Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Day 2: I Still Plan to Write you a Letter on Growing up far from the Desert


For some reason the prompt today made me think immediately about the poet Alice Notley.  She has always been a poet I love and struggle to understand.  She grew up in the desert in CA.  Then, I thought about a trip I took a long time ago over the Tuolumne pass to Bishop, CA.  I was in a van full of poets headed to the California Poets in the School Annual Conference.  Bishop is a desert town found in the cradle of two mountain ranges.  It was such a foreign place - the scent of sage, the dry heat.  But also such a shock and joy to be completely surrounded by poets again (I had been working in the corporate world).  Here is what I drafted up for today.  

I Still Plan to Write you a Letter on Growing up far from the Desert
for Alice Notley

The air smelled like sage and heat near Bishop. 
Shale raining our descent from the steep pass.
Sap Pines leaning; blue-eyed lakes shivering
sky. So that when we hit the floor it was
nothing we were prepared to understand.
 It sanded us clean, sunk the scent of sage
into what we would find later of ourselves.
You can forget a lot underwater
when you’re that dry.  And the cold mountain lake
separates the papers you’ve gathered of yourself
until they blossom on the cool surface.
These days I stitch days out of fog and breath,
far from the desert. I know the exact
bend in gravel drive where the generations
of quail return to hatch and thrive.  Some days
though, the wind picks up, carrying unknown
that feeling of descent, that raining down
until all that is left to do is dive.

2 comments:

KIRBYPOETRONICAS said...

Iris! Thank you so much for introducing me to Alice Notley!!!!


#2 I Still Plan to Write you a Letter on Growing up far from the Desert

This is my Letter to you in your Ivory Tower who grew up so far away from my desert.

Wrinkling like waterlogged fingers in a tub,
you catalog the women in breadlines
and speak authority, what it is to be feminist.
But what do you know of the trenches?
of our vapid desert, of the real women in the lines?
Of the hangnails and split skin it takes to dig-out our plot in this drought wrought soil?
What do you know of the clay and Loomis of the valley earth?
The strychnine and Hexavalent Chromium 6?
The sickness of the mothers and the tears of the children
“small drops of jade placed in the national museum”
for people like you
people who catalog
You saw me bleeding and gave me Faulkner, thinking you’d teach me something of life
Something I didn’t know
But I knew Dewey Dell and was a “ tub full of guts” dying as I created life
“how many of you sexist feminist think I’m only part of him”
“small springs of blood from our bodies”
“the blood at our feet has cost us so much”
“here are my tears”,
Thank you so much.

Athena said...

The Poet Writes to Her Son


You've grown and gone
west young man almost
to the ocean while I stay
prairie-bound and wide
spread below sky peeled
blue and white not any
thing at all like the maps
with two-headed monsters
open-mouthed at the edge
and I still plan to write
you a letter on growing up
far from the desert though
I don't yet know where to
begin surely this poem could
be enough were it not for this
nagging sense that something
waits at the toned-down and
dune-scoured margins.