The popcorn dance, p.1
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The Popcorn Dance
The Popcorn Dance

  Poems

  Charles Hibbard

  Copyright 2015 Charles Hibbard

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  1. Medicine Bundle

  Get one or more representatives of the plant kingdom... Get one or more representatives of the mineral kingdom... Get one or more representatives of the animal kingdom... Get one or more representatives of the technical kingdom...

  –“Barefoot Windwalker,” The Sacred Bundle

  Jeffrey pine to sift the night air,

  gray half moon surveilling,

  an eclipse of pigeons,

  steel rails bright with rolling...

  Or maybe:

  Parallel green ridges hem

  a sash, or slash, of blue lake,

  loon’s wobbling wail

  an urgent curve of sail...

  No, wait:

  Sprigs of sage, winter-dry,

  twinned heart of crystal calcite,

  clump of fur from vanished cat,

  alarm clock’s sleepless eye...

  One last try:

  Squash blossoms – two,

  blue opal with embers,

  your gaze turned my way.

  Contrail. Chime of e-mail.

  2. Blue Reverie, 1938

  One evening in midtown

  saxophonist to the microphone

  to coil his latest dream

  around this plodding 4

  and yank it off its feet –

  only, a few bars on,

  to stand it up again

  and saunter away with it

  hand in hand – alien streams,

  each from its unknown

  country, predestined meet

  and flow together down

  toward seas they never reach.

  3. Torch Lake Dream

  The dream is silent

  like old wavering glass

  a moving mesh of light

  drawn on green sands

  of the lake bottom.

  The boat, high-sided

  and narrow, oarless,

  barely rocks on a perfect

  regularity of ripples.

  Faint voice of water.

 

  Buried below

  that transparency

  the world before me

  enigmatic as being.

  It will be still

  long after I step to shore

  4. Tornado Warning

  Piles of black clouds to the west

  but no worries. After all

  this is not Kansas.

  We’re hungry

  our phones need charging

  some coffee would be nice.

  At 3 p.m. the trees begin to bow.

  Outside the window

  low frayed cloud hems drag

  some left, some right.

  Rotation is implied.

  Leaves scatter, then branches

  a tree or two flies by.

  In the bushes a flash of gold:

  one heedless butterfly

  bright on the backdrop of storm

  wobbles in evasive loops

  looking for whatever they look for.

  Then the curtain of rain.

  5. Santa Clara Station

  Hem of black sky

  staked down all around

  by sodium lamps

  black sky

  one cricket

  black sky

  one cricket

  dongdong–dongdong

  dongdong–dongdong

  dongdong–dongdong

  dongdong–dongdong

  Union Pacific

  thirty-three weary

  teen-tagged cars

  shaking

  screamslam of brakes

  shivercrash

  down rolling line

  rolling line

  rolling line

  rolling line

  red tail light

  red light shrinking

  red light

  black sky

  black sky

  black sky

  one cricket

  6. After Cocktails with Circe

  Always the same thought

  just inside the midnight door:

  Shall I admit to being home yet?

  Her knitting on the chair

  where she left it tonight

  my sweater nearly done

  and she sitting on the bed

  I built some years ago

  lowering a nightgown over her head.

  Her softening figure glows

  in lamplight as she waits.

  Closing my eyes to that vision

  (as every evening of late)

  I’ll just draw out this thread

  and quietly ravel the dozen rows

  she stitched today from the shrinking

  skein of her patience. We both know

  she knows. Yet this rewinding

  might delay the inevitable

  myth-making for one more day.

  7. My First Cat

  My first cat

  had short gray fur and white paws.

  Dropped and deserted by her mother

  on filthy city streets

  what chance did she have?

  Clumsy as a rhino

  never understood the box

  she earned my wrath

  or tolerance at best.

  She got her two squares a day

  but everyone yelled at her

  including later cats.

  Except my third girlfriend

  who despite her own sleek body

  I now see felt some bond

  with that stumbling innocent

  and is now, decades after

  ditching me, an old lady

  under siege in Israel.

  8. Food Bank Volunteers

  Rectangular swimmers

  silvered up from Arctic waters

  battered fried and bagged

  in frosted plastic, frozen still

  in jumbled panicky schools.

  What we’ll do today to be saved:

  label the bags as fish

  and seal those cornered pucks

  in cardboard aquariums

  for shipping to empty kitchens.

  We have uneasy dreams

  of rainy deserted seas

  but like all those others

  we must feed

  if we have to we eat up

  every living thing on earth.

  9. In This Economy II

  Human nature abhors

  a vacuum. Every hole

  must be dug

  and then filled,

  the patient soil

  once more

  spread its thighs

  so from every pit

  the bones may unfold

  and rise to their feet

  veiled in black nets

  and the city

  the whole world

  walk out from under us.

  10. Alger WA

  Before 7

  before the sun

  a drapery of fog

  over Skagit wetlands.

  Horses hang their heads

  as I forage for my breakfast

  in thorny thickets by the old

  redundant highway. The rusty guard dog

  who slept through my voyage out

  on my return takes issue with

  my quasi-legal berries

  and loudly charges.

  We talk.

  His coat is soaked with mist.

  11. Rose Like a Semaphore

  Rose like a semaphore

  in the morning gloom

  when briefly touched

  tall firm as back

  in the day a smooth

  yearning curve aglow

  with blood. Too transient

  signal – there would be life

  yet

  12. 70

  Pushing 70

  there's a lot of walking

  backward counting

  up (not yet down) the days

  nights and afternoons

  cars and campfires

  schoolrooms kisses

  risings retirings and fondling

  deadpan beads of the retreating

  rosary wondering if

  shear numbers

  can sum to some

  kind of life.

  13. Hier ist kein warum

  I once spent weeks

  in a pit blocked by cave-in

  beneath a mile of rock.

  A bite of rotten meat

  and one of dry bread,

  a swig of water for each of us

  when it seemed a day

  had passed. Adrift in black

  my friends were nothing

  but smells and sad voices.

  Our deaths were real

  so when rescue arrived,

  miracles, too, were real

  and seemed to matter.

  We knew that death had done

  its worst, that our lives

  now could not be canceled.

  Yet here I am, 50 years on:

  wifed, childed, grandchilded,

  a trembling wreck

  laid out on a messy bed.

  That other was at least

  a death worthy of a song.

  This is nothing. Not dying,

  but dying out, a guttering.

  And over this twisted wick

  just a thread of smoke

  will spiral up and be gone.

  14. In the British Library

  More than a century ago

  a young boy first netted the song

  of the white-rumped shama –

  a few ripples engraved in wax.

  A hundred generations back

  but you can hear it today

  wraith of a vanished forest

  calling down a gallery dimmed

  to honor the Magna Carta

  and other artifacts.

  Before that, all birds are still.

  We have only hearsay

  that they sang at all.

  But imagine a fine spring day

  and the shama singing something like

  Once again Love, that loosener of limbs,

  bittersweet and feral, seizes me

  He was celebrated

  in his time, in a small world

  and his songs were all flung

  without price to the wind

  shredded

  whirled away.

  He was beautiful and young

  manyskilled

  mythweaver

  He goes his way among dim shapes. Having been breathed out

  I Don’t Think We’re in California Any More

  15. Corona Heights

  At three in the morning

  you’re lying awake wondering

  when can I get up there

  once more? Time is short.

  I need to see it all

  once more: the stony

  little peak, the summer-dry grass,

  the south bay frozen

  in distance. To see the warblers

  framed in the Red Gum trees.

  At the same time you know

  with 3 a.m. assurance

  there’s no point.

  You’ve seen all you can see.

  No matter how hard you look

  you will not fix it

  and that hill, those warblers,

  that urgent wind from the ocean

  can never be your present again.

  16. Twilight

  Slow tug shoves a line of barges

  upriver in cold twilight.

  Quieter than whispered confidence

  the curling water,

  who knows how many miles?

  But mooring time has come.

  The engine slows.

  A silent figure strolls

  forward along the cargo

  to tie up for the night.

  Undulating, his wake

  overtakes him,

  careless tail of consequence,

  and moves on up the river.

  17. 2014: Finding My Roots

  I see a bed

  with me in it

  by myself

  a window

  and outside it

  winter

  18. Twilight II

  Bare winter branches now

  leafed with cold starlings

  black against the sunset.

  They mass at dusk in rows

  of wind-stripped maples

  to gab and whistle

  at passersby plodding below

  and post their white memos

  to humanity on icy railings.

  It’s unknown how they pass

  the small dark hours

  but at sunrise they unfold,

  congratulate each other

  and drop back into the sky.

  19. Stained Glass Commission

  First, the warm studio

  refutes the freeze outside;

  then the jingling of crickets

  casts a spell against the snow.

  In the corner a little room of glass,

  where a drowsy lizard sprawls

  on a branch, enchanted by a lamp

  and lulled by that summer song.

  The glass artist stands

  in a jumble of color –

  his racks of thrift store plates

  and panes, saucers and shards

  of street debris. In his hand

  a glass of red wine radiates.

  Soft-voiced he says

  This could help make it

  feel your own, a piece

  to warm the walls

  and the unknown past

  of your new home.

  The lizard sharply turns our way

  then freezes, recalled

  by the flattery of the lamp.

  For now, eyes half closed,

  he ignores his carefree vassals

  the crickets, who sing

  and dance like popping corn

  on the heated sand below.

  20. Robert Street Bridge

  I think the mergansers

  prefer sunshine to clouds.

  How that light flatters the white

  of their sides as they convene

  in friendly crowds below the bridge!

  How it inspires the green

  of their crowns! Their feet

  paddling in the murk could be

  golden carp in a royal pond.

  Vanity alone would recommend

  the sun to them (and them to the sun).

  Perhaps they like only

  that it helps them see

  deeper in the dark river

  or draws the minnows upward.

  But I think they praise it

  for no known reason, just that

  the sudden rays rotate their day

  one hundred and eighty degrees.

  21. War Memorial Plaza

  A hot wind blows over the plaza hill

  this April Fool’s Day. But bronze soldiers

  stand about in the sudden spring,

  unappeasable as winter crows,

  dressed for any old war you can think of.

  They stare at the ground or the horizon,

  shouldering their obsolete weapons,

  helmets tilted back from furrowed brows,

  tired of their long, pointless watch.

  Above them the colors fly,

  snapping like small-arms fire

  as the spring wind charges down

  the slope toward the center of town.

  But the bronze soldiers will not be led.

  The far freeway’s river rush

  and clank of halyard on flagpole steel

  the only other sounds in this empty field.

  22. Storm Shelter

  Rain tonight they say

  and golf-ball-sized hail

  so open the kitchen window

  it opens up and out

  the full moon will rest

  on that mirror

  racing the clouds

  but nothing cold or wet

  can enter. There’s safety

  in that, and in the warmth

  of wet brick.

  Translations

  23. Little Diary of Aging (VIII)

  To the old

  come those nightly half-dreams,

  vague, illogical, that lead them

  here and there, since even

  decaying faculties at times

  demand an outing:

  and lost friends resurface

  amid sleepy wanderings

  in the stupor of surrendered being.

  But even here there’s something

  not entirely unaware –

  as when the boatman

  of the old Arno ferry,

  his vessel run ashore,

  bails out its bilges and dumps

  the water in the river,

  where it resumes its flow –

  the old, stale water

  swirling among the pilings,

  though the boat is aground

  there on the mudflat

  among the reeds.

  – Carlo Betocchi

  24. Summer

  And even for us

  vain summer

  drops in

  with all our greenest sins;

  here’s the breeze,

  an arid guest

  that makes a rustling

  among the magnolia leaves;

  and plays now

  its tranquil

  melody on the prow

  of every leaf, then goes,

  and spares the leaves

  and leaves

  the tree green,

 
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