To Saar’s Nocturne Navigator

This is Alison Saar’s Nocturne Navigator, my favorite piece at the Columbus Museum of Art. I believe Saar finished this work in 1998, and I have heard tell that through this creation, she was aiming to honor the spirit of those escaped and emancipated slaves who navigated northward around and during the Civil War era. I can see this. This makes sense to me. But when I first saw Nocturne Navigator, she showed me something different.

NOCTURNE NAVIGATOR, ALISON SAAR, 1998 / "I wanted to talk about the navigator spirit that led so many people to find their way north," Saar remarked. Nocturne Navigator is Saar's metaphor for America's spirit of freedom.:

Alison Saar’s Nocturne Navigator at the Columbus Museum of Arts

Entreaty.

Hands open and close, nostrils flare, releasing the vacant and vast

Deathless vacuum that blankets The Universe in royal cloth.

She asks Time to take its place as God.

It moves The Wheel.

Her quiescent hands capture It, and unflinching, she draws It to her

and becomes God to God.

 ________________________________________________

Blind, Deaf, Mute

The Universe wanders within Herself.

Unaware of Herself.

What is She searching for?

Smoldering stars,

Orbs spinning into the pierced indigo void,

Little dynamos powering Her movement through Herself.

 She peers into the hollow womb that is the sky,

Her own sky,

She is the sky.

 She navigates Nothingness,

Her arms outstretched, inviting a guide.

She is rudderless and spinning.

In her liquid search She lights the way

And gives birth.

______________________________________________ 

Supplication to your immortal God.

Hands pray to the Cosmos,

Order and harmony.

It will all disappear into the nothing that it came from.

The ocean that we all navigate.

Time.

Calling down the gods,

The stars that burst forth from the underpinnings of your skirt have hovered beneath that heavy darkness.

Moving wavelike.

Always unmoved.

 Inhale the vaporous dust.

Exhale the billowing winds that move the stars and tides while gods peer into the fishbowl,

Watching them settle calmly into orbit around themselves.

Lapping waves.

Never knowing they aren’t the center.

You wisely keep them contained within the hem of the sky, where they create.

Trapped in a place outside of which,

There is no time.

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The Rum Cake Blues

Feeling depressed today. Maybe it’s the time of year. The cold. The lack of light. Maybe New Years Day is just another signal that time is pushing us forward whether we’re ready or not, and that bothers me. Maybe it’s the homemade rum cake I ate for last night’s dessert and again today for breakfast and lunch. Maybe it is the knowledge that this year, like the others, could be a never-ending run in a rat maze created by the society I live in (a society I often questioningly accept edicts from) and that I’ve also created for myself.

I feel trapped within an aging body, within the close quarters of an urban area, and by the confines of corporate America. In the winter when there is plenty of time for reflection and contemplation, it’s not so easy to ignore those things – the dry, sallow skin and thickening waistline; the leafless trees that reveal the unseemliness of street after street of 50’s era ranches; the rows of faces illuminated by the artificial light of computer monitors, the quiet tick-click of keyboards providing background noise.

I will not leave my corporate job to live on a small farm and raise goats. I will play the game now, so that later, supposing I am alive and well, I can have that farm and those goats. This is the racket and it’s part of the gerbil wheel.

Spring will come and dress the tree-lined streets once again in flowers and greenery. Finches and robins and sparrows will raise their hungry young in our neighborhood. We will powerwash the siding and put in a vegetable garden. I will plant climbing roses next to the garage, and the dogwood in the front yard will bloom. Neighbors will wave across the street and bats will dart to and fro in the evening gloom.

In the meantime the earth will rest under a blanket of clouds, and the fallen leaves that escaped the rake and lawn bag will nestle at the edges of our street in a layer of wet brown decay. I will continue to exercise this body, as it continues to tick past the 5-decade mark, and I’ll proudly feel the muscles under the fat. I’ll examine the winkles that turn up at my eyes, and the spots where a teenager bent on a dark and dangerous tan planted the seeds for a disappointed mature self. I will work on knowing myself better, and learning what’s worthy and good and meaningful and acceptable. And maybe I’ll throw what’s left of that rum cake in the garbage.

Lessons From the Moon When She is Full

What can the moon teach me that the sun cannot?

She can teach me stillness and patient reflection.

She watches over the mirror of the still pond where ducks rest easily and fish float airlessly in sleepy meditation,

She gazes affectionately at the ghost-buck that stands on guard at the edge of the wood.

And silence.

While wooing the voices of crickets and night birds, she looks down silently, benevolently, knowing that she is both spotlight and star.

She does not need applause, but will coax the soothing music of the dark into existence, Thus becoming a great conductress of soft, blanketing beauty.

Moon, Tree and Clouds

Moon, Tree and Clouds

The Adventures of Violet the Wonder Dog Part 1

I think it’s time to add some words to this blog. My writing lately, well, except for yesterday’s post there hasn’t been any writing lately… What I mean is that I need to start writing again. Poetry, essays, literary analysis, nonsense, commentaries, whatever. I haven’t been making proper use of this vehicle, this blog. So, I have decided to introduce Violet the Wonder Dog. Will I write much about her, or only this one time? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out together.

Violet the Wonder Dog at rest

                                                                            Violet the Wonder Dog at rest

Violet the Wonder Dog has developed a nasty habit of late. Each time we go for a car ride, long or short, she barks. This is no ordinary bark, but the yelp-shriek of a dog in the midst of panicked excitement. She is thrilled, thrilled, to be going somewhere – destination unknown but gleefully suspected – although it seems that a smidgen of terror lies just below the surface of her euphoria; perhaps she harbors a tiny concern that our destination could be the veterinary office. But not to worry, her sense of elation always rules the trip, and fuels her noisemaking.

Anticipating the joy of running full steam, back legs overtaking front, ears laid back and tail shooting straight out behind her and bobbing frantically up and down as she nears a gaggle of jostling dogs at the Bark Park; or sniffing and perchance tasting animal droppings at the Nature Center, she shouts a gutterally staccato, “Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” It sounds just like that. “Oh! Oh!” This she does in my tiny hatchback, with her muzzle mere inches from my right ear if I’m driving, left ear if Luis is driving. Either way, I can feel the assaulted eardrum vibrate savagely with each increasingly desperate and loud Oh!

Luis, a genuinely kind and patient man, cannot abide this noise, and his impulses to scream at her to shut up or to clamp his hands around her muzzle are pitted against his better judgment and understanding of dog enthusiasm. For my part, I begin the listening segment of our drive seriously enough, but can’t help losing composure and giggling helplessly as Luis’ facial muscles grow tense and the violence of Violet’s exclamations grow more intense. By the time we reach our destination, both he and I have bruised eardrums and I am crying and breathless with mirth.

Why does this always entertain me so?

I think we’re going to have to get a muzzle for her.

 

 

 

 

Contemplating the Less Complicated

There can never be too many walks in sunlight-dappled woods

Walk in the Woods

Late August Walk in the Woods

Or loving gazes from a dog’s eyes.

I will never grow tired of hearing I love you.

Nor will I tire of the smell of laundry dried on the line

Or the feel of your hair between my fingers.

Falling asleep with limbs twined around each other like the roots of a tree.

The feeling of caffeine entering my bloodstream in the morning.

A child’s hand in mine,

And jars of freshly made jam on the counter.

Leaving the office at 5pm on Friday.

I will always love the friendly warmth of a campfire

And the December Yule fire aflame in the fireplace.

Sunflowers in September and Jack-o-Lanterns in October.

The sound of wind rushing through aspen leaves.

Why do we complicate our lives with more than this?

Ohio

I can’t find who I am.

I thought I would know, now that I have learned,

now that I have a home.

Now that I have someone to say, “I love you” every morning and every night.

But the person I am, she is still lost.

She is scattered with the ashes of a dog, and she flows through the tears of a little boy, harshly scolded by an over-stressed mother.

She lives in the words she wrote months, years ago, for she cannot write any more.

She walks through woods that have shed their leaves and shed her presence, over and over again.

In my dreams I hear the soft, low call of owls in the early morning dark.

I see hushed bats flying low over the summertime yard.

I hear the heavy beat of drums, the rise of singing voices, and the rush of water on the Lake Huron shore.

In my dreams I feel the heat of a crackling fire, and the warmth of a baby’s body snuggled against mine.

When will my dreams catch up with my reality?

When will my presence be here now?

When will the tug of the past pull me into the present?

Mid-September

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They emptied the pool in the backyard yesterday.

Drained the last bright drops of splendid summer into the grass.

Unhooked all the things – the stuff that kept it alive – and packed it away in the dark.

The calendar has passed the eternal sun-torch to fall.

I walked to the store, the texture of the bracing wind wrapping around me.

It pushed the gray-white clouds, only allowing the cool amber sun to have a transitory glimpse of me.

My hair whipped wildly; far from composure but

It felt good to be nudged and pulled by those gusts; those spasms of change.

We talked about September today (it comes as a surprise every year).

How it is a month that shifts and stirs (sometimes offering life-jarring change, sacred change) and

I explained to you that the past must be honored; it is the earth we grow from,

But the future must be tended to lovingly; it is the air we breathe.

There is still time to live.


Worry Blobs

The last two weeks have been hard.

A jarring of bumper cars and reality jolts

That Salvador Dali themselves into melted jelly truths.

That re-gel into wiggling black blobs of worry and fear and frustration,

And envelop me in their gibbous, soft, sick, clammy, wet weight.

 

But those truths are lies

And the lies are truth.

You see? They both play tricks by oozing and shifting.

 

So I’ve had to push them all away from me for a minute – all that stuff that’s been wrapping around me

As a clumsy but determined boa wraps around struggling prey.

And I see how it makes my brain writhe and my gut turn and my limbs become stupefied.

And I notice that when I examine this stuff, I can love it

For the wisdom it can bring me

If I will just allow it to do its job and go.

worm in coneflower

 

Worm in Coneflower

copyright Lenore Lambert 2014

Prayer to an Unknown God

I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

But as strange as we are to each other,

We’re connected, you and I,

Through unseen tendrils that vibrate like strands of a spider’s web.

Plucked with tiny clawed legs, or minute but energized intentions.

I carry my egg sack of hopes with me everywhere, gently urging it, “Grow, grow”,

Jealously shielding it from dangers and fears, both real and imagined.

You peer ambivalently from above, looming and poised to tear this strong-fragile web apart with a destructive finger.

Or to bless me a thousand times as you behold my string pulling and dream guarding.

What you are, I don’t know.

You are the other foot, the bird of prey, the unexpected tempest.

You are the shading leaf, the cocoon, the nourishing breeze that urges me, “Grow, grow.”

 

Spring of the Soul

When I’m overwhelmed, feeling like a leaf pressed between the many fluttering pages of a heavy book (the book of days, each page a day in this life), pushed down by the many layered surfaces, but still threatening to come loose and flutter off by itself in spite of the shifting weight upon it; when I feel like that, I have to shut down for a while. I have to retreat like a caterpillar in her protective shroud. I have to do the simplest things: a load of laundry; rearrange a closet; make a list – I have to do these simple things for a whole day.

When my soul and psyche feel anxious and in danger of becoming throbbing and wiggling insects that nervously jerk and preen and twitch on the branch or the flower bud, I have to soothe them and settle them back into smoothly undulating things that move and morph, yes, but that stay soft and willing; not jagged and armored.

There are unknowns that I cannot fully anticipate; cocooned pains and joys that are forming for the future; still only shadows that I see, moving in the inevitable. Nothing is settled; everything’s a swirling wind that bears seeds and small vibrant-winged creatures and life-giving raindrops mingled with a few teardrops. I will comfort my soul with the uncomplicatedness of freshly washed towels, neatly arranged shoes, and a list for the grocery store. I will stare at the now green trees, and new flowers in bud.

Following the Phoenix

She stands watching herself
Next to her
Confusedly wondering
At the unmoored ship that has set sail for a locus of control (you aren’t really in control it whispers)
With a compass that points to the uncharted foreign

She’s confused because these matters are clearly
Not controllable no matter what she wishes
And her Other flails
Pointing to a position on the map that resists everything that is now
…It was charted before

“It can’t happen this way”
But oh yes, it can

They clasp hands (she and her) and agree that the map
Is no longer useful
The ship has set its own course
The compass is following the Phoenix
And the clock’s hands unwind

The Tapping in My Skull Suggests that I Dance

I am starting to like the limbo because it’s safe.

I’m doing a dance while standing still (it’s a purgatory type of limbo),

Stone still and watching the shifting and swaying motions of life

Springing from the floor and swirling around me, tempting me to join.

But I’m in limbo and standing,

Watching and alert,

Tarrying.

 

My imaginings are performing a two-step in my skull.

Tapping around in there, suggesting

That I unlid my eyes and look at myself

And find that spot in me that allows life (instead of this purgatory death).

Shall I turn the limbo into a dance with the sun and the sky and the smiles of strangers?

The band leader in my head says, “Yes”.

True Things

“There are some things which happen to us which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass – occurrences which stop us dead as though by some impalpable intervention, like a sheet of glass through which we watch all subsequent events transpire as though in a soundless vacuum, and fade, vanish; are gone leaving us immobile, impotent, helpless, fixed, until we can die.” ~ William Faulkner, from Absalom, Absalom!

Of all the true things that have been told,

They were all untruths.

Not exactly lies,

But lies that you wanted so much to be true,

You believed them.

But believing lies to be truths

— Well, that’s lying, isn’t it?

And the irony in that is that

We believe what we want to believe.

And hear what we want to hear.

And see what we want to see.

Until suddenly those true lies

That we want so badly

— The translucent façade that obscures their reality

Tears open.

And all those things that you thought you believed…

Well, what do you do with them now?

The Threshold

Time trudges ahead dragging the unwilling with it still clutching at things passed (moments in the past)

those seasons and days and hours of something comforting or good or safe or familiar (an embrace or caress that is wrenched from deprived fingers or the haven that convulses and expels)

because the future that time is pulling us all into is not known a dark abyss on the other side of an event horizon (we all must step over the threshold) that confounds predictions and prophesies

Time turns on itself and stitches our wounds (a stitch in time) together an intermingling of fear and hope both gripping us with the same muscle and making our bones move in an erratic dance of human emotion