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Parting
 

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Parting
Parting

  by John Moncure Wetterau

  Copyright 2013 John Moncure Wetterau

  Acknowledgements:

  Cover photograph "songbird" by Victor Romanyshyn.

  Victor may be reached at: [email protected]

  or

  Studio 203A

  61 Pleasant Street

  Portland, Maine 04101

  Some of these poems first appeared in: Poetry East-West, The Maine Sunday Telegram, The Maine Times, Nostoc, Backwoods Broadsides, H.O.M.E., Headcheese, Chants, Backwoods Broadsides Chaplet Series, Café Review, and in the collections, To Keep You Company, The Book With The Yellow Cover, On the Road to Dharamsala, and Sans Fin.

  Author's Note

  These new and selected poems are presented in four groups, beginning with the most recently written and ending with the earliest. When I was nineteen, I chose the artist's life proudly and joyfully. More than fifty years later the pride has been mostly replaced by gratitude. The joy, I see now, is life itself. J.M.W.

  Table of Contents

  New Poems

  Sans Fin

  On the Road to Dharamsala

  The Book With The Yellow Cover

  More books by the author

  New Poems

  The Artist's Reward

  always the blank page,

  the blank day,

  to make your marks

  (as Colleen put it),

  another chance

  to get it right,

  or closer

  Sankta Lucia – 2011

  December, a white church

  on a Maine island

  at dusk—Sankta Lucia

  in a snow-white dress,

  wearing a wreath of lighted candles,

  leads her attendants singing

  through the crowded pews.

  She is newly beautiful,

  standing in front, flanked

  on each side by younger girls

  in order of their size and age,

  all in white.

  At one end, extra close

  to the next attendant,

  the shortest looks up earnestly,

  round face, round eyes, tiny

  round compressed mouth.

  She is too young or shy to sing.

  She is hoping for a good outcome;

  she hopes with all her being

  for something sensed

  in the air above us.

  As Sankta Lucia promises light,

  the little girl prays without words;

  together, we will brave the dark.

  O Rosy

  Dusan said you died a beautiful death,

  "at peace, the complete peace given

  only to those of great integrity."

  Ten years since we lay together

  in the small bedroom with the roof

  window, making light of life.

  We loved you,

  your kindness flowering

  from a field of sorrow.

  Lying beside you, feeling

  the pain never spoken…

  O Rosy, I have not your alchemy,

  have little of your kindness,

  how do I change this to gold?

  I can't see for tears. Can only howl

  like a wolf: Rosy

  O Rosy

  After Fate Has Ripped Away

  The Curtain Of Your Dreams

  And You See That Everything

  Is Taken From You

  lightness

  spreads through you,

  quiet as

  sunrise at sea

  My Uncle Robin

  Light

  in your cabin window,

  practicing late:

  Dixieland piano

  fading through the pines,

  vibrant, disciplined,

  mellower each year,

  keeping faith with

  the sound you loved—

  only faith can carry on

  what matters;

  I heard this in the woods

  forty years ago, but

  didn't fully understand.

  Robin, you should know,

  The Yellow Dog Jazz Band

  is playing your music

  in Tallahassee.

  Early Spring

  flowering cherries, sunny

  lavenders / grays / whites

  twenty years ago

  I stood beneath them

  in a black linen shirt,

  feeling handsome,

  a bit foolish

  Spring forgives all—

  vanity then, hope

  now

  Portland

  Getting Ready to Leave

  after rain,

  sun

  beating a drum,

  shadow of hands

  playing on the floor

  in a darkened corner

  out there somewhere,

  the muse is waiting,

  mute and trusting

  Leaving Maine in June

  The leaves are full,

  my lives scattered

  in their season,

  ready for use,

  bits & pieces:

  hope, joy,

  persistence.

  Chang Moi Rd, Soi 2

  cool morning air,

  industrial garage door

  partly open—a man

  weaves the bottom

  of a basket, holding it

  with one bare foot

  on an overturned bucket,

  hands flying in circles,

  the basket widening;

  he senses me,

  twists his neck to see,

  his shoulders tighten,

  hands never stop

  Dharma Walk

  slim in white

  head to foot,

  moving steadily

  through crowds,

  shoppers, vendors,

  smells of grilling chicken,

  chilies, steaming rice,

  revving motorbikes—

  her eyes

  freed of desire,

  irrepressibly alive,

  greeting Buddha

  every side

  Chiang Mai Gate

  Tuk-tuk Driver

  head shaven, beads,

  Asian shirt, a westerner

  in his thirties

  bows elaborately

  to the tuk-tuk driver,

  palms together,

  bowing again,

  turning away

  well pleased

  the small bald brown man

  watches him leave,

  silent, amused

  Ballad

  open to the sidewalk:

  cement floor,

  a lathe, well oiled,

  clutter of mechanic’s tools,

  metal desk, papers,

  an orchid,

  fuchsia and pink

  behind one wall

  a man is singing,

  his voice descends

  like a falling leaf

  slanting sideways,

  this way, then that

  Chiang Mai

  River Ping

  muddy, moving slowly

  by the Governor's Mansion,

  I'll be leaving soon

  in the same direction

  on this path

  along a grassy bank,

  but first:

  a yak horn ring,

  traveled around the world,

  must be returned

  to the Himalayas—

  a prayer hurled

  for the giver,

  for love joining

  and flowing—almond arc

  dropping into light red brown,

  tiny splash,

  spinning & settling

  Bedouin

  I grew up alone,


  alert to love

  as a Bedouin to water;

  when the young visit,

  soft-eyed, well cared for,

  walking with full packs,

  uncertain in the heat,

  I take only what I need

  for the journey

  to the next oasis:

  a grandmother content,

  a monk in orange,

  a schoolgirl awakening,

  the treasure of her days

  unspent.

  Chiang Mai

  Kirstine Aloha

  Steady eyes, Baltic bluegraygreen,

  painter's eyes, a hint of pain

  not quite remembered,

  broad forehead, chestnut hair

  loose and full,

  long arms,

  you are kneading bread

  in a well-lit kitchen,

  floured hands push

  and roll the dough,

  lovely hands that held

  the boy you led to music,

  that wouldn't kill a kitten

  on the farm;

  white dust glows in the air,

  a tiny heaven

  above the globe,

  over the Himalayas,

  over Hawaii, where

  they say aloha,

  not goodbye,

  aloha in the bread,

  aloha for the ones

  who eat it,

  aloha always.

  Chiang Mai

  When Eleanor

  hummingbird

  olive & yellow, hovering

  beneath a canopy

  of dark banyan leaves,

  taking what is given,

  once seen

  The aria from

  Goldberg Variations floats

  through the French bakery

  near Chiang Mai Gate,

  Glen Gould, I think.

  When Eleanor plays this,

  joyful and relaxed,

  her true love, Bach,

  has no need for words.

  An Oughtred Boat

  the beauty of these curves—

  bursting, brooding, enigmatic,

  promising, smiling even

  in the waves, the waves

  bearing this insouciance lightly,

  as though holding a baby

  or an egg or hope itself—

  made by hand,

  to carry your soul

  across the bay

  On a Honda 125

  hiding from rain,

  curled sideways

  behind her boyfriend,

  his arms reaching forward,

  her head lowered,

  cheek between

  his shoulder blades,

  the modest curve

  of her body—

  Asian, resilient,

  moving away

  at the green light

  Asgard (for Inge)

  two wooden chairs

  valley and mountain

  the singing and grief

  of all living things,

  in this silence

  comforting the earth

  Glennifer,

  Australia

  Inge

  I

  barefoot, head up, striding,

  sure & quiet

  II

  driving, one strong hand

  resting on a slim thigh

  III

  Viking cheek bones,

  light blue eyes,

  wide mouth, smile

  a shaft of sun through clouds,

  lighting a gray sea

  IV

  green

  sheltering mountains,

  purple blossoming jacarandas,

  grass, fruit, flowers,

  herbs, vegetable gardens,

  a pond and family of ducks,

  singing frogs, silent snakes

  redyellowbluegreenflash, parrots

  to a tall camphor laurel

  compost piles, nature

  in rhythm and balance,

  including Inge

  planting, feeding, watering,

  tending

  V

  on the ground,

  hidden by bushes, an archway

  of dried twigs & stems

  carefully set side by side,

  curving outwards

  and back toward the center,

  open at the top—

  built by a bower bird

  for a female to walk through,

  choosing him for her mate—

  originally decorated with scraps

  of anything a special blue,

  empty now, a masterpiece

  for a season

  Asgard

  Gleniffer, Australia

  Aussie Justice

  Inge and I wait outside her Land

  Cruiser while Mort fills it with LPG.

  A sour-faced driver slides up behind

  Inge to the next pump, too fast,

  too close; she didn't see him,

  might have been hurt. Mort

  fires the heavy fuel cap

  at the back of the driver's head,

  "SORRY MATE,

  DIDN'T SEE YOU COMING!"

  The cap ricochets off the door frame,

  flies ten meters ahead to the asphalt.

  Silence. Inge bemused, knowing

  her sons capable of anything.

  The driver stays in his car.

  I retrieve the cap, hand it to Mort,

  "Pretty good shot."

  "I reckon a centimeter to the right

  would have taken his glasses," he says,

  calm, quite satisfied.

  Waking, Sunday

  doves calling: there's hope for all … hope for all …

  Bach cantatas, 80 and 147

  (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring);

  remembering

  the smell of snow

  Chiang Mai

  "Forever Young…" (Thanks, Bob)

  On the cusp of old age,

  looking for a home

  on land or water,

  perhaps a van

  with a painting

  on one wall, a bunk,

  camping stove, cooler,

  a few boxes of books,

  tools, a basin

  for washing—

  a boat is less practical,

  more cheerful, not so

  mechanical—I'd rather

  wake up on a boat.

  For the Silent One

  who sells stamps and packaging

  at the Chiang Mai Post Office

  on Prapokklao Street,

  speaking only

  with her eyes and fingers,

  as though to keep intact

  a quiet inner music—

  to be given to us,

  one by one.

  Hallelujah

  life, a silhouette

  defined

  by the darkness

  into which

  it disappears,

  yet, this morning,

  by Angel's Cafe,

  an eighty year old,

  hair swept up, held

  with a simple comb,

  walked confidently

  on the cobblestones,

  delicate cotton

  singing with blue,

  flowing to her ankles

  Chiang Mai

  Mary Cassatt

  In an Italian restaurant

  in Chiang Mai, designing

  a table for a van in which

  I will live, a toddler with

  short fuzzy hair is attended

  by his mother and two Thai

  waitresses and Mary Cassatt

  who, childless, painted maternity

  just so, tender & watchful.

  The little boy rubs his nose.

  He will not remember, but

  he will stride forward

  confidently.

  Listening

  electric guitar:

  jazz riff across the alley,

&
nbsp; over and over—practice—

  the same notes

  never boring;

  the caring carries,

  the attention,

  better than

  bravura performance

  Veerachai Court

  Saturday Night at Daret's

  I must praise

  the rough justice

  of nature—

  the ravenous young,

  an old woman sitting,

  chopping, peeling, scraping

  all day long, her gentle,

  free, forgiving smile—

  we have “had our innings,”

  as Rosy would have said.

  Only those who dare

  the no space

  between humility and pride

  escape

  the cruelty of time.

  Chiang Mai

  Sans Fin (selections)

  In a Hotel in Perajil

  Slide your money

  under a plastic shield

  for the key to Suite 1,

  Aqua Velva blue light,

  for full-on white,

  or two strobes flashing

  near the bathroom door—no dark.

  Red neon BAR in the window.

  Shouts, engines, horns blasting,

  disco thumping.

  Alone. Tired.

  Lie down.

  And be quietly overcome

  by grace—

  understood, approved,

  a part of all.

  You only need

  a handful of these moments

  to get through life.

  Panama City

  Domingo

  In the plaza, an Indian girl

  in a red & white cotton dress

  strums chords slowly,

  searching for the harmony

  she feels or wants, singing

  a few words quietly;

  her music, so simple,

  heals like sunlight,

  universal air.

  Boquete

  For Jeanne

  Lobster buoys

  heaped on a dock

  in melting snow,

  bright bands of

  red, green, yellow,

  tangled lines,

  high tide,

  an American flag

  hanging motionless,

 
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