Happy New Year, friends.
Are you ready to take it slow?
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.
Snowshoe Hare who lives
in the tangle of downed trees
next to the culvert where Porcupine
used to hole up in late winter
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
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
Bald eagles have on average 7000 feathers
compare that to the giant pacific octopus—
with her eight tentacles she wields 2,240 suction cups
We are the counters of everything
we 7.3 billion inhabitants on Earth give or take
a century of democide: mass murder of the people
by their government, that’s 268 million of us in the last 100 years
We quantify to comprehend to find our way
in the forest in our mind, the tangle
of 1 billion times 1 million dendrite branches
where memories flit tree to tree
The bigger the number the better we feel
Inside the red canyons of the human heart 724 trillion blood cells
fly by carrying their bead of oxygen
making our bodies a riot of constant miracles
Compare that to the unexaggerated ratio of
For every 17 children in the world, there is one land mine, or
every 20 minutes someone takes one step and the ground clicks
The problem is we are always talking about numbers.
–Arlitia Jones, April 27, 2017
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
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
The bear was as surprised as we were
suddenly face to face on a trail that had ceased
being a trail at least a decade ago when miners
quit this worthless claim
I am alive!
declared the bear
We are in love!
we said, backing away
Hey, Bear. Hey, Bear.
Above us mountains held the blue milk sky
of the in-between season—
not winter, not spring—unlovely April
with its dingy grass and slick mud
Husband and wife celebrating the anniversary
of their life-long joining , lost in the water-song of melt,
calling out to the bear and the un-beautiful world
as if our tongues were made of flowers
that bloom a month from now,
anemones high in the mountains.
Let us renew our vows, Bear, let us pass, Bear
into the birch, tall-throats waiting
for their green voice to ripen.
Hey, Bear. Hey. The bear considered us,
sniffed the earth then left us to our troth
— Arlitia Jones, April 18, 2017
The world did not end
in war. Dawn pinks the mountains
and the brown bear wakes
Portrait of the Demi-Goddess as a Child
There came a day when my father, a powerful and wealthy king
(he was a butcher)
Lifted me up to set me high atop the back of a gleaming black mare.
(It was a Huffy banana bike. She was pink.)
She cantered and tossed her head. I smoothed her neck. Her name was Sheila.
(Her name was Sheila.)
My short legs were barely long enough to hold the curve of her ribs
(I couldn’t reach the pedals)
The King declared me confined to an Empire the breadth of a day’s ride in any direction.
(Our driveway and the street in front of the house.)
But Sheila’s mane was silver and her tail flowed like water when she ran.
(silver handlebar tassels)
Along her spine, my velvet cape flared like a blue wing wherever we went
(I tied a dishtowel around my neck)
and wherever we went we galloped. Headlong. Breathless. We ran away to Ghost Mountain
(To the top of Deadman’s Hill)
where highwaymen beat their horses and turned them out on rocky cliffs.
(mean boys always drop their bikes in the dirt)
Braggarts who blocked the way of any traveler, tested themselves against all comers.
(You know, a guy really died on this hill.)
Together, Sheila and I made up a single body of will and speed.
(Bet you’re too chicken.)
Sheila was the best of horses, she’d always done whatever I asked–
(I pointed my front tire downhill)
So, now I asked her for her cherished legs, her roaring heart. I was fearless.
(I was fearless.)
–Arlitia Jones, April 16, 2017
Eleven days ago a hostile tribe captured our myth
and replaced it with their own version
of our voluptuous Eve, our great goddess, our life-giver
who, we now believe, fell to earth from a hatch in the sky
to transform an entire mountain into an appalling blossom
of rock and fire blooming into burning air
a giant peony of smoke opening to the sun
o’ mother of the sacred boom and incinerated corpse
(whose love we now know weighs 10,000 kilos)
protect your children in this garden of misery and shame
two miles away the enemy’s child turned to see
her flash of light and felt his eardrums shatter
and five thousand miles away another tribe, despised and motherless,
is rebuilding yet another myth for their own retelling
-Arlitia Jones, April 15, 2017