Pen-play

More of Virginia’s writing’s up…, but lots more to go–& not yet her last offerings, what she had to say along the border. At dawn on what could have been her last Sunday, for example, Gus saw her facing the east window, her two hands gently waving the sun up, as she spoke:
~~~~”one more hula
~~~~    under the blue sky.”

Another time, “diving from the high board/ seeing the mountains upside down/ never hitting bottom….”

While these drew strong memories from different ages into the new moment, others during this period came from scouting out ahead: “It’s different/ on the other side–,” she said./ “It really is.” Often her voice was just a whisper during this time, every word taking effort. For those in the intensity of her presence, her hand could speak volumes, however– & inspire more runoff from us–filling the pads we used for notes. Her words & ours mixed together in the same scribblings (along with emotional blubber & practical notes) will need some sorting, transcribing & selecting before going up. 

Setting these aside for now, it’s far more fun to add selections newly found from earlier times, without much attention to chronology (or level of ‘finishing’). Some previously published materials are included, like the Weathergrams & her recent Class Report. Many other pieces are being found on scraps of paper & in all sorts of little note-books, mostly undated. A few sketchbooks, like her White Sands Journal, have a finished quality with coherence that includes her illustrations–as well as many still blank pages.

She used many other notebooks, cards & scraps of paper to test out squiggles & fragments, make shopping & to-do lists, etc. but in which little gems also appear. Often, there’s no clear distinction between notebook & sketchbook, pen-play & art play. Whether finely set on a visually finished sketch-book page or doodled upside down in a random section of a spiral notebook from the back inward, words & visuals are often found together.  

[Most recently transcribed & uploaded: here are selections from a little green Memo-Book she dated 2016. Green Memo Book (2016) Click to open.]


WEATHERGRAMS[Weathergrams are short verses copied onto paper strips by members of an Albuquerque calligraphy club, hung from branches in a grove by the Open Space Visitor’s Center at an annual “Poets’ Picnic,” & left to weather through the year. (A small printed edition raised funds for open-space efforts.) The verses are small enough, & Yours Crudely’s attention span, stanzas are often worth repeating. Some may appear three times–as in the group sent; as printed in the chapbook; as rendered & hung by the calligraphers. ] 

on a blue page          the sky is written

wing to wing across
the purple night 
—a trail of stars
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(vrb, 2019)


–so black! so blue!
ravens swim
through morning sky

drift by drift
snowy owl slips
through yellow night
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(vrb, 2018)


when I call you say
I’m writing about loneliness
–call me back later

even among pines
some loneliness remains

when I call you say
I’m writing about loneliness
–call me back later

even among pines
some loneliness remains

tchip tchip tchip tchip
nuthatches fling out
chips of bark
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(vrb, 2017)


in quiet house
my mother pours new water
on her old teabag….

rain sounds all night
morning music pours
from my ears

festive day
an orange ribbon
for the boundary rock
 
leaning by the door
New Year’s broom
standing in snow
 
already—   this day like no other
 
on a blue page the sky is written

soft moth wings
float slowly down
back into dream

long-legged cranes
wing to wing across
the purple night

 wing to wing across
the purple night
—a trail of stars
 
  tipple,,,tipple   splash!
a young bird runs across 
       the sky light
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(virginia)


[Here’s a change of pace just found in a folder with notes she made on classical compositions, looks like between 2007 & 2009. Un-dated, un-numbered, mostly un-punctuated & likely unfinished in her own mind, the report is part of a 3-page sequence offered in full at the bottom of the page.]

I slept through Paradise 
last night      stars
sliding down the
insides of
my eyelids
drifts & mists of sweetest
sound rising
in gentle (wavering) curtains
sheets of radiant song
–voice-shimmers beyond voice
choruses joined
in some new way–released
    from bonds of air & lung
carried on their own currents
   burst in fountains &
      cascades & spray out
somewhere I am filling 
   & emptying at one    floating
into (sigh) dawn       clean
   shaping itself a perfect
                 aurora
             of music
       light-song emerging
folding & unfolding   rising
     into
                 itself
no weight     no self    no body
            endless        empty   
~~~~*~~~~

~~~~*~~~~ 


white lilacs
before sunrise
their own light

[In 1989, the Kaji Aso Studio & Boston Haiku Society named this their “Grand Prize Winner,” best haiku in English, and a grand prize it was, with a $250 check, a total surprise to Virginia, who hadn’t known it had been sent off (in a rush on the way out of town on a great journey). She rarely, if ever, sent writing for publication–except in a few cases on urged invitation. Usually, she’d have had final word over anything sent, even so.

Her own publication attention went to things like a ‘wetlands newsletter’ made with students at school, though she enjoyed shared projects organized by others–linked-poetry in the renga tradition, for example, or her article with teaching partner Karla Sampson on Mud-puddle Marsh, their Open Classroom (which will go up here as a Pdf eventually).

Her most recently published piece was a reflection  offered in response to her college class’ 55th anniversary report, below.   

Though she enjoyed the social exchange with creative friends, most of her writing (& art-works, too) happened more or less in solitude, then tucked away and forgotten, moving on. She never sought publication, recognition or status as poet or artist–nor called herself either. Like dance & mountain trails in younger years, these were simply part of being alive.

Poetry “submissions” in recent years especially were limited to picking up to 10 verses per year (from the logbook at Inspiration &/or scattered scraps) to send as Weathergram candidates, in response to direct invitation from an old friend. Thus the following by Virginia.] 

—so black!   so blue!
ravens swim
the morning sky

lemon-scented—
champak & temple flowers
pooled in a silver cup 

drift by drift
snowy owl slips 
through yellow night

one primrose open
yellow as the moon rising
between branches

light & cool—/
through waves of summer heat    
one open primrose

on the long-needled pine
one golden leaf
hangs by a thread
__________________  

Indeed, she became a master of the Basho moment, her senses well tuned to the world around & impression within. For her, it was not a “mastery” of anything, however, but a humble practice rooted in sensitive attention. For a long while, we practiced together as a family, our way of making snapshots.

We also tried our hands at ‘linked poetry’ (renga) with a few special friends like Elizabeth Lamb, Gary Vaughn, John Hazleton…. Elizabeth, Gary, Miriam Sagan, Virginia & I did a linking by mail once, between Albuquerque, Santa Fe & our Las Vegas, ending up with “Turquoise to Match the Sky,” subsequently published in an Ohio journal called Nexus. 

We took many “haiku hikes” with John, passing a pad back & forth between us along the trail-less way between our creek to his, climbing the steeply winding slope through Dragon’s Lair, up across & over the lightning field, down through Eden Canyon, up again toward the Sapello…. We used the practice to leave our chatter behind, while enhancing shared attention.

A happy participant & valued companion, Virginia was most likely to notice something worth the moment’s awe. She took “noticing” to heart as part of her daily life, and needed no special event to leave bits & pieces on scraps of paper or in non-oraganized notebooks. Poetry wasn’t an organizing principle to her–students were, teaching attention by example.  

There was more to her poetry than “moments of keen perception feelingly expressed.” Her longer musings tend to express a yet more personal voice, thoughtful, explorative &/or dream-based, drawing from her rich musical-emotional sensibility….Sometimes, they weave verse moments with visual sketching &/or descriptive prose.  

The following is a rare example that has her own life as subject–offered in in response to requests from her 55th Class ’64 Anniversary Report: 

leaning by the door
New Year’s broom
sitting in snow

Surprised often just to be, with unpredictable variations one day or moment to the next. About three decades with Parkinson’s has taken some toll in falls, speech & executive functions. (As Gilda’s character used to say, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”) Yet still reporting in, & feeling connected.

     already—   this day like no other

Thanks to help from son Gus (who’d otherwise be in Hawaii), daughter Gita (an ecologist in Tucson), #1 spouse (the classy mate typing this for me now), & assorted friends, I’ve been managing warmer months at home in northern New Mexico, colder ones in a house next to Gita’s. 

under plum blossoms
the old woman bows
white petals in her hair

A high point of Tucson time has been visits with former roommate Carol Goodman Forshey. We had some especially good laughs recalling Iris, the injured pigeon we secretly helped rehabilitate in our dorm room, despite the no pet rule. Does anybody else remember the lively “Iris Out” sign Carol made for our door when the bird was loose inside?

with flowers to guide us
dandelion iris honeysuckle tulips
this path—this hand—softly opens

In recent years, we’ve even managed a Tucson Harvard Club talk or two! Gita says I get a spark from thoughts of old friends and memories of grand times, so emails are welcome.

one by one into the green current
returned again 
               as root
    as river       as child

I do enjoy playing with pencils & paints, as well as the company of owls & various friends (human & otherwise), sometimes where dream, creative imagination, & memory flow together, floating beyond logic. 

drift by drift
snowy owl slips
through yellow night

Things don’t always make sense to me even when they seem to hold together. I can forget something seemingly at hand, yet remember a lifetime of special friends & places, including college & schools I became part of (& vice versa). Sometimes it’s the other way around, & only now seems real—a grosbeak’s call, angle of light, giving full attention to balance.

yes, earth
the wind plays 
these old bones
~~~      like a flatbed piano—
  ~~~   ready or not, here I come—


[P.S. Examples of the play in paints, paper & such are featured in the Alice’s Gallery & Poetry-Snap pages at www.bod-library.net, where there may also be news about the small collection of her work (& bio) currently being put together by & for friends.]



Costa Rican Spiral Notebook–

here she is with it–in this case with brush!

“Costa Rica, 5-6-02 through 5-14-02, gracias a Gita,” just found on a shelf in her room–more up soon…. 

 WHITE SANDS Spiral Notebook: 

one page free    empty    clear

~~~ night breeze
first shadow
~~~~~beetle tracks
~~~~~~~by the pink
~~~~~sand-verbena

~~~~~~~~~~~~5-27-02
vrb

black of the mind   —   trackless


60 years to prepare  —  to travel
   from there to here
      where we warm to
         the mounting sun
  from our night layered
      in celebration/ inspiration
         cloud & moon  —  chill
 wild wind scattering all
each grain page word as it surfaces
 crests & pours down  —  wrapped
   & unwrapped  —  heart’s
      cocoon opening
         in the dunes

through my water bottle
   both light & shadow

escarbo oscuro   on its morning walk
   follows the edge of our sleeping bag
      shiney black  —  the sand rich ivory
         smooth up onto the black cloth
            …[&] disappearing


the dreamer   walks    disheveled
        unknowing
   wakes to find a line of
         tiny insect prints
   at the edge of her blanket

~~~~~~~~~light before
~~~~~~~~~~~the sun itself


in the dream
     in the young light
  he plants a tooth

hole in the sand
rippled
              damp

something will grow 
   from the ancient bed


[We had many special times at White Sands, where in return for a “Full Moon” Chautauqua in the Heart of the Dunes, the management gave us the place for the night, closing the gate when everyone left. Being in the heart of the dunes, not a camping area, meant solitude as far as the eye could see–Holloman Air Force Base & Alamagordo in one direction, the moon & cosmos in another….

This particular time was something extra, our full moon program being the night of May 26, her 60th birthday. Gus had joined us, too, & faithful chow  Wookie had come along. At some point in the presentation, all joined in a surprise round of “Happy Birthday.” When all visitors had gone, we pulled out refreshments & celebrated with our friend, John Mangimelli, the park supervisor who’d organized the event. When he left, the magic of the dunes splashed the celebration up a notch, beyond words…..  By dawn, Virginia was already tracking insect prints to her pink sand-verbena.]


[In the same spiral book from the White Sands Gift Shop, after a blank page, she has two pages dated 6-15-02, with initials indicating she was thinking of my late father, whose birthday it was, as well as me & Gus (whose 35th had been 10 days before, 10 after hers), followed by one dated 6-16-02 & another with her charcoal sketch of the fire-pit.]

   cree!   cree!    young kestrel
      in the morning sun     calling
           to its father

trying to perch   on the wire  –its tail
                                                                          back
                                                                & forth

       tipped…     too far
                               –falling
                                           into flight

the whole meadow    warmed
        smell of dead fish
                from the riverbed

a few pools left   —   the robins keep singing


for this day  the wild roses slowly open
for this day {  beauty
   no less than yesterday
wake up! you are called
   to make choices
   to decide    & carry out
              —
my hair   long & wispy
     will I cut its shadow? short
        & clean, calling m,y daughter
            from her tent to wield
                the scissors–snip, snip the years
                       fly back
              – – – 
wrapped in my son’s journey cloth

   14 beginnings  –at the whistle
          of a dove’s wings
                we begin again


where she slept
   the orchard grass
      her shape

                              I see her rise again
                                   from sleep, & as she walks
                                          a certain light

charcoal fire-pit, the morning after….


[She brought the same spiral notebook along at what was probably our next White Sands program/ night in the Heart of the Dunes, after leaving a half-dozen or so blank, there are three dated 61- & 6-2-04, including:]

over the dunes a web of stars
asleep awake
still there

the threads that pull apart/ together the same
footprints in the sand
follow! where do they end?

over my dreams in my dreams
whose tracks are those?
I hear you
I hear you, wanderer

a fine-toothed comb
this wind of the dunes,
sorting out the strands
of every trail–beetle & mouse
sneaker, sparrow, the dots
of a leaf-hopper
between the grains
season by season the grip
& growth of a yucca as
the sand moves through
in silence, one piece at a time,
& little slides that through
a lens we see each differs….

Babble & song — the voices of jets
& of the great dunes themselves
taken up & laid down smooth
as creation itself–

this tiny leaf-hopper–
such a perfect shadow, half-sun
golden/green through your wings
each seg,ment of each leg
the curve of each eye
looking testng — hop!
run hop! look up–
———————————–
a bed of sand white &
gently curved in th emoonlight

we lay our covers down
crawl between…blink
& listen for shooting stars

unused to such
our bodies shift–shaping
to each other th ehard/ soft
beneath & irresistible looking up
the chill night breeze
creeps in at the edge

one more blink–moon for sun
light on your neck the tangled strands
a star at each crossing
———————————
———————————
[& countless pages following still blank–

Though not our last White Sand adventure, I think, saving another, maybe 2007, for John Mangimelli’s retirement, his last program as host…trying to do bits from each of the other many programs done together over the years–Basho, Omar Barker, Aldo Leopold, Ansel Adams, and maybe a few more, most then sleeping on the dunes with Virginia….]
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

[The following 3 stapled pages were just found in a folder with notes on classical compositions, seemingly from 2007-2009. Otherwise un-dated, un-numbered, mostly un-punctuated and likely unfinished in her own mind, the pages are presented here in their original order, though page 3 could also go first, as well as stand alone. There seems to be little, if any, embellishment to the clear descriptions that simply report her experience.]

       [1]

In my room at night
in the early hours, I listen
to music–
western, classical, arias, concertos,
quartets, trios, fugues, preludes,
parts & wholes,
piano & flute, strings, horn,
oboes, loud & soft, brassy, lifting, 
in & out of sleep–dreams lifted 
above the covers.
~~~~*~~~~
       [2]

my little clock radio,
numbers glowing red:
12:01   2:15   4:39
through walls & distance,
deep soul-sounds carry 
in the palpable dark, fill
my being with waves

as morning seeps in
& the moths stir again
against my window,
behind, under, past
morning edition news
~~~~*~~~~
       [3]

I slept through Paradise 
last night      stars
sliding down the
insides of
my eyelids
drifts & mists of sweetest
sound rising
in gentle (wavering) curtains
sheets of radiant song
–voice-shimmers beyond voice
choruses joined
in some new way–released
    from bonds of air & lung
carried on their own currents
   burst in fountains &
      cascades & spray out
somewhere I am filling 
   & emptying at one    floating
into (sigh) dawn       clean
   shaping itself a perfect
                 aurora
             of music
       light-song emerging
folding & unfolding   rising
     into
                 itself
no weight     no self    no body
            endless        empty   
~~~~*~~~~~~~~*~~~~