Thursday, November 09, 2006

Villanelle: Redwoods; Rodent Neutral!


Cathedrals come to mind when the soft light,
Refracted through the needles like stained glass,
Leaks down from these great trees from a great height.

Their bark is thick and grooved and will not blight.
Their fallen fronds, acidic, allow no grass;
Cathedrals come to mind when they shape light.

I look up and the tops are out of sight.
My mind cannot encompass their great mass;
Light leaks down through these trees from a great height.

I love an oak, I love its tortured might;
Maples burn gold and rose when leaves must pass;
But they are not cathedrals to the light.

Straight as a rod, vertically impolite
To man, who feels a bug beside their mass,
The light leaks down through these from a great height.

I want to stay here like an anchorite
And worship at their base while all things pass.
Cathedrals come to mind when the soft light
Leaks down from these great trees from a great height.

Like yesterday, it’s a good sign when Dr. Chaffin writes about things outside himself. In general I am no introvert, but depression forces me into a smaller and smaller space until I’m afraid to speak with my wife, until making coffee becomes an overwhelming burden.

But you have been there with me, and your support—even if only the knowledge that I am being read, that I am not simply a mute smudge on the windshield of the universe—has meant a lot. (Did that last over-the-top trope remind you of Roc McKuen?)

My new psychiatrist was quite knowledgeable, to my relief. He is the second psychiatrist I’ve seen in my life who knows more about medications than I do. In view of my recent improvement since doubling the Seroquel, he opted not to change a thing, but asked me to return in a month or call him if I start to cycle down again. What’s interesting is that in this small community I remember him from the men’s retreat. There I told him that he emanated the most joy of anyone I met at the affair; he just smiled back. As I said to Kathleen, a happy psychiatrist is either very healthy or in denial. I think my new shrink is actually healthy. Amazing. So few psychiatrists are. Naturally, as that rare, truly competent doctor, to get an appointment with him takes over two months. But he has a walk-in clinic when he is on call, and that’s how I was able to see him.

Not much else to report. Kathleen is under the weather but I am never allowed to give details. She has a stronger sense of privacy than I. My sense of privacy has been blown out by multiple hospitalizations and events, if I described them, that are beyond embarrassment. What otheres think of me is none of my business. I tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

I have a better poem on redwoods than the villanelle above, and I’ll post it below. In shape it resembles a redwood by design. See the poet George Herbert for more such poems.

At rodent neutral?



on the burnt
tripod of your
fire-hollowed base
like a Saturn rocket
waiting for launch,
your faraway limbs
radiate like bent spokes
bearing needles tighter
than a comb’s teeth to hide
your crown like the face of a god,
just as you hide the sun
from the laurel and the fir.
What light you spare
won’t penetrate the bleached
rust carpet of needles below where
blue jays strut, squawking indecorously
beside your unearthly stillness.
Your peat-red bark is grooved as if
some prehistoric cat had clawed it lengthwise.
Your roots, big as pythons, suck up the silt from
all those moss-furred wrecks that splinter
into orange sawdust, your ancestors.
Without them you’d go hungry in this rain forest
flushing minerals faster than roots can taste.
Only the outermost of your two thousand rings
is alive, a thin cylinder of cells
wrapping your heartwood
like foil. Your strength
comes from your core
and your core is dead.
Your seeds, smaller than
a fly’s wings, share
a lotto’s chance of sprouting
in your shade. More often
your own shoots encircle you
as you die to feed them,
rising in a cathedral
cool and still and vertical
around your stump’s altar.

(published in Mi Poesias)


  1. Anonymous1:58 PM PST

    Finally. Please
    spare the rod.
    It's good to finally stop
    practicing and actually doing the medicine thingie;

    as my den tist says; he dosen't give'
    anything he hasn't actually tried on
    hiself,, what a sport.

    Gotta love those red woods -- something about them, yes? the resin scent, etc. a link for you;

    ok - that's all. nm.
    good to read what's up once and again doc.

  2. Anonymous2:07 PM PST

  3. Anonymous2:14 PM PST

    O! I'm sorry C -

    the image thing is just not working.

    one more time and feel free to delete all of this nonsense.

    I am nothing
    if not persistant, and a wear
    in judgemnt. ehh.

    happy days
    to you -

    that's all.

  4. I never would have thought you'd write a tree-shaped poem! I did one once. It might have made it into Half-Drunk Muse. I'll have to check.

    There are a few Rod McKuen poems I like. Can We Have Our Ball Back is one I think of off-hand.

    Glad your mood is up and the shrink is a healthy one.

    Have you taken liberties with the form by not repeating your repeating lines exactly, or is that a variation of the form? I'm just wondering.

  5. Anon--I tried your last URL several times and just got a Chinese site. I happen to live in the redwoods now; there are two tall ones on each side of my deck. So I can see them just fine. There's one near here, a short drive, with a 13 ft. diameter and a height of 350 ft.

    Annie--yes, I have taken liberties. Unless you are very careful with the first and third lines of the first stanza, they might require some modification further on to fit the syntax properly. If you look back, you'll see the ones where I followed the strict form. Now that I've written eight here, I feel justified in a little experimental departure. Or call it cheating, that's fine with me!

  6. Anonymous9:47 PM PST

    Ha! you don't say! those damn Chinamen!squinty eyes and the skin color of a sluggg...

    So You are in Germany? I hear the Rdw's only light in certain climates. lol.

    Url - Oh Good -since crossing the Mekong I'm a fairly new transplant and don't know too many people here in Siagon, so I like it.

    Oh my! - watch out.. people will get nervous now. lol.

    Tell me, do you get enough light there?... always an issue for me.

    and say, heard a joke on N-tuck the other night:
    The difference between God and a surgeon is that God doesn't Think he's a surgeon. ahh well --
    too mush thinking..

    Oh - don't get me wrong - I have loved doc tors -- especially the humble ones.

    Really, it's good of you to share about the Things you Love. VN.

    and to be absolutely frank - you should not reply to me -- it may be taken as a form of encouragement.

    Take care Craig-Eric - thank you for understanding this is different than tolerance.


  7. I am a true introvert myself. BUT, my privacy has been shattered in the last four years from the poking and prodings due to my disease. That said... I still have a colorful inner life that I do try to share with others... sometimes.

    So good to hear that you are doing better. :-)

  8. Great idea for a shape poem, living next to botanic gardens with an avenue of nearly 150 year old redwoods I appreciate the poem! I like the varied language in it - tripod, rocket, spokes etc I particularly like the 'peat-red bark'.


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