Once I Knew a Fine Song

For week 28 of #songaweek2016, I called on Stephen Crane – well, his poetry – for a little help. Here’s a poem of his that I set to music.

Once, I knew a fine song,
— It is true, believe me —
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! They all flew away.
I cried, “Come back, little thoughts!”
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as sand
Thrown between me and the sky.

(published 1896, public domain)

One Poet to Another

Grabbing some moments at the coffeeshop and combing through old computer files, felt like it was time to post a little something. So here, a poem about poems:

One Poet to Another
2/18/13 Julia Tindall Bloom

When I remark that my poems are not as good as yours
I am not denying their breathing reality.
They are real-live poems
I know, I was there at the birth of each and every one.
I am only admitting
That I love them too blindly
Keep them too close
To see them straight
And seeing the healthy bodies of yours
Functioning beautifully
Independent of your protection
I recognize my babies still have some growing to do
And so does my love.

Dark and Dawn and Dag Hammarskjold

In the soundless depths before dawn
you are with me.
You are not only in the lightening of the sky
but also in the embracing dark of this room.
I wait for you
with you
and the morning
like the night
is faithful.

^What I wrote this morning,
and then
what I read:

“To preserve the silence within – amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness, where the rain falls and the grain ripens – no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky.”

And also this:

“Is your disgust at your emptiness to be the only life with which you fill it?”

^Both quotations from Markings by Dag Hammarskjold

My Childhood Home I See Again

When Abraham Lincoln was in his late thirties, he revisited his childhood home, and wrote a poem about it. Though the American Civil War and his own early death were still years into his future, the poem he wrote in 1846 feels like a fitting backdrop for many of the Civil War photos I came across while making this video.

The song is also on my Soundcloud page, where you can download it for free: https://soundcloud.com/julia-tindall-bloom/my-childhood-home-i-see-again

 

The Last Day of the Month

On the last day of the month

I cook my stash of vegetable peelings and potato water

Into broth for next month’s soups and stews and gravies

Bake the heels and crusts of bread

For crumbs for next month’s casseroles

Gather the nearest-to-perishing perishable food

Refrigerated leftovers

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Search the pantry and the freezer

For whatever can fill out this day of meals

Made of remnants

Nothing is wasted

Yet this feels like abundance

These meals like generous gifts

As we linger after dinner

Filled to satisfaction in body and soul.

Advice I Must Remember to Give My Daughter

There will come a day

When you view the grocery store circular with anticipation

Its expected suspenseful arrival each week

What will the free item be?

How much will avocados cost?

And isn’t there something you’ve been needing but couldn’t quite name

Imploring your attention from these glossy pages?

In those days

You will find yourself

Sitting across the table from your lover of accumulated years

In the Chinese buffet or the Mexican restaurant

With little to say

That you haven’t said already

In one way or another

And, past the days of longing glances,

You will choose handheld devices

And plans for the next week

To fill the mundane gap between you.

 

When that day comes

Take up running.

You will surprise yourself

With the power and endurance

You’ve already built up.

You’ll go to bed eager for the morning

You’ll wake

Bound out into the dawn

Pound the pavement

Breathe and sweat and move

Everything.

Don’t ask yourself

Whether you are running away

Or running to catch up

Or running towards some forgotten hope.

Just run.

Trust me on this.

People Who Live in Glass Houses

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,”

but the pastor’s daughter thought,

“people who live in glass houses shouldn’t,”

because her life felt like a glass house

a fish bowl or a zoo exhibit

and it made her uncomfortable

until she saw the best level of comfort available to her

could be gained by smiling politely at the onlookers,

a docile captive relaxing on the concrete.

 

These days almost everyone I know lives in a glass house.

The glass is made of backlit screens

and you can project anything you want there

a polite smile, a superior sneer,

an angst-ridden mask of mystique

a hip air of disinterestedness

while inside your house you push keys, click mice,

and wrestle with your death wish

for a stone to come crashing through

bringing down the house,

letting in the weather.

 

Time Machine

I wander my past some nights

While I wait for sleep.

Someone I read recently said that our frontal lobe or pre-frontal cortex or some such brain part

Is a time machine

But he was referring to our human capacity to anticipate

Make a plan

Dream a dream

And live it in the mind’s eye.

I must use another brain part

To go back and relive

Though I never go back in factuality.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t see what I’m wearing

I know I am twenty-seven

Pregnant

And a brand-new feminist

Waiting for him in a Florida hotel room.

I know he will take me sailing

Then we will dine on seafood.

I can see myself but I don’t see what I’m wearing

I can look out from behind my eyes

But the everyday details

Have all escaped me.

One Year in a Minnesota Prairie Town

This is a cycle of poems I wrote while living in my hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota, a few years ago. Today, a snowy gray day in February (my least favorite month, even here in my new town in Colorado), I found myself thinking of the winter poems here, and hoping in the spring and summer – thankful for the continuing growth and change of seasons.

One Year in a Minnesota Prairie Town

Early Winter

George MacDonald said

“Winter is only a spring too weak and feeble for us to see that it is living.”

So where is the end of the year?

The seasons, like space,

Appear to have no boundaries

But, turning and turning,

Move all life along some invisible thread.

Mid Winter

I almost forgot

And nearly remembered

In between sleeps

Late Winter

Hoary white

Frozen forgetting

Pewter-skied afternoon.

A filmy burning eye

Distant low

Blurs unfeelingly

To darkness.

Underground

Embryos stir

Ever so slightly

Unfolding.

Early Spring

Before departure

The snow expands

To jagged chunks of salt and sand.

When it recedes

Instead of seashells

We find

Trash and lost things.

Mid Spring

There’s an afternoon time and a garden place

Where the sun warms me well

Well,

The sun,

And you –

Peeking up at me

Poking through soil

Perennial but new.

Late Spring

Might be the last morning this yellow-haired girl

Pushes this primary-blue baby doll stroller

Might be the last day she calls this woman mommy

Buds and branches

Are opening to flowers.

Blossoms and baby fat

Are ripening to fruit.

Early Summer

Now the serpent was subtle

The woman was stupid

The man was absent

And that’s how the world went to hell

They told me.

Here

In the sunlight

All the colors weave a mothering warmth

I believe I’m being born again

Don’t tell them.

Mid Summer

Barefoot

Pregnant

In the garden

She is not holy,

She is living.

Late Summer

Late summer is ragtime

The ragweed is a woody-stemmed shrub

The flowers sprawl in their raggedy gardens

The air is ragged with rasping cicadas

What was delight in spring

Sweet satisfaction at mid-summer

Now is overkill

A glaring beauty with too much makeup

Overpowering perfume

Gaudy clothes

And weary eyes.

If it didn’t all fall down

And sleep a while

Life would never last.

Early Autumn

Come in, come in.

Time to wash

And undress

Time to fire up the stove

Simmer down slow

Time for your bath.

All summer

You’ve been out in the sun

And the rain and the wind

Now it’s time to come in

Time to snuggle down

In your jar in the pantry.

Mid Autumn

Breathe

Remember

Hope.

Let fading leaves fade

Let dying light die

Embrace this moment

Though it chills and darkens everything.

If you hold the fire of summer’s sun

In the pit of your soul

You’ll survive

Till it warms your face again.

Late Autumn

This is where we have trouble with names.

Beyond the harvest holiday

We sing of jingle bells

Demand snowflakes.

Autumn shrugs, sighs

And leaves the room.