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Who can deny how gently
tender petals float on the wind?
Yet each day more flowers fall,
withered and dying.
Even the leaves
remain where they drop.
Is this not a sign?
the pinks of summer.
The wind blows colder now
and hardly for the better.
Stiff brown leaves crunch,
a Rose of Sharon blossoms
from a Virgin’s womb.
And the wonder of it is
it happened just like that.
first published in Domicile
Today I’m reprinting three of my favorite poems, “Voices,” first published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and then in my first chapbook, Gathering the Broken Pieces, available from FootHills Publishing: “The Danger of Pretense,” first published in Domicile (also in Gathering the Broken Pieces); and “Absolution,” fist published in Domicile and later as #322 in the Poems-For-All series from 24th Street Irregular Press (scroll down and click on Absolution to see the cover.)
I want to eat ambrosia,
dine with the gods. Dance.
Seraphim at the gate, velvet-winged.
“A plea is not a call,” says the tallest angel.
“One should not taste of success too soon.”
“Yes. Wait’s a word to ride the wind,”
says another. “And who will know the
mind of God?”
A celestial chorus in a quick response.
And I, reaching upward, raise uplifted palms.
A spurt of boldness: Each—in its own way.
The voices fade, and things I reach for seem too far.
Then just as silence slices through morning,
heaven’s jagged edge cuts my finger to the bone.
The Danger of Pretense
The wind ruffles a blue windsock,
slowly—it gathers the courage
to kill. I do not know
the nameless man, loved by God,
whose wife will die in the storm.
Where is the mercy? The stars
do not console the wounded,
nor the sandman the young.
Why, even the storm invites our trust.
Are we a people
apart from the fury?
Today I walked around a patch of violets,
planted together in the yard,
tranquil, beside the rocky path
where their purple belongs. Perhaps
the flowers felt the peace.
I do not know.
Perhaps there was one, off to the side,
that I did not see.
On the rock’s underside,
sleeping in the soft dirt,
roll themselves into balls.
The scent of musty earth
and they scurry to get away—
wishing to live in peace.
How can I justify
this abruptness of sunlight?
Nothing is pure
among thin shadows.
A chill invades me,
and I cast the rock aside,
falling to my knees,
as though my action
might proclaim my innocence.
But who will listen
while I explain—
crying a plaintive cry
to a lonely field
where summer is dying?
Those grubs lie still.
Still. With no premonition
of autumnal joy.
Those grubs lie still
beneath the lifted stone.
“Our discipline should lead us not to discover how right we are but how wrong we are.”
Thomas Merton. “Renewal and Discipline” in Contemplation in A World of Action (New York, Doubleday and Company, Inc.): 134.
The trouble behind us is a house
that ought not be there, and just a few
years ago wasn’t. But who, you may ask, am
I to determine the ought-ness of a house,
built where there was nothing but woods,
I who cannot see that house in summer?
The view out my window is partly blocked
by the printer and the printer’s cart,
then everything’s green for a long, long way.
The trees in my yard are green enough.
Then, at the back of the lot is tall, brown grass.
In the right of way, weeds and white flowers.
But beyond the grass, trees, weeds,
tallish white flowers at the edge of the yard,
past the Duke Power towers, electric
wires, that house is lurking—
waiting to cease from its hiding—
plotting to move into view.
The house behind us seems too close,
now that the mowers have come and gone.
Blackish thorns and blackberry brambles,
some of the trees kick their roots in the air.
The right of way is sad and brown.
The sinking sun has lost its light,
and seven young deer—looking for water—
move hesitantly from brush to yard.
The deer look orange, in the lamp-glow.
My childhood’s full of orange.
No Queen Anne’s Lace and goldenrod.
Just leaves in large piles and the crisp Joplin air.
Sweet orange, sweet yellow, sweet red.
Picture them fallen, smell them wet.
But why the same memory each year?
I’m the girl in saddle shoes,
who jumped repeatedly from the wall,
scattering leaves from the pile—
leaves in the path of the slow-moving cars—
each vein and curl brings sweet reward.
from Paper Snowflakes, published by Southern Hum Press
When standing, facing the golden-leaved west,
everything of worth seems to proceed from
the warmth of the morning sun,
as it falls on the small, clear panes of window-glass.
Mostly the glorious leaves yet cling to the maples,
though some lie on the ground and on the deck,
brown or red. Some are wet. The winds have
begun their seasonal blowing, and Halloween is over.
And just this week, the colors of Christmas have
begun to dominate in Eckerd’s
and most other stores. But still, it’s not quite time
for the Blue Ridge Mountains to hold their snow and ice
between people I love, who are in front of me,
but miles away when I face west,
and the pot of ruddy mums outside the curtained window,
where, by December, they will have withered
and quite possibly have died.
from Paper Snowflakes published by Southern Hum Press
“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.”
How ’bout a little “Redwing”?
prep time 15 minutes
cooking time 20 minutes
1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel *
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes
3/4 cup blueberries (I use 2 cups)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (* lime or orange works well. I also use the zest from whatever I have)
3 tablespoons sugar
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and baking powder in large bowl.
Beat egg in shallow bowl; add milk, oil and peel. Add to flour mixture, mixing until just moistened. Fold in cream chesse and blueberries. Spoon into greased muffin pans, filling each cup 2/3 full.
Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Mix juice and 3 tablespoons sugar. brush on muffinns. Cool. Makes 12 muffins. (Because of the extra blueberries, these are huge. )
I’m going to try making them smaller and will let you know how that turns out.
Official U.S. Olympic Training Table Cookbook: Wholesome Recipes For Balanced Family Meals. Kraft Foods. 1992. p. 49.
UPDATE: I made 24 in cupcake papers. The papers work fine, but I’d suggest making 18.
Waiting patiently for God always includes joyful expectation. Without expectation our waiting can get bogged down in the present. When we wait in expectation our whole beings are open to be surprised by joy.
All through the Gospels Jesus tells us to keep awake and stay alert. And Paul says, “Brothers and sisters … the moment is here for you to stop sleeping and wake up, because by now our salvation is nearer than when we first began to believe. The night is nearly over, daylight is on the way; so let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light” (Romans 13:11-12). It is this joyful expectation of God’s coming that offers vitality to our lives. The expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises to us is what allows us to pay full attention to the road on which we are walking.
I dwell in a land carved out in rivers of mingled-blood
in Southern places with twangs of a stranger’s caress,
where I steadily gobble collard greens, fried chicken,
sweet tea, & chess pie. But, still…
I am a sojourner, a moving Bedouin, a whirling dervish.
And soon… I will step aboard a ship
heading for emerald-green isles, wearing nothing
but gypsy-rags bejeweled with baubles and cryptic
inscriptions that mesmerize the ocean
like frozen Apache moons. Desert coyotes will howl;
shape-shifters growl, as I elude them with untraceable
Silent Night footsteps that now touch down upon
the soil of my ancestors, as I wrestle with
sparkling visions in the ice-cold, blue-white night
and a myriad shades of red & yellow…
See more poems by Alice Parris.