New dog, new world
January 21, 2017
Blessed on a mild, mid-winter Saturday by a close encounter with a great blue heron, we spotted him from the bridge over Tuscarawas Race. We paused at the threshold between the Coventry Oaks and Tuscarawas Meadows areas of Firestone Metropark in Akron, Ohio.
After a vigorous hill walk with views of downtown and a water tower, we came upon deer and dog tracks and droppings at the base of the bare field. Ahead, whispering, my husband called me to the bridge, toward the woods.
Shielded by leafless branches, the gray, reflecting apparition scarcely twitched before us, though our own insides leapt at the sight.
The long and short of it:
Caught fishing, eating the fish, and switching banks to fish some more.
Wading, spying, preening, going about his business, he seemed to get used to us lingering there on the bridge as our crouched legs cramped up. Along with my shoulders and hands, they stiffened as I strained to capture, to hold, to know something I did not yet know.
With better sense, my husband stood before I did, and soon a rowdy family came along the path beside the great blue’s bank.
I finally rose but could not unbend without help; all my leg muscles and joints seemed to rebel as one mob. Grace belonged wholly to the heron.
Thus ended the suspense as it withdrew in silent flight down the race, perching on a stone in the water, perhaps to fish again. Our day was complete, our own next meal an easy catch.
A happy “10 and 30th” birthday to another seeker, indeed. And, with this photo gallery of its signature bird, happy 3rd anniversary to the fledgling pond called Philosofishal.
All images © C. L. Tangenberg
Of Water Made, to Water We Return
an original, free verse poem
I. I'm having trouble with showering, arms raised to wash shoulder-length, water-heavy hair; with bending. I'm having trouble with her poem, as with fantasy novels. Cryptic, obscure, alien and alienating, brow-knitting. Trouble with straight standing, as with these twenty-something-dirty-blonde-story inflections, clipped “-ton” suffixes caught in the throat, and profound platitudes like approval seals on her three-person selfie. A drink in each hand--one coffee, one water with lemon-cucumber ice--she trots her foil-plated locks off to process. I stay behind, brief neighbor, to sit, scalp burning, my own foils foiling. Later, a brow touch-up stings eyelids to itching, replacing the usual trimmed-end scratch on my nape and collar. I'm lighter headed but neck-weighty on the drive home. Eyes water, follicles fry, emaciated eyebrows pulse and fade. I'm having trouble with salon and spa, as with why anyone would want to live in L.A. if they didn't have to. I'm having trouble with branding and niche building, as with popes' art. Douse these fires. II. I'm trouble with a spoon and fork, less so with a knife. Deadly strikes are stains on my shirt front, and down. Water is conquered and conqueror. Life giving. But whose life? Life of what? Of water, not me. My drinking problem starts with the cup, the vessel--not beverage--its grip. But what of the wet part? It is I who am taken in, for I do the malabsorption shake. Wet or dry, I struggle with much less clothing than women with corsets, bum rolls, and skirts (wet or dry) to the toe had to endure. I struggle all the same. This bod goes boddice-less and bobs with bra to belly shelf, not a babe's in either sense. Bust but not sculpture. My left hip, wrist, and neck joints gather us in, the floods that come, to the water, to intumesce in my right thumb's base joint. My thenar eminence, the blind and the lame-- lamb's blood, spent ink in the hour of palm --neither bleeting nor praying. No mercy. No script, just scribbles. No takeaways or peace grants. Just scrap and muscle cramps. Two weeks and the left knee's bulging, back to front, calf to cap, quad to shin, through and through. Ballooned after two weeks off drugs, the aqueous drug. Stop-gap pre-filled solution. The syringe barely reaches my sinews, adding water under skin in a burn-like bubble where a pocket of tadpoles learns to squat, stretch, and croak. They are now the most dexterous of me. III. I have trouble rising and staying risen. Suggestible, my skull base sags under a top-heavy brain, my fat noodle. Yes, that must be it. And laptop computing, from eye and finger to synapse. Results: conquered. Rest eludes as I fall asleep . . . pleu snorge cawgh nuff — contact sports? — Hum, drone, womp womp, pulsing house fan flow. Groaning grunts of stuff and nonsense. My vessel pours through another edgeless vessel. No longer on edge, I dissolve. Air swells with humidity- empty particles, compounding the gray blanket over the earth, reverberating through the filter, the vents, window-frame cracks, holey screens, the air our eaves own, the outdoor gas mixture, and up into the ceiling of this dull throw. The pointless, endless, homeless expansion becomes virtual oceanic abyss, imploding every living thing of too much air and water. Contact sport. As I nod off, sitting here, my fingers sear with the strain of their own joints' enveloping erosions. Aflame, the hand knows best unnatural heat-- come temperate or scorching summer; dry, cool autumn; or ice-white winter. But rather than melt, the fascia adhere in knots to the muscles. Sticky and stuck, locked in place. Dissolution--by fracture, fire or flood--has a recipe: Add whiplash to blood splash out the nose, extract thyroid node (with butterfly wing and body) by knife, erode bones of edges pressure molded from misfired orders to swell; crush and shiver into sulk-hulking slump. Stew. Re- hash. Overcook. Ignore. Serve nothing and no one. Clean-up: Have a drink of water. Splash some on your face. Breathe in. Out. Rub the brow. Flex the fist. Stretch. Straighten. Keep typing. (No other contact sports, especially watery ones.)
written August-September 2015 by C.L. Tangenberg
on living with rheumatoid arthritis
American poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) is one of my favorites of all time, and “The Fish” is one of my favorite poems of hers (not solely for its topic, mind you).
For my 100th post on this blog, samples of lines from “The Fish” and from her longer poem “The Moose” follow. Other great Bishop poems include, among others, “One Art” and “Filling Station.” I mentioned the latter here on Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day, 2014.
Excerpts from “The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop, published in 1946:
He didn't fight. He hadn't fought at all. He hung a grunting weight, battered and venerable and homely. (lines 5-9) I thought of the course white flesh packed in like feathers, the big bones and the little bones, the dramatic reds and blacks of his shiny entrails, and the pink swim-bladder like a big peony. (lines 27-33) I looked into his eyes which were far larger than mine but shallower, and yellowed, the irises backed and packed with tarnished tinfoil seen through the lenses of old scratched isinglass. They shifted a little, but not to return my stare. --It was more like the tipping of an object toward the light. (lines 34-44) the turning point: . . . from his lower lip --if you could call it a lip-- grim, wet, and weaponlike, hung five old pieces of fish-line, . . . . Like medals with their ribbons frayed and wavering, a five-haired beard of wisdom trailing from his aching jaw. . . . (lines 48-51, 61-64)
To take in more great descriptive details and find out what happens with the fish, see the whole poem.
Set in New Brunswick, Canada, here is an excerpt (lines 1-26) from “The Moose” by Elizabeth Bishop, published in 1976, thirty years after “The Fish” and three years before her passing:
From narrow provinces of fish and bread and tea, home of the long tides where the bay leaves the sea twice a day and takes the herrings long rides, where if the river enters or retreats in a wall of brown foam depends on if it meets the bay coming in, the bay not at home; where, silted red, sometimes the sun sets facing a red sea, and others, veins the flats' lavender, rich mud in burning rivulets; on red, gravelly roads, down rows of sugar maples, past clapboard farmhouses and neat, clapboard churches, bleached, ridged as clamshells, past twin silver birches, through late afternoon a bus journeys west, . . . .
When my college poetry professor first introduced us to Elizabeth Bishop, she said “The Moose” was widely agreed upon as the definitive example of her poetry. Obviously, I like it very much, too. Now that I’ve gotten you started, you have less of an excuse not to read the rest of this beautiful poem. And, yes, the travellers do encounter a moose.
A comprehensive collection of Bishop’s complete poems is available on Amazon.com.
Check out the next featured poem and poet in the series, the daffodils of Wordsworth.
And ICYMI: The start of this nature verse series consists of two posts exploring the theme of sunshine: Famous Poets’ Nature Poems, 1: Sun Spots, featuring four different poets’ work, and Famous Poets’ Nature Poems, 1a: “The Sunlight on the Garden,” with part of a poem by Louis MacNeice.
Writing 201: Poetry, Assignment 1: an original haiku related to water using simile (I opted for other devices)
Brackish river mouths gape wide, yawning bull sharks in to hunt the unschooled.
copyright 2015, C. L. Tangenberg
originally written in February for the poetry writing course hosted by The Daily Post