Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Garden of Verse: A September Harvest Home

Among the nursery rhymes most of us are familiar with, there's a special kick in recalling the Muffin Man who lives on Drury Lane. Maybe, as Dick Allen says in his poem "Do You Know the Muffin Man?":
There’s a sort of Zen to him,
like loss rerouted to gain,

Among the varieties of the Muffin Man's wares the poem cites,
I'm particularly enamored of

The ultimate muffins, the muffins
to die for, the muffins of fame,

the muffins of Meaning, the muffins
none can explain,

In an issue with an optional food theme, I'm glad September's Verse-Virtual remembers the gifts of the Muffin Man. Elevenses, anyone?  

Joyce Brown offers two perfectly wise poems in the September issue. In "Food Supply," she offers us the advantages of a goat-like approach to food.
In a perfect world,
we would eat like goats,
anything at hand —
soap, soup cans, weeds.

She cinches the case for me by adding to the goat's diet
 yesterday’s New York Times.

I so wish I could see the Sunday papers instead of rounding them up for recycling. 
Equally good advice can be found in "Rackets." 
Your opponent hits the ball with force.
Relax your grip a bit, take off some pace.
Control, not power, is the smarter course.

I'll try to remember that next time I find myself in a political disagreement. I've never played tennis, but the advice derived there from the game makes so much sense for the back-and-forth of life. The poem's flexible rhyming scheme appears to illustrate its meaning.  Not all of the poem's rhymes land hard. Some land soft, and some land near. 

....Soft hands!
When life comes at you hard,
prepare to move and change your plans. 
Plenty of wisdom as well in David Chorlton's series, "Poems from the Rainforest." Especially in "After the Rainforest," when the landscape invites us to see the oneness in inter-dependent life.

Whatever is here keeps changing: insects
turn into leaves; the leaves
become ants; the ants turn into red mounds
that burn into the ground, and the rain
that falls on everything              
turns into trees.

In this "extreme drought" summer, the rain in our little backyard forest came from the mouth of the hose or the sprinkler, but the plants I helped keep alive kept me cool, offering shade and taking the greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. And I was particularly cheered by these words from the poet on the gain won by encountering the rainforest:
[you] return to your other world with the ancient strength of animals in your every step.

Wisdom in encountering the wild is a theme in Sylvia Cavanaugh's poem "Harvest." Describing autumn in "a patch of neglected wood" -- a landscape I'm drawn to myself -- the poem suggests the natural religion of outdoor spaces. 

A type of folk Mass
unfolds in this sun dappled cathedral, the
absorption of one body into another, the face
of the orb cheerful, even after the sudden drop down
to earth.

From there the poem picks up its opening image of an old apple tree, works it through Eve's choice and leaves us with an evocation of the search for windfall fruit amid "a loam tasting of lost apple." A marvelously unified poem. 

There's wisdom and meaning in the autumn ritual of orchard apple-picking as well, as Firestone Feinberg's homage to this family activity tells us: "Every apples takes you home."

These poems and more can be found at http://www.verse-virtual.com/poems-and-articles.html