Thursday, December 22, 2011

poeming the winter solstice

Winter solstice time again, the shortest day of the year, which means night comes sooner.

Blogger Sandy Brown Jensen, a writing teacher in Eugene, Oregon has restarted a personal tradition this year to write a poem about the winter solstice, because, she says, "It reminds me to be conscious of the season, the coming and going of the light."  Her poem was accompanied by an image of a V-shaped line of geese sailing past a crescent moon.

I miss those geese.  Kind of like old friends who only show up twice a year, honkily announce their presence, then speed on.  A funny kind of visit, so brief, yet looked forward to with such heightened expectation and delight.  It never gets old.

Jensen's remark about "the coming and going of the light" came to mind when I read teacher/writer Paul Martin's review yesterday of Joan Didion's new book, Blue Nights, about the death of Didion's daughter, Quintana.   "The Buddhists tell us that pain, suffering and loss are part of life, and must be accepted as such," he wrote.  "Still humans go on and on, raging against the dying of the light, reaching out to hold on for just one more second, the blue light of memory."

Consciousness of light and darkness (physical, emotional, perceived)--their (and our) arrivals, departures; memory; loss; renewal; and seeming constants, like the twice-annual crossing of those geese traversing the sky.   The conjunction resonated.

An excerpt from Sandy Brown Jensen's poem:

Now, in the dawn dark, I hear them high
up over the bike path cottonwoods,
coming my way. I imagine
what I cannot see–twenty four wings
beating tip to tip, veed out
like talkative angels. . . .

And I am only afraid when the honkers fly on silent,
intent wings, quieted by some collective
thought too large or moving for even geese
to talk about, even to each other,
in those black hours before the earth creaks
again toward the light, and we can breathe, and speak.

(A reader commented that those "geese inspire my wings to quiver, too."  Add me to the list, it inspires me as well, that graceful journey of barky "sky-voicers", sad to see them go in autumn  (because that signifies a kind of end); happy to see them return come spring (another beginning). 

I don't know if it was the image of that V-shaped crossing under the crescent moon, an awakened consciousness of the comings and goings of light (and darkness), or the reminder of the Sisyphus-like predilection of humankind to "go on and on"-- alternately celebrating--or raging against--life's coming, life's going.    If I were to attempt to poem it, it might come out something like:

 Solstice Whisperings

'Tis the season we commemorate
light's contract with the world; 
mid groans at start of winter's Dark
(here blanketed in white).
For some, a time of inner fire  -
peak yin, the muse awakened, lo
behold its quickening.
Illumination reborn, freeing our
quiet, unheard voicings.
Cycles repeating ... ad lucem, 
ad opscurum
Retreat, contract, 
be re-lit inside.
Cradled in life's fragile,
invisible hold, we
become its eternal

Hmmm....  seems less to do with solstice & ends up being a cryptic pseudo-meditation on cycles.  Or existential weaving.  And poem is not a verb, last time I checked.  No, I have not hit the eggnog a tad early.  Am on Day 8 of an annoyingly debilitative seasonal malady, kind of a cross between laryngitis, cold & flu (it can't seem to make up its mind) (flucolarnge? larngclflu?   sounds positively Lovecraftian) .

Taking 2 aspirin and going back to bed.