Here on the border, New Hampshire and Maine,
I watch the brown world through my windowpane
begin to go green, to spring once again.
The mossy, rockbound, hilly terrain
of my yard, I can now ascertain,
is a moldy, crotchety, ugly domain:
dead leaves, fallen branches, have lain
under snow the whole winter. Now a toy train,
a split frisbee, odd stones, compose the moraine.
I sigh.  I wish by some legerdemain
I could clean it all up, simply ordain
a neatness.  Sure, and order the sun, the rain.

The dried bamboo sticks, it’s plain,
are mocking me now.  I will not profane
the air with my curses, but those are the bane
of my landscape:  cane after cane, after cane,
their invincibility drives me insane.
What’s more, they remind me how arthritic pain
has me hobbled, three-legged, constrained
to walk with a stick.  Perhaps I’ll never regain
my gardening self.  Someone else will maintain
my grounds.  That’s that.  No use to complain.

What else can I do?  Order out for chow mein,
wash it down with champagne,
try to treasure whatever obtains,
accept the inevitable, ultimate reign
of the gods, however arcane.

77 responses »

  1. Yesterday I made a pyre out of dried bamboo sticks. A ritual, thought the neighbors, and they telephoned the police. Damn them, I thought. Somehow the whole glorious episode felt Miltonesque. Ugly, but Miltonesque. Still, I’ll live to fight another day. And you will too, pen in hand–embers still hot.

    • You leave me with a wonderful image of that bamboo pyre, and yourself dancing with incantations around the fire. If one has damnable neighbors, it’s good to be Miltonesque. At one time I tried drying and cutting reed pens from the bamboo, for calligraphy…but just how many such pens can one use? I like your hope in our living to fight another day… though, as your friend Milton once said: “Long is the way and hard that out of Hell leads up to light…”

  2. Wonderful poem!! Yes, by all means, Cyn, get someone to do the hard work in the garden so you, as the lady of leisure that you are, can make your way with pleasure around your yard and garden. I know how much you love nature and hope you can get someone to plant bulbs for you that will bloom month by month, February, March, April, May, June, July, August….I find it is such a treat and a boost….

    • The folks who owned my house before I moved here, had planted quite a few perennials.. some roses, columbines, hostas…campanillas..and.I see a few tulips coming up where a week or two ago there were crocuses. I’m thinking to grow a pot of tomatoes on a little side porch that gets good sun…and see if I can have someone plant a catmint over Beau’s grave. Haven’t decided, yet on a proper plant for Chloë, whose cremains were returned to me last week.
      You are so right; a flourishing garden is a treat and a boost. I hope yours is doing that too! xo

  3. I didn’t know that there were so many words to rhyme with remain and bane; this is an exemplary poem for, although you only use one rhyming schema, your writing is so smooth that is appears effortless as though only these words could convey your message! Well done. Here in Texas we are already greeting summer, the spectacular first bloom of the roses Peggy Martin was especially good this year) is over and the last amaryllis are wilting,\. Now the Day-lilies have started their display. It has been a very wet spring reminding us how much better everything does with water (even the pesky weeds)

    • It is amazing how some words have so many rhyming pals…And I guess rhyming did diminish as a practice among poets simply because it became singsongy and predictable….june, spoon, moon….so I really appreciate your compliment about my handling of it.
      We had a discussion on another blog about the amaryllis….and how the ones normally grown in winter in the northern hemisphere are actually better labeled as hippeastrums, whereas the belladonna lily is the one properly called Amaryllis. I’m wondering which type grow in your Texas garden. At any rate I imagine your are enjoying this period before the real heat sets in.

  4. Many aspects of the cycle of life in those words. I felt some highs and lows … but the last verse brought out some smiles …. oh … as did the battle with the bamboo.

  5. Your personal ode becomes an allegory that fits us all somewhere, sometime,somehow – often more than once before our years take us there for real……….. I too hope the final verse will be lived, within the grounds of a carefully tended garden – carefully tended by someone else – by you in a comfy chair with a good book or two enjoying the warm, salubrious days to come. 🙂 xo

    • I thoroughly enjoy how you think, Pauline, how your mind works with a poem. You have reminded me of a particular idiosyncrasy of mine: I have almost never been able to read—even a good book—outdoors. I see people reading in a chaise longue by the pool, on the beach, under a lovely old tree in the garden….and I’ve tried to do that, but I never get any reading done because I am always taken with the atmosphere—sun, sea, breeze birds,, flowers, trees, etc.and tuning into all that with my thoughts. Reading has to be an indoor sport for me. Strange, I know, yet true. But I will take your hint to enjoy the salubrious days to come. 🙂

  6. I loved the poem and I am not original because the commenters above me have already expressed my sentiment. Get someone in as befits your budget and take back control!!!!! Clear that bamboo.Boo!
    ps. I know commenters isn’t a “real” word but it should be.
    pss. I love your book. starting with your into which made me nod my head in agreement.

    • Sharon…as far as I’m concerned “commenters” is a real word, logical and more elegant than “commentators,” which is often used. Maybe if we keep using it, it will become “real”!
      Glad you like the poem, and I hadn’t thought of boo-ing the stuff in my yard to bring things under control, but I shall try it. (Glad, also, that my book arrived and that it meets with your approval 🙂 )

  7. Oh Cynthia, how beautifully you write….and I cannot express my admiration enough

    On a personal note….

    My husband has often lain
    With a knee in constant pain
    And this he will maintain
    The knee-replacement surgery is not in vain
    The pain is gone….and he’s smiling again.

    Cynthia do think about getting the procedure done…..

  8. Beautiful poem somewhat disillusioned however. But I understand you, with age comes the pains without great remedy. I know what I mean.
    As always I k=love hear you saying your poem.
    Love ❤

  9. Having spent last Fall with a crutch I can understand your Spring with a cane.

    “I grow old … I grow old …
    I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
    Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?”

    Wonderful poem!

  10. Do you have Bob-a-job scouts round your ways? They are what you need and then you can do the fun bit of planting a little this and that. But I presume – this might not have been about your own situation at all, but empathy with another’s. I shall never be able to make the choice between accepting gracefully and calling in help, and fighting against the inevitable, doing more than I can, injuring myself and worrying my children. Maybe I can return as a cat.

    • I haven’t discovered any nice young volunteers ready to help around here…so far..but there is a nice retired man, more fit than I for yard work, who comes for a reasonable price to do spring and fall cleanup, and mow the lawn regularly.

      Thank you for bringing up the subject of presumption that the voice of a piece of writing is exactly the same as the author’s real-life self. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t, as you know, and regardless of whether the writing is story, poem, essay, or factual report. A kind of aesthetic distancing takes place, and imagination plays its role too, even if we plumb our own experience. We create, we embellish, we lie. 🙂 Can’t help fighting the inevitable, or at least kvetching about it. I like that idea of returning as a cat.

  11. Exactly! I should remember this more often, as my fiction is not about me or my life, though the issues that interest me in life are all in there. I guess for me writing is a mixture of playtime, trying-things-out time and getting-things-off-the-chest time. You are right about the distancing too, I have found this even in editing my parent’s non-fiction story.

  12. “My Fair Lady” thought of practically everything that rhymes with “rain” except that which in SPAIN falls mainly on the PLANE — but I fain say not in vain, nor need I explain the feeling in my veins that strains my brain, whether vane or ‘gainst the grain, ’twill never wane (in the main). 😦

    • That’s a comment urbane and humane, one I cannot disdain, and so I refrain from replying with inane remarks, except to say your humor is really propane and you win a blue boutonniere of grosgrain. 🙂

  13. I enjoyed your poem, and then, again when I listened to you read it. Your voice is clear, the rhythm and inflection perfect. I thought to myself that I could listen to you read your poems all day and wished I owned a CD of them. But then I thought, no, not all day, some line might be wasted. It would be best listening in the dark on the front porch or sitting on a mossy bank, part sun, part shade. Not while mixing up a cake or with a tv on in the background, but in silence so it would be a gift to myself.
    I just found you and am so glad. I can look forward to this.
    Richmond, IL

    • Hello Ginene…You give me a good hearty laugh as I read your reassurance that you wouldn’t listen to my poems as background to mixing a cake! Your kind words are very much appreciated, and I notice you’ve left a request to buy the book/CD on my book page. I will email you about that. Thanks again!

  14. I do like the scene set here, that mess that winter leaves, the small branches and little moraines (not to be mistaken for murrains). It’s disorder that needs to be tidied, but then again…Do grow tomatoes on your porch. They will probably do well if you stick with cherries or Juliets. I have some plants to put in tomorrow if it stops raining.

  15. Fantastic poem. I do indeed feel your pain, as I get out of bed I will restrain, my ever growing need to complain.

    Don’t know if I got it exactly right, but I love and understand your post as I write this with thumb brace fully in place and icy hot all over my aching body.


  16. Some poets, of course, are insane. I’m afraid pain and the attendant ills of aging do not make them that way. Instead, they court the insanity with rhyme, difficult meter, forms that would drive a mad man ever madder:
    O, listen to the winds inside my mind,
    O muse, O Calliope, Moon Woman, water mixed
    Into the Hippocrene’s deep well where Pegasus
    Once struck his hoof and made a drinking place
    For poets mad enough to court their frenzied dreams.
    I once wrote a double sestina, for God’s sake, and have finished two epic poems.
    Still, this long a poem with one male rhyme almost outdoes anything I have done. It shows, of course, mastery of the English language to a degree that is crazy. It also shows what a poet gets themselves into when they start drinking from Hippocrene’s deep well too often. The craziest thing of all is that what you have written, plain as any insane crane hiding in canes upon a swampy plain, brings a smile and a reaction.

    • I bow before any man who has written a double sestina, nevermind two epic poems! I do so as in poetic kinship with another tippler in Hippocrene’s deep well. You have my admiration, and to those who would disdain and call us mad, I can only say that what we do is germane to a kind of life of the soul–a devotion we do not feign but entertain with the greatest pleasure because it comes from a kind of struggle that can sometimes have one sailing ever so heavenly smoothly over the bounding main. Thanks, Thomas.

    • You’re right, Cynthia The various kinds of limits that aging can impose are difficult for us all to acknowledge, but there they are…as much a part of life as anything else that happens. Thank you for coming by. And most hearty congratulations on your second book!!

    • Okay, Michel. I have been duly warned. I am not one who runs around putting “like” on everything. I am a carful and serious commenter. I also don’t want to write inane and empty comments, just to comment, when I have nothing new to contribute. When I leave simply a “like” it means I have come to read your blog and I appreciate it but I do not have the time or the words right now to add anything.

      I notice, also, that you do not take the time to respond to all the comments you receive. That is not how I treat the comments on my own blog. But all this seems silly. Be assured that I will not put any more “like”s on your blog in the future.

      • Coming from the old Xanga since 2001 ( the feature reply did not exist ) and I have not the use to reply on my own site But what you do not know is I vist systematically the blog of all of my commenters and the reply is made by this way . Personally I am shoked by all of those replies ….
        And I am a bit surprised you have not been touched by the grace of a young woman, my granddaughter riding her horse .

        • Well, Michel, we differ in our way of using the blog.

          I consider it a conversation, and as the hostess of my blog, I am grateful for comments that are sincere and not just flattering or boosting the ego. And none of us are here in order to be told how to do it. So I respond to the comments, even if it is just to say Thank You.

          Over time, I get to know many of the people who comment, and we have—as I said—a conversation. I like wordpress for this reason…it is not like Facebook, to which I do not subscribe. In wordpress, there is the opportunity to connect with people who write, paint, travel, and photograph in a poetic way. And if they tell about their ordinary day, they bring something to the narrative that might be interesting to others, not just themselves.

          I appreciate, also, a long line of persons who always come to read and leave only a “like”, especially the ones who come time after time but do not always leave a comment.

          You have your way of doing it, and that’s fine. There is more than one way. So please do not presume to lecture me about how to run a blog. I have left my comment, now, about your granddaughter’s dressage competition. I will not bother you anymore.

  17. …late again to the banquet — but even so, my glass has been filled with another delight.

    “. . . Life in itself
    Is nothing,
    An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
    It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
    Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.”

    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    or, perhaps….

    And all I could see from where I stood
    Was bamboo sticks
    And mud

    (big smile)

  18. If I still lived in Maine, it would take but a second for me to arrive with my yard tools in hand to scrape the winter scars away and bring a quiet order to your surroundings. Cane or no cane, you’d enjoy the new view, sitting under the tree writing a new poem for all of us to read. Happy Spring to you – let someone else come in to clean as you enjoy the arm sun and champagne.

    • Thank you, sweet Mary. I do have someone who can do clean-up now, and it doesn’t break the bank. There’s still that yen to get in there and dig and plant, but as I mentioned to someone above, I think I will become a container gardener….and there’s some nice sun on my side porch for cherry tomatoes!
      It’s nice to see you back in blogsville. ❤

      • I’m hoping this weekend to begin my next art project. Work (for now) is completed for what we planned in the house and it’s time to get refocused back to art – a nice break though and I’m feeling refreshed. Hope you are well. I’m glad you have someone to help,ill ‘ bet you can grow some mean cherry tomatoes (love them!). Have a wonderful weekend my friend.

  19. Cynthia, I relate to this one as well. Alas,….

    it’s hard to garden with chronic pain
    ‘cept to whack at weeds with a bamboo cane….

    Hope you’re doing as well as possible. I’m ready to try yoga, tai chi, ANYthing! (Have heard of others getting relief from arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, etc.) Also acupuncture and arnica cream.

    • I love tai chi….it is beautiful, dance-like. I would always continue to do it, if I could. I learned a lot of it in the nineties. I’ve attended serious workshops in Qi Gong and all of this when I was a few years younger. Now my problem is dealing with the depression that comes when none of this stuff works anymore. Acupuncture didn’t work, either, though the provider said ” you are a wonderful subject.” Something more serious may be happening with me, but I stay with what “is”. I am not an easy follower of the experts and authorities. We’ll see, is my mantra.

      • My mantra also, Cynthia. And I hope nothing more serious is going on with you! Yes, there is the depression that comes with chronic pain and when nothing seems to work any longer. Acupuncture worked for awhile, then started to be too torturous to endure in itself. A poet friend (who lives in Hawaii) is a QiGong master, and he did some “remote” work on me years ago which actually worked – for a short time. But the pain always comes back. I still haven’t given up on yoga and tai chi (which I tried in the past via instructional DVDs, but not the same as in person). Went to a pain clinic 10 days ago and the doctor there basically said I’d just have to live with the back pain. There was nothing he could do. PT is painful. I refuse to resign myself, even though it’s been 18 years of this.
        Anyway, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such chronic pain issues also. As long as we have poetry….. That’s what I try to concentrate on these days. So glad you continue to write such amazing poetry – it inspires me. Thank you again for sharing it here!

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