“In the folds of envelopes”


Letter from Long Island

Trestles of lines accost her—
curls and clean edges, dots and crosses
hollow shapes and and empty spaces.
Words are lonely secretaries.

After smudging the blue ink,
she retraces folds and creases,
returns the specimen to origami.
 
Pushing the shell of thin glasses
to the high bridge of her nose,
she recalls the language of Paumanok
and pens the valediction. The train
speeds toward home, arcing into
the dialogue of never-ending notes.

The title of the post is from my poem “Postcard” which appears in Reconnaissance.

Wintering

Almost a foot of snow fell last night, and this morning’s best-laid plans were tossed away when the plowman’s tires spun more quickly than the clock which told me I’d be late for class. Machines did what machines do, a little better than we can do ourselves.

Here’s to shovels shoveling.


Waiting for the Plowman

In the morning: Rousseau’s Confessions. Breakfast:
something forgettable and unfulfilling, toast,
the white of an egg circling a shiny yolk.

By midday, the desert of chalk buries the laurel
and watching juncos burrow under the feeder
suffices for motion. Blank under its plastic face

the kitchen dial signals two o’clock with sleek
anemic hands. Within the hour, sugar held
in the spoon’s mouth is let go into black liquid,

and boots, scuffed and sheltered alert the tangled
knit scarf to concoct itself. At four, shovel in hand
I depart to do the job myself. The man

and his truck are nowhere to be found
even though the blizzard’s end is new
and he promised and there is a lot of it.

Lighter than a pile of proverbial feathers
but sticky and heaping, the first bundle I take
begins to build a dune around the driveway

but there is nowhere else to go and no rest
and nothing to do to lessen the white
except to bend at the knees and let it fly.

“Waiting for the Plowman” first appeared in the summer 2016 issue of Sixfold, and will appear in my forthcoming collection Mouthbrooders, coming out this summer from Homebound Publications.

Hypergraphia

Fill in the blank: Poetry is ____________

From Poetry 205 Fall 2017 to Poetry 205 Spring 2019. This poem was compiled from students’ responses to the above equation.

What is Poetry?


I.
a baby’s first tears,
wrapped in the arms of a mother with fears
a cigarette bowing to the flame
and a vision upon paper with inked emotion
a light breeze making branches sway
and the sun’s dance on hard concrete
a mouthful of honey,
the sweetest stopping of breath
a cluster of words with power
to break history and sleep with lullabies
an escape; suddenly you find a light
that guides you to freedom
a life preserver: keeping me
from drowning in my thoughts
the sky at night, open
yet hard for one to see without clear vision
as stimulating as green tea
and as hard to sleep after

versigami

II.
Rhythm, brain down to fingertips
exploding
Life with depth, a looking glass, an entrance
to a world
Poetry opens unlearned minds
to live the impossible through the imagined

III.
a rebirth of ideas, precisely ironed
the power to defy time
the soul coming out to speak
an attempt to point

IV.
A poet is a soldier, lover, and fighter packed in one.
A therapist for all aspects of my being
A poet is a pathologist and the muse his corpse,
cracking open each vein to see what brought it to his table.

Click Purchase Now to get a copy of Possible Forms. $5 or free with the purchase of another title.

Getting on with it

After the ice storm, it’s good to get back to the living world, back to performing ordinary acts.

A Gathering of Sorts

As morning curdles its way to noontime,
autumn plays its lazy guitar.
To join the living world,
we make our way to the post office
with enough change in hand for three stamps.
Their duty is delivering messages:
a utility bill, the insurance payment, a letter
to a friend. In the front of the line,
a woman’s daughter spins
and spins in her orbit.

Gathering packages in his arms,
a man, Santa-like in tweed jacket
and leather cap, stands beside
a painter covered in plaster.
He sways and looks away
from us, staring instead into
the clouds of his day.

Each day we perform ordinary acts:
we teach algebra, refinance mortgages,
cook dinner, journey to the moon.

Each day a mixture of light and color
penetrates our trust. We place our faith
in little things: the oak’s red summit,
a stamped envelope,
holding the door for each other
as we enter and leave each other’s lives.

Potato Eaters, published by Finishing Line Press, 2008

“To bring out the fine points of a good picture.”

“To bring out the fine points of a good picture.”

Such was the idea put forth by painter (and frame maker) Charles Prendergast in explaining his theory of crafting frames. Recently,  I had the chance to learn about Charles, and his better-known brother Maurice, at the New Britain Museum of American Art and to experience their collaborations. My feature article “The Painting and Its Frame”  explores the relationship between the image and frame. You can find the full text at Woven Tail Press.  Here is Maurice’s Approaching Storm framed by Charles’s wood frame with gilding and paint.

Approaching Storm_Maurice.Prendergast . . . Often my museum experience brings me to artists who have completely abandoned the frame—whether it’s painters whose raw canvas stands on its own or sculptures and installations where the boundaries are figurative.” Read More

Happy viewing!

 

Tears come down wet

 Tears come down wet, whether in fear, grief, delight, or gratitude.

Read my latest essay, “Failing Feet and Finger Lakes” in the autumn issue of Fired Up! Creative Expression for Challenging Times.

My poem, “Lucifer Falls, New York,” was also inspired by the gorges and trailheads near Cayuga Lake. What’s the connection between poetry and prose? Read more about the lines between them in my essay from Re-Imagining. 

Lucifer Falls, New York

Like war planes, a crowd
of raptors scull through the blank
and cloudless sky. One
after another, they stream
over the open paddock
of midsummer green, advance
toward a still and speechless
line of trees. Their portents

reach the forest’s door; needles
of pine brace between hard clay
and treachery. The bone black jaw
of a red-bellied snake ruins
a toad’s last chance for escape.
He is in the middle of it now,
like the fawn whose femur lay
furloughed in the gorge,
trespassing on the slick ink
of river-smoothed black rocks.

“Lucifer Falls, New York” appears in Reconnaissance, published by Homebound Publications. This collection and my memoir The Comet’s Tail are both available wherever books are sold, especially at Homebound’s online store. Support Indie Presses and shop Small Business Saturday.

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Companionship and Inspiration

Finding your muse

Amy Nawrocki

Sing to Me
Sing to me, Oh heavenly Muse,
Sing of the sea, “wine dark” and full of mysteries;
Sing your generous musings into my untamed ears,
Guide me to places where islands peek out and crest from the ocean’s swell of waves.

Speak to me of sailing, foreign speaking travelers, roads and pathways winding and      steep, gravel covered, tree-lined and mountain rich, those which frame
the ocean’s mighty blue-black plentitudes in their sights.

Sing to me of gannets; the birds of prehistory captured in flight, white winged with sun-touched caps and eyes blue as the empty sky.

Sing to me of porcupines, earth dwellers of the spiny quills, shy and clover-munching; Sing of rabbits tramping through forests, stealing a moment to look out and survey the
open path, only to scurry playfully into the underbrush.

Bring to my ears the far-away call of the coyotes, watching over the mountain…

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Lifting the dead

When I switched from squats to deadlifts a few weeks ago, I have to admit I was a little sad to give away one metaphor–carrying myself out of a burning building–for that of another–lifting the dead. But I got over it pretty quick, metaphorically at least.

And I could say that my efforts are wrapped around notions of becoming a new, better, stronger person by disposing of that old, “dead” self. I could say that with every lift I’m fighting off the terrors of a bleak, immobile future. I could say that weight lifting allows me to lift away a yolk of self-doubt and emerge, 82.5 pounds later with superpower insight and unwavering badassness. But that’s not the case at all.

squatrack 1

You won’t believe me, but I do it for words.

Squat: to “thrust down with force,” (modern English) from the Old French, “esquatir” (to flatten) by way of Latin “cogere” (compel).  Crush, crouch in hiding.

The origin of “deadlift” apparently dates back to the Roman empire, to soldiers lifting the dead off the battlefield.  A literal origin, we could say.

Lift: from Old Norse “lypta” (“upper room, sky air”) and Middle English “luft” (“air, sky, heaven”).

And also this: Dead:  of water, “still, standing,” from Proto-Germanic.

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I do it because poetry is strong and words matter. So, this too:

Fitness

On a good day the bar is clear, cage
empty, uncluttered. On a good day
I have to stack my own black disks
and clip them tight. One solitary
bough waits for me to strap it onto
my back and climb the mountain
of steel and circumstance.

I brace, measure my grip, shoulders
strong and lithe, and command muscle
to contract. No chalk, no gloves, no talk,
no audience of men, no breath besides
this one. In the mirror I see her,
the one who devours concrete,
chase the past away with stinging arrows.

Award winning medical narratives

Thanks to poet Cortney Davis for her review of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory posted in LitMed: Literature Arts Medicine Database sponsored by NYU Health. This is an excellent database which curates the human condition. Cortney’s poetry collection Taking Care of Time is also featured on LitMed. I’m proud to be included as one of the featured authors. Here is an excerpt:

This little book (little both in page numbers and in its 4×6 inch dimension) is a beautifully written contemplation not only of what happened to the author’s memory during and after illness, but of memory itself, its twists and turns and mysteries.  Is memory reliable?  Nawrocki notes how the memories of family and friends sometimes didn’t jive with the official documents: “I toggle between the subjectivity of other people’s memories and the objectivity of chest x-rays and EKGs” (page 27). And if eleven people write about an event are they all telling the same story? “At least eleven people tell the story of Amy on June 18th when I arrive in ‘soft restraints'” (page 19).  At book’s end, the author writes, “Memory is a thing; remembering is an action, ongoing” (page 46). In these pages she gives us a wonderful story, a memory of a time with no memory, in poetic language, with compassion and eloquence.

In other news, The Comet’s Tail was awarded the Mind Body Spirit Gold Medal from Living Now Book Awards, which celebrate the innovation and creativity of newly published books that enhance the quality of our lives.

Purchase a copy of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory at Homebound Publications, Amazon, or your favorite independent bookseller.

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