Cindy Frenkel – Two Poems
Summer’s Day in Chichester
for Pippa and David Wheeler
Pippa’s pear trees in the long garden,
lyrical accents, repose in otherness.
We walk with our daughters
through deep woods, verdant rooms
of cambered trees, every shade of green.
At the pub overlooking the sea,
its beams older than Michigan trees,
a golden retriever sleeps curled on the bench.
Our plates arrive, carrots, beans
a visual feast of orange and green,
Yorkshire pudding, thin slices of beef.
We share warm dessert with cream
then walk the water’s edge,
our girls collecting sea glass.
In the old cemetery above the beach,
I study names, dates, am drawn
to miniature lamb markers scattered
among the larger stones.
The most enchanting,
the most tragic.
How could I have known?
The Anatomy of Color
Green yields itself to us
this time of year,
the hopeless birch, felicitous willow,
and even the pink tulips,
with their green stands and leaves,
bend over as most any flower would
in such a breeze. Air rushes in
with the smell of green, tries to articulate
the pure cerulean of the sky
and fails. But somehow the sweet
smell lingers, and the willow
mops the sky. Through the miniature gray boxes
of the screen door I can see: two red metal
chairs with their fanned backs,
a yellowish straw mat to wipe one’s feet on,
and the lawn’s vast expanse,
a variety of greens—mint, army, pine.
The paper with its black-on-white
characters is tossed near the door;
its scroll shape rolls, morning
after morning, just beyond the green.
Slender fingers push open the door.
Coffee’s smell wafts
through this small house,
and look: the table’s ready, the white
porcelain cup reflecting the silver
of a fork, sizzle then splatter
of a real meal cooking,
and doesn’t the sky seem bluer today?
The colors outside will be more
of what they are, each piece of fruit,
every dirty lawn chair, each blade of hair.
Even the air carries the smell of color,
apple blossoms exploding,
pink and white. Today is a day
to remember, brushing a mosquito
away from the face, feeling that calm
at seeing lawn, gray-brown bark
of a tree, violet in a bud, green,
green as only summer, in a stem.
Up the brown steps,
a plaid dress on the chair waiting
to be worn, and loafers abandoned
in the corner, brown leather
staring at brown leather. A few amber hairs
in the brush, amber which will grow darker,
then lighter, gray, gray-white, softer.
Night is the darkest blue punctuated
by white dots. Iridescent blue wings flutter
between brown trees, and individual nouns
are attempting to spell Forever.
Color and form divide, distinguish,
modify, as everything ages.
The moon is only a chip of gold, a transmutation
of its old substance, adequate light
to catch the lilacs bobbing. The elm
in the back of the house has been standing
for hundreds of years, the blue wings
flickering for maybe a moment.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Recently, I left my car in a friend’s driveway, and we went in his car to a restaurant. When we returned, it was dark out. Walking toward my car to leave, I flicked the key fob to unlock my door, and the headlights beamed. There it was: attached to both the car and my friend’s garage, a massive, marvelous spider web. It was woven in the time it took to go for dinner!
It was breathtaking. Wanting to preserve this meticulous lacework, I gingerly tried to detach it from my car. In an instant, it disappeared.
Looking at ripples in the tub or foamy waves lapping the shore can affect me the same way. I feel a reservoir of joy well up when seeing momentary glimpses of beauty. It happens, too, when looking at someone I love.
I also find huge pleasure in small, handmade treasures, a box covered in marbleized Italian paper or an exquisite letterpress card. Mallory is my most beautiful, constant companion. She’s a tuxedo cat, with two different colored eyes: one jade-green, one sea-blue, and each of equal hue. With her pale pink nose, she has a sublimely balanced face. It’s a joy being her person. When she’s hiding under the bed (and her face is out of view), often her black tail sticks out, with its white dot on the end, her exclamation point—wonderful!—and charming, too. Could it get any better? It does. Her beauty is completely rivaled by her sweetness. How I welcome the thump, thumping as she runs to greet me when I come home!
Cindy Frenkel’s remembrance “Galway Kinnell and the Blue Button-Down,” appears in The Southampton Review. Her essay about being a Writer-in-Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project, which brings working poets into Detroit public schools, is in the anthology To Light a Fire. Frenkel’s poetry has been in MER, The MacGuffin, The Alembic, Poetica, and Renaissance City. She wrote and edited The Detroit Institute of Arts Magazine (DIA), has authored several columns, and coauthored 100 Essential Books for Jewish Readers. She earned her M.F.A. from Columbia University while working on The New Yorker’s editorial staff. She is an adjunct professor at Oakland Community College and Lawrence Technological University.