My Old Pal Venus
Oh yes, my old pal Venus —
there she is — or ought to be.
One moment, and that brilliant light
will have sunk below the hospital,
that rims the hilltop of our street.
(The lesser lights, that seem to spire
away from her, subsided too.)
I went outdoors to search
pin prickles in a flannel sky —
no waiting here for the Perseids,
our heavens scummed by street lamps,
cars — as if to keep us local, fixed.
Now, as I drag the trash can out,
not even the North Star still beams through.
The moon, a little cockeyed, glints.
I’m grateful for the company,
such as it is.
Spring. The May rocks butt and push;
the soft lawn’s jagged with dragon’s teeth.
new stones rise up, while last year’s stones
sink under moss
as if the mud were pulling back
what it so strongly had put forth
(the mud inconstant, fidgety.)
The house, too, teeters on its slab,
perched as it is on deciduous rock.
The water that melts down our hill,
erodes the city underground,
silts up the gravel river-plain.
The planet itself is no sure thing,
though, mornings, I’d want to bet on it.
Do You Remember?
Do you remember the alder woods
where we used to camp?
Overgrown now, with aspen, larch
I slept there once in a hammock,
whose net sides let in saline air.
Small creatures thumping over me,
their tiny feet
dinted its roof.
Dew in the morning; we lit a fire.
Rememberx tea inx plastic mugs,
the wetness of green raspberries?
Remember those summers, when xxblueberry hills
were patch-worked xmagenta, xcrimson, orange,
and those grey sand xshores xwhere swirling birds
opened and closed the evening skies?
I remember trying to photograph
what was mostly air.
And the long drive home,
and fields of broken cornstalks
It seems a lid on final things,
that sea edge, sliver of bright steel
that rims the slowly darkening marsh.
The muddy hammocks seem to catch
and drag the slowly sliding sun
across their shell heap middens,
scarfy with groundsel and dusty reeds.
The water turns to silver as we watch.
Live in HD
The smell of rancid butter, slightly scorched,
drenches the crowded atrium.
Outside, snow falls on the parking lot,
a trifle dreary but mystical
in the softened neon of afternoon.
The mall is crowded, sleazy,
warm. A prototype for Paradise?
Almost. Friendly, comfortable.
But that semi-forest across the street
seems nearer to a paradise
I could imagine, beautiful–
but I can’t stroll
among those winter-blistered trees,
the candled tufts of withered weeds
skimming the thin-iced pond.
Here I can wait for the opera,
warm, friendly, safe–
the video games still audible,
and the smell of rancid butter, slightly scorched.
I first heard of Janet Thom Hammock’s essays on “deep listening” when she read from two of them at Fredericton’s “Odd Sundays” poetry readings.
I think I have always gone in for “deep listening”—but especially as, now, my hearing decreases. Had I as a child ever heard silence? So many of my memories of childhood seem connected with sounds. Water and weather of course. The aches and creaks of a house—and the groans, ticks, and murmurs of the machines within it. The thumps and scurrying of cats, the roof thuds of squirrels, and, scraping about in the walls, my unpaying tenants who leave their tiny turds along the top of the basement bookcases.
Then there’s the street with its cars, the bus, the buzzing street lights, its chatty or (late night) drunken students—and the highway, not all that close, but constantly in roar. No matter how late at night it is, I can hear the highway.
And all those beasts: the hunting owl, the courting raccoons—someone downtown has bought fireworks—and there is the ambulance, once again!
And if I go out to the forest, aren’t the trees noisy? Cracking or whining or rattling their branches. And brooks do babble! Even the pond taps gently at its spongy rim.
I no longer hear bats, some birds. Mumbling, whispering poets and academics have merged for me into the sounds of water on stone or wind on trees.
I remember in Costa Rica, lying still in a slightly creaking hammock under more stars than I had ever imagined, with the waves patting the seacoast, and distant thunder lighting, occasionally, the horizon’s rim. The candle on the table next to me uttered a tiny, somewhat prickling, sigh.
—M. Travis Lane
M. Travis Lane lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and has published seventeen books of poetry. She has won numerous awards, including the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Literary Arts in 2016, and was short-listed in 2015 for the Governor General’s Award for her book Crossover. Her most recent publications are The Witch of the Inner Wood: Collected Long Poems and Heart on Fist: Selected Prose.