Grandmother

Last year, a poem I published in the We’moon datebook brought a handful of  new readers to my sight. I have been touched to receive a few, delightful, emails from readers who were moved by the poem and requesting to read the piece in its entirety, as an excerpt was used by We’moon. I am tender and humble in my heart as I think of others, unknown to me, reading my words and feeling moved to write me, what a gift this is. I have been too long in coming to this post, to share the poem. However, time moves as it does and I have been swept hard into the currents of change, time moving more quickly and more strangly than one could imagine. And now here I sit, nearly a year later than I planned, fingers typing away at these keys once again. 

So I shall share, here on this page the full version of the poem, but first it seems only right and necessary to share a wee bit of the story that it birthed from, the story of my grandmother, and of me and a little bit of magic that remains in the world and is concentrated in the forest…

I never met my maternal grandmother, Marjorie Helen Miles, to be Marjorie Helen McClelland, once she wed my grandfather, Roswell Dunlop McClelland. I have wondered if Marjorie McClelland ever really felt like her name to her, or if, in some secret chamber of her heart, my grandmother had always  remained- Marjorie Miles, as I had , even after 11 years of marriage always remained, Marianna Iverson. Now divorced and having legally reclaimed my name, I can say without doubt, that we shall never be seperated again. 

Having never met Grandma Marjorie, all I know of her life is constructed through the stories of others. Yet she stands strong in my mind, heart, and memories. The stories I carry are like treasures to me, little jewels of knowing. Her service for the American Friends(Quakers) in WWII, her skilled hands, eager mind, adventurous spirit, and also, her sorrow, loss and regret.

This woman that is my Mothers Mother, who gave me the greatest gift, my own Mother and my own life… all the stories she carried in her, so many we will never know. I seek to see her and know her through the way she lives on in my Mother, and my Auntie, I  feel a pull and a connection that is palpable, I have even in spaces of great expansiveness felt her behind me and heard her whisper in my ear…there is much in this life that we cannot explain. I myself have given up trying, better to live in the mystery.

I, being a bit of a seeker and one to delight in the occasional silent meeting with my God, am intrigued by my Quaker line, and long to know more about these relations. It has been fascinating to learn of my Quaker relatives connection to Oregon history, as pioneers in the late 1800’s to an area near where I now live, Scotts Mills, an incredibly beautiful place in the world, lush Willamette greenery, springs and streams, gentle pasture, this is where my people settled .

I wonder what that little place was like back then, and who was pushed out to make space for those white settlers. After all, we are living now on occupied territory…I can’t allow the amnesiac quality, the seductive dream of the bravery and strength of my kin “settling” the west to lay claim to me. There is so much more to this story, and there was consequence in my people arriving here, I may be some of that consequence.

I wonder at the forces at work that cause it to be that, this poem I will share here was written on land less than 80 miles from Scotts Mills, this poem written about the death of my grandmother whom I never knew, written on the sweet land of this Willamette Valley, land her father, my great grandfather, Walter Miles, lived and grew on, in his childhood all those long years ago…

There is so much to wonder, and so little to know. Knowing being so concrete, I have less and less of a desire to cling to its stability and form as I age. In the timeless words of dear Anne Shirley Cuthbert, it leaves too little “scope for the imagination.” I am willing to suspend knowing in favor of wonder, and surety in favor of possibilty. In this case it is highly possible that the words I type here on this page are able to travel to the ears of my Grandmother. In case this is so, I will take this small moment to say, “Grandma- you color all my days with your wake, and I am so grateful to be of you and your kin. All the days I live I will carry you with me, in the secret chambers of my heart. May this poem be pleasing to you, I am forever in your debt and glad to stay that way. The braid of beholdedness weaving us always together. I love you.”

Grandmother

My Grandmother said-
“Nature is my temple.”
And so I worship there as well.
Cathedrals of green canopy above me,
prayer rugs of Violet and Clover at me feet,
the blessings of life giving Holy Water.
These are my sword and shield,
my crown and chalice,
my strength.

When Grandma was dying,
we moved her bed out of doors.
To the garden,
under the edge of the green cathedrals boughs.
The place where she could see,
the face of God above her.
She lay still for a long time,
just looking up- and then,
almost silently whispered,
“Thank you.”

Green fills my spirit as I think of her,
My hands become hers, brown with soil,
rich with life and food.
I draw her from the Earth,
Root, Stone, and Bone.
All she left unfinished, now lies in my lap.
I release the mantle of her sorrow,
and we both are freed.
I have only one wish left-
May my last words be,
“thank you”

Grandma Marjorie – On an ancestor candle on my altar. She shines with me every day.

What is Disaster?

I wrote this short, unedited piece in my kitchen last week. In a flurry of madness to close the oven, wipe my hands, find a pen and give the words life before they abandon this host and move on to one more ready to receive them. The “bite” of a poem is a fast and fleeting as a fish on the line, if you are not ready, and your hands not fast, you may miss out all together. I have learned to drop everything and write, a charming first line beckoning in my mind seems to stale and sour if kept trapped for later in the notes section of my iPhone.

This poem is a response the fires burning in the amazon, and in my own life. I too, just as the Earth herself am in a massive die off, much of what I have held solid now melting away before my very eyes. I think of Joanna Macy’s language frequently, it seems business as usual has broken in my own life, and this is a great mercy. Could it be the great turning has come? Both within and without?

Disaster

They say on the news that the Earth is burning
the Amazon is on fire – Earths lungs scorched and charred
in a wicked rain of dust and ash.

I still have to get up and go to work tomorrow
and most likely- you do too
If the Earth is burning up – shouldn’t we stop and pay attention?

My heart longs for reckoning – meaning – action
but my body is so exhausted that I cannot even turn my face away
from that dreadful smoke filled screen.

What is it like to be a woman at the end of the world?
let me get some rest and I will tell you
just now- I am too bone-weary to even begin to think…

The world is burning up – but here it rains in August
my garden could actually use a little more sun
the weather is strange – but is it really a catastrophe?

Or is my own decimated heart
that old woman at work who never knows where she is
my daughter who may never know breath without fear again

These- are these catastrophes?

I don’t know
somehow from where I sit it seems
that both everything – and nothing means disaster

what becomes of meaning when there is no future?
It grows– oh god- it Grows

A woman at the end of the world
learns to love fiercely (she must)
or she has no chance at all.

Marianna  – August 2019 

 

Morning Practice

I am going to start sharing more of my daily writing practice here. I am engaged in the practice of daily poetry writing, each morning before the world can rob me of my time to create and connect. These poems are not very worked, free form and unfiltered.
I have found it so interesting to be doing this morning writing through poetry, my morning writing used to be in the form of journaling. This poetry practice in some ways is more honest, more sincere, simpler and radically raw, than my journaling was. This form of writing allows me to express feeling more directly. I am enjoying the discipline of this daily practice and happy to share some of the writing that comes to being through this commitment to a daily honoring of the muse.

 

How long will it take to heal
The shattered pieces of my broken heart?
I sweep the rubble clean away – then low and behold
once again – disaster.
The roof is caving in and hurricane warnings tell me that
a storm’s coming, always is, on nights like this.
I plant seeds on the good days
days when warmth blooms in my chest
and I can see vision of summer evening – soft tides – soft smiles
I bury the seeds deep , to keep them safe until the grow
after the flood waters have receded
after the strong words have died down.
I place my hand on my chest
a shelter of a sort
to hold close this heart of mine
the temple of my love.
You are not forsaken – I tell her
Life leaves rubble in us all
we sweep and sweep again
we plant seeds and wait
it’s like the garden love-
give time – take time
one day a mighty Oak will grow
just don’t stop planting acorns.
These words are scattered seeds
this page a love letter to my own sweet heart
Take root now- grow.

photo- coast range, near burnt woods Oregon, baby big leaf maple.

IMG_0358

Solstice Prayer

The sky is dark- clear and cold,
dawn did not come until 8 oclock this morn.
Frozen ground firm beneath my feet
the first sun of this shortest day
reflects off diamond dusted boughs of cedar
leafy holly, hardy grasses
All ablaze with light.

In days gone by when winter crept into our homes
and cold claimed penance of the skins of those like you and I.
When darkness came at dusk and lasted all night long – all long night,
with only glow of candles flame to keep the dark away and cold away
in those days, this day, this shortest day- had meaning
had power.

The longest night- rabbit, underground
lies buried deep, warm bodies of her kin beside her.
Goose has flown south by now, warmer climes await
Squirrel, now nested, acorns stored in plenty,
even worm is tucked away, slumbering.
Until soil warms and springs good work begins again.

Human builds a fire- to drive the dark away
to welcome visions of spring
call warm days back
recall the smell of sweet grasses
the taste of May’s first strawberry
remembering the living world will bloom again….

the dance now calls our feet to dance, our bones to move, our voices chant
to pound our feet upon the earth- voices raised in sacred laughter
faces ruddy in the firelight
Call back the sun! Sing back the sun!
Pound hard on frozen earth with joy!
We have survived this longest night, to see
a new years morn arise again.

The sky brightens with the dawn
we greet the day, alive and well and grateful
For all that has come before
and all that will come after
the magic of surviving
of belonging – here- on this land and in this time
New years sun above us once again
and kinships bonds to keep us warm.

 

 

Solstice Blessings to Your Home and Hearth.
Marianna

 

 

 

Burn

The skies have been dark this week, the air stagnant and toxic. I can feel the burn in my throat. I can only think “this is how it will be forever now. Every summer now will burn.” Summer skies filled with smoke, blue turns grey, and ashen. I am sad, the kind of sad you’re not supposed to talk about. I  didn’t know I would see the change in my lifetime, not really. You know your hear about these things, this climate disaster, global warming. But it is all far away, apocalypse abstract.

These last few summers its been in no way abstract, it has been here, present and beside me. I am unable to turn away. My once blue summer Oregon skies have gone dark. We can not ignore the  truth. It’s closing time. This is only the beginning. Get ready for the fall, there will be darkness.

Our world burns.
Today smoke fills the skies
my throat, lungs and eyes.
Blue sky, a memory of summer gone now.
The earth is hot
103 in Redding yesterday
10,000 people evacuate
running from the flames.
Their cars are hot, on scorched highways
the fumes from their tailpipes fill the sky.
What of those that cannot run?
No gas in their tanks or
money in their banks.
What if they are ill?
In body or mind, those who choose to stay behind.
What of the winged ones, and the 4 legged
It is all too much to bear.
Tonight- the moon is orange and amber
a dark glow in the sky.
It seems to me she is looking down and weeping.
So am I.

 

Marianna Louise Jones

Longing for home

I am alone here, in this foreign place.
This land that is my country, yet not my home
I guess this is what happens when sea to shining sea is 3000 miles.
Birds sing in songs I do not know
trees, tall with bare trunks and high canopies,
tower over my head.
The earth is light and tawny, not the brown humus that I know.
My feet fall soft upon this path, tan and fine
bones of the earth, stones, rise amid the soil.
I am stunned by sound, a cacophony of birdsong,
so sweet and raucous, sharper than the familiar calls of
the birds that call my temperate rainforest home.
Funny how, in all this space and novelty, this beauty,
I can long for home.
A stone sits in my chest, heavy for the lands of the pacific.
Even the spiders know that I am foreign here.
I have walked through so many webs this morning,
torn them apart, unintentionally upon my breast.
The air, sticky, even in dawns light,
clings to the webs and condenses,
small beads of golden dew, warm and wet,
meet my skin and spread out. I am shimmering.
Long time now, since heat touched my skin like this
heat that is alive, moist, and tender.
Still, in the wonder of it all, the birdsong, the frog song, the cicada song
I long for home, oh W’yeast, you have me wrapped around your finger
No, your rocky crags and gentle slopes…I’ll be wrapped around you, all my life.
You’re high peaks and rugged valleys, the ripple of your flesh.
Douglas fir and cedar, my trees, hold me close.
I cannot resist you dear conifers, you hold me, your boughs,
wrap my arms and legs in your green embrace and I am gone.
Gathered into you.

 

*image of a lake just outside Oxford Ohio, where I walked as this poem came to me last week.

Marianna

Blackberry- A Tumultuous Love Affair

I have been waging war on blackberry. Since early spring her shoots have come, bursting forth with great voracity, taking over my yard, my garden beds, my fence line and grape vines….my whole life it feels at times.
This poem came to me as I was out working, clipping away at her lush vines. My arms, covered in scratches, my brow damp with sweat. I felt the first line come in, burbling like a spring coming up inside me. I put down my clippers, went inside, took my notebook and wrote.

 

Sometimes blackberry feels like my enemy.
Her thorns catch my skin and I tear
her roots, gnarled and strong
wider than the thickness of my thumb
hold deeply in the earth
and won’t let go.

She seems to come up everywhere.
Bright shoots, thorns still soft
sprouting among the snow peas
twining herself around artichoke,
befriending a fellow spiney one.

She reaches her tips out from under my house.
Just now I blinked-and thought
I saw her growing out of my wall sconce
she is even growing in my mind now.

As I write, my arms are red with scratches.
My back tired from bending to dig and pull her roots
and still I hunger for her ripe, purple fruit
it’s a hot cold kind of love affair we have
blackberry and I.

Bee’s nuzzles blackberries white flowers.
Enthralled with her fine yellow pollen
an eruption of white blossoms now fill the places
in my yard, where blackberry reigns.

We have made a treaty of sorts.
A line of demarcation
she is fair game when she rears her head in the vegetable beds
but the hedgerows are hers to dominate
and there she will grow to sweet fruition.

White blooms soon will, thanks be to bees favor.
Turn to hard green fruits- and then!
Lush purple mouthfuls, full of sweet juice
staining my fingers and my tongue
my clothes and my counters
my good wooden spoon.

She leaves her mark on me it’s certain.
I suppose it’s like any other love affair
hers and mine
prickly at times, and at others
sweet as nectar.

A Message From my Heart

I found this poem in a file, saved from years ago. I had forgotten this one, and as I read it so much flooded back to me form this time in my life. Writing is like that, a secret window to a time before. I am glad to have discovered again this sweet, small poem to share now with you.

 

I was walking today
and I saw in a window
a reflection of my physical self.
I said ” hello, you!”
that house so well my own
true love, my spirit, my heart.
My body staring back at me
with equal wonder in her eyes,
reflected the reverence of my soul.
I look so like a mountain, my head
held high, my shoulder strong,
my solid body filled with a thousand rivers of blood.
Of sacred Earth my heart was formed,
to sacred Earth I will return
a mountainside I will become
my heart returning to its home.

© Marianna 2011

 

Daughter of Earth

Earth-
I am your daughter
Born of the darkness
Bathed in the light
Earth dweller
Sky gazer
Guardian
I walk upon your firm brown skin
Run my fingers through your grassy hair
Taste the sweet ripe fruit of your lips
You leave treasures everywhere
Simple gifts
And magical tokens
Of your love
Roots, shoots and berries
Smooth stones and feathers
The light on the field at dawn
A gleaming spiral shell
You speak to me in sunsets,
Moonrises, shooting stars
A thousand ways you say
I love you
I am listening
I hold out my hands in gratitude
And you fill them
Wherever I am
I am with you
A daughter of mystery
Born of the darkness
Bathed in the light

Marianna Louise Jones-May 2017

Hem of my Heart

A poem is like a thread…
Just tug the end gently
And it keeps coming
Before you know it,
Your whole heart is sitting in your lap.

Words are like that
They love to travel together
Make endless lines that
Run on and on and sometimes
Say something grand
But sometimes nothing at all.

Words tumbled on a page
Casually or carefully
Create an image, invite you in
A story told or simply felt
Open to interpretation.

A Poem is made of words
Words and tears,
Words, tears, and callused hands and soft smiles
A human heart, a tattered hem…..
the thread pulled clean out of it.

 

©Marianna Louise Jones 2017