A poetry reading inspired by the Guilford Art Center’s 2020 Student Exhibition, held on Sunday, March 1. The event featured poems by the following Guilford poets guild members: Dan Goldberg, Gwen Gunn, Juliana Harris, Nan Meneely, Jane Muir, Pat O’Brien, Jen Payne, Elizabeth Possidente, and Gordy Whiteman.
A Dwelling Place
I am lost in a fathomless wood,
Pondering which way that I should turn,
Perhaps this way, to the left,
Or maybe that way, to the right;
I could go back the way I came,
If only I knew how.
Of course, there is always forward,
Towards an unseen obscure horizon,
Into the beckoning sun which peeks
Out from the endless trees,
Into the vast trackless unknown.
Besides my beating heart,
I can only hear the sounds
Of creaking branches, muffled
By quilts of frosty snow.
I am so tired, cold, and lonely,
Daylight is fading, darkness enclosing;
Shall I make a soft white bed
In the freshly fallen snow,
So that I might look up in solitude,
To view the scintillating stars
Between the branches and the trees.
I’m remembering a song that I had sung,
In choir back when I was young,
My high school days filled with fun;
I think by Brahms if I recall —
“How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place”.
As I hum this song, here alone,
I see how lovely are these trees,
And I don’t feel quite as cold or lonely.
Three Curious Objects
they could be plump birds on a fence
or from a distance penguins on an outcrop
heads tilted up mouths angular and open
fearful or angry in outcry
close up their forms are smooth and delicate
a variegated sealskin gray
like shells of slightly out-of-kilter eggs
from which something alive may soon emerge
feathered and finely boned perhaps
with beaks which have already pecked holes
creatures fragile and lovely as their homes
three phoenixes rising from the ashes
Penguin Guarding Nest
I’m a fool for penguins
but it’s your eyes,
that really grab me
I want to take you home,
add you to my collection
of your flock.
What a find!
I am so moved
by your hunched shoulders,
your curled toes,
your clenched fingers,
I want to reach out,
give you a hug,
“don’t fret…I’m here.”
Midsummer, there is little else
that satisfies the eye the way they do
in brilliant ranks along the road
or caught mid-garden in the worship
of a pagan god. They’ve lengthened
past the sedum with its hint of rust,
past daisies crowding out
the smaller blooms in curving beds,
the upper crossbar of the fence,
the ornamental grass.
They claim their place in the open
and warmth of nearly sky,
turn their faces to the sun,
pull against the bracing
of their roots to swivel slowly
till the light descends
below a fringe of cattails
in the marsh.
But August finds them heavy
with the weight of summer
taken hour on hour.
They bow in new humility.
The Water World
Put the fins on your feet
Take a deep breath
Tumble backwards off the ladder
Let the weights around your waist
Sink you to the ocean’s floor.
I sat cross-legged
In this strange new world
Looked up at the ceiling
Of this water world
Its ceiling is the ocean’s surface
Here is the world where life began
But whose denizens don’t even know
Of the existence of my world beyond
This is the whole world to trillions
Of the ocean’s creatures
Who learn about my world
Only at the end of a hook
Two worlds estranged
Is there any trip I have ever taken
More different than this? No.
Not even if I had gone to the moon.
Beyond What You Know
Just at that spot the road
disappears from sight,
just where the river, once broad,
narrows and loses its light
to the reeds and wavering wall
of grassy might,
you stop, surprised by all
the aching clamor in your chest,
by tears rising to the pall
of mysteries beyond a crest
or stand of trees or sudden drop
on the path you’d kept from sadness.
Or so you’d tried. And without
a map to assure you what’s just
out of sight, you know, on the spot,
sorrow’s coming next …
But wait! Joys too will be waiting,
you remind yourself, quietly amidst
that absent scene, countervailing
weights against life’s uncharted pain.
Sanctified without Assistance
This is sacred space.
It needs no adornment,
sanctified without assistance.
In the spring
sweet green rejoices,
sings hallelujah at the unfurl.
broad leaf and life —
a grand chorus from hallowed woods.
the bright colors
play a crescendoed reminder:
To everything there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
of hope promised, stored.
This is sacred space
adulation ever on.
Which came first…
Who better to guard
the mountains than
Great She Bear
oak and pine,
where Noctua / Owl
keeps watchful eyes on
grown by Eridanus.
Sister river flows
clean and pure,
sings bubbling songs to
Grus and Vulpecula —
crane and little fox —
We can almost imagine Aquarius,
great water carrier
divine this lush, verdant sphere,
pour life from a star-crystal pitcher.
But man gives and man takes
hardly in equal measure —
The ghost of Lepus, rabbit,
runs quick from Orion
hunter and destroyer
wondering: is this your Eden before
or our Eden finally after?
How do I manage all this
when I am anywhere or nowhere
everywhere and someplace
in between what time there is
Or is not
I AM (am I not ?)
though I am imperfect
and perhaps unformed
yet perfect and fully formed
as this is all I am
My eye is always
on with or around
I search and call in our sounds
they follow and stray
follow and stray
playful in mud
joyous even in darkness
I think about food
and where we’ll find it
our shelter in flux
We are fat and matted
Our lives are full
We talk about food again
after joking a bit
But the vino is beautiful
A taste of nuts
A warm Adriatic breeze
Picture tiny flowers
yellow pink pale blue white
along a bubbling stream in mountain valley
a cowbell in the distance
Today I am luxuriating in my vegetable garden,
digging up and breaking down clods of rich,
brown soil. Generations before me, on my father’s
side, grew their gardens.
There is a comfort in making room
for the hand-me-downs of the generations’ flow:
the easy patience to water, weed, loosen the soil,
feel the sun, the breeze; hear the buzz
of the pollinating bees.
When a young boy, I worked with my grandfather
setting poles for his beans and, in turn
my grandchildren have known the satisfaction
of shelling fresh-picked peas, pulling carrots
and radishes grown from seed that I have sown.
They, too, have sat on the back porch steps
with rhubarb stalks clenched in their hands
and the sugar bowl wedged between their knees.
Today, I am planting a new round of lettuce.
The peas and pole beans are sprouting.
I see signs of Swiss chard, acorn squash, zucchini,
and from the herb garden, the dill is peeping through.
Certainly, I could buy my beets and tomatoes
from the local green grocer but I honor
this gift from my forefathers to plant, grow and harvest.
My father, Tom –
My grandfather, William –
My great grandfather, Edward –
As with the soil, the blood runs rich and deep.
Make it your own,
red or green or the deep maroon
of a New York Rome,
or, a Fuji, savored
for its snappy resistance
to your teeth’s
eager insistence for
If your appetite leans
toward Delicious, if your
dish is a MacIntosh,
Granny Smith, whatever
you wish, make it your own
Meditate on cider, fresh
or hard, made from windfalls
strewn on the yard around
and under the tree.
Use the excess for strudel,
butter, sauce, a sugar-free pie of
Think of the curved, uneven shape –
The stem – the eye of your apple
Where a blossom had been.
Imagine a peeler in your one hand,
an apple in your other. Let the peel
dangle down, a red, green dappled
unchained bauble, as the peeler
exposes the snow-white
Consider its story starting
with Eve’s and Adam’s apple,
to Newton, to Tell, and a homework
reprieve stemming from the bribe
of a shining
From the ear of your mind
receive the sound of the bell
as the children bound from the school
into the autumn of pumpkin, maple,
Picture the apples on Bishop’s trees.
With look ma no hands and your eyes closed,
run through the seasons: trees in snow,
branches in blossom, summer growth,
pick your own. Touch the gnarl and bark.
Repeat this oath in the ephemeral dark:
Apple … Apple … Apple