Friday, April 20, 2012

Another Crystal Ship Is Going Down

[for the poet John Keats]

“ whose name was writ in water”

for Immortal, Timeless Poetry…and the children-                            
for whom it was all and will be, written down.
and not forgotten…

“The very music of the name has gone…”

John Keats, Endymion

and for Dr. Robert J. Connelly

another crystal ship is going down
there where the violet waters cannot reach the sun
or where, the bargained-over heart
is run aground
no longer feeling anything at all
for the Attic messengers berated and                        

berated and  
thrown overboard
in waters that won’t register the sound
of this bleak sowing.

the moon on bartered waters gives no light.
dim are the trees that used to
green the shore.                                                                                                  
jingoistic captains seize the day:
cueing the numb musicians on the deck
for one last, auctioned song
to bear doomed passengers along
cold, flooded passageways.

we’re losing time and memory every day
observing the Grail float by us on the Tides
and willing it all away to starfish
while we just hang on in the frozen waters
to the driftwood prayers
we must remember…

“Our Father…

another crystal ship is going down-
another and another – everywhere -
alive with diamond words…
that must be spared
though we’re -  just – ballast - to them:

the odd Ringmasters crowing
at the glint of Beauty drowned
and going down
they’ll claim -but it’s not true-
in Ophelia-coloured waters=

Not - this - time.

for we have heard-

though half-awake
the mist-bright mermaids surging Home
and we may see, half-blinded through our tears-
that when curbed lovely words
disintegrate – they cry out in soft rains:

“Hallowed be thy Name”…

however long we wait, we wait

at the edge of these coiled waters-
clear on their Return on the evening's tide.

pearl were the hulls
now singing on their way, so “optional”.
sheer Pearl, the tears of God
who only sent them all  

(“Deliver Us From Evil…”)

to save our children
in the glacial days ahead…
treading implacable waters…

mary angela douglas 18-20 april 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

And Now The Commedia Del'Arte Is Leaving

“the bruised reed He will not break.”
-The New Testament

to my mother – Mary Adalyn Young-Douglas
 and to my grandparents, Lucy and Milton B. Young
and for Mrs. W.R. (“Addie”) White, my Great-Grandmother whom I remember when she
was 99 and I was 6.
In Memoriam

for the long-ago, lost beauty of the earth.
the glory of the skies.

You know the best part: “for the Love which from our birth-
Over and around us lies…”

\“pluck one string, and a Thousand will ring.
-“Pickin’ On a Harp with a Golden String” (old song)

and now the commedia del’arte is leaving                                 
and packing up the wagon with the scarlet wheels
and I’m behind the tempo in the music                        
and the cotton-candy reels

in mulberry dress socks from grade-school-
in a dress of smocked linen you shouldn’t wear in the rain
unless to water the myriad rosebuds scattered

on the yoke and trailing off mysteriously
in lavish embroidery, pink-starred, into the grass…
ignoring the envious who stare but not the little children

out on their mayflowering spree and
pitching rose petals all the way from the lower grades
to Kingdom Come, and sheared soft marigolds, wildly

on a day- after the day - before the Fair.
“do you have blue ribbon words”
I would have said to any

Peddler on that road-
“or small white-wicker pocket-books
fastened with bunches of life-like cherries?”

for it was a jam=bright day and it seemed possible
to always be reading the Classics twice-over
after the newspaper comics came-and before supper.

communion is over but we’re left dazzled in
polished cotton’s grape-juiced, Sunday seam
(don’t get that all over your dress; it won’t come out)

and now we’ve finished my Grandfather’s golden
scrambled eggs
Grandmother calls “welsh-rarebit”

we think the Easter Bunny invented it.
but we keep it to ourselves
the way children do when they’re sure

they solved the riddle without help
like a shoestring happiness tied.
it’s all in the pronunciation.

“Enunciate,” she says - showing us How.
We Can Now Leave the Table
Having Been Measured For Fullness

By the Grandfather’s Invisible Food-In-Your
Stomach-Level Measuring Machine.
(if you get up too soon he says, “not yet,

you’re only half-full…”)
so we keep asking, “how about now-“
so earnestly, and “now?”, five seconds later-

believing he can see straight through and tell:
“three-quarters full”, he smiles as we fold pink
damask napkins down and skip away…

“Don’t Kill the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg”
she says when she gets tired from teaching us manners,
fairytales and the value of Putting It Back Where You Got

It In the First Place, memorizing the Beatitudes.
after  teaching piano all day.
but she’s in rose taffeta for recitals

or playing Liszt like an angel on a wash-day for my Grandfather
tipped back in his leather chair, tired out from working for the V.A.

for whom she’s washing now all the sorrow out of the house with
pianistic brilliance I cannot explain
and no clothes-pins-A Wash-Day Miracle who could improve on.

how soon the glittering hours give way
to pumpkins  with the wheels coming off  in the gravel.
you know the story yourself, don’t you,

from your own childhood spent looking everywhere for milky quartz
on your own time. not knowing what can be taken and not brought back
while you're away…just in the backyard.

in spring, my mother died
leaving me the cat from Dick Whittington-
mysterious improvisations

for an imaginary piano:
small yet elegant and just for me with pale
roses scrolled on glassy ebony-a mermaid’s music-stand;

pink alabaster, paper-weighted hearts
a dime a dozen at the world’s finest dime-store
and picture hats, for every-day.

all her poems, tied up with blue silk ribbons…
and lilac swayed by the unseen.
letters with fleecy details

bright and clear as summer clouds.
or stained glass Christmas ornamentation
to put all those cathedrals in the shade.

a lasting love.
I would have sent her one more superlative
construction=paper Valentine-bright red and

paper doilied, dolled and gliitered, too,- Heart-
if I had just known when
she was going away…

here’s my too-late, unbridal bouquet-tossed backwards
over the shoulder, away from the withering Sun-
of moss-cooled pale white-

violet  violets from the Arkansas woods
with a few choice gardenias
overwhelmingly perfumed

for the overwhelming sadness of knowing
that there was no amethyst marquee advising:
Another Crystal Ship Has Gone Down.

“My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”

so what gave them permission
year after failing year

to diagnose her Kingdoms with no reprieve in sight
for they were lovely…
every one, unique as drops of snowlight. I have the letters and the 

soul to prove it.
let the question remain
for those who know how to answer

and not in lame psch-pop-while rifling through the files
they cannot own-
with burdens of their own

I must not judge.
as far as making the soul more accessible
to pounding

(or uniform in texture)
tracking it through the System from childhood on, let’s just say
I’m not the one well-schooled enough to turn it all into pies, 

rolling out
the “well-balanced” dough in the spic-and-span Normative Kitchen
with the requisite cookie cutters close at hand, copper-kettle all 

lined up
icing in colors of the rainbow squeezed out, in the end with the same rosettes:

fantastic! Kudos to the chefs whoever they are.
nor will I walk away or just “move on” impressing
whoever’s watching with my own“stability” in a “crisis”

when the heartbeat of gorgeous
Poetry drops dead on any summer day
for any individual King or Queen too suddenly led away and 

from their own simplicity in unending rains-
these are the real and every day occuring crimes against humanity.

visibly sanctioned, oh my God.
oh, but now-
let the blood-orange gladiola sing

though heaped up by God knows who on
the cream-colored Altars and for what reasons-
for her real exit can never be reclaimed.

this paper work’s final.
let Gossip die instead. and not be mourned
by True Believers on a roll all over, dressed in

flowered organza, hats at Eastertime-
and perfect gloves, solicitous and cruel-
anytime that you look up to see them, searching frantically

for the telltale signs in you
they thought they saw in her: pathetic, envious gerbils
stoking the silliest wheels of hell in silk from crown to foot

impeccably finding sickness where there is none-
how did you lose your dignity Christ died for?
leave my soul alone.

un-blessed are you…the murderers of Beauty you gush
you “just adore”…
and unaware that no one listens anymore

when you get up to speak.
May God send you better hobbies!
I dreamed of blizzards for days when she was gone-

but it was still summer, I remember-
when I gathered bittersweet for the table-
trying to make up for the charcoal lentils at supper

{Reading Again, I’m Proud to Say but needing some
Non-stick Cookware, Possibly)
with day-old huckleberry coffee-cake from the grocery

store down the street.
remember the summer they painted it pink and pea-green?
(the store, not the coffee cake)

1960’s architecture…with the space-age arches;
a few same scrubby pines scribbled in on the architect’s Design.
where’s the Tang, drink of astronauts.

everyone thinks their childhood was unique
but who else in the English-speaking world
quoted Tennyson, whenever the dog sneezed,

or the Grandfather-
like my Grandparents did (his sneeze was like a freight
train whistling through enormous echoing caverns

and scared the dog so much-
when she jumped up, it
made her flop-ears bounce and curl anew, almost like Disney’s 

“Dumbo”, momentarily)
we had hopes she’d fly…
if it just happened once at a 45 degree angle, we dreamed-

it could happen even more dramatically than ever
right there in our own living room
automatically cueing  my grandparents, taking turns…

“Blow, bugle, blow-
Set the wild echoes flying…”
until we doubled up with laughter on the Grand Scale

felicitous phrase (the laughter, not the Tennyson)
though I am partial to "now the crimson petal…"
Banner Headline in the Gazette:  Local Dog Flies First Time Ever, 

Beating the Soviets To It
And underneath, in smaller type: new sneeze-propulsion does the trick

And in a sideBar: Unassuming Pooch Makes Good; Talk of Nobel Prize. Dog: "No Comment" 
and now they’re singing all on a summer day

for our best entertainment
“Pickin’ on a Harp with a Golden String…”
“you won’t need your cherry shawl, after all-

once you get up here
my mother called down new
cherry-pie balconies, all her own-

sweetly breaking into my reveries-
"over there! the green house on Monroe Street, 115,"
Beyond all curb appeal now and

floating mystically high atop
lost Little Rock cummulo-stratus, maybe, cirrus clouds-
they’ve drifted far afield

to hover above my current address, out-of-state
“Can you see the Gazette from there?”
I queried-

“can you see me
in the dear old days beyond recall”?
“right now! it’s coming into view…

run down to the store, honey, and get me some cherry-vanilla,:
4 cones, soft-serve swirled for appetizers"; horse-doovers,
Gramp would say, trying not to laugh at his own joke.

but knowing that Grandmother always will…
“we’re having minute steaks with French dressing.
fruit cocktail for dessert, the kind with extra cherries;

and lima beans. save the gooseberries for your sister and the color pink.
then we can say her dessert was different;

we’ll call it:  ‘gooseberries in a cloud.’”
“I’m wishing her diamond dresses and whole houses strung
with prisms”

“it’s a start,” my Mama said. “but we’ll need pork-chops, too.
have a strawberry tart. or pink-iced cornbread…”
Angels floated down with them after I chose.

“there’s cranberry Trilby by the pailful, so save some
room and let’s be
Merry and talk in Esperanto,” (M-a-r-y, I thought, to make her smile

since we have the same first name and she can almost read my mind.
she’s paring the potatoes backwards
but who cares:

and singing La Traviata, the whole thing
from start to finish,- filling the greenwood
full of hawthorned song. you know, she can.

I would  have flunked out on
Pineapple frappe homework, myself-
that winter in home-ec-

if Grandmother hadn’t stayed up overnight-
and made it for me:
aware of my propensity to Drop Things and mix

up the ingredients horribly encrusting the Double-Boiler
gazing into Space (so crowded with possibilities…)-
thus freeing up my time for the Brontes and E. Bsrrett-

in Chemistry I was excused from experiments entirely-
after a few trial runs.
making it up with essays

thanks to the nuns who loved God-
but wanted to remain on earth a little longer
and not be done-away-with by a 4 ft. ll klutzy non-Catholic.

Day student.dreamy-eyed over the Sacred Heart and far
Too Shy. (says who)
in earlier news…

(“Thank you, Mrs. Young”, the teacher’s note
read that accompanied her dishes home-.
“we thoroughly enjoyed the jeweled fruit

cookies and the pineapple frappe you made for us
yesterday for Angela’s assignment”)
did she have to put it that way, my Grandma said-

reading, like me, the puff-pastry snippiness set between-the-lines-
derailing a pristine thank you note on flowered, scented paper,
perfectly done- put a fork in it.

but how could I not take heart-
despite the C minus  
living as I did in a household

where people were apt to break into
the “jitterbug”
while a capella singing

“Flat-Foot Floogie with the Floy Floy…”
whenever they were even moderately happy
And Right in the Middle of the Living Room

In Front of the Picture Window with the
Drapes Open
and the girl-scouts walking this way, up our street…

so unsuspecting…their sashes chock-full of cooking badges
earned in the wilderness-
“Great-Grandmother, burned the toast again,

letting the preserves boil over on the stove.
But nothing really boils over Here.
She’s out back eating strawberries by the bushel

and we can’t stop her.” Mama laughed
just like before, while vacuuming the clouds.
“how do you think she lived to be 99?

it had to be the strawberries.
not the heavy cream. at least she could crochet.  and ride
horseback anywhere-“ “I’m right here,” said Sweet Adeline

“feeding the chickens “ in a dress that swept the ground, fringed with the Pleiades
we peeked through the sugar glass end of the Panoramic Easter Egg 

to see
the chickens eating strawberries, too. bye to the jelly.
and Addie reviewing her sepia inscribed autograph album-

the one I used to look through on the family bookshelf
because it was sealed with Victorian hands clasping the sweet peas

“don’t pack your sweater,
Angela,” Grandmother whispered
“not even your Juliet-cap.  

Bring your books –“
out-guessing my second-guesses
like she used to, and

slipping me a Hershey bar
through the luminous crevices in the ceiling
“have you dusted lately?”

“I didn’t imagine you’d inspect the ceiling.”
“Don’t eat that Hershey Bar all at once – but
Square – by – Square-

it’ll last longer.”
as though I were home from School and 6 years old-
all set for the Mickey Mouse Club on TV at

49 Belmont Drive-
or Shirley Temple Theatre’s
sequined programming shimmering

beyond what the heart could even sigh over-
even in black and white on NBC.
I’m still Unmapped like the Land of Green Ginger.

I day-dreamed over my shredded wheat-the last shred left=munched slowly
“Fools Names and Fools Faces…don’t dawdle over your breakfast”

-“or your Christmas presents.
“and you’re still eating your oatmeal every-day,
aren’t you,

with its little lake of butter and cream
poured nicely from a milk-glass pitcher, hobnailed?
are you practicing? Reading John 14?

I’ve planted mustard-seed for you
Where the cobblestones shine like honeycomb for the Lord
even without sweeping…  

I met Charles Lamb on Friday (your time) and we had raspberry sherbet.
'Be good sweet maid, let those who will be clever.'

(no wonder, I thought; you quoted him so much-
did he say, “life is not a bowl of cherries,” too?’)
(I heard that, Grandmother said rather parenthetically-

-I forgot she could do that-)
“I haven’t seen your home-ec teacher yet-
but then, there are many mansions-

maybe I’ll drop by there with some pineapple frappe…
or pink-lemonade cake I didn’t make from scratch…
N00o, Thank You, Betty Crocker.

we’ve started living in that old house
with the fan-tailed St. Cecilia window.
when the light of God pours through

the chinaberry tree it filters-
(I’ve only “seen” a chinaberry tree in Conrad Aiken)
there’s fine little pools of amethyst and rose

all over everything, even the throw pillows-
the ones we got with the Green Stamps
you pasted in on Saturdays with your sister.

and the dog gets petunia-colored, too,
as she’s heading home like the cows used to-
when we had that dairy and delivered milk

in a surrey - over in Prescott
-to your Grandfather’s chair and
five times fluffier than you’ll remember…

(I’m starting to get sleepy and confused-
like Alice in her Wonderlands - Did we have fluffy cows?)
Does Somebody need a nap…and a Danish wedding cookie or two?

with nothing else to do until we want to-
we’re sipping Coke Floats thickly
through peppermint-striped straws    

and eating pink Divinity by the handfuls.
(“3/4 full, now…”)
“we just  go on from glory to glory…

what did you say? Did I bring you some Lily Fields perfume?
Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out"
she smiled, handing me a package wrapped in a star

or candy-bar silver foil;
as I said, “Thank You, Grandmother.”
“don’t speak with your mouth full, child-

sit up straight“-
so I munched happily still, on
bread and butter pickles, Vienna sausages

and endless Milky Ways- but
as we spoke between the worlds
I saw the deep clouds roiling in,
trying not to worry…we’d all lose touch this soon, again-
“You aren’t sugar, you won’t melt”
(now how did I know that line was next)

I heard her in the next room over
Rummaging in her dresser drawers
“Now where did I put these…”

for gold-wrapped chocolate coins in a
net more golden leftover from some Christmas, years before
and fresh as ever (you try one).

“here, honey, you might need these at least until
your Food Stamps come, to tide you over.
you’ll never guess, the Commedia del’arte just showed up

by the snow-ball bushes in the yard
with Life Magazines!  and all the flowers heaped up,
 leftover from Last Spring-“

“it must be winter now, -  Outside…” I said,
as soft as snow and almost, to myself-
“I knew He’d never let them go-

Now they’ll be beautiful, forever!”
she smiled her most artistic smile and said-                
while through my tears

her sherry earrings sparkled:

that’s Some Story."

mary angela douglas 14-18  april 2012                           


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cinderella. Cendrillon...

On the memory of seeing Mary Pickford’s “Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper” on a children’s toy projector one silent film childhood Christmas; the companion piece was a Mickey Mouse short feature; my father was driven to desperation every time he was asked to thread that impossibly small machine (and we asked him a lot).

to my mother and father for separate beautiful reasons -                             
feather-stitching these glass shadows       
silent frame by frame
how could you help but wonder                 
later on
what all the shattering was for?

then you were telling us stories
in the dark green garden chair…
let it not be said
that is where the story ends…
Cinderella.  Cendrillon.

though it may not be magic-
you can't be blamed for
storms on a distant sun
am I the only one who sees

sunspots seeping through
the mystical rustling in the orchards-
where did they come from?

where did you?

here are the crystals, sequined- still-
in my lost hand- you may find missing
from your gown, your head, your heart
soft lemon afternoons like the ones in Renoir.
somehow, it all gets scattered in the dark
and you wonder where to stand
in a flickering brilliant language seldom used
except in a few newsreel half-projections
on the wall-the year in semi-review-
whose year was that?
it wasn't mine-
though it might be said
and surely was, that
music was her last diadem,
even when she fled
leaving all Enchantment behind her-
so they said-
and her bright skirts swirling
like the dream of Light itself
in a receding universe

and tearing her pale
raspberry satin hem-
it must have been that colour…                
on every hazel twig in sight
barely above ground...

God lives in the remnants
so she smiles, opening her birthday gifts
of clocks that never chime;
putting in water the bunches of violets
that last and last...
you cannot fail to notice, even now,                      
that earliest sparkling is best and the
last to leave the party under the trees she says to
her crystal children on the breeze

the one with the paper lanterns
no longer living.

my darlings, don’t get lost
beyond the pink glass frosted
fawn on the walnut what-not…
so we promised not to-
and to live on where rose curtains swayed
Cinderella.  Cendrillon…
shine out of sight, yourself, alone-
you'll know more than angels in
the end for you are good-

the best clue in all the kingdom
after a lifetime spent 
rinsing out your pale peach
print again and again
hoping not to be found but just to be left
here dreaming…

and slipping the slipper carefully
into an apron of cloud…

mary angela douglas 9 april 2012

Note to Reader:  It has come to my embarrassed attention that I
have pronounced the word "Cendrillon" in an imaginary accent
but I am leaving it that way because I cannot hope to duplicate the
coincidental special effects in the video.  Does it help if I listen to Debussy and Ravel art songs continually? I hope so...