the singing was the same
As elevator sap, and Hal seemed stunned
To learn that music is in deed the words.
A photo of the inside of Pisa’s Duomo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Experience in Sound 3
Play both tracks together.
The Miracle (from A Matter of Mind)
It’s as if the statue moved — just a hair But moved. With my own eyes I saw it turn, The gold glitter of the crown dance then spurn All sense to leave its place in the sun. The air Was charged with stained light and I knelt down there, Half in fear — yes — but I felt my soul yearn To touch a marble hem and thereby learn A secret of God that would be mine alone to share. There should be, I thought, music, but there was none. Only the wind through the choir loft — and my breath. All was as it had been, and I, the only one To see it, stood alone as at my own death. With dread I stepped forth, and yet I did so believing That no loving god could ever be so deceiving.
A big thank you to my son Jason who found this and shared it on his Facebook page. (I’m not at all a fan of Facebook. I joined only so I could see pictures of my grand kids that some how don’t get circulated other than on Facebook. But that’s a subject for another post.)
If you have seven minutes, I highly recommend watching this short film. And if you don’t have seven minutes, why are you so busy? Take time out — soon — and come back and watch. You’ll be very glad that you did.