Friday, November 25, 2011


A poem for the end of November and yet another year added to my ledger of days.  And in memory of Ruth Stone, who died just hours ago, at the age of 96.  She was and remains a poet who gives me the strength to celebrate an aging woman's vision and imagination.


go, the leaves try
to teach
me a thing or
two yet
about dying
as if I have not
seen enough
of  that falling
away to last
lifetimes of
wondering what if
I crumpled
and fell
to the ground,
who would look
at me, murmuring
oh, what a
departure, that
old woman floating
so gently
down onto
the compost pile.

from Catching Light, LSU Press

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Grave Stone

Primitive gravestone from the 1830's in the Smoky Mountains

          Grave Stone

So that the dead might always
be able to see mountains circled with clouds
and fog, spiraled by hawks and the currents
they ride, we bury each of our gone
ones as high as we can astride hillsides.
We bring to their chiseled names
flowers and muttered words, sometimes
our songs, if our throats have been loosened
from sorrow at last.  We lie down
in the spring grass beside them.  We stand
in the snow, all a'shiver with emptiness.
Summer we scatter our memories
over their slabs,  our dusty hands
opening onto another day's leave taking.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

El Dia de los Muertos, or, in our culture, All Souls Day

The second day of November is All Souls Day, or in Mexico and Central America, El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when our gone ones are honored with candles, their favorite foods, and memories of their lives with us.   My sister SW Georgian, Glenda Council Beall, remembers her kinfolk in this poem that seems a fitting expression of All Souls Day.   The closing line, "closed under sod upon a quiet hill" rings with the voices of the Romantic poets I love.   Glenda now lives in the WNC mountains, like me, over in Hayesville, where she has been active in the NC Writers Network West and now has her own writing circle (see below).  Her blog sites are well worth visiting.   

Stop the Trees from Growing

Thomas Wolfe said you can’t go home again,
but I came here today, to where Mother nurtured
my spirit and where Daddy kept the roof over my head;
where the fire warmed my bed at night, when winter winds
howled ‘round the corners of the old frame house
when this flat farm with ponds and pines was home.

It’s not the buildings all torn down, the homes of friends
that now hold dreams of families I don’t know ─ it is
the trees.
Nothing stopped the trees from growing, growing ever taller,
till they dwarfed the house, the barn, the back yard,
now a tiny garden towered over by  a lilac tree
a pear tree and one giant oak.

I traveled from what is and has been home for fifteen years,
to visit that which was, but is not home anymore.
Like you, Thomas Wolfe, I can’t go home again.
That place I once called home is gone.

Forever gone, except in memories that linger like lazy chimney smoke
spiraling through my mind, thoughts that surge a yearning deep within
to hear the laughing voices, see the kindly eyes – stilled voices, loving eyes,
closed under sod upon a quiet hill.

Glenda Beall grew up in southwest Georgia where the land is flat and the horizon green pines. Her home is now in western North Carolina where she feels she has always belonged. Her poetry chapbook, Now Might as Well be Then, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. Her poetry has appeared in Kakalak, 2009 Anthology of North Carolina Poets, as well as literary journals, Main Street Rag, Appalachian Heritage, and online journals, Wild Goose Poetry Review and Future Cycle Poetry. She is director and owner of Writers Circle, a studio fin Hayesville, NC for writing and writers. She also teaches at the John C. Campbell Folk School and Tri-County Community College.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


These powerful days around the Celtic New Year have always pulled at my soul.  Today is All Saints Day or All Hallows.  I remember a poem of Louise Gluck's that I loved many years ago.  I'd say it's haunted me ever since I first read it and remains a favorite, although I've found her later work less compelling.  My sequence HALLOWS follows Gluck's poem.  This was written for my grandmother, who is the "saint" in the second section;  the third honors All Souls Day, also known as El Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico and Central America.  For All Souls Day (tomorrow), I will share a poem by my friend Glenda Beall, who lives in Hayesville, North Carolina


Even now this landscape is assembling.
The hills darken. The oxen
Sleep in their blue yoke,
The fields having been
Picked clean, the sheaves
Bound evenly and piled at the roadside
Among cinquefoil, as the toothed moon rises:

This is the barrenness
Of harvest or pestilence
And the wife leaning out the window
With her hand extended, as in payment,
And the seeds
Distinct, gold, calling
Come here
Come here, little one

And the soul creeps out of the tree.

Louise Gluck



These leaves at my window,
death-speckled black oak and blood-maple,

fall to the earth into which
she was sealed, leaving me

to imagine I see through the hollows 
of what were her eyes how another day 

breaks on the backs of the scrub pines
that stand up to welcome it.

She was no saint.
She never fasted,
and if she prayed, 
I never heard her

aside from the Lawsy
she uttered as down
she sank onto the dark
of the chamber pot 
while I tried to be sleeping.

She stirred up the fire
to a roar every morning and beat
the dough smooth, shoved it into the oven
to bake and be eaten. When I hear Pavarotti 
sing Panis Angelicus,  I see her hands
deep in the dough bowl,

and I hear the fire in the stove rumble,
I hear her clucking and sighing,
she who could never on this earth
deliver unto any table a dry piece of cornbread,
whose old-fashioned cakes
that lay solid as flesh on the  plates
put to shame every paper-thin
slice of the town-ladies’ angelfood cakes.
Any honest- to-god  angel

 would have preferred them,
a dollop of whipped cream atop
every thick slice and after that, oh, 
just a touch of  her Christmas divinity.

Los Muertos.  The dead.
They are out there this morning, 
in the woods with the busy  squirrels 
laying up treasures on earth, 
this  heaven of acorns and walnuts.
This granary.

These last dawns before the leaves go,
I wake early to watch from the window
my  dead ones out there in the woods
leaf by  leaf come
to rest on the ground 
where at last they have nothing 
to say beyond what’s meant 
to lie on the earth and be claimed by it.
from Coming To Rest, LSU Press