12.08.2004

Squirrel Counts Fire

when you look at them right,
logs in the fire poke out from the embers
like crocodile snouts, drawn in glowing coal

dark and quiet,
Squirrel stokes the fire
puffy cheeks whistling on the embers

* * *

fire leaps up
and starts counting.

one for the long drive home
two for the endless lanes
three for the mis-leading stars
four for the trees on the ridge

for the reddened faces
for the unfolded clothes
for the falling snow
the owl on the telephone pole

the singing
the beer
the running water
the busted mailboxes

fire leaping now

Squirrel running up home, up in the covered bridge
counting counting counting counting counting

lost his numbers counting so much

ice on the road
trees like spiders
sagging fences
old gingerbread

potholes
doorframes
creekbeds
shoe polish

fire running like water, like stopwatch clicking
breaking records

Squirrel dancing in the firelight, puffy cheeks whistling

fire spilling, like that dawn spilling over the hills
fire glowing, bright day coming
firelight counts what daylight will see

see old horseshoes nailed to the walls
see cobblestones round and full on the ground
see H smiling in her sleep
see bread baking in the new oven
cloud scudding on the lake surface
mist from my mouth wet in the crisp air
hardwood trunk with the rotten lock
books on the table thick with letters

gravel washed and clean from the rain
boots on the doormat, laceless, tongueless
stove clicking with heat, brimming
mirror fresh-painted, silver-lined

old newspapers scattering in the fire
crumpling lost days

old noses flaring at the scent of maple smoke
tasting the pre-dawn air

* * *

Squirrel’s glassy eye bright with counting

fire dull and spent, losing heat

all these things bloom like flowers
in the new day billowing over the hill,

fire’s snouts snoring softly

and Squirrel’s puffy cheeks blow the smoke away.

5 comments:

The Lioness said...

I liked this. Especially "old noses flaring at the scent of maple smoke tasting the pre-dawn air " and, very much so: " fire’s snouts snoring softly and Squirrel’s puffy cheeks blow the smoke away." I could see it all - and no small feat for someone with no spatial visualisations ability OR someone who's seen a real squirrel exactly once in her life, squirrel being the departure point.

I've been thinking abt your heritage, are you all petit, dainty, geeky and graceful with your hands? I'd ask more but I seem to have run out of preconceived notions, sorry, we have more gypsies and Africans. V envious of the colour though, me, Celtic genes met Jewish-Moorish ones and what should have been a lovely olive tone is actually white-yellow. Oh bah.

paulmonster said...

Yes. I'm happy with many of these lines, too. I'm concerned about the rhythm of the thing, though--I wonder if the imagery flows at the pace it needs to. I'm glad the visualizations work, as the poetry I want to make is all about the music of the words and the imagery they create.

Squirrels abound in this neck of the woods. They always seem to clip along with a fiery, busy energy, twitching their bushy tails and flickering up and down trees and the like. And then they stop and watch things, with their paws all busy but their stare very steady and still.

Regarding my physical heritage; because I've spent quite some time on my bicycle, and because I do enjoy splendid meals, my thighs are like tree trunks. I was made to wear a suit, though I seldom indulge. I favor boots and tough fibers.

Graceful, well, um.

Physically aware, I certainly am. Oftentimes that means being physically aware of how often things tend to break when they hang around me for too long (but we all know that that Forest Service chainsaw first saw the light of day in the Carter administration so you really can't pin that one on me) (and it's not my fault the Library's computers spontaneously combust whenever I walk past) (and what, I'm responsible for the whole gravity situation now?). Because of said experience with objects that inexplicably disintegrate, I tend to do a great deal with my hands. Hence, the number of scars. Dainty, that's a definite not.

As far as Filipino preconceptions go, expect hearty appetites and impressive Elvis pompadours. I'm convinced that the next wave in the hip-hop fashion industry will be markedly influenced by the peculiarities of Asian, and specifically Pinoy "bling". You know how Cadillac El Dorados are now once again emblems of conspicuous luxury? Well, for the Filipino-American community, they always have been and always will be. Twenty years from now these rusted hulks will still be sailing down the Interstate, the paint or the re-re-upholstered seat cushions literally disintegrating at speed, and my Uncle Ferdinand will still be grinning behind the wheel, wearing the same half-tinted sunglasses and the pinky rings he's been wearing since I was in diapers.

And that's the other thing; we don't seem to age all that much over the years. My father just hit 50, and we're always confused as brothers in restaurants and other settings. Also, imagine a haunted, hungry look vestigial of subsistence rice paddies and the typical experience of a third-world dictatorship. And our mustaches tend to the fu-manchu look.

As far as paulmonster preconceptions go, imagine brute strength fused with serene intelligence and then skillfully blended with the instincts of a sedated common marmoset, all housed in a kind of caramelized-chocolate, and you will have only barely begun on the long, arduous journey of enlightenment that is Preconceiving of Me. Heh.

Geeky? Most certainly not. Penchant for mastering troves of useless in-depth and/or topical information, okay. Enduring, excited fascination with unlikely relationships between seemingly unrelated fields, I do admit this, cheerfully. Deep-rooted commitment to the Humanist ideal of a universe of ambitions and accomplishments contained in a single identity? Yup. Geeky? One must draw the line somewhere.

It must be quite an adventure to walk the world with Celtic-Moorish-Jewish all blended together. There should be a t-shirt; "I am the product of thousands of years of diasporic activity. If you think I'm not supposed to be here, you'll have to wait in line."

I recently read Maria Rosa Menocal's "The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain." The title says it all. I do recommend it, though I found portions to be a bit strained. All in all, I was startled by the degree to which all three cultures influenced each other within that context, and the implications and ramifications resulting. And Menocal writes well, in a potentially hazardous field. I would be curious to hear your view on the matter.

All right. All commented out.

The Lioness said...

I never knew you needed thick thighs [if this were IRL this sound'd kill me, very annoying things, "th", especially when grouped with S, like "months", our foreign tongues REBEL!] - er, lost, ok thick thighs to wear suits! The blogosphere, what one learns!

How nice of you to address my prejudices and then add some more, as a dormant anthropologist I'm most appreciative. Though I'm disappointed you don't do the hand thing, you could mesmerise audiences this way. Oh wait, you have a better strategy, issalright.

Was laughing at the rest of the comment, was like a mini-soap opera, very brilliant. And this?

"As far as paulmonster preconceptions go, imagine brute strength fused with serene intelligence and then skillfully blended with the instincts of a sedated common marmoset, all housed in a kind of caramelized-chocolate, and you will have only barely begun on the long, arduous journey of enlightenment that is Preconceiving of Me. Heh." Am still laughing. That "Heh" at the end especially had me gone.

My heritage sucks rock apparently, I'm the only one in the family who cares abt it and feels Jewish. Funny I had to go and choose a country where said presence is hardly felt and there are no J. jokes at all - that shows how bleak a scenario. When you say my views you mean re the book?

paulmonster said...

Well, you don't need THICK thighs to wear a suit properly. But I am of the opinion that you most certainly need substantial ones. None of this gangly-legged business, that does nothing for the cut of the pants... (my father started out as a tailor.)

When I say your views, yes, I do mean the book, but on a more general level your perspective is a remarkably unique one, and given the prevailing influences in your part of this teeming world, I am more curious about how you yourself embody such a diversity of ethnicities, and come to identify most strongly with the one. That, in a nutshell, is an extreme distillation of what "Ornament" outlines generally for the whole of the Iberian peninsula during the period from the fall of the Visigoth Kingdom in the early 8th century to the accession of Isabella and Ferdinand in the late 15th century. (But whereas you went to Zion, the Peninsula ultimately went to the Inquisition. [Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!] On the whole, yours seems to be the healthier path, even in spite of the lack of J jokes in Portugal.)

It's the sort of thing I'm fascinated by. As the child of immigrant parents, I am more of a tabula rasa when it comes to my own ethnicity. My heritage of family memory dims dramatically beyond my great-grandparents (Grandma famously grouped many of my aunts and uncles' birthdays together with her own, since there are virtually no written records available and it just makes things more convenient to remember).

There is evidence of Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Polynesian roots in addition to the Filipino, but there is nothing substantive. As a first-generation American, I am truly amnesiac in more ways than is typical--I'm not fluent in Tagalog, for example, and yet my skin color precludes complete assimilation into American culture (and that's actually okay by me) (paulmonster: a culture of one).

So it would be of use to me to learn how someone else distills a multiplicity of identities into a single one. Just another one of those things I'm looking for in this blogosphere. Hence how I enjoy your blog as much as I do (I'm still exploring it, so if you've spoken to this definitively already please forgive me).

But for the record, your heritage does not suck rock. Your heritage is ghetto fabulous.

Christ on a stick look at the time. To bed. Now.

The Lioness said...

I'll email you abt this. It's almost 8 am - again and i haven't slept yet - again. I haven't discussed it in my blog, I'll tell you why in the email. It may take me a while, see, mind ghosts have indeed been barfing everywhere, but i promise i will eventually do it. It will interest me to see whether i actually can make sense of it bcs, do you know, nobody expected the Portuguese Inquisition either and - nuff said, I'll email you. (I did read your poems and will coment but everything that crosses my mind is either v daft or v naff so not a good time. I'm a bit tired.)