After Ginsberg

Ginsberg: soot and steam. Ginsberg: howl
and scream. Ginsberg: grit and grease, bleak
peace, dark moon, heat of June. Ginsberg: steel
and steal, machines too real, plight and fight, a
workman’s meal.

Ginsberg: Yacketayakking. Stolen nights,
breathing boxes, tubercular skies. From the ash, a
flower does rise, stares you down, right surprise.
The opposite of ripe: withering grey sunflower,
brittle smoking pipe.

Look at that sunflower. Man. A hint, a message,
a hope. Lest we forget—obliterate memory of
things gold, honest, gasping. Gasping,
gasping for glint, a stalk (even a dead stalk)
to climb, into clouds, above smog and
rotten soil, crude oil. Breathe, breathe.

Take the flower. Hold the flower. Be the
flower—sun and glean, son of dream. Take the
shadow of it home, specter and shade, pull
it from sawdust, a yellow-star bone, a banana
dock sermon.

Yes. In this thing: meaning.
Look, look: a perfect mummy of a sunflower, soul,
souling—singing sunflower, wildflower,
wild, tender, dead-eye flower. Take us home.


On Germination

Of his younger sister’s (Wilhemien) literary work—a piece on plants and rain—Vincent van Gogh wrote:

 You can see yourself that in nature many flowers are trampled underfoot, frozen or scorched, and for that matter not every grain of corn returns to the soil after ripening to germinate and grow into a blade of corn – indeed, that by far the greatest number of grains of corn do not develop fully but end up at the mill – isn’t this so? To compare human beings with grains of corn, now – in every human being who is healthy and natural there is a germinating force, just as there is in a grain of corn. And so natural life is germination. What the germinating force is to the grain, love is to us.


What the germinating force is to the grain, love is to us. I was thinking about germinating forces earlier this morning, as I peered into the brittle head—still bulging with seed—of this sunflower. Here, stubbornly anchored to the ground, you can see the force of which van Gogh wrote. The floret has gone to seed—either clinging to the disc, taken by the sparrow, or fallen to the ground (where, perhaps, taken by the goose), in which case it may end there, in some animalia digestive system. (Which is what happened this past spring at Franklin Farm, when the seeds were not buried deeply enough, and the birds, big and small, gobbled up the grain.)

On the other hand, should the seed make its way safely underground, we may see the sunflower, reincarnate, late summer next year. Overground, germinant, gold and giving.

What love is to us. Yes.

To The Meadow I Go

As we walk into words that have waited for us to enter them, so the meadow, muddy with dreams, is gathering itself together and trying, with difficulty, to remember how to make wildflowers.

~ Marie Howe, The Meadow

I went back to my old blog, Suburban Soliloquy, to cull from some years-old thoughts I’d set down there, and found the quote above etched into one of my photos published on the blog’s Weekend Wisdom page. The image on which the quote appears is of late spring lilacs, the far end of a bench, and a portion of a field. I was surprised when I saw the entry dated May 31, 2013, surprised that it has been nearly two years since I snapped the photo, surprised that I had quoted from one of Howe’s poems; surprised, of course, because I didn’t remember posting the entry, the little bit of wisdom I, at one time, posted weekly.

For the last two years—as a full-time student in a graduate program—I’ve been absorbed in a vortex of words. All else, save for my family, has been neglected (though they might tell you otherwise), writing and reading taking precedence over everything, excepting my family (she says again, trying too hard to convince herself that she didn’t ignore her family). And what I’ve been writing, to a large extent, has been about attending. The irony of what remains now—piles and piles of things to which I must attend—is, well, piquant. No, that’s too kind. The remains are malodorous. There’s a stench in the air from the flood of neglect, and I fear that I am not adequately equipped to fully mitigate or restore the damage.

But. I graduated last month, and so time has opened wide. It is now a matter of priorities—as though it hadn’t always been.

But then, I graduated last month! And absent the structure of this particular vortex of words, this force of letters and symbols and theories and truths, what I most want to do, but am having the greatest of difficulty doing, is to recall how I made my own wildflowers. And, oh, how I want to make wildflowers.

This past January, I met Howe, briefly, at Bennington College, where she was a guest reader and lecturer during my final ten-day residency. She has a lovely, spirited presence, and I wish, now, that I’d attended her reading. But I didn’t. I was too tired, too preoccupied with, and tormented by, my own lecture and reading, both of which I gave during the same two days Howe read and lectured. As Howe edified and bewitched (I heard) her audience, I was in my dorm room, consumed by imagined failure, trying my darnedest to quell anxiety. Later, my cohorts shared with me the magic I had missed. This morning, pricked by a little weekend wisdom, I felt the need to compensate for that loss, and I listened to Howe reading The Meadow. (Worth the listen, yes.)

Quickly, I came here, to my own small meadow, or shoreline, or golden dune (all of where I imagine I might be when writing), to forget who I am, spread grains of rune, and forgive myself. Can you blame me? Water, root, blossom! Words, sleeping on the tip of my very tongue, tangled, an orgy of words (much like the plantings in our front flower beds), young and drunk and silly, but now waking like spring lilacs, stepping out of the chaos, and organizing themselves. But will they change my life?

Snow still falls on the earthbound meadows of Rhode Island. Yet that doesn’t keep me from them, it makes me all the more eager to go. To see. To notice even the slightest markings of change. Like Dorothy awakening in a field of poppies under a sprinkling of snow, I quicken in a dense, crystalline meadow, stick my tongue out and let the snow hit the edge of parlance. So, to the meadow, to the meadow I go.

You can read Howe’s poem, The Meadow, in full (and listen to her reading it) at NPR’s On Being.