ART & POETRY - ACCUMULATIONS
I watch the tall ships, naked from my room, some
without their sails, a silhouetted line thrust up
like a snag among trees (from my high view)
all but indistinguishable from other paraphernalia
of our century. But then the largest ship turns its side
toward the north, toward me, and I see -- with an awe
the Americans must have experienced -- for the first time,
floating islands, tall, stately. From a distance, sails fully unfurled,
not unlike a forest, or a new world dodging in and out
of familiar trees. Sweet, the ingeniousness of humankind;
Tart, what we have done with it. My heart no longer
cries "Wonderful!" without hearing the incessant howling
of misery in the other ear. Is it sweeter to block up the ears with
thudding music or to mutiny against the tall, terrible ships
carrying the world closer, closer to the incurable greed of top
animal who doesn't mind butchering and eating his tart underlings?
Up from the root-cellar, the smell of wintering apples:
Apple Butter, Apple Pie, Apple in your eye
Apple of your eye.
Robust hail, they fall from the trees:
thud, plunk, bang -- wormy, de-wormed, bags full,
baskets full, aprons full, not good enough to sell
or eat, but good enough for Apple Butter
cored and culled and pared,
dark brown from cooking, like my life
since leaving Granddaddy Peppler's farm
in Roseburg -- of peaches, apples, pears,
cantaloupe, watermelon, root beer in the well --
put here, in the real world, by the swat of God,
on the South Fork of the Umpqua,
in the dust and the heat, Granddaddy planted the trees
at fifty. We swam in the river.
We canned peaches, gathered walnuts
and the cemetery ribbons from the graveyard
in which Granddaddy dug the graves.
His farm is now a residential district
in a town called -- is it Winston? The maps
are wrong or my memory is. Or, is it
simply that my grandparents never quite
knew where they were -- like me
and the rest of the family. I see the covered bridge,
wooden and over to the left, as I stand at the edge
of Granddaddy's farm on the banks of the
rock-filled river where we swam, naked
brown kids in the sun, ate ripe peaches, the culls
from the hard-baked ground. Granddaddy never picked
a peach that wasn't ripe. He hand-wrapped each one
-- sold the boxed peaches from his rumble-seat.
The River, so the '99 map seems to indicate might have been
the Coquille -- but ah no! I see as I trace it east to the mountains
-- Rivers come down out of the mountains! Right? --
that the South Umpqua originates not too far
from Crater Lake and, for awhile, flows north, near Winston.
Then, apparently, it changes its name to Coquille.
From the old wind-weathered grey cottage,
we skipped past the peaches I remember calling
"the Polly Parrots" -- white peaches, new then --
and through the dust down and into the river.
We actually never made apple butter there.
We were too busy canning peaches.
But it was there, during the frugality of the depression,
the habit of culling began: canning, preserving,
respect for the food we ate. Nobody but I, it seems, picks up
culls from the sidewalks now. The dust, too, is gone.
I call it my Laughing Buddha in the desert shot
-- by a loving Greek in Palm Springs.
Along with apple butter and the bones of my mother,
there've been too many Buddhas in my life:
Quan Yin and the whole mob, compassionate women.
Ardhanarisvara, part male, the wild god Shiva
tries to paw away Oregon from the map.
Long-legged, blue-eyed, adolescent cat without peer,
scratch away the apple butter of my life --
and the chocolate drops.
The sun through the cottonwoods
rivets my life to the present light and shadow,
life and death, at one with the sweet/tart of brown
apple butter. I've made enough to give away to the few
friends I have stationed in this world
between the flame and the pot.
THE PERUVIAN MUSE'S BONNET
POETRY + MUSIC + ESSAYS + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART + INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO