Saturday, December 15, 2012
Sandhill crane. Landlubber grasshopper. Shoelace fern.
It has been a month since we arrived at our winter home in North Fort Myers and we've spent considerable time on nearby trails and swamp boardwalks re-acquainting ourselves with familiar friends and meeting new ones like the tree frog who has taken up residence in the palm tree near our lanai and who sings us to sleep every warm night. Now there's a gentle lullaby to lull you to sleep.
But last night, sleep was hard to come by. Like the rest of the nation, including our President, Americans far and wide are mourning the deaths of so many innocent school children in yet another senseless killing spree. As I read my husband the news this morning, I had to stop several times to fight off the tears. And ever since we learned of the atrocity, thinking about those families, teachers, coaches, and community members who knew and loved those children, I have been asking myself all day: How many bullet-ridden bodies have to be buried buried before our leaders find the political will to fend off the gun lobby and put an end to the murdering?
I've heard from many friends who are asking the same question -- and who are taking action by writing their representatives and President Obama to demand a change in America's gun laws. I've begun my own campaign, starting at the top: with a letter to the President. After I finish here, next up will be letters to my senators and congresswoman. No more slaughter. No more.
And I'm writing this blog posting in hopes that you will do the same.
There is so much beauty in this world, like the male sandhill crane performing his ritual mating dance in the photograph at the top of this page. His beautiful tango of love helps soothe my anguished spirit, but it not enough, not nearly enough. I must do more. You must do more.
Thank you. I'll be back soon with another post, a cheerier one no doubt, to comment on Roger's and my expedition into the Everglades, my holy land, beginning tomorrow morning and continuing for several days of hiking, poetry-writing, simply being together. Let the healing begin.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
From Puerto San Miguel,
I imported small doses of Amazon mojo
in my photographs of mestizos children,
brown eyes shimmering in brown moon faces daring
to gaze away from my gringo wide-angle lens at full zoom.
One little chiquita wore her pet parakeet like a parrot-
green pendant at her throat, stroking him, soothing
herself, that bird of green-green palms in her brown palm.
The caption reads: She tamed him, he turned her wild.
It has been difficult returning from our journey to the Mother River. Two weeks-going-on-three later and I’m still feeling a bit weary, plowing through emails and huge baskets of laundry. Ah, return to reality.
Here’s an update since I posted a quickie on Facebook at the end of September. As many of you know, Roger and I had a fabulous trip during which we saw dozens of birds (89 species), 53 of them "bird firsts." And lots of other critters, the most amazing of which were the pygmy marmoset (world's smallest monkey) and the monk saki monkey, a very rare sighting of a handsome furry primate! Brought home a couple thousand photos, now in photo-book-making mode. Well, it was until I got distracted by this beautiful young face..
Of the 31 bug bites I suffered plus 1 no-problem bee sting, only three still show signs of attack. But I still can’t shake it: that we were attacked by a swarm of a couple thousand bees -- freaked me out totally even if it turned out they were harmless, stingless bees that only wanted our sweat! Lesson learned: the rainforest is a dangerous place and humans are insignificant! Best moment? Being on our boat, the elegant Delphin II, as it entered the confluence where the Amazon begins! Absolutely thrilling to be in the current where the world's mightiest river becomes what we know as the Amazon!
Which brought me around to the image I posted here today…and for this special occasion (finally getting around to doing my blog), a poem, brand-new today and written expressly for you. A thank you for continued reading of my sporadic postings.
And here now is a short poetry news round up for you:
1) I invite you to read my work at Sliver of Stone at http://sliverofstonemagazine.com/threading-desire/.
2) The most exciting news is about Rochester’s Poets Walk. After many, many months of deliberation and selection/design work/and construction, Poet's Walk is officially open as of October 5th! Poets Walk is an interactive sidewalk along University Avenue between North Goodman and Prince Streets in the heart of the Rochester arts district that honors poets as artists of the written word. The sidewalk is made of all natural materials - clay brick and stone - and built to last for 100 years or more. Poetry is engraved into eleven granite bands in the brick sidewalk, as well as two large granite tablets. In addition, about 100 small medina stone tablets scattered the length of the block will be engraved with words. Visitors can dial the words on their cell phone to hear audio recordings of community voices performing poetry written by area poets, or poets who visited Rochester at some point and are recognized or historically significant.
For an overview of Poets Walk, go to http://artdrop.democratandchronicle.com/poets-walk. Scroll down to the alphabetical list of poets where you can click on a link to read a poem or click on the megaphone icon to listen to a recording of the poem. Or, to listen to a poem, dial 585-627-4100. When prompted for the stop number, enter “tast” and the phone will direct you to my poem, “Six Questions Now Answered.” The reading at the opening ceremony was a great success. I’m so very honored to be among the poets with such fine company.
3) Community was very much behind the “guerrilla poetry” event called “Chalk Talk” in the Village of Brockport recently. I and three other poet-friends from Just Poets (the local poets’ non-profit org), took to the sidewalks with pastel chalk in hand to write spontaneous verse in front of Lift Bridge Bookstore. People stopped to read and question our actions and pick up the chalk themselves. The effort was part of the worldwide enactment of 100,000 Poets for Change. Take a peek at what we were up to at http://100tpcmedia.org/100TPC2012/2012/09/brockport-new-york/. So very glad to be there with poet-friends Dwain Wilder, Colleen Powderly and kitty Jospé. We had a blast while bringing poetry to life for passersby of all ages.
4) Last but not least, I got word in the past couple weeks,I've received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber - The Contemporary West in 2012, which carries a $500 prize.To read the winning poems, go to https://www.weber.edu/WSUImages/weberjournal/JournalPDF%27s/Spring%202012%20for%20web.pdf.
5) And, if you’d like to read about another happening poetry city, enjoy Scott Owens’s article at http://scottowensmusings.blogspot.com/2012/10/provincialism-in-charlotte-observer.html. Scott’s an acclaimed North Carolina poet and editor (he's published several of my works) who takes on the provincialism that can beset our hometowns whether in Charlotte, NC, Rochester, NY, or anywhere people don’t treasure their hometown poets’ treasures!
Roger and I will be heading south on November 6 (after we vote!) in the wake of the Canada geese now raising a racket overhead these days. A few days of moseying, stopping to visit four sets of friends on the way to warmer North Fort Myers for a winter away from this ch-ch-chilly north! Then I’ll return to these pages and send some of that warmth your way.
As always, thanks for reading. Happiest of autumn trails to all.
Monday, August 13, 2012
...of its landscape."
I reread the title and opening line to one of my Amazonia poems and amazingly am transported not to the great river reflecting constellations but to the north, into this photograph of an island in the fog. The Canadian Shield, its glacial lakes, are caught in meditation, blur of consciousness of sky upon the land. Rationality is misted over, the rat-mind in stillness. Rather the hush of spruce trees Rather a dock in reverie, no cottage in sight.
The island lies in Chandos Lake, in the Kawarthas of Ontario, a couple of hours northeast by minivan from Toronto. If you were to locate it on chart or GPS or Google Earth, you would refer to 44°49'30" North and 77°58'43" West. (Thank you, Canadian Council of Geometrics; http://www.geodata.us/canada_names_maps/maps.php?featureid=FAPVZ&f=188.)
Dive into the image and you arrive on the shore of friendship.The viewscape welcomes you to imagine how laughter can warm the chilliest waters. You will be enveloped in kindness.
That's what I discovered on my journey to visit Judy and Walter ("Fergy") Fergusen at their getaway home in late July. We know no finer hospitality. I have them to thank for the defining photograph. All that they gave-- and fog too!
And a while later a poem to accompany the digitized calm. This one is for you, Judy and Fergy:
In calm wild latitudes
we come to Chandos Lake to lose the granite
in our weighted lives; hope loons, paired, remain
as spruces, boathouse, dock, their stony island disappear.
Fog swallows the Canadian Shield in toto and
alive, we receive the weightless, hopeful silences of loons.
Poetry of place has been much on my hyper-conscious post-vacation brain. The second issue of About Place Journal went live recently. My congratulations to Editor Michael McDermott on a fine collection of prose and poetry and graphic pleasures. Thank you, Michael, for publishing my work, a poem based on the best place of all: this my native Third Coast habitat. My turf, my Great Lake.. Please visit: http://aboutplacejournal.org/?page_id=1825.
Please also visit http://www.sugarmule.com/PDFS/41Final4.pdf. Sugar Mule's monumental "Women Writing Nature" is 400+ pages of fabulous and immensely varied compendium of contemporary women poets' natural visions. I am proud to be in the company of Jen Eddy, Maude Larke, Wilda Morris, Sherry O'Keefe, Marge Piercey, Miriam Sagan and Lenore Weiss among dozens of other Nature-inspired writers.. Thank you, guest editor Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. My trio of poems in the collection will lead you south: back to Ontario, then on to Georgia, and again into the Amazon, where I first learned "sky is the consciousness."
Lastly, I invite you to drop in on http://www.riverpoetsjournal.com/River_Poets_Journal_-_Spring-Summer_-_2012__2_.pdf. My "Bordering On" will take you to my other native habitat: Florida. I hope you enjoy the trek. Thank you, Judith Lawrence, oh River Poets Journal editor.
I should be doling out gratitude to another pair of wonderfully loving friends, Iris and Gary, who were with Roger and me for four days last week, but that thank-you poem isn't ready for prime-time blog! I promise the hefty revisions will be worth it. Another posting here for another day of remembering the many blessings of our time together this August.
The sky is telling me it's lunch-time. Right here, right now. Further poetry of place will have to wait.
Thank you, friends and other readers, for sticking with me through the Mists of Chandos.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
The snowbird migration is about to get under way, and as it does, I realize it is a time of lasts...
...the last visit to Six Mile Cypress Slough where we watched the bare bald cypresses feather out in their soft needles to create a rich green wall of tree life...
...the last outing to Harn's Marsh, a new-to-us birding spot, where we saw for the first time snail kites (aka Everglades kites), a handsome raptor whose chief source of nourishment are pond apple tree snails -- abundant in those marsh waters...
...one last stoll around the loop trail at Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve, a regular spot just a short half-mile from the condo with a network of boardwalks and sandy trails that delivered to us this winter the first corn snake we'd ever seen...
...a final trip to Lovers Key State Park, our "pet beach," which offered its own surprise: spring's neap tide, the highest tide of the year and one that came up so high on the beach that we beachcombers scrambled inland to avoid getting beach blankets soaked and sea foam spun by brisk westerlies in our hair...
...one more time onto the river for a kayak outing downriver into a preserve that held its own surprise -- a tiny island bird rookery raucous with screeching, gargling fledgling tri-color herons and little blue herons studded with one very handsome roseate spoonbill as shown above...
...and for me, one more "poetry safari" at Caloosahatchee Regional Park where, for the fifth time this winter, I had a night of tenting out and writing to the wee hours of screech owls; the poem below but one of several I wrote in my "quiet time" of pondering the world around me and my inner world.
SCHERZI QUINTET: CALOOSAHATCHEE PARK DISPATCH
Hence Serpentine Hours
Coral snake, ribbon snake, corn snake, moccasin—
Hence Functional Subtropical Camp Décor
Everglades bandanna’s green map—
prayer flag for blue tent.
Hence Water Music
Crickets tonight, anticipating dew,
Henceforward After Dark
Owl, armadillo, most seek me—
Hence Essence of Florida
Palm, pine, river, stars, sleeping lizards:
I dream them all.
On Friday, we depart for points north, stopping at two state parks for several nights of camping, one on the Ochlockonee River on Florida's "Forgotten Coast" -- my favorite Florida park -- and one on the Atlantic Ocean at Hunting Island, SC -- my favorite state park in the U.S. I'll do my best to bring the warmth and sunshine with me to Western New York when we return to the shores of Lake Ontario.
Blessed be your spring. Let the time of northern firsts begin.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
It's February. Already the new year is a month old. Here in South Florida that means we are on the cusp of springtime. I know that from more than a decade of experience in wintering in these subtropics, but yesterday the shift in seasons was made manifest by a mockingbird. For the first time this year I heard his aria rise on the wind from atop the parotis palm waving at the marina's walkway below our lanai. That fellow will find a mate soon, I thought. His complex love song continued for two or more lively, lilting minutes, a virtuoso performance of vernal desire. Then he was off to another perch, his brownish black-and-white wings twirling like a whirligig lawn ornament twirling in a stiff breeze. He returns again this morning on his urgent rounds of the condo grounds, oblivious to Hutch and Ellie, our association president and his wife, uncovering the pool below the avian performer in preparation for their daily laps. As I watch them I'm thinking of the wood violets we'll soon be seeing coming into bloom as we hike the local preserves.
Even friends and loved ones back home in Western New York, who so far have enjoyed a relatively mild winter, are noticing spring's immanence: it's the lengthening of days. An email correspondent, John Heiser, a back-country ranger at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, remarked last week that already there are 47 minutes more daylight since the Winter Solstice.
These days of growing light move at their usual fast clip. There aren't enough hours in the day for this full-time poet to keep up with submission deadlines much less escape for a few hours' writing time. That'll come. Meanwhile, I've enjoyed some successes in my craft that I'd like to share with you, hoping you won't find me immodest to note that...
...January saw the publication in vox poetica of the title poem from my new collection, The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica. (I ask all my faithful readers who ordered a copy to please be patient. Your copy will be arriving soon, so says the publisher!). This link gives you a sneak preview of what to expect: http://poemblog.voxpoetica.com/2012/01/27/the-ice-decides.aspx...
...My environmental activism continues but has in recent months expanded to include social justice issues. A small indication of this newly-found dimension of concern for my fellow humans -- the 99% -- can be glimpsed in five poems recently published in Poems on the Great Recession. See http://poetsonrecession.blogspot.com/2012/01/karla-linn-merrifield.html and you'll read how my activism twines concern for humanity with concern for the planet. Then jump over to http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2012/id44.htm. Poet-activist-friend Dwain Wilder of Rochester, NY, and I co-edited the new Liberty's Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 Poets among the 99%, now available from that link to FooHills Publishing. The book hit bookshelves on January 15 -- only nine weeks after I first conceived it. My sincere thanks to Dwain, the Czarnecki family at FHP and our fellow 97 poets. It's not to be missed...
...And, yesterday, I received word that two of my poems received Honorable Mention prizes in the Lois Beebe Hayna Awards administered by Poetry West. The two poems are published now in the Winter 2011-2012 issue of PW's The Eleventh Muse. Here's one of the two poems:
At “VV 74 Fate Bell”
Willingly in thirst
I step through
your red portal.
Here is the only
way, one you had
painted with iron
oxide, bone marrow
and sotol on a limestone
wall beneath a broad
canopy streaked black
with manganese. Such
is the tenacious strength
of your art that
parts, canyon enfolds
my body. I succumb.
O my Hunter,
I am your Gatherer
come to decipher
the ochre thread
of your story line
later, in a fiery flicker
of shamanic time.
For here, this now,
I am Pecos River Woman,
a trace of yellow
yucca twine, who
binds herself slowly
to your sacred staff.
Willingly in hunger
I receive, retrieve
seeds of your enchanted
genius and do return
from my entrancement
within your ancient
stone to my people,
full of your wild mind.
I then sing of your vivid
petroglyphs on the living
side so all may
remember you, remember our
brief prehistory, and this:
young love’s landing.
Believe it or not, that poem, dating to summer '08, went to 21 editors before being accepted -- with honors, no less.
That's all very good news, but life is such that sad news becomes part of this hopeful pre-spring season. I must pause to reflect...
...on the recent sudden death at 78 of beloved friend and colleague Don O'Neil. Don was a big man -- of stature and spirit -- with whom I was friends for nearly 30 years. We worked together in the '80s and '90s as fellow wordsmiths in the ad biz. While a love of the crafted word brought us together, a deeper friendship forged over the years over many a basket of chicken wings at our favorite Rochester haunt, Beale Street, where we shared a passion for political news, geology, movies, Raymond Chandler mysteries.... In the Irish tradition, Don was a storyteller nonpareil with a rebel soul to boot. He was an iconoclast who reminded me not to mindlessly bow to authority. When he laughed, he bellowed from his expansive belly. Oh, Don, my friend, I miss you so.
About a week later, I learned John Kuchera, another "adland" colleague died. Although John and I had not remained in touch during the years since we both left the insanity of the biz behind, I will always remember him for the creative genius he was. Artist, cartoonist, wit, imp. Kuch, the world has lost one of its most generous spirits. But I find comfort in knowing his art -- all those whimsical Kuch cats among it! -- lives on...on the walls of my home as he does in my heart.
Tonight, I will look to the spring stars and find I doubt not two new ones in the heavens above the Caloosahatchee River that slowly rolls by my North Fort Myers windows to the Gulf of Mexico. Goodnight, Don. Goodnight, Kuch. You shine on.