The Sweet Sadness of Endings: November Montage

Fall always makes me feel melancholy, but not in a bad way. The pang of it lets me know I’m registering the passing of time and noticing and appreciating, for the most part, the experiences that come and go, especially the sweet moments with those people, creatures, and places I that I love. How to bear the existential crisis that comes with acknowledging every last person, creature and place will at some point cease to exist? I’m still working that out. I like this quote from the movie Don’t Look Down: “Your whole life you’ll always be saying goodbye. Don’t let that keep you from loving.” Love is the salve that eases that never-quite-healed wound that inflicts everyone the moment they are born; without it, the wound becomes infected with despair. With it, despair is muted and life, however ephemeral, feels significant, even holy.

 

 

"The Beautiful Has Fled" by Charles Sims

“The Beautiful Has Fled” by Charles Sims

 

My November

by Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise

 

 

Opening scene of the film “Melancholia”:

 

When I am dead, my dearest

BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI

When I am dead, my dearest,
         Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
         Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
         With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
         And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
         I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
         Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
         That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
         And haply may forget.

Angry Poem for October: “The One”

Henry_Meynell_Rheam_-_The_Sorceress_1898

“The Sorceress” Image by Henry Meynell Rheam, 1898, in the public domain

The One

© Lisa E. Coté

Now, when the battle sounds
In the blank recesses of fury,

Who will know me?

And when the devils rise
Out of the cracks between your skin’s dark armor,

Who will name them?

You wanted power, you wanted to be crowned
With more than leaves and feathers:
Blood and pain made a wreath around you,
And you stood in the center like a sorceress,
Tongue as black as poison,
Spitting your curses on the world and heaven.

You would rip their hearts out with your fingers,
Barely a mark left on them,
And bury them with shame.

But who will raise them?

Into the world you charmed your blurry wisdom,
Slippery as an oiled snake on the Tree of Knowledge,
But all the apples rotted on the branch.

Now who will eat them?

I am the one you seek but cannot fathom,
I am the one you love and loathe, together;
I am the one who rattles in your dungeon,
I am the penitence you will not mention
I am the answer and the question
I am the rage that burns itself to heaven
I am the maker and the great un-doer,
And all your paths will lead you all around me:

Stop for a moment,
and I may come to you;

Stop for a moment,
and you may walk through me.

Poem for August: “Plunging Backwards into the Sea”

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Français : Île...

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia Français : Île du Cap-Breton, Nouvelle-Écosse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This poem was originally published in The Dragonfly Review, which is, from what I can gather, now defunct. The poem  was inspired by many childhood Augusts of reveling at Whale Cove beach on Cape Breton Island.

Plunging Backwards Into the Sea

© Lisa E. Coté

I plunge backwards into the sea

like those divers
who don’t mind feeding sharks
or petting eels

and push against buoyancy and breath
to the shallow bottom,

just to watch, if briefly, the sun pierce
the mirror-tight skin of water,
illumine the lattice of currents and
armor of iridescent fish;

just to stay under one moment less
than too long,
tempting aquatic eternity,

then with swift upward kicks
rise and shatter the surface with a gasp,
trumpet air into my traitorous lungs,

and plunge again.

To My Dream Animals: “Totem”

Keulemans_kit_fox

Engraving of a kit fox by J. G. Keulemans, in the public domain (see here)

I dream of animals frequently, and I dream of a lot of different kinds of animals. Some animals repeat over several dreams, forming discernible series. Some come along rarely. The following is some verse I composed to honor some of these visitors.

 

TOTEM

© Lisa E. Coté

Those who dream of foxes know the way
Between the world of shadow and of light,
And do not linger when they should not stay
But run, sure-footed, deftly, out of sight.

Those who dream of bears are old indeed:
They know the price of fury and conceit,
But will rise up if there should come a need
To stand against injustice and defeat.

Those who dream of serpents feel no shame
But revel in the earth whereon they move
And bask in pleasures, free of guilt and blame:
Content in life, no impulse they reprove.

Those who dream of crows may swiftly fly
Beyond the dim illusions that are made
When death arrives to blot the earthly sky:
They navigate the darkness unafraid.

Wintry Poem in Springtime: “Chronology”

Martin_Johnson_Heade_-_Two_Owls_at_Sunset

Image by Martin Johnson Heade, in the Public Domain

Many a year ago this poem was published in a now-defunct (from what I can tell) journal called RIM Magazine. I still like it, so I thought I’d dust it off and share it with you. Might be a little at odds with the season, but then again, one can have a wintry mood, even in spring.

 Chronology

© Lisa E. Coté

When I was seven years and seven days
the owl of time with beatless wings
flew down, sunk its talons
into my shadow’s heart,
and made me an old woman.

See the ivory tower past the ridge
of soft pink granite, by the foaming
mouth of the sea? It’s made of a
giant’s tooth, carved by a dwarf,
polished by wind and water.

The old woman lives there,
looking out for signals.
She sits by the westward window,
knitting the night.

She takes a hedgehog’s bristle, rowan’s
berries; a lock of hair from the infant,
a plait of the old man’s beard.
She wraps them all in a white shawl,
talisman against bitter weather;
splint for the lame white hare.

When I am seven ages gone,
pull my body from the
sunless bog; make from my skin
a set of traveler’s boots, a saddle
for a black mare, a pouch
for silver coin. Stretch the rest of me
into a kettle drum.

Grind my bones and drink them as a tea;
then I’ll live another age in my own skin,
and you’ll live another age in me,
and know how to winnow grain and speak to crows,
and make friends with winter.