Sunday, April 3, 2016

Elemental revisited

As I once again find myself in a time of emotional transition and soul-searching, I return to this outpouring of who I am. I was still in mourning for my mother when I wrote these. Death once again stalks our families. We've buried two of Mom's siblings since returning from our anniversary cruise. And I am face to face yet again with my old demons as my chronic depression has erupted into acute despair. Alack...the road goes ever on and on. And yet I walk it with my steadfast poet Lemuel Crouse. Who knows what next will erupt from my mind? I am curious to see for myself. In the meantime, my Elemental collection:

Child of Earth

From rock-ribbed, misty meadows
Where horned sheep safely grazed
While myriad solitary shepherd boys
Gazed heavenward and dreamt
Of a mythic distant land where each
Might claim a bit of his own ground
And work it by his leave, unfettered,
My forebears sallied forth in strength.

Not to Plymouth Rock or to Virginia,
But to Penn's luscious woodlands
And acres of soil so dark and fertile
One might well try to cook and eat it
Rather than bother planting crops.
Indeed, traditional grains thrived there,
But so, too, did old prejudices, pressures
And new, unsettling competitive stresses.

So my people took the Great Wagon Road
Up the storied Shenandoah Valley, onward
Through lofty gaps and carved gorges,
Turning down at length toward the knob
That still marks the way into Carolina,
And southwest to an open, rolling land
Described to them by other Deutsch men
Who had ventured to the Catawba River.

Along the South Fork, they farmed, milled,
Raised corn, fodder, hogs, sheep, cows,
Laying hens, turkeys, and draft horses, all
Tended by Lutheran sons and daughters.
Some took to working the supple clay,
Turning and burning mugs, jugs, crocks,
Thriving in the new world they made;
Few chose to roam further westward.

Yes, am I a child of the Piedmont,
With its clod-strewn plowed fields,
Lush pastures and cattle grazing
Their way through slow, lazy days
Of hazy, stifling humidity and flies.
My blood is the color of its clay,
My heart kneaded and shaped
And fired in a groundhog kiln.

But my soul longs for mountains,
For ancient, resting Grandfather
And Black Mitchell, the backbone;
For cloud-shrouded Clingman's Dome
And Mount Le Conte draped in snow;
For mighty Pisgah and blue ridges,
And our beloved Craggy Pinnacle,
Dressed in Catawba Rhododendron.

There I am at peace, high above
The crucible in which I must live,
Giving myself away, word by word,
Ever pining for Appalachian solace.

Child of Winds

In my age of innocence, I freely embraced
The trades, riding a soft, sweet westerly.
Lovingly caressed at first by my friend,
Pulled in by the promise of exotic shores,
Naive in the ways of winds and tide,
I was swept along, unaware of danger
Building behind me, swelling water spout,
I was unprepared when it went cyclonic.

Laid waste, I swallowing bitter dregs.
My bloodshot, tear-stained eyes left me
Blinded; that twister was but an outlier
Of a raging, pounding apocalyptic storm.
The fearsome wall hit me, shoveling all
Before it, plowing furrows across
The fragile farmland of my young heart,
Ripping holes in my woven cotton soul.

I saw the decimation, seeming random,
Slaughter of ships great and humble,
Shattered, hardwoods splintered,
Pine laid low, so many matchsticks
Scattered about in the tempest's fury.
I was carried up, up, and out, anon:
Spewed forth and falling, screaming,
Thinking wind itself to be my enemy.

I dared not dream as I plummeted
That I might survive, live to sail
Again, though not so carefree,
But here I am at the windlass...
My heart flies high on the foremast,
Double-sheet bend secure, exposed,
Slapped by every passing fancy,
Be it breeze, gust, gale, or typhoon.

Still, the knot holds, and I endure,
My colors showing honest agony,
Even as they are whipped to and fro,
Child no more, I fetch yonder horizon.

Child of Fire

Wrought as winter's bright embers
Still glowed warm in the fireplace,
Refined in a hot red-clay forge,
Hammered flat on the harsh anvil
That defined my teenage years
And tempered quick by tragedy,
I became hard, cold, with an edge,
But I still know what it is to burn.

I am known to boil over, bubbling
Like so much gurgling pastel mud
In perking Yellowstone paint pots.
I have shot steam-spray rockets
Skyward, a brash young geyser,
With irregular, happy abandon.
A simmering, stewing sot, I am,
Quick to erupt, absolutely deadly.

I have spat napalm, shat fire alive,
Pissed blazing kerosene streams
Upward in raging incendiary arcs
Onto unsuspecting heaps of tinder,
And I have felt scalding salt-tears
Scorch my sooty, puffy cheeks
As I wept over beloved bridges
I had wantonly sacked and ashed.

 I can be an inferno incarnate,
With tin dipper melting in hand,
Trying and failing ever to fetch
Just one healing, quenching sip
From the waiting, loving pool
Which longs to come to my aid
As my soul pops and crackles:
Son of flames, I am consumed.

Child of Waters

What magnetic moonlit tidal tug
Is it that pulls me off beam,
Sends me downstream, reeling,
Ever descending, rushing through
Rock-strewn, sand-barred creeks
Into gushing, swelling rivers...
Floating, fallen-timber rudderless,
Swept headlong to deeper waters?

Perhaps an accident of birth--
My winter-born sister Alaska
Speaks of liquid crystal, flowing:
Iron-brittle, creeping glaciers,
Gold-flecked beds, melt-floods,
Plowing, charging, galloping...
Fulminant meeting engagements
In resilient sounds and shallow seas.

Summer-born Hawaii whispers
Of fearsome typhoon and tidal wave,
Lead-white snow-capped peaks
And rain-drenched emerald slopes,
Vertigo-high waterfalls plunging,
Teeming pools and rivulets receiving...
Volcanoes and black sand beaches
Stranded by Everest-deep ocean.

I, too, am marked by waters,
Born a Scorpio, for good and ill,
Familiar with glittering frosty mornings,
Drifting snow, cumulonimbus towers,
Ear-splitting, rain-gorged supercells...
I have seen swirling, green-sky terror
And sat insomniac through hurricanes,
Two dark, one white, and grinned.

I am drawn, polarized, once again
To deep water, to saline amniotic fluid
From whence I came, a storm unnamed,
Tropical depression, seeking healing balm,
Calming, renewal of my formidable core
Until my own lion's roar again resounds,
Drowning out the screaming, searing,
Sticky cacophony that hounds me.