Rain — A poem

Curse not the rain —

Hear its song on

roof and window pane,

sweet upon the earth

Drink it through the soles

of your bare feet,

sip it from leaf and petal,

Wear it as a garment —

robe of mist, shawl of fog,

lined in silver

Place it as a circlet

upon your brow,

about your neck

Curse not the rain

as it cleanses, cools,

and nourishes —

The sun will come again.


Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Red, White, & Crash — A Dream

A tranquil neighborhood. A quiet street lined by cement sidewalks. Orderly green squares of lawn march right up to the walks bordering the street on either side. I stand on the nearer walk within a pool of cool, green tree shadow. A car is parked at the street’s edge, its backdoor flung wide. Ducking, the car’s roofline, I reach into the back seat, withdraw a sodden foam sphere. It’s large in my hand, and my grip encourages rivulets of water to run from between my fingers. Pivoting, I straighten, reach across the walk and wring the sphere out over a rectangular Terra cotta planter resting at the lawn’s edge. Again and again, I repeat this action — ducking, grasping, pivoting, straightening, reaching, wringing. There seems to be no end of spheres. Until…the planter is no longer a planter, but a large, white convertible; and the spheres are no longer spheres, but dusky red pomegranates. Brilliant red, the fruit’s seeds pop from between my fingers like jewels and fall into the car’s back seat. They scatter and roll along the white upholstery.

My work has not passed unwitnessed. A man — very tall, wasp thin, with close-cropped dark hair — rushes across the fringed lawn toward me. He is dressed entirely in white, and his expression is woeful. Hands outstretched, he implores me to stop. Realizing his distress, I tell him to come to me, that I’ll hug him, and it will all be okay. With repeated urging, I wear him down. Head hanging, he approaches. I seize him as soon as he is within reach and wrap him up tightly in my arms, pressing my cheek against his ribcage. I feel the texture of his shirt against my skin as I squeeze. I feel his breath move over my hair. When, at last, he inhales deeply, I release him and look up. He is smiling, astonished to admit that he actually feels better, and he thanks me.

The man walks out of view into the street beyond the parked car. I return to wringing out the multitude of waterlogged spheres, when I hear the screech of brakes and a sickening thud. Without looking, I understand the man has been struck by a passing car. A great heaviness settles over me, a deep sense of loss. But I continue to duck, to reach and retrieve. I continue to pivot, turn, and squeeze. The streams of water continue to flow from between my fingers.


Days of Song and Raisins — A Truth

This morning, I stepped outside to collect the paper. Down the front steps, the cement walk was cool and rough beneath my bare feet. Pushing the gate open, I bent to wrap fingers over the paper in its thin plastic bag, when I heard them — the soft call drifted over my shoulder. Easily, I located the pair of slim gray shapes perched in the Linden’s arching branches. They are so patient and clever and curious, and our routine is so familiar, that by the time I’d gone back through the house, stopping in the kitchen along the way, they were already waiting for me once I’d reached the side door. Fluttering from the burning bush, each bird accepted two raisins in turn, then off they flew, skimming through the air like shadow.

It’s Catbird season.

Here in the Northeast, Catbird season is variable. This year, it began on May 1, when I heard the vibrant collection of notes and phrases spiral out over the cool, morning air. Although deprived of this song since the previous Autumn, it is one I know so well, I recognize it immediately. It is a song that rises and falls in lilting tones, peppered with asides and chatter, as well as the nasal mews that lend the bird its name. It is a song both lovely and indecipherable.

I have had an affinity for the Gray Catbird since my youth. In the semi-wild backyard of my childhood home, they moved about the underbrush, singing and commenting, foraging for insects amongst the leaf mold beneath the spireas and forsythias. It seemed they called my name, accented in their wild and avian tongue — Carrie. But it wasn’t until more recently that I began to forge a more personal relationship with these birds.

Eight years ago, while turning over the garden beds in our side yard, I became aware that a particular Catbird observed me from a little red maple. I worked the soil with my hand shovel, and he sang interest. As I moved along, he eventually lit upon the churned earth and plucked out the fat, white grubs. He paid such attention to my activities, and I so enjoyed his company, that when the grubs diminished, I took a chance on slipping into the house to find something that might prolong his visit. How I decided on raisins, I cannot recall, but they were a good choice. Not only had this inquisitive bird waited for my return, he accepted the raisins I tossed out to him.

Throughout that Spring and Summer and into early Autumn, while my garden grew Swiss chard and tomatoes and lettuces, the Catbird and I repeated this exchange again and again. We became so familiar with each others patterns and habits, that he would locate me wherever I might be in our small yard, sing or call to make his presence known, then course my progress as I made my way to the side door of the house. Always, he waited until I returned with the bag of raisins — perched on the bird feeder’s hook, atop the patio umbrella, in the burning bush, and eventually standing on the rail outside our kitchen window. We would continue in this manner through the warming Summer days by which time this Catbird was bringing his young to our patio. And when the leaves began to change colors and the air grew cooler with Autumn’s breath, Catbird would depart for warmer climes, I know not where. I would not see him again until his return to us the following Spring.

I do not know if the Catbird that greeted me this morning is the very same creature of eight years ago — that one, I recognized for the distinctive line of fine, charcoal feathers missing beneath the smoky cap and passing through his right eye. The bird that regularly perches on the rail outside my kitchen window this season has no such mark, but wears, rather, a small, distinctive white spot toward the back of his cap on the left side. I call him Calvin, which means “bald” in English. Perhaps, over time, the feathers grew back for our original Catbird. Perhaps Calvin is indeed that same bird. Certainly, his habits and familiarity with my family and me resounds. A part of me would like to think that the Catbird that first introduced himself to me and Calvin are the same, that the line of our acquaintanceship stretches unbroken; or that Calvin is the offspring of that first Gray Catbird.

Maybe it should not matter. The more important thing is that somehow, we have overcome our mutual language barrier and learned a new form of communication. Through his curiosity and interest, I accepted an invitation to cross the growing divide that separates we humans from the natural world. There is so much we deprive ourselves of — unknowingly, unwittingly — on a daily basis in our busy lives, that we gradually forfeit awareness of what we’ve lost. There comes a slow distancing, a numbing. We forget. Through Catbird’s visits, I have pressed myself up to that unseen barrier and regained a small foothold, for which I am deeply grateful. I have stepped into the days of song and raisins. My favorite time of year.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

“Catbird in the Dogwood” by Carrie

Hand of Stone — A Dream

Everything here is cut from marble. Greek architecture dominates. Regularly spaced grooved columns hint at a perimeter; lengths of smooth, shallow steps lead to raised and sunken areas within a large plaza; white knee walls and low benches are  shot with blue-gray veins. People crowed together here and there, heads inclined in order to speak softly; their voices echo like heart beats.

As I observe, I notice the dull, grey stones scattered about the plaza. They are so nondescript, the eye desires to glide over them. The stones seem totally out of place, but are so unremarkable, no one seems to notice them. But I see that them everywhere — scattered over ledges and benches, clustered near the bases of the columns.

A woman approaches me where I stand alone — she is dressed in a muted gown of purple which drapes her form elegantly. A slim gold cord defines her waist. Soon, my son appears, as well. He is full of humor and enthusiasm and spreads his arms wide in sweeping, exaggerated gestures as he proclaims too loudly — in what is clearly meant to be a joke — that he has assumed the role of Leader, and we should all now treat him with the honor and gravity that this title affords him.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

The woman with us is as alarmed as I. And although I try to stop him from speaking, I know it is too late. “They” have heard and have utterly no sense of humor. Such words are treasonous; the speaker will be marked a threat for elimination. But my son has already finished with his misguided proclamation. Laughing, grinning, he offers me a wink.

Quickly, I glance around and see what I fear — one of the stones near us has begun to shiver and stir. It changes shape slowly before my eyes, begins to lengthen and take on the aspect of a hand. Lines form along the narrow end, separating into finger-like digits. I see a nail grow where the thumb will be. But I don’t wait — I seize the stone, which is soft and cool to the touch, and I pull off chunks of it, as though it is made of clay. I fling the torn pieces as far as I can in all directions. The stone resists, moves against my hand as I tug it apart…