Sniff the bitter grass
teaser on a passing breeze.
Shall we plant sweet peas?

Snow lies still in the garden.
Clouds hang heavy from heaven.

Stiffened hands and feet
yearn to cut loose from their wraps
to wriggle in sun.

See how the day lasts longer.
Chickadee, where have you been?

The sun has spoken.
Shadows caress the mountain.
I call out to them

we wait for the lulling of
night crickets rubbing their wings.

Feather in my hand
crisp leaf that skitters windborne
nowhere in my head

what is this song of paper
singing itself to itself?

Now it is April
the frail old stoop-sitter smiles
but he says nothing.

47 responses »

  1. What is there to say in April when May overflows. That’s when he’ll say something, I bet. Anyway, much here put me in mind of TS Eliot especially “what is this song of paper
    singing itself to itself?”. I listened to you reading this one and that was lovely.

    • That stoop-sitter knows a lot more than he’s telling. I wonder where the Eliot flavor is coming from. I haven’t read him in quite a while (though I know lots of the work by heart)….but he ‘s with all the other poets whose books live on a shelf near my bed. Maybe I soak things in during the night as I sleep. Thanks a lot, Windy

  2. You create such beautiful imagery with your words Cynthia.
    “Stiffened hands and feet
    yearn to cut loose from their wraps
    to wriggle in sun.”
    I can feel how they feel!
    And this,
    “Shall we plant sweet peas?
    Reminds me of a whiff of, “shall i wear my tousers rolled?’
    You make good stuff my friend, but it is all your own!

  3. Hello Cynthia painting with words a portrait so bright reflecting April beauty and may ,song of paper some thing new .Imagination that soars high.Regards.Jalal

    • The seasons are pretty definite and severe in the northeast USA most years. Not boring, to say the least. I hope you enjoyed some things about New York City, my Aussie friend. (I avoid that place like the plague). You must tell us more of your impressions now that you’re back home. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Another gem Cynthia. Beautiful, just beautiful.

    I had never heard of a stoop sitter before! There’s so much I don’t know; makes me feel as if I’ve been asleep half my life. I lookedit up though, it’s fascinating! The etiquette!

    Can you help me to unserstand the lines

    “What is this song of paper
    singing itself yo itself”?

    • I didn’t realize you could look up and find “stoop-sitter”; I thought I made that phrase up…from the time years ago when I lived in an apartment in the middle of Boson. It was common practice to go out on the front stoop of the building for air (not very polluted then) and to schmooze with the locals.

      This is a tanka chain, Chris, so though it’s continuous the individual images are occasionally not obviously connected. You could say the song of paper is me, writing with my feather (pen) on a leaf (paper) and getting nowhere……or you could say something entirely else. πŸ™‚

      • Ah yes, I realised it was a tanka after Id posed the question. Thank you anyway for a possible explanation of those lines

        Yes I googled “stoop-sitter” because Ivwonderedcif it was a particular American term and the explantation was fascinating! You can only stay and talk under certain circumstances and if the sitter has spoken back after you speak to him/her by way of greeting. . If, after you have said a greeting the sitter just nods in acknowledgement and says nothing in return then the unwritten rule is that you move on. 😊

  5. This describes what I never know – a real changing of seasons.
    But even if I knew it, I couldn’t write about it like you do, CJ …
    Quanto mi piacciono, le tue poesie …

  6. Hi Cynthia, what a compliment to be compared to Elliot – and your commentator is right, the allusion to April reminds one of those lovely lines at the beginning of “The Waste Land”. Your season change up there in Boston is much slower than ours. We are already enjoying the first dramatic fruits of spring – everything in bloom from Oxalis and Amaryllis (my favorite) to the roses, irises, dianthus and all Lady Bird’s wild flowers along the freeways. Austin is a cacophony of color. Back to your poem – I was surprised that the old stoop sitter is a man – up until then I assumed the person to be female (you) with enough agility to plant sweet peas rather than sit on the stoop. On second thought you can do both. My husband and I enjoy sitting surveying our garden especially after we have spent time weeding and planting. Lovely evocative poem and very topical – another winner.

    • Our flowers haven’t shown their faces yet, here in western Maine, but many are the signs that it won’t be long now. I remember Lady Bird and her beautification program, and how the comedians used to mimic her drawl, talking about planting “a tree…a bush…or a shrub..”
      Now everyone gets to appreciate her foresight.

      Yes, the voice of the poem could be either male or female, but that stoop-sitter is not saying anything. He hails from my memories of city living long ago when everyone took their airings, literally and figuratively out on the front stoops of the large apartment buildings. In the small town where I grew up, front porches served that purpose; but the houses built in the past fifty years, alas, have no front porches, only backyard decks. Neighborliness is nil. Thanks for stopping by my stoop, Jane

  7. Sometimes, when I read poems that have a form, like this one (the tanka chain), I spend some time just enjoying the way the sentiments exist in and around the form, neatly at times, and at other times in a way that feels looser, the punctuation becomes less important here and there, and the beginnings and endings of thoughts are less neatly tied to a line or a form, or to anything predictable. I sense this poem loosen as it goes from start to finish, loosen with that feather, or leaf, and the wind, nowhere in the mind. And then the end itself seems to come to a resting place with the smile and the silence of the frail stoop-sitter, who seems to me a kind of “knowing”, which I don’t trust. I really enjoyed this poem, Cynthia.

    • This “form” is of course a borrowed thing from many sources…but it seems to allow an accumulation of distinct images, and maybe not need predictability as a whole kind of thing—though it seems to me a good thing to have it connect and proceed in some kind of reasonable manner. I am bemused by your lack of trust in what the silent stoop-sitter might know but isn’t telling….and glad you enjoyed the poem, Anna. Thank you!

  8. Hello Cynthia. I’ve not been able to log on much for a day or two so I’m catching up and getting quite an education in North American culture from the discussion! It’s a very pleasing and interesting poem sequence. Full of human as well as natural signs of spring. But I particularly note the title. That brings the writer or the reader into the centre of the experience personally. Lovely.

    • I am so pleased with what you say about the title, John. The many drafts of this poem had as many titles. Nothing was really pulling it together, until for no reason at all (you know how that is) “Awake My Soul” popped up. It’s the title of a popular church hymn which is sung to quite a variety of tunes, depending on the sect. But it’s also what is at the “centre of the experience” as you say here, the “inhabitant,” as Hilary says, above. Thank you for that helpful and happy reading!

  9. A perfect poem Cynthia – you give the hint of better days ahead as the sun teases, birds start coming back and planting of “sweet peas!” It’s the time of year in Maine, where temps kissing 50’s meet with no coats and people looking up toward the sun feeling the warmth on their faces. Yes, this is perfect ~ have the most wonderful week ahead.

    • There’s still a mound of snow in my backyard–which enjoys only a few hours of sun because of some very tall pines–but the mound grows smaller by the day. Thank you for your visit, Mary…you have a wonderful week too!

      • When we moved into our house in Maine, I remember it was 4/21 and there was still ice on the ground in the front yard. I’m wishing it to be gone for you, time for warm temps and sunny days.

  10. You say it so elegantly Cynthia!β™₯ I guess by this you are still waiting for winter weather to pass? I hope you get to hear those night crickets rubbing their wings very soon! That’s a noise I’ve only ever head once, coming from very small grass hoppers. There must have been a plague of them in one road, as every bush in every garden seem to sing with them. My friend who is originally from America says it’s the one thing she misses most since she left as a child. They used to sing her to sleep – aahh! I think with my English ears I would find a noise like that would keep me awake! πŸ˜‰

    • As I mentioned to someone above, I used to believe (what someone told me) the popular misconception that the crickets get that sound by rubbing their legs together, A little research, however, taught me that it’s from rubbing their wings. So now I imagine them like little violinists playing their own wings! Grasshoppers…crickets….are similar, I think. If you grow up hearing that sound on a summer’s night, I guess you grow to love it, like a lullaby…maybe even your “English ears” would, Suzy! πŸ™‚

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