by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt
a digitally altered photograph
taken and altered by me
click image to view larger.
Feeling Like Myself
I need to write a narrative poem for class. Every time I try to think about it, I think of the hummingbird grove in my dream. But that seems more lyric than narrative. And besides, how could I communicate the thing that made the dream special, the joy of it, without sounding clichéd or maudlin etc.? Everything about the dream shouts cliché But the feeling of the dream (or the vision, since I wasn’t actually sleeping) was anything but clichéd to me. The twisted fairy trees on a hill that looks like a print, a perfect arc of circle with the magical trees and their bright saturated glowing colors.
I am at Pier Park. They are predicting rain and thunderstorms, but it isn't raining yet. The sky is dark, cloudy, with thunderous looking clouds and it's windy and cold. And am not dressed warmly enough and may have to go home early.
Again, I think about the narrative poem, the rainbow trees, the humming birds. About the very dark horizon. Ships going by, cold wind batters me, the water that seems opaque rather than transparent, a kind of pale grey green. My hands are cold in this big wind.
I am interested in the detritus that collects in the corners, balls, water bottles, dead fish, lakeweed, driftwood, trash. Two geese hiss at me. I hiss back, circling around them to give them some space.
I see rain at a distance, clearly visible against brighter clouds behind it, grey streaks of rain slanting in the wind, pretty, but I'm already cold and not eager to get wet.
The rain comes closer and all seems to be coming from a single cloud that is almost over me. I wonder what makes one cloud rain and another not rain. The water at the edge of the beach as the waves retreat almost seems to be glowing and I realize it is the pinky beige clouds behind the rain cloud. On the beach I find the breast bone of a large bird, very light and dry, like the keel of a ship. I find a plastic rake and a bobber and an empty snail shell. I see a bleached pail, a chartreuse plastic cup and trash.
The beach has grown, accreted. People have been dumping trash here, which is sad. The natural trash, the flotsam and jetsam, is bad enough, but black bags of crap, parts of an old trunk, things like that, have been brought and deliberately left.
On the beach, I see lots of tennis balls. A dead goose, a live starling, a pink action figure (toy), tons of zebra mussel shells, driftwood, trash. Multiple bobbers. Red and white, da-glo yellow and white. Two geese are honking at me. I want to walk the length of the expanded beach. The pink action figure is an ape with its mouth open. There is a yellow plastic pistol, a squirt gun, I guess. Large clamshells, too. Mints, touch-me-nots growing. Black peppermint. Grass and sedges. A fishing pole with a reel still attached, half buried in the sand. Plastic bags and cups, beer and soda cans. My feet, with brand new sandals, sink into pockets of rot. Rope, yellow and black nylon rope wound around some wood. I get zebra mussel shells and crud in my sandals. A colorful beach towel, half-rotted. Wow! The beach has really accreted (grown) since I was last here, much more than I thought. It is so much lonmger than it was! A soccer ball, clean and good looking, and more tennis balls, good and bad and half buried. Lots of birds flitting about. A fishing net (seine type, with big holes for big fish). I find a dead bird, maybe a grebe (black head, long beak, grey feathers, partly rotted.) I try to photograph it with Fiona, the W3, but cannot see it on the view screen, so I try again with Pandora. But Pandora can't get far enough away.
I walk to the very end of the expanded beach. There are more dead bird and live bird and mussel shells and sand and something that looks like a collapsed pup tent and I walk until beech disappears under the water and head back to look for a place to climb up. For no particular reason, I pick up a faded, once red plastic thing that looks like a spring, but isn't. I put it in my pocket. Then I pick up a snail shell, but when I can't determine if it dead, I put it back.
Small succulent plants grow in the rocks. I can't remember their names. They have yellow flowers, but are not flowering yet. The dandelions are. The birds I on the beach so far were starlings, grackles, robins, ducks, geese. Now, however, I see a tern. Between the beach and the lakewall, there are ponds and phragmites. I see another dead bird. I walk down onto the lakewall to try and see it. It may be a pigeon or a gull, difficult to tell, half buried as it is. In some spots, the ponds between the wall and beach are very black. The older back parts of the beach have common evening primrose and willows growing on it.
Even though I am cold and alone, I feel happy here in a melancholy way. Out on the stormy windy lake are three of those 4H sailboats, looking forlorn, clinging together, with a man shouting orders. And here comes the rain again. And, there it goes.
My new sandals are now full of sand, mussel shells, crud, and sludge. That's how I know they're mine. I am really really really glad the rain stopped and I was able to walk on the wild beach in the wind. I feel like myself, for a change.
I can't let go of the dream in order to imagine another subject for a poem, so I decide to write it and see what happens. I sit on the lake wall and write a poem from my dream.
*A Promise of Apples*
You walk all day in the rain; the wind beats against you,
reddens your hands and face, dries your eyeballs. Your legs
feel like concrete, hardening in its molds. You want to sit
to lie down, to sleep, but you haven't arrived yet. You must continue,
step after step after step. The soles of your feet ache.
You approach a hill that rises in a round hump toward
the setting sun. Fire rims each of hundreds of ancient
twisted apple trees. Each blossom
explodes into flame, and hundreds of hummingbirds
glow with ethereal light. Your hair, loose, and floating
around your face, burns and burns without turning to ash
The humming bird hang suspended, then flit from flower
to flaming flower. The colors deepen in the sky and the trees
and blossoms and birds take on impossible hues.
You forget your fatigue and stand staring. The hummingbirds
have tiny voices, but so many of them sing that the grove
reverberates with the sound and color and smell of joy.
You taste the promise of apples.
1st draft 2014051-1500
This is the first draft. I have now written 7 drafts. I don’t want to post it again until I finish it. I’ve changed the name, the time of day and other things—it’s almost turning into a real poem.
by Mary Stebbins Taitt,
digitally altered photograph (taken and altered by me)