Soft basket (edit 2)

A basket slung over my shoulder
by leather straps, its belly
shaped like a plum,
wove of three kinds of grass —
thick-striped —
holds a stone,
a shadow-self that comes and goes,
places where
I touch the ground,
a river, a sea,
the hot-metal sun,
the frigid moon
in a blue-black sky,
colored lights,
a walnut (or two), brinjals,
an apple tree in bloom, in fruit,
and how one night
I dreamed your name —
its cursive strength.

You called.

I came and touched
your face, buried my fingers
in your hair, swallowed
your wine. We talked,
and kissed between the words.

© 8 Dec 2007, Heather Quinn, all rights reserved; edited 9 Mar 2013, 16 May 2013.

By way of the northern sky (edit 1)

In the light that enters morning
by way of the northern sky,
a Swede encloses a Finn in his arms,
absorbing her darkness,
softening with his smooth brow
the recurve tension of her lips,
ignoring that she took him for herself
before ever he took her as his own. 

Unbalanced in their sufferance,
they spun out music, children and,
in some of us, dance.
They echoed with the sound of you
before ever you came
gliding in passerine suppleness,
music under your wings, landing
with a husshhhh,
with a flutter, like a passing dove.

The keris of lion love (edit 1)

The lions of my heart, including me,
have a core of honest creativity
around which spiral all the moments
of their being.
Between the core and outward-moving
is a luminescent space called love.
If you find yourself in that place,
thank your stars.
It may be scary, full of strong energy,
but you’ll never find anything else like it.

What if I met another lion,
and the spirals of our moments
intertwined like DNA?
What kind of love would we make?
My love has always fared best in outer space,
which cools the nuclear heat of love in me.
What if I met another spiral galaxy,
and gravitation pulled us into one?
All I can think is holy fuck.

The purpose of that lion space of love
is to mediate the moments of our lives,
to help the ones we’re drawn to
find the core of us.
What if I met another lion, and
the space of love in each of us,
in equal brilliance canceling the other,
let us see each other’s cores
with no intervening light,
and the space and light of love became a passage,
love became a cushion, a poem,
love became a feather in the wind?

Oh, to dance around the center
of another honest lion,
and watch him dance around the core of me.
Holy fuck,
what an amazing thing that would be.

Blue eyes (edit 1)

Rain-streaked bricks,
pepper-green trees,
and the sky —
thick as oatmeal, and gray as a city cat —
welcome a procession of
Nanas, walking slow,
humming descants,
dressed in wraps of blue —
turquoise, aquamarine, and harbor —
stirring up the storm.

Their hands set bells
and nazar boncuğu to work, spinning,
facing down anyone who dares
to try poisoning my well.

They take rest, and sip
at sweetened tea. The morning grows old.
As the Nanas leave,
they lift the end of my shawl
into the wind.
Its gauze is cool, fragrant with indigo
from shadows
of past summer suns,
and scattered over with soft diamonds
smiling at blue eyes
winking in the rain
under an ash-wood bough.

Prescriptive (edit 2)

If happiness is honey, tickly-thick
enough to make you choke,
if happiness is wine, a smooth swallow
and a short-lived high,
if you’re defended against joy,
and now you’re breathing faint for want of it,
the remedy is to take happiness anyway.
You already know life will trip you up
and slap your smile away — don’t
give it an assist.
If your secret is that joy’s a fleeting presence,
if you don’t like loss, and you know
joy’s as insubstantial as leaves in the wind,
the remedy is to catch it, even so.
Open your arms,
stretch out your fingers,
and catch good times as
they whistle past your ears.
Flying leaves land and crumble.
But they’re tender, too, and
when held up to the sun
offer shade in red,
green and gold.

The value of dissolution, part 2 (edit 1)

Chhoti Bahu, she of the biggest eyes and motion
most honey-like, begs you to stay.
Here is she:
bound by your space, still at your whimsy,
her desire ‘broidered and enfolded in silk,
now softened to the lateral by draughts
of sharaab, throwing petals.
How could the asking be more gentle?
You stiffen and flinch as if roses are made of flint,
as if to your ears her song
is a loud and acid vibration.
You wince under the petal-storm, duck,
lay the blame on her, and reach down to stay her.
She catches your hand. She wants a touch
of attention and respect, nothing more, just
a little two-way conversation.
You let yourself be held, then tear yourself away.
Note, you let yourself be held.
Meena Begum is never more beautiful than when she’s
at your feet in this role, her hair a river
of dark silk, made by God to cool your irritated skin.
Her love’s stronger than the laziness and self-contempt
I see in you,
and when you’re ill and honest thus, you remember her
and let yourself be gathered to her breast.
She can’t save you –
not one of us can save another, forever.
Her sacrifice is a gift you say you don’t want.
But you take it anyway.
In time, far away in some
limitless place,
her dissolution is going to soften
the harshness you learned to breath.

(part 1 isn’t written, and maybe never will be.)

Note: This is an ekphrasis on the picturization of the song Na Jao Saiyan Chhudaake Baiyan from Guru Dutt‘s 1962 Hindi film Shahib Bibi aur Ghulam. The actress is Meena Kumari, the actor is Rehman. Chhoti Bahu means little or younger sister-in-law, in an extended family setting; sharaab means wine; Begum is a term of respect, similar to the old formality Mistress.

The sloop on motor (edit 1)

In this story of then, long ago, there are just two of us: a man, wet through, in soaked purple shirt and running shorts, fast-walking through stands of lush trees tossing down by the river; and me, lounging against a stone parapet a hundred feet above him, watching as his fine profile and dark stride disappear into the dense rain.

The weather, from the east-southeast and pretty much right in my face, is heavy and wild. That’s an understatement. Even on the steep slope of this hill, the rainwater runs higher than my ankles.

Four hundred years ago, in the then-wilderness, dozens of stream-threads would have been tumbling down to feed the rising river. This then is not that then. Here, I’m wearing backless sandals, for the rain, and I’m weak. I worry about walking home. I might hydroplane on street asphalt, or slip on curbstones of granite and slate.

A rock-dove flies in, a few feet from my face, making for a cranny in the stone wall that this parapet overtops. The dove’s landing path is long and low, and shows the colors — iridescent blues and greys, creams and a little black — on the undersides of the dove’s wings. Its narrow, overlapping wing-feathers are distinct, against the soft backdrop of the clouds.

The dove’s passage spins out an epic moment, shaped by motion and light: an arc of bird-flight scribbled with curved muscled wings and scalloped feather-edges, traced through the inverted swoops of suspension cables of a sturdy bridge that sits, wet-footed and seemingly small, under a giant’s bow of clouds.

Then the world moves again.

To my right, clouds run below the cliffs opposite. To my left, the bridge makes its own weather, as fog mounts a hill of air hundreds of feet higher than the bridge-towers till, just above me, streams of clouds roller-coaster down.

On the river, where its north curve is lost behind a solid wall of rain, near a red-painted buoy, here comes a graceful sloop, sails down, running on motor.

Cars — usually turning north to enter the highway, or making a u-turn around the little park nearby — are stopping for 20 seconds at the dead-end overlooking the river, held by the stormy view.

Trees on the river — maples, oaks and wild apples wearing grapevine shrouds — are full and round, more so than I’ve ever seen.

The stone walls against which I rest are old and high, and very wet.

The river’s on the ebb now, even in this rain. We all are over-looked by the tall, strong bridge — hello, Brother Bridge. What’s that you say? It’s time I was leaving? Yes, yes.

Then, long ago, I set out for home again. I went with care and fear, and, once there, found myself very shaky and finally willing to be warm and dry again. The only bit of cloth dry enough to wipe the water off my door-keys was a small rain-shadow that my left elbow had made against my waist. Pneumonia sucks: I was so weak. And rain sings: my body and spirit were grateful for the rain.

Long ago, I went out to catch the smell of salt, and to meet you. I was cold and afraid. My feet were almost bare. But the rain had washed the air so sweet…

Only for you (2008 edit)

I’d strung me on silk,
me, as small pearls,
in the words
that were only for you.
When pulled from the silk
by your strong square hands,
I fell to the earth,
in dismay.

Turned by ferment and friends
into geysers of spray
from springs of shimmer and light.
I still meant my words for you.
What good did it do?
There I was,
in a box with a sliding top,
that had once held Sri Lankan tea,
in the anoxic air,
I was hemmed in,
as your lake moved by slowly
in whorls.
Then you went.

But I stayed
in the shimmer and light,
and played
on a blue-midnight field.
Did you see my game,
did you watch how I went,
did you understand all of me?
Did you get it at last,
that a grown-up woman
makes love out of nothing
but real?

© Heather G. Quinn, 9 Aug 2007, reedited 30 Dec 2008

(original first posted on my Half-Poems blog.)

Silver bracelet (2008 edit)

The way rain hits my face,
the way my feet
love walking on wet ground,
like that,
it was.

The way the autumn wind
takes poplar leaves for rides,
and lets them fall, to curl
to paper boats,
our love
was like that too.

The way
a spider’s silk’s so fine,
an eye can’t see its strength,
we were like that.

You were
a silver bracelet,
round my wrist.
You held me close
in love.

Your days made music
of my nights:
I was a violin,
and played your thoughts
without a bow.

© Heather G. Quinn writing as hera, original 19 Jul 2007, reedited 30 Dec 2008

(original first posted on my Half-Poems blog and in an Intentblog comment.)