Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s poems offer a solitary space for readers to meditate on nature’s quiet truths, a locus in which to reorientate the self and speak in a new language of trees, birds, waterfalls and winding valleys.
Under the 400-Year-Old Ponderosa Pine
What have your roots
died toward? A desert
of branches, rock for
the resting magpie,
a bundle of white flowers
at your base from the light
broken though lost limbs,
generations of pine needles,
all of you a miracle of swirl
sideways, bark that expands
in breath, branches extended
all directions, the space
you hold composed
of the first night chill.
When it is you first knew
the changing territory of the sky,
of light itself, a gesture of time
witnessing your passage
over this mountain?
Place a wintered leaf
of your old thoughts
on a flat rock. Wait.
The waterfall takes it in stride,
knows you’re just another person
who thinks she knows how to live.
Sit beside the willow storm-broken
teetering while water dives
under itself, a green tumble.
Watch what the pine, an arrow of desire
for the sun, does with time, its roots
threaded in eroding moss,
and snow melt now waterfall inside
waterfall, thunder on the horizon
churning us into the glassy old growth
of water, forest, air, browned coins
of aspen leaves on snow to come
the snow shoe hare, the relentless
ants, your worry or story:
all paper and skin. Listen:
The earth walks by falling.
The dogs stop. The deer over the loop
of the field pause. The absent-minded highway rises west.
A small plane returns over jaunty tops of trees.
What do they know that only my dream last night
glimpsed. All I can remember is seeing two turkeys
under the cedars in an ice storm all winter long
while spring-to-come makes itself a thin sheet
of wind threading through the empty trees,
vanishing with only a trace of frost
melting into all the green. The wheel of the season
breathes us in before rolling toward its next click:
what’s ready to bud out, like the sudden crocus,
warped and shining where a week ago
it was just my boots and me carrying the compost
bucket past so our remnants could freeze too.
Meanwhile, the damp ground laughs.
Meanwhile, the world resumes in birds.
About Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate is the author of 23 books, including Miriam’s Well, a novel; Everyday Magic: A Field Guide to the Mundane and Miraculous, and Following the Curve, poetry. Her previous work includes The Divorce Girl, a novel; Needle in the Bone, a non-fiction book on the Holocaust; The Sky Begins At Your Feet, a bioregional memoir on cancer and community; and six poetry collections, including the award-winning Chasing Weather with photographer Stephen Locke. Founder of Transformative Language Arts, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely and coaches people on writing and right livelihood through the arts. She also consults with organizations and businesses on creativity resilience. To find out more information about Mirriam-Goldberg click here for her website. Or contact her on the following addresses: CarynMirriamGoldberg@gmail.com, CarynMirriamGoldberg.com and 785/766-7159, 1357 N. 1000 Rd., Lawrence, KS 66046.
About Sara Rivers
Sara Rivers is an artist who works in different media. She completed her foundation diploma at Brighton School of Art and her BA in Fine Art at Canterbury School of Art. She has also studied Art Therapy at St Albans School of Art, Hertfordshire. Sara founded the Creativity Centre, a space for outsider artists and those recovering from mental ill health, at Isledon Road (formerly Corsica Street), London. She is a founder member of the Otherside Gallery, and has created three short films, all of which were funded by the NHS. Sara is passionate about improving the services available to people experiencing mental ill health, and has led many campaigns against the continued cuts to day services in the borough of Islington. Sara is the current artist for Lucy Writers, and has designed all the artwork for the website to date. To view more of Sara’s work follow her new Instagram account @pixbysararivers and see her profile on Outside In.
‘Under the 400-Year-Old Ponderosa Pine’ and other poems were written for the series Flora & Fauna of Foreign Places, which was conceived and edited by Usha Akella for Lucy Writers.
Flora and fauna define our cultural sensibility; what trees and flowers we grew up with signifies ‘home.’ Transplant an individual to a foreign environment with strange trees and flowers, he or she is likely to feel ‘foreign’. Flowers are culturally specific in symbolism expressed in social events like weddings and funerals.
As a recent graduate of a Creative Writing MSt living in America, Usha noticed that in addition to the gift of knowledge and friendships, her journeys to the UK sparked an interest in flora. For the first time, she noticed a passion to want to know the names of flowers and trees. Somewhere along the way between the limes of Trinity College and the walnut maple of Madingley Hall; between the splendid gardens of Rydal Mount and rolling vales of Cumbria, she had been infected with a green-eye. When she walks in her Austin neighbourhood, she is now incited to know the names of the wildflowers and trees that she took for granted visually. And she notices, how this new world seeps into her writing gradually.
Right now, the early bloom of summer is upon most countries. So, it seems perfect to celebrate flowers, plants and trees as a theme for the poetry issue. In the next few weeks, Usha will be publishing poems by writers from around the world that explore, reflect on and appreciate the flora and fauna of foreign places, and what they mean to them.