Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lavender Boy, New Dog, and The River

I've been working on a poem for awhile, unusual for me to plan out such a narrative. It all began with a provence lavender that refused to change or bloom, unlike the lavenders I saw in everyone else's yard. Yeah, the poem is a little long for a blog, but so are my usual postings. You can ignore the poem if you wish and proceed to the next paragraph below, but I think it's a fun read.

Lavender Boy

It started as a lump out in the garden,
a mound of lavender that never changed.
I planted it in May. Transplanting it
did nothing. By September no thin shoots
had risen in violet efflorescence,
the fine hairs of its silvery leaves
speared dew for nothing. Where were all
the purple standards gardeners expect?
Seduced by vegetable melancholy,
had it turned its attention from the sky
to purely subterranean concerns?

My spade marked a wide circle
around the stunted plant.
Painstakingly I loosened earth
six inches down, when the spade
hit something solid. I substituted
fingers, pawing dirt with care,
when the outline of two shoulders
surfaced beneath.

My fingers recoiled. What could it be?
Dirt shook from a pale forehead, amethyst eyes
opened with sagacious innocence.
I freed its hands and motioned it
to help me but it wriggled them
in self-discovery, the way a baby
looks at its hands. Three-and-a-half feet down,
its bluish feet sprouted like potatoes.
Each rootlet I broke through
made the whole thing quiver.
Unearthed, it looked like a boy.

I feared to break his body like a carrot
or bruise him like a melon.
By his armpits I lifted him
gently as a slice of cake.
What stuff he was made of
was moist and pliable.
He hardened when I stood him
in the sun beside the zinnias.
I thought about Gepetto:
“What a beautiful boy! “

His lips were pale violet,
his hair was lavender that flowered.
Wherever he displaced the air
lavender filled the vacuum.
It seemed right to dress him
in a suit of silver velvet
with a frock collar.
He could gather blackberries
all day without staining his finery.
Only fires made him nervous;
I quit smoking because of it.

He drooped in the morning
before his drink restored his turgor.
When I put him in the shower
he swelled and sprouted--
beware of over-watering, I thought.
He liked the water cool.

Within a month he dressed himself
but speech took longer.
Toothless, he struggled with consonants
and diphthongs. He had a thin, melodious voice.
When he said “Chaos,” I said “Gaia.”
He grinned and said, “Uranus.”
I said “Aphrodite.” We understood each other.

Time passed and his limbs grew woody
as perennials do. It made him rough,
he didn't like it, still he eschewed return
to earth, said it would mar his sentience.
But I could see no future beyond a sachet
for the closet, nothing to accommodate
his soft, scented hands and fragile smile.
With tears I planted him again.
He asked nothing of me except to scent
all my days with lavender.

Since I put deer netting everywhere in my garden and turned up the sensitivity on my motion-activated sprayer, I've had no trouble except for gophers eating my potatoes, though I think there are potatoes left, at least judging by their above ground greenery.

We got a new dog after a year of mourning for Kenyon, and he's a fifteen-pound whippersnapper sheba inu-chihuahua mix, full of vim and vigor and bound to chew anything available down to the nub. I have begun reading dog-training books, have begun to try to think like a dog as a book by the Monks of New Skene suggests.

He can sit and stay and shake hands so far, but his staying power is less than ten feet. Kathleen and I have agreed he needs a crate for in-house training. We're trying to get him on a regular schedule but it's hard. Sorry, no picture yet.

Our cats have deserted us since the dog's acquisition. Did I tell you his name? He looks so prim and proper, like an English gentleman, so we named him "J. Alfred Prufrock," "J." for short. He likes to chase deer and points like a hunter despite his diminutive stature. He also likes to chase moths in the air, making me suspect he might have some bird dog DNA.

As I intimated, he's not a cat-friendly dog and Topaz and Jojo live outside now, coming to the porch at night for a feeding. We can't let the cat food stand outside because of the crafty raccoons. The cats look well-fed but I don't know if they'll ever make friends with the dog. He behaves just like a cartoon dog in relation to the cats.

On the literary front, besides having submitted my "Selected" to a publisher that approached me, the anthology "Crazed by the Sun" is now out. Click on the title for more information. In it I rub shoulders with e. e. cummings, Theodore Roethke, Marianne Moore, and many more contemporary poets like Sandra MacPherson. I'm honored to be included. My poem concerns attending a carnival with my youngest daughter, though that tells you virtually nothing about the poem. If you'd like to read it, here's the link:

At the Carnival

I'm still in a lot of physical pain, thank God for Celebrex but I couldn't get by without the morphine as well. My back is hurting more, a good sign that I might return to my chief chronic pain. It all takes time; some things heal, some things don't, hard to tell why. My back never has, though I have congenital defects to blame that on. My left hand remains too weak and numb to play the guitar with any authority, but if I stick to open chords I can sneak by, concentrating on my voice.

I just finished my third Mendocino Circle of Men's retreat and I must say it was magical. Every year is. It's a privilege to be associated with such great men in spiritual solidarity and intentional ritual. My chief insight this time around was that my life has always been a struggle--partly, perhaps, because I was a forceps baby trying to claw my way out. Life doesn't have to be that hard just because it began that way, but in my case it seems more like a prophecy.

The main thing is to try to stay in the river of being, to remind oneself that the hidden spiritual connection between all good men and women ultimately supersedes the daily grind we call life. Whatever your occupation, it is possible to stay in the river for periods, though we often find ourselves scattered on the shore of our own shortcomings. Have courage, the river can absorb it. The river of being is always flowing, it's our access that's impaired. So try to concentrate on the divine throughout your day and you will feel the difference. Take a deep breath and thank God for all the things you are and have, especially the love shown you by others. You can't think yourself into the river, you can only notice when you're in or out. Sometimes we enter it without thinking; other times we can't imagine it really exists. But it does. The flow of God's spirit is not constrained by any religion or viewpoint; there is no dogma to qualify you except for a willing heart and an open mind. May you dip in the river today.




  1. oooh wow...i am always in awe when i come read you. i do wish to get that anthology. your poetry is some of the best i have ever read. i have never grown lavender...i hear it is a bit difficult to do. i am always reminded of wuthering heights when i think of lavender.

    Prufrock...oh that is a glorious name for your dog. that is one of my favorite poems of all time.

    I hope you are doing well. You sound really good.

  2. Gee, that kinda sucks for the cats, doesn't it?

    Do you have coyotes out yonder in your part of the world? If you do, you may lose your cats to them.

    I'm happy that you got a dog. I'm kinda sad that your cats had to be evicted though.

  3. Merelyn,

    Can't wait to get the book in your appreciative hands. I'm still waiting for a sample book from the publisher to make sure the product is of sufficient quality.


    We have coyotes and mountain lions and bears. So far so good; there's plenty of deer and rodents around. Our braver cat, Topaz, has snuck into the bedroom at night several times; Jojo, the skittish one, gets close to the sliding door opening and freaks out as soon as the dog smells her, wakes and begins to bark. We hope to be one happy family someday, but Jojo will take some time to overcome her terror.

    J. Alfred in only fifteen pounds, but he's a cat-chaser. I've put up pictures of our cats before, hope soon to do so with J. as well.

    Thanks for stopping by,


  4. I appreciate your comments about your ongoing pain, as I am currently nursing a recent back injury myself. I am NOT good with accepting limited mobility.

    The poem is beautiful.


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