Beside, Before, Beneath

 

Beside, Before, Beneath

Placement is paramount in understanding
this gift, to be so near a natural wonder
appreciated only by proximity and granted
by the good grace of introduction by parents
who appreciated the beauty around them
and were aware of the intrinsic value of water,
that essential element that lives within all of us.

To be held beside, to stand before and beneath,
and to ride on the waves below the Falls of Niagara.
All of these have been my pleasure, practiced
for the first six decades of my life.

While being with the one I love this past decade
has been an additional blessing in my life,
my distance from that natural wonder is now
nine hundred miles, a curse that is lifted
only when traveling to see family.
The day when it is once more a short drive
from my door cannot come soon enough.

This is my response to Day 29 at napowrimo.net, which is to “write a poem in which you muse on the gifts you received at birth — whether they are actual presents, like a teddy bear, or talents – like a good singing voice – or circumstances – like a kind older brother, as well as a “curse” you’ve lived with.”

Photos
American Falls with Horseshoe Falls in background
One year old, with my father & grandfather
Visiting Niagara Falls with my wife

(click each photo for larger view in new tab)

 

The Commons at Niagara

The Commons at Niagara

Passing from one great lake to another,
would this not seem a natural course?
But who could pass treacherous rapids,
or the mighty cataract they surround?
Of what use a river, if not for transit?
But let that not halt the progress of man.

Of what use a river falling great heights
if not to be harnessed for industry?
And so it came to be, mills and plants
along its rushing course, amid the islands
that divide those cataracts, atop the walls
that once were a stately gorge.

But oh, the steep price of progress
and the unbridled power of industry.
Far from sightly, the discharge
of chemicals to air and water
and the scars they leave the cost
of harnessing the power of nature.
If not for visionaries.

Free Niagara became the cry of those
who followed Olmsted’s lead.
And so they did. Land along that gorge,
beside those rapids, and on the islands
at the very brink of the falls,
once claimed by commerce,
became parkland for the people.

From one century to another,
and now another, the trails and paths
of Olmsted and Vaux continue to offer
views that show no sign of those past scars,
only the beauty of this natural wonder
at the Niagara Reservation, the Commons
that displaced an industrial wasteland.

 

This is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: The Commons, the prompt from Brendan which as us to “describe that half-wild, half-human habitat of sharing and sustenance in your locale?” The Niagara Reservation, later named Niagara Falls State Park, was New York’s first state park. I lived in the area for most of my life and often visited the Falls, sometimes several times a month.

Off prompt, but shared with Day 29 at napowrimo.net.

Aerial view of Niagara Falls from Niagara Falls Public Library
Black & white image: former industry along the Niagara Gorge, from Wikimedia commons
(click photos for larger view in new tab)

 

Within Nature’s Balance ~ concrete poetry

 Within Nature’s Balance

This is my response to Day 28 at napowrimo.net,
where we are asked to write a concrete poem.

Using a screenshot, the lower half of the image shows how it appears on my screen.
Click on the image for a larger view in a new tab.

Formatted differently, the poem might appear as below.

Within Nature’s Balance

Imagine the peace and harmony this world
would know, the balance
that could be
achieved

if life were as easy to navigate
as the waters that greet and accept

this paddle with-
out reservation, one of
many essential elements
within the greater
picture

 

this is apheresis ~ concrete poem ~ with audio

 

This is my response to Day 28 at napowrimo.net, where we are asked to write a concrete poem. This may narrowly fit within the definition, as it was adapted from a poem written in verse to fit the shape of a drop of blood. (The original appears below.) I wrote it in 1998, when I was donating platelets at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. Framed, it was still hanging on the wall of the donation center when I stopped donating platelets in 2006. It was published in the hospital newsletter at the time.

Since it was written in 1998, I’ll be sure to write a poem later today, to stay current in National./Global Poetry Writing Month.

Shared with OpenLink Night #315 at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.

 

this is apheresis

faces
          filled with cheer
          expressing gratitude
reflecting
          optimism necessary
          for survival
shared
          by some
down the halls
forsaken
          by others
          beyond the walls

industry
          devoted to
          saving lives
seeking
          to aid
          those in need
replenishing
          vital components
          of a precious nature
welcoming
          donations from
          a precious source

sometimes
          a jab and
          a mild twinge
sometimes
          the sense of a feather
          passing over my arm
either way
          any sense of intrusion
is soon gone
replaced
          by thoughts
          of those in need

departing
          with no need
          to return
living
          with no
          of urgency
thinking
          of those
          who know urgency
returning
          to offer aid
          expecting to see
faces
          filled with cheer
          expressing gratitude

this is apheresis

 

 

Not So Silent Water ~ duplex

Not So Silent Water

Where else would I be
than here, on quiet water?

The water not so quiet,
carries songs of birds.

All around me is a chorus
led by cardinal’s cheerful call.

Calling out much louder,
tufted titmouse responds.

Trilling out its lonely answer,
a kingfisher passes by.

Turtles leave before I pass,
break the water with a splash.

With such sounds to break the silence,
Where else would I be?

This is my response to Day 27 at napowrimo.net, where we are asked to write a “duplex,” which is a variation on the sonnet, developed by the poet Jericho Brown. Maureen Thorsen describes it this way:

“It’s organized into seven, two-line stanzas. The second line of the first stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the second stanza, the second line of the second stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the third stanza, and so on. The last line of the poem is the same as the first.

Bruised Ego

Bruised Ego

This precaution, a prevention
of future cognitive lapses –
I do understand the concept,
having once briefly lapsed
in cognitive function –
does not confuse me,
yet it confounds me.

My blood is now thinner
and rises more swiftly
to the surface, and so the scars
I wear migrate, week by week.

This week, it’s a purple badge
on each arm, from elbow to wrist,
arms not meant to be squeezed
into a tight space to retrieve something
nearly irretrievable. I bump the table,
or a door frame, and my hip or shoulder
wears the bright blush of embarrassment.

A scratch on my finger,
so minor as to go unnoticed,
leaves a red trail
of directional dots
on the kitchen floor.
If I were donating blood,
a pinprick would suffice.

Spatial orientation, once a given,
seems to have been deleted
from my résumé. A victim
of that previous cognitive lapse?
If only I could remember
to be more careful.

I had a TIA in late 2019 with no further developments, but since I’m a borderline candidate for surgery to correct my patent foramen ovale (PFO) , which was diagnosed in 2020 and had allowed a small clot to go to my brain, my cardiologist recently prescribed a blood thinner to reduce the risk of any more TIAs. (It was my decision to forego surgery because of risk due to age.)

Off prompt, but shared with Day 27 of napowrimo.net.

 

A Winter’s Tale

This is my response to Poetics: Homage to the Bard, at dVerse ~ Poets Pub. To honor William Shakespeare, baptized on 26 April 1564, Ingrid asks us to use one of the provided titles, including “A Winter’s Tale,” in a poem. Forget iambic pentameter, dragging rhyme and meter out of me is like pulling teeth. So, I offer this:

A Winter’s Tale

Though I may look back
and see much to be forgotten,
it was not all a winter’s tale.
There was warmth,
of this I can’t deny.
How else could two souls
be bound for three decades?
And though, in the end,
a chill took hold,
love played its part
for the greater portion.
Long after it burned itself out,
I hold close to my heart
three souls, born of the embers
of that original fire.

Photo: May 2019

Birdsong ~ haibun

Birdsong

“Wake! Wake!” Robin calls. “Today will be a hot day. Get an early start if you want to be on the water!” I rise as first light slips through the blinds. After morning coffee and a light breakfast, I go to the garage and put the kayak on the roof of my car.

An hour after my wake-up call, I paddle on the water of a smooth stream, the surface broken only by my bow and turtles startled by my passing. Repeated chirp of tufted titmouse scolds me for my presence. A hawk wheeling overhead responds with a scree.

eyes turn left
at sound of chirrup
kingfisher

This haibun is my response to Haibun Monday 4-26-22: bird songs,
the prompt from Frank Tassone at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.

Image source: ukiyo-e.org ~ Great Tit and Robin, by Kitagawa Utamaro

Shared with Day 26 at napowrimo.net.

A Maid in the Mist ~ aisling

A Maid in the Mist

I stand on the shore of the Niagara,
beside a stand of reeds,
dawn shedding its light dimly
through morning fog.
On a rock amid those cattails,
a black-crested night heron
turns its red eye towards me,
and the bird’s shape shifts
until I’m faced by a maiden
in a simple gown of gray and white
that shifts like the wings
of the bird that first greeted me.
Lelawala, Maid of the Mist, speaks.

Long was I troubled by the return
of the snake of my time, that serpent
that sought to poison these waters,
and so my people. Only by the will
of the Thunder God was it defeated,
its great body forming the rim
of the mighty falls. But your snake
is not mine. It is industry.

While your neighbors to the north
have long sought to maintain their shore
as a parkway, it took long decades
for your people to recognize the toll
imposed by industry. The renewed state
of that shore must be a reminder
to never again let that snake raise its head.

I realize that the fog has thinned
in the morning light, and that,
once again, I am eyed by that heron,
which turns from me to take flight.

I wake, and I’m left with a fading memory,
an early morning mist that dissipates
in a warm October sunrise as the air loses
its grasp on the river, lets it slip back
into its already cooling depths,
that air now filled with sunlight.

This is my response to Day 25 at napowrimo.net, where we are challenged to write in the poetic form known as aisling, which was developed in Ireland. Maureen tells us that “an aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it.”

The Niagara River forms a portion of the border between the United States and Canada. While Ontario has long maintained a parkway along the entire length of the river, New York’s shore from Lake Erie to Niagara Falls has been home to all kinds of industry, from chemical factories to steel and paper mills to landfills. Many of those plants are gone, and conservation efforts have cleaned the shoreline and restored habitats. In both countries, the Maid of the Mist is recognized as a symbol of Niagara Falls. Details of the legend can be found here.

 Image: black-crested night Heron on the Niagara River, at dusk
~ click for larger view in new tab ~