Monday, March 25, 2013

WINTRY THOUGHTS…


Monday's snow, Sewanee
While azaleas bloom profusely in New Iberia, Louisiana (my other home), snow falls on The Mountain here in Sewanee, Tennessee. The weather man predicted that the snow would cease by 8:45 this morning, but small flakes are still falling at 11 a.m. Outside, the world is still, very still, and the only sounds that filter in are those of the engines of students’ cars on the road behind our home. It’s a morning that calls for staying in pajamas and making good cooking smells or reading and writing, reminding me of my winter in Maine back in the 50’s, a time when I learned to cultivate quiet pursuits…or die of loneliness. I wrote a novel called The Maine Event about that winter, and the eBook and paperback editions are still selling. The memory makes me think I should write a mystery about Sewanee, which I often call “Grayburg” because it has an overarching gray atmosphere that would be a good setting for a mystery.
However, inside our warm cottage, I cultivate laziness and read poetry instead. Ted Kooser “speaks to my condition” with his Winter Morning Walks, a book he wrote while recovering from surgery and radiation for cancer during the late 90’s. Kooser had been told by his radiation oncologist to stay out of the sun for a year because of skin sensitivity so he walked before dawn on wintry days in Nebraska, sometimes with his wife, but most of the time alone.
Kooser says he had been feeling miserably sorry for himself, had given up reading and writing, but when his health improved during the winter, he surprised himself by writing poetry – poems that he pasted on postcards and sent to his good friend, Jim Harrison. After he had completed these cards, he sent them to his publisher and Winter Morning Walks appeared. Of all the U.S. poet laureates, I admire Ted Kooser the most. As Jonathan Holden says about him, his work is characterized “by a kind of tender wisdom communicated with absolute precision.” (Holden is also a powerful poet and was a visiting poet to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Louisiana one summer. At a party given by John Gildersma, he persuaded me to crash a reception given by the University of Louisiana, Lafayette English Department with him, and that was my claim to fame as a friend of an important Midwestern poet).
Kooser’s poetry sent me back to the computer to work on poems for a new book I plan to write this year while we’re on The Mountain. The results of my writing morning:

HOLY WEEK ON THE MOUNTAIN

Snow falls in a world made still,
worshipful sparrows cling
to fingers of dead trees,
chanting anthems of Tennabrae.

A brown rabbit crosses the road,
veering from side to side,
washing his own feet in fallen flakes,
foraging in stubbled grass
for his God–food
now frozen over,
a plenitude lost.

He follows a trail of blood in the snow,
twitches his long ears to hear the last words
spoken on a road rarely traveled,
while crows flap their wings,
shadows on the white fields
hawking Good Friday in a silver sky,
announcing the winter of an untrusting world.
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