Polymaths, Dabblers and Moonsails

Happy New Year, friends.

Are you ready to take it slow?

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“…a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails…”

 

We had a blizzard last night and this morning I’m looking out on a bright, mounded, blank world and I don’t have the least intention of getting out there and making something of it. I tried that last year and it almost broke me.

Let the beautiful world be the beautiful world in its own form, in its own right. Let the snow have this day untracked. Let the oyster keep its pearl.

Over the past year, I have been learning to paint and draw. Rather, I should say relearning to paint and draw because I did these things all the time when I was a child. They were second nature. I’m not sure at what point they became third nature behind the writing, and then 10th nature, and 34th nature, and finally falling off the scale entirely until I had to rediscover as an adult how much I have missed and love creating visually.

I am not a polymath. But maybe I am the thing that comes before the polymath. The poly-curious. The Dabbler in all things.

It’s so scary to put this work out there, but one of my goals this year is to share more of what I can create with the world. Friends, I’m hoping this is one of your goals, too. I love seeing what you do.

It’s also one of my goals to reacquaint myself with this blog which, I admit, I forgot I started. I’ll spare you the emoji face with the big eyes, but that’s the face I’m making right now.

Last year, somebody called me a polymath… oh, if only!

It is a great compliment, and it is not true. I do not have great learning in numerous varied subjects. I can’t read music. I don’t know the names of Jupiter’s moons. I can’t point to Kuala Lumpur on a map. For the love of all that is holy, don’t ask me to multiply and divide fractions. If you can do this, the throne is truly your inheritance.

I am not a polymath. But maybe I am the thing that comes before the polymath. The poly-curious. The Dabbler in all things. For no good reason, I read two books last year about dinosaurs. I like saying the names: Amygdalodon! Harpymimus! Muttaburrasaurus!

I researched the benefits of doing headstands and have gotten so-so good at executing them. I’m learning how to pickle Japanese eggs. I have an app on my phone that showed me what the star constellation for Psyche is. I actually watched the World Series this year. But I couldn’t tell you who won.

This morning, I came across moonsails. It’s from Walt Whitman’s “The Ship Starting:”

Lo, the unbounded sea,
On it’s breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails,
The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds she speeds so stately––below emulous waves press forward,
They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.

Since I have no idea what a moonsail is, and also since I’m a poly-curious Dabbler, I looked it up.

The moonsail, according to google, is “the moonraker, also known as a moonsail, hope-in-heaven, or hopesail, is a square sail flown immediately above a skysail on the royal masts of a square rigged sailing ship.”

Moonsail. Hope-in-heaven. Hopesail. Oh, yes please! Let us journey forth! Let us raise anything and everything named Hope before the wind this year.

Ok, 2020. Let’s see what you got.

One Poem. One Planet. April 30, 2017

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30.

Everything hopeful is happening
right now in the sky above the mountains still merled with snow and rock
the clouds erecting white Potemkin spires into the blue expanse
brief fabulation gone in a moment, blown down by incoming wind
that rides the tide’s gray back,

Such beauty is not meant to last
and yet it has a purpose to make us lift our eyes to the moment
we imagine ourselves
as residents who soar through blue kingdoms at such high altitudes
we are barely seen,
so high, we must throw our voices down to earth so people know we pass.

Let go and fly as the sandhill cranes
for now we are those sandhill cranes (see them?) migrating past
the billowing towers of white
to far away paradise of delta and shore across the wide open blue,
and down below
the fledgling lovers who suddenly hear look up,
again and again, you call my name, I yours

–Arlitia Jones, April 30, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 29, 2017

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29.

Nature Poem

Snowshoe Hare who lives
in the tangle of downed trees
next to the culvert where Porcupine
used to hole up in late winter
is gray

Snowshoe Hare who darts
across the mound under white birch bowed
to each other over bare ground where
White Dog sprawled in the dirt
is quiet as a ghost

Snowshoe Hare who streaks
up the driveway toward tall grass
behind the house where Bear
huffed his breath into the spongy ground
is running for her life

–Arlitia Jones, April 29, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 28, 2017

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28.

History Sonnet

Perhaps it started when Siegfried killed the lindworm—
the Horrible Serpent dead—so the town of Worms
could cobble to life with congratulatory stone
Cathedrals and Churches and Monasteries, Cloisters
then smithys, jails and burghers’ mansions in view
of high-held domes and steeples—the Pope’s monster-less realm.

The Modern World born of Empire and Martin Luther’s
insurrection—95 Theses nailed to the revered door—
now Lutherans must kill Catholics.
The Serpent claims an eye for Siegfried’s eye
and tooth for tooth for fang—the heretic—
—the hammer—the nail—the new reality
where the worm is now Authority.

–Arlitia Jones, April 28, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 24, 2017

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24.

Sound — six-footed ant
scuffing the forest’s green drum —
at last, rain arrives

–Arlitia Jones, April 24, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 23, 2017

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23.

Nothing can happen more beautiful than death.
—Walt Whitman

Inside the coyote’s mouth
is a savage place for a barred owl

Twisting in the wind’s violent tarantella,
the trunk of the blue spruce eventually shatters

Flower shaped and malignant, the tumor blooming in the lungs
will eventually drown a man.

I am trying to understand, Walt.
I am.

But how I am to see the hand of a soldier
killed in battle, fingers darkened

and curling too tightly into the palm,
as anything other than a dead star?

–Arlitia Jones, April 23, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 22, 2017

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22.

I’ve been thinking about extinction
how dull the world will be without
extravagant horns and spotted furs
how quiet the ocean will be
without the blue whale breaking its surface
how unadorned my poems will be
when every wing is folded, every song cut short
how quickly dinner will pass
when the chair across from me is empty
when my own chair is empty
and all that remains is the clutter
of knives and forks, empty plates
layered with dust and moonlight.

–Arlitia Jones, April 22, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 21, 2017

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21.

Three kinds of flicker
today: the first in front of my car

as I left my driveway,
flare of a wing and flame colored flight

disappearing into the alder.
The second a shimmering late sun

tunneling into the volcano’s flank
way off on the distant horizon,

a fiery mouse hollowing its nest, trailing
orange tail in a lavender sky

And finally tonight this bright feather
of memory suspended in the bell jar

where I keep every beautiful piece of you
I haven’t already lost or dulled with unabashed devotion

–Arlitia Jones, April 21, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 20, 2017

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20.

Who am I to say
what is impossible?

Brushed by dawn’s grey scarf of light
I am the crazy child

who finds the message from Vienna
waiting on her phone

A metaphor is never
just a metaphor

A yellow chrysanthemum
in a crystal vase

is a proxy sun in the kitchen–
it is also the sun

-Arlitia Jones, April 20, 2017

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One Poem. One Planet. April 19, 2017

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19.

Notebook Fragment

Across the forest floor,
beneath shadow of spruce
and mountain ash
the daughters of the wind

go forth

… … … multiply

numerous as stars
a temporary galaxy
at our feet—

anemones to us,
we are mystery at great distance
to them

–Arlitia Jones, April 19, 2017

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