A Fool’s Gift

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Holy Fool Surrounded by Pilgrims (1872) by Vasily Perov

You delight in tales,
not history or achievements,
in parables ancient and abstract.
Your ways are bloodless.

Fearing nothing but God
and your own human heart,
you are no mere jester,
no sophisticated mime,
or vulgar clown.

The face of a fool is intimate,
not subtle, not philosophical.
You are gifted, though, and deft
at unraveling mystery and depth,
at exchanging rhetoric for art.

{This poem was inspired by the dVerse prompt which asks us to:

Write a poem using the word clown or a word – real or created – with clown as the root.

I am not at all a fan of clowns. I find them quite frightening.

Some poets decided to go the horror route with this prompt. Some went political. (Clowns and politicians just go hand in hand don’t they?)

Mine went a different direction. The Fool fits loosely under the clown category. I have always been intrigued by the archetype of the Fool, and in particular the Holy Fool.

There are many representations of the Fool throughout literature. Shakespeare’s plays feature these types of characters. There’s a Fool card in the tarot. And of course there were many saints who were honored with the title within the Eastern Orthodox Church. (In the Western Church we have St. Francis of Assisi as an example.)

The Holy Fool was known to do outrageous (and occasionally humorous) acts. Many had colorful or controversial pasts.

The concept of the Holy Fool is based, in part, on scriptures such as:

God chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Here are a two great reads on the subject:

The Holy Fool (at Image Journal)

St. Simeon the Holy Fool (at Ship of Fools)

There are so many manifestations of the Fool. It’s a fascinating subject.}

Thoughts on Mercy

I

A world without mercy
is like a room with no windows—
all painted walls,
mechanical hums,
and closed doors,
with only the power you can purchase.

II

A young woman limps
out of the 7-Eleven…
bone thin, blowin in the wind,
carrying a squall—an infant by hip.
Where is your brother Abel?
Unheard, unseen.
How can it be?
Sheep outnumber the wolves
a billion times over.
Do you see what I see?

III

Mercy is a window
with slatted blinds,
light beaming through—
morning sun or moonlight,
pelting rain with lightning,
birdsong, hints of green
and blue— hidden in part,
but still within view.

Egret

Small eyes of bright dark glass, brighter than beetles crawling through infinite grass.

Tall and white as the flower beneath my window that opens each day and disappears each night. You move so fast.

I must step out for a better view. The bloom doesn’t mind…why do you?

{National Poetry Month is here. I will try to write a poem every day for the month of April. This is possibly one of those quantity over quality situations. There may be typos…

I don’t know if I will be able to publish a poem every single day, but I would like to at least attempt to write one.

This poem was inspired by the “early bird” warm-up prompt on March 31, 2020 at NaPoWriMo.net.}

Cold Front

When a cold front arrives,
it’s conspicuous.
Whole trees sway.
Leaves and chimes are moved to music.

Cats and coyotes cry
at dawn. They sound
like children in peril.
Or demons.

I am a prisoner watching
from morning’s window.
Listening to the cries
of the lost and hungry.

Slipping out of blankets,
I am grounded
on a floor of ice.
Foggy but steady,

I step in slow motion
toward my daily routine—
silent and desensitized,
in striped fuzzy socks.

World Wind Chart for July August & September. Figure 144 from Admiralty Navigation Manual Vol 1 (1938)

Dead Ends {a haibun}

Clouds make the January sky darker than it should be for five o’clock, and the temperature has been dropping all week.

After finishing a steaming cup of tea, it’s time to face the evening traffic. I wrap my turquoise scarf twice around my neck. A dull day deserves a bright color.

Tonight is the night.

I haven’t cut my hair in almost three years.

But it’s a new year. A new decade. I am ready to let go of dead ends.

And begin growing again.

Long, cold commute…
Running warm fingers through wet
shoulder length curls.

Spectacle {a haibun}

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[Photo by Ganeshrg, Wikimedia Commons]

When dragonflies swarm, people stop what they are doing and watch. They call their friends over. They take photos of themselves surrounded by a blur of wings.

This is what happened one day at work.

You couldn’t walk outside without bumping into them. For twenty minutes, all anyone could talk about with any passion was a gathering of dragonflies.

Even people who bolt outside every day with their mind on cellphones or cigarettes or any number of urgencies, even the distracted and the burdened, were compelled to observe.

I sat at my desk watching the dragonfly watchers. I had noticed the creatures days ago when there were only one or two. My desk has a window view.

No one paid them any attention back then, when they were so small in number.

Two dragonflies sew
the seams of clouds, moving slow
across my window

The Stone Tree

My naked feet pressed the wet blades flat and smooth. Grass is always coldest in the shadow of the Stone Tree. I dreamt about her. Mother told us that anyone who cut that tree would find a treasure inside.

Last night I was a sparrow circling above the forest. I caught a bright flash of white and silver like starlight. I knew I could find that place again in the morning.

After lessons, I drew a picture of her. Her bright limbs reaching for me through thick gray clouds. I wept because I could never be certain that those arms would be able to reach me here in the darkest part of the world.

When I found her, I lay down in the soft moss beside her and slept.

These memories were left here with the trees.

{Some short fiction for the dVerse Prosery prompt. 

It’s meant to encourage poetry writers to try some fiction.  I don’t think fiction is my cup of tea, but the prompts are meant to expand our creativity by taking us outside of our comfort zones.

This prompt asked us to incorporate a line of poetry: “These memories were left here with the trees.” It is taken from a poem by the new US poet laureate, Joy Harjo. Her complete poem is here.

You are only given a few days to write it. Most people write theirs on the first day of the prompt! I like to revise what I write a few times before I post… and after I post… and three years later… I am always revising what I write. I see what’s missing and I add it (or not), especially with fiction.

Poetry is a little different. Because a poem is such a small piece of writing, I usually get the sense that it is complete.  

To be honest, I am certain that I am a poet, not a fiction writer. But these short fiction prompts can be fun to try, and maybe they will help me to develop as a poet too.

I got the idea for the piece of fiction above from a poem I wrote the other day. The prompt asked us to write in prose, so I turned my poem into a piece of short fiction.

I think the poem I wrote also deserves to see the light of day… so I will share it:

The Stone Tree

It’s been so long.
My insides,
like the trees
of ancient times,
are petrified.

I can count
ring upon ring
upon ring,
of gold, but I
am not that old.

No spirit will call
my bone white branches home,
or chew my silver leaves
When I weep, even
when I sigh,

always the smallest,
nearest creatures die,
and, unlike my evergreen
memory, decompose.

Intention

warm, muted light
a quiet evening
a chance to read
the words of poets,
the soft weight of a book
in my hand,
to feel with intention,
a time for order
and safety to roam
as if earth were a memory
and mind a home

{I never did get to read that evening.

I wrote this poem.

As soon as I typed it up in WordPress, the app glitched.

I panicked.

Unfortunately, the rest of that beautiful evening in August was spent chatting with tech support.

And it turned out that all I needed to do was uninstall and reinstall the app.}

Patterns {a haibun}

There is uncertainty in the growth of living things. But there are also patterns.

All day the leaves were in motion. Now the pelting rain is here and they are still. Branches are crooked things, yet they are beautiful.

There are hints of perfection in the geometric shapes of cells and wings and flowers and fruit. And there is certainty in death and birth.

end of storm…
watching the rain get thinner
eating birthday cake

The Vines {a haibun}

I step outside my front door at sunset, stooping to pick up a loose paper. It is wet with rain, and the writing is smudged. The handwritten words sink in: “Please clean vines off home”. It is signed by the property manager. He gives me one week to comply.

There are no vines to my left or right. Grumbling, I walk around to the back of the house and discover the offender. It stretches from ground to roof, weaving its way through the slats of vinyl siding.

How will I reach that height without a tall ladder? What if I fall standing on something? I do not have the proper cutting tool. There is no one to help me. It is getting too dark to see.

That night, I cry softly. How did the vines grow so tall so fast? Would I need to hire someone? I imagine the stubbornness of the vines–their thickness, their invasiveness, their resistance.

Hot summer morning…
kitchen scissors snipping vines–
one by one they fall.