Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Warning

I was sound asleep and something woke me at midnight—news of a massive earthquake in Japan, followed by a tsunami. Then I saw the tsunami warning for the rest of us on the Pacific RIm. It's bearing down on Hawaii. I used to have nightmares of being caught in a tsunami. But I needs must return to sleep.

Hawaii orders evacuation of low-lying coastal areas after massive earthquake off Japan triggered a tsunami alert. A Hawaiian reporter said fish were in the Honolulu parking lot (2.3 foot tsunami left them stranded) like TILAPIA??? That must've been some big wave to strand African freshwater fish like that. They escaped from their freshwater ponds in solidarity with the saltwater fishes, or what?

Huge earthquake hit northern Japan, mostly affecting Tokyo and areas north. Felt it in Osaka, however, even though Tokyo is some 250 miles away and the epicenter was even further away than that. An extended rolling feeling, like being on a boat. The footage of the tsunami that hit Sendai is a seriously daunting.

Unimaginable damage and devastation. And now the Fukushima reactors are damaged. Is this the end of the world as we know it? Does it begin with radiation poisoning? Now my nightmares are waking dreams.

a bat flew into the classroom

Apparently I
need to add a new category under my rescuer of small animals resume: a bat flew into the morning poetry classroom, like the shadow of a leaf and landed on my poetry folders. I covered him with poetry sheets, and let him out the window where he fell like a leafy shadow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


—For Lynn DeWitt, a distant step-cousin in law, but still family, & to Howard McCord who liked my wood post on FB, which made me look at it anew.

At the dogtail end of summer, in deep August,
when the shadows grew long thin fingers
tinged with indigo verging on violet,
an unmistakable acrid odor of red clay dust 
& bleached oat hay, announced the coming fall.

We had only the enameled Wedgewood stove.
My grannie tightened the lyre-handled bucksaw;
tumped a limb into the arms of the wooden sawhorse
that bucked & groaned as the blade bit deeper.
She raised the gnarled cross-shaped sledgehammer
& a cauliflowered wedge—tools no man wanted—
to split the fresh logs to fit the firebox.
The age-old music of the smithy's hammer & tong
flung small fireflies into the deeper shadows.
There was no one else to lend a hand:
a small child and an old woman raised
their frail shoulders against the coming winter.

One time a shim worked loose from the lever. 
As I raised the hammer up against the darkening sky
it flew off, knocked me in the head. I staggered
under the crucifying blow. Oh, my aching stars!
Glad to be alive, I kept on splitting the wood, 
for she could no longer raise the iron weight.
Bay split like butter, pine fought the wedge,
oak was the most stubborn, but it burned the best.

(not sure whether this is a separate poem or a run on poem...)

I miss the yearly ritual of stacking wood, 
the hard grunt of honest labor, sweat stinging my eyes,
the sharp tang punctuated by fresh bay & pine.
Then, measuring the bright, tawny wall of wood
in so many cord feet against the length of winter.

I miss the venial ritual of fall, the sonorous whine
of chainsaws echoing through the valley,
the careful ritual of stacking wood,
carrying the burden of ages forth 
from one generation to the next.
Then, the archaic ritual laying of the first hearth, 
the careful kindling, blowing the tenuous spark
into a tremulous ribbon of smoke.

Nowadays, people merely flick a thermostat
set the temperature gauge, heat empty rooms,
with no notion of how to keep the hearth lit. 
In the city, I never turn on the heater. 
I can't abide the industrial odor of metal furnaces.
I miss the homey blue tang of woodsmoke, 
the fierce love and combustion of wet logs
hissing a song of rustling leaves and sap 
rising up from the heartwood.

See also Kindling. I seem to return to the theme again and again.