Wendy A. Howe – Five Poems
Repose At 4 am
To breathe in stillness when the train has passed
and birds slumber in the trees,
instills comfort. The room’s lit by a street lamp
squinting through the shutters
while elsewhere leaf shadows
make their vineyard on the wall.
They say this house was built
from the ruins of an olive mill;
and the ground remembers its fallen fruit
but has submitted to the wild emptiness
ghosting through tall grass and broken stone.
Two stories up, I press your hand extracting
whatever chill lingers from a dream; and you go on
to rest without trembling. A sacred thing
harvested in this last hour
when darkness makes its peace with dawn;
and cobwebs seem to have caught
(letting the air skim off ) what you
can no longer remember.
Running With Deer
Antlered and loop-tailed and amber-eyed beings whose resplendent
weirdness loosens our imaginations.
The first time I saw him,
he was barely seen except for a tail
and antlers divining the wind
for a safer direction.
Something had disturbed him
beyond my presence or dry leaves
scuttling over the rock wall. Restless
I wanted to run with him
foot-crackling through the green
bonfire of bush and ferns
to an uphill retreat — where pines
edged the sky with gothic grace
and the mitered deer
stood vocalizing his need
to create. The primal song
almost making the sap
flicker within its votive wood.
And in that place
I would do the same
calling down from childhood
the wild spirit
that taught me how to hunt and explore,
trust in the trees (their roots and rings)
and the depth of stillness
found in stone, water or those
eluding their fate. The other mammal
( in me) crying to the moon. His moon
he so often gripped
with his headdress of bone
sheathed in velour. His eyes burning
through the charcoal haze
as he’d keep belling for a mate
and myself for a dream, an idea —
a storyteller’s shadow
I would come to love or disown.
A Woman Contemplates The Water Cooler
Trapped in a glass lung,
water waits to be drawn
then sipped between gossip
and complaints. Its spirit reduced to these
shared ounces and hours in an office
which should be a stream or river
polishing stones, soaking through
tree roots and keeping the earth cool
while fragments of former lives
lie embedded among shoots of new growth.
My tendons are stems
stretching, binding movement
to wind and light, white pines
and old world sparrows. North Carolina
calls me back. Her breath history deep,
a hearth exposed on a hill
where there’s enough shards
of clay and wood to comprise
the rattle’s shake for rain
or healing. Where a woman stirred pots
and carved dolls with a paring knife,
her fingers scented with tea olive, limber
as the bark of a sapling.
I was not born there
but born of her. Her ancestry ringed
around those joints that let me travel
telling my bones their song is the song
of the seeker, the wood wife
who sleeps on the ground and listens for water —
the course of her next journey.
moves slowly through my room
moment by moment, instinctively canine.
She stalks my insomnia
with shadow and hints of noise —
water drip, wood creak, wall scratch.
Familiar sounds that don’t frighten
but nag with normal curiosity
about the house.
What faucet needs a wrench,
field mouse a trap,
floorboards a sanding and polish?
It has been observed that such vixens
come in, curling in the comfort
of their own fur and simply stay to watch.
Their presence bringing distraction, sometimes guidance.
Now, the long moon and darkness make
this evening a silver fox . She lets me hear
whatever hushes the silence of memory
nudging me to forget illness and loss of love,
other related things. I listen, Her breath close,
warm with the drowsiness of sleep
The Maiden Spring
In your veins, the rivers melt
and rush with clear water. In your eyes,
the greening of leaves, your lashes the stems
of wild leek and garlic. And in the roots
of your hair, the red bark of saplings
and sunrise that candles the sky
with virgin fire. Light that draws beast
and bulb from hibernation, that stirs
fish from their gelid sleep and inspires
song birds to nest. Around your body,
you drape a season of dreams and flowers
the wind soon scatters over hill, field —
the door sill of my mind. I open it
and become your shadow.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Beauty lives through the gift of perspective. We are born with an imaginative sense of inquiry which propels us to explore both our spiritual and physical environments. Having the capacity to perceive miracles in everyday scenes, like the way a crow stands on a pine with his feathers lit by the sun, an iridescent finial that turns the tree into a spire; is an example of this cognitive magic. Or think of discovering how one object in nature can shape-shift into the character of another person or thing, such as the silhouette of a tree (in the moonlight) that becomes a Hopi flute player, an old woman with a cane or whatever the mind allows itself to see; this is the beauty of being aware, connecting the human soul to that of the natural world. As a writer, I am constantly making these connections, mentally crossing that figurative bridge between form and idea. The view and the ability to view from a certain point, becomes the beautiful alchemy of focus and insight, creation and creativity. As Mary Oliver said in her poem, “Mindful”, It was what I was born for / to look, to listen.
Wendy Howe is an English teacher and free lance writer who lives in Southern California with her partner. Her poetry reflects her interest in myth, diverse landscapes and ancient cultures. Over the years, she has been published in an assortment of journals both on-line and in print. Among them: The Linnet’s Wings, Ariadne’s Thread, Goblin Fruit, Yellow Medicine Review and elsewhere. Recently, her work has been featured in several themed anthologies exploring myth, nature and dementia.