RUIN AND BEAUTY

DEENA METZGER'S BLOG

Category Archives: POEMS

A Gift to You for Earth Day

THE ORCHARD IS FERAL

I’ve let the orchard go feral.

We offer it nothing but water

And take nothing,

But leave it to the bees

Who sing among the blossoms,

And to the squirrels who gather

The oranges and grapefruits

That fall and scatter.

The lemons and oranges

Have mated on their own

And maybe they will remain coupled

Or maybe they will sort themselves out

To their own original natures.

 

This time the old elm is dying.

A very few branches have leaves.

There will be none next year

Except for the sapling that is streaking

Toward the sky.  I thought I might die

With the elm, and wonder if its progeny

Means a new birth for me.  It is, after all,

From the old root.

 

Everything must have its way.

The oak that planted itself

Created its own field of being,

So the others accommodate

To its shady dominance.

The creatures eat

But they do not slaughter.

The old, old ways insist

That the animals can teach us.

The difference between their natural order

And our domination.

 

The plumbago expands between

The eucalyptus that plant themselves,

Increasingly at the border, providing

Shelter for the squirrels and a thrasher,

Occasional quail and a flock of brown birds

Who prefer to remain anonymous.

We are advised not to plant these trees

As they will burn hot and fast

When the great fires comes. But

It is their will to abide here,

And who am I to deny them their home?

They are no more immigrant than I

And also, at this time, they are

Calling the cools winds to them,

The heat of the neighboring meadow

Entirely dispelled by their fluttering arms.

And, you must understand that

We are in a conversation about

What it will take for them

To call down the rain –

But only for the frogs

And the non-human creatures –

From this desert blue sky.

— Deena Metzger April 20, 2013

***

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Another Meeting With the Elephants

The Gathering of the Elephants at the End of the Story

Friday, September 30, 2011

THE ELEPHANTS.

These are the only words I have to speak from the cleft between awe and wonder. Soon, I hope, the Story will be able to be told.

i arrived in Africa on September 15th.

Many meetings with the elephants occurred over the first days when
Krystyna Jurzykowski and I were in The Chobe National Park, Botswana, with our own 4 x 4 vehicle. Some of the meetings might be dismissed as ordinary or happenstance, except that the individual events formed one indisputable Story enacted over those three days.

The final confirmation or small wonder occurred as our guides,having arrived for the rest
of the journey, were driving us toward our next destination.

At the last moment in the park on September 17th, the second day, my
birthday, an almost invisible event, but one no being could have orchestrated, occurred that was as true a sign as any I have ever experienced.

And again, on September 18th, as has occurred before at the last hour of the last
day on three different days of three separate years, there was a final event
that could stand on its own as a meeting and was, itself, incontrovertible. It transpired over the last two hours, 4 – 6 pm, of our last day in the Park.

The Delegates Meet Us Eye to Eye

We were not met by a single Ambassador, but by an entire delegation.

The elephants came. The message? That they came!

And so this event and its implications become the foreground of my life at this time.

***

Poem from Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems (Red Hen Press 2009)

MANDLOVU

Suddenly, I am of a single mind extended
Across an unknown geography,
and imprinted, as if by a river, on the moment…
A mind held in unison by a large gray tribe
meandering in reverent concert
among trees, feasting on leaves.
One great eye reflecting blue
from the turn inward
toward the hidden sky that, again,
like an underground stream
continuously nourishes
what will appear after the dawn
bleaches away the mystery in which we rock
through the endless green dark.

I am drawn forward by the lattice,
by a concordance of light and intelligence
constituted from the unceasing and consonant
hum of cows and the inaudible bellow of bulls,
a web thrumming and gliding
along the pathways we remember
miles later or ages past.

I am, we are,
who can distinguish us?
a gathering of souls, hulking and muddied,
large enough – if there is a purpose –
to carry the accumulated joy of centuries
walking thus within each other’s
particular knowing and delight.

This is our grace: To be a note
in the exact chord that animates creation,
the dissolve of all the rivers
that are both place and moment,
an ocean of mind moving
forward and back,
outside of any motion
contained within it.

This is particle and wave. How simple.
The merest conversation between us
becoming the essential drone
into which we gladly disappear.
A common music, a singular heavy tread,
ceaselessly carving a path,
for the waters tumbling invisibly
beneath.

I have always wanted to be with them, with you, so.
I have always wanted to be with them,
with you,
so.

***
Mandlovu is the word the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe use for female elephant, It is connected in resonance with Mambo Kadze the name for the deity that is both elephant, the Virgin Mary and the Great Mother.

***
Blessings,
Deena

RIFT VALLEY

RIFT VALLEY

Between one world and another,
Lies the rift and the increasing separation,
As the plates of one mind slip away
From the plates of another mind.
I do not question which way I am to go,
But call to my heart to act on the decision made
To follow the soul
Or I will be split apart too,
As so many are,
Between violence
And Beauty.
The violent demands of our everyday life
And the strange beauty of Spirit afar.
I must choose Beauty
No matter the cost in this life.
I must choose and leap
Across the widening valley;
We cannot rest between.
Leap!
Ah Beauty! Receive me in your open arms.

FIRE OVER WOOD – poem

FIRE OVER WOOD

If I don’t burn, where will the light come from?
Nazim Hikmet

for Danelia, for Kjersten, for Cheryl

It takes a long time for the fire to catch.
Then the entire stove is enflamed.
Every piece of wood,
alongside the first log, will burn.
Afterwards, there will be coals
to ignite another tender log, and so it goes.
The steadiness of the eternal flame
to stay alight, if sheltered, also in the rain.

I put the women up on the hill
and then the thunder came,
lightning, wind and, finally, heavy rain.
I kept the fire going, prayer, tobacco,
scrupulous attention. If the flame extinguished,
I couldn’t guarantee their safety, couldn’t swear
their own fires wouldn’t die down to low
in the ordeal of meeting the great Light
for which they prepared for months.

One buried the wounded heart of a warrior.
One, unexpectedly, prepared to don white moccasins
from an ancestor she’d never known.
Another learned the weather, learned wind and water
in the old ways. Blood rises hot in us from the earth.

Years earlier, my companion gathered lightning struck bark
and offered it as a gift that turned out to be a curse.
So we had to make amends. I asked, humbly,
if I could help the herb woman build the fire.
After awhile, she gave the task over to me.
I patiently gathered kindling from the dry earth
and fed the fire, twig by twig
until it caught enough for the branches
and then the logs. She offered tobacco then, and sang.

Afterwards, she agreed I might call rain to the land
as I had been given such instructions in a dream.
The dry thunder and dry lightning were far away.
When I returned to the hogan, my old gray silk blouse
was wet and plastered against me like another skin.
We said nothing. When we were leaving,
she kissed me between the eyebrows,
as the Tibetans, her language cousins, do
as a blessing or a transmission.
That’s what we did together:
we made a fire, and I called rain, and we left.

Plant and nurture more trees than you cut down
so when you leave, there will be forests again.
Burn hot and steady and long
so the other logs will catch in your presence
and hold the fire for the next generations.

I kept the fire down below,
while they each praised the land above
in circles of trees. Eucalyptus bark
fed the flames. The logs were from the pine
that had fallen and the dead branches were
of an old elm that had been pierced in loops and swirls
by a family of woodpeckers who’d come to the land
when I had, tattooing the tree for over thirty years.

Last night, the rain was torrential.
The roof opened, as I knew it would,
around the trunk of the jacaranda as
we had built the house around it.
We would not cut it down,
would not even trim the tender green twig
extending its green leaves over my altar table.

We have to live with whatever we wish to save.
The women on the hill were with the rain
as I was with the fire that stormy night.
Be with what you love.
Be immoderate. Avoid caution. Burn steady
so you pass on the heart’s flame.
Yet be vigilant, do not burn the forest down.

DEENA METZGER

YOU KNOW IT IS ALL GOING DOWN NOW, DON’T YOU? – Poem

You know it is all going down now, don’t you?

Where shall we begin the rosary of grief?
With the wolves they want to hunt from the sky?
When they disappear, so will the trees.
All beauty will go down in the bloody
grave of the natural world.

The deer, denied her rightful death,
is sighted in the cross hairs of the rifle
and sinks to her knees
before the hunter trained in Vietnam
or Iraq. A drone above his head
seeks out his body heat
and puts an end to it.
He knew, didn’t he,
what was coming?

On the ground, a robot moves,
unafraid, ahead of troops,
shooting straight at any movement.

In the short time before the enemies
have their own iron men,
we assume it will not frag the officers,
or indulge friendly fire,
but you never know.

Every nightmare we have imagined
is being birthed now, all at once.
What had been written as a warning
has become strategies, tactics and plans.
I did not wish to live to see this day.

Radiation burns.
Oil burns.
Phosphorus burns.
The earth is burning.
Everything is set on fire

Therefore, beat the man
almost to unconsciousness
then plunge his head in water,
until he prays to drown.

How many forms of torture
can you name
that are occurring now?

Your young child,
the innocent one,
a gun forced into her fists,
will do the same,
even to you.

Here are two Ways:

The Baal Shem Tov,
The Master of the Good Name,
speaks of the King who
refused the portion of grain
different from that
which would drive
all the people mad.

Though declining, he said,
“We will mark our foreheads,
and seeing each other,
we will know we are insane.”

Know you are mad
and live accordingly.

Also seek the hidden
Passageways of beauty
that insist you leave
everything contaminated behind.
Do not accommodate.
Step away and further away
each day.

There are the Beauty Ways.
Find them
and give them your entire life
today.

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