Sage Rising

Sage Rising

By Michele Habel-Coffey

nativeprayer

They will inherit the Homes

And The Farm

They will inherit jewels

And the wealth of generations,

Of Miners,

And Marauders,

Of Rosie’s rivets

And Cleopatra’s flight,

Of a Lion,

And a Lamb,

And the Artist’s left hand,

But dollars do not

Make a good cloth for washing

And love’s apple

Tastes better than apathy’s bible

Just so.

I am but a reflection of their light.

I am a smokey sage

carrying prayers to the Heavens

Bartering that for them,

Darkness be never more

than a canvas for the stars.

 

On the Eve of a Birthday by Timothy Steele


On the Eve of a Birthday
By Timothy Steele
As my Scotch, spared the water, blondly sloshes
About its tumbler, and gay manic flame
Is snapping in the fireplace, I grow youthful:
I realize that calendars aren’t truthful
And that for all of my grand unsuccesses
External causes are to blame.

And if at present somewhat destitute,
I plan to alter, prove myself more able,
And suavely stroll into the coming years
As into rooms with thick rugs, chandeliers,
And colorfully pyramided fruit
On linened lengths of table.

At times I fear the future won’t reward
My failures with sufficient compensation,
But dump me, aging, in a garret room
Appointed with twilit, slant-ceilinged gloom
And a lone bulb depending from a cord
Suggestive of self-strangulation.

Then, too, I have bad dreams, in one of which
A cowled, scythe-bearing figure beckons me.
Dark plains glow at his back: it seems I’ve died,
And my soul, weighed and judged, has qualified
For an extended, hyper-sultry hitch
Down in eternity.

Such fears and dreams, however, always pass.
And gazing from my window at the dark,
My drink in hand, I’m jauntily unbowed.
The sky’s tiered, windy galleries stream with cloud,
And higher still, the dazed stars thickly mass
In their long Ptolemaic arc.

What constellated powers, unkind or kind,
Sway me, what far preposterous ghosts of air?
Whoever they are, whatever our connection,
I toast them (toasting also my reflection),
Not minding that the words which come to mind
Make the toast less toast than prayer:

Here’s to the next year, to the best year yet;
To mixed joys, to my harum-scarum prime;
To auguries reliable and specious;
To times to come, such times being precious,
If only for the reason that they get
Shorter all the time.

Timothy Steele, “On the Eve of a Birthday” from Sapphics and Uncertainties: Poems 1970-1986

Sonnet XVII: Pablo Naruda

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

Forgotten of the Foot: By Anne Stevenson

coal
Forgotten of the Foot: By Anne Stevenson
Equisetum, horsetail, railway weed
Laid down in the unconscious of the hills;
Three hundred million years still buried

 

In this hair-soft surviving growth that kills
Everything in the glorious garden except itself,
That thrives on starvation, and distils

 

Black diamonds, the carboniferous shelf —
That was life before our animals,
With trilobite and coelacanth,

 

A stratum of compressed time that tells
Truth without language and is the body store
Of fire, heat, night without intervals —

 

That becomes people’s living only when strange air
Fills out the folded lungs, the inert corpuscles.
Into the mute dark, light crawls once more.

 

                              *

 

So the hills must be pillaged and cored.
Such history as they hide must be hacked out
Urgent as money, the buried black seams uncovered.

 

Rows of stunted houses under the smoke,
Soot black houses pressed back hard against pit
By fog, by smoke, by a cobra hood of smouldering coke

 

Swayed from the nest of ovens huddled opposite.
Families, seven or ten to a household,
Growing up, breathing it, becoming it.

 

On winter mornings, grey capped men in the cold,
Clatter of boots on tarmac, sharp and empty,
First shift out in thick frost simple as gold

 

On the sulphurous roofs, on the stilted gantry,
Crossing to engine house and winding gear —
Helmet, pick, lamp, tin bottle of tea.

 

A Nan or Nora slave to each black grate.
Washing on Monday, the water grimed in its well.
Iron and clean on Tuesday, roll out and bake

 

Each Wednesday (that sweet bituminous smell
No child who grew up here forgets).
Thursdays, the Union and the Methodist Circle;

 

Fishday on Friday (fryday), a queue of kids,
Thin, squabbling by the chippy. Resurfaced quarrels
After pay day — hard drinking and broken heads.

 

Wheels within wheels, an England of working Ezekiels.
Between slag-heaps, coke-tarns and black sludgy leavings,
Forges roaring and reddening, hot irons glowing like jewels.

 

No more, no more. They’ve swept up the workings
As if they were never meant to be part of memory.
A once way of being. A dead place. Hard livings

 

That won’t return, grim tales forgot as soon as told,
Streaming from the roofs in smoke from a lost century —
A veil of breath in which to survive the cold.

 

                              *

 

When the mine’s shut down, habits prolong the story,
Habits and voices, till grandmothers’ old ways pass,
And the terraces fold into themselves, so black, ugly

 

And unloved that all but the saved (success
Has spared them, the angel of death-by-money) move away.
The town’s inhabited by alien, washed up innocents.

 

Children and animals, people too poor to stay
Anywhere else, stray, dazed, into this slum of Eden.
the church is without saints or statuary.

 

The memorial is a pick, a hammer, a shovel, given
By the men of Harvey Seam and Victoria Seam. May
Their good bones wake in the living seams of Heaven.

 

He breaketh open a shaft away from where men sojourn.
They are forgotten of the foot that passeth by.*

 

*Job 28.4: The inscription on the Miners’ Memorial in Durham Cathedral.