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This is more what I wanted to say this year, though I’m not sure it’s as good a poem. I may still tinker with it.

Some darkness is only the absence of light
Sacred, cyclical
Clean and empty
Time to rest and gather in before regrowth.

A candleflame honors it –
Contrast, counterpoint
Dimming and flaring
Centring and setting off its velvet black.

Other darkness surges and seeks to overtake
Encroaching, enveloping
Resentment and envy
Quenching light and life in rot and death

A candle resists it –
Holding off, diminishing
Dancing, yet steadfast
Where it stands, the dark does not prevail.

In any kind of darkness, light a candle.

This is 2018, which means I’ve been writing Chanukah light-in-darkness poems for ten years now. (Possibly longer; I need to check my old Moveable Type blog that preceded the WordPress one.) Trolling the archives of this blog, I’ve found 18 Chanukah poems – I didn’t write any in 2011, but wrote 2 or 3 many years. Is that enough for a chapbook?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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I may add another poem, if I can write one – I still want to say something less about Chanukah in specific and more about kindling light in darkness in a more general way.

I light this candle as I choose –
to hold the darkness back, this night.
And we have gained too much to lose.
I light this candle as I choose
to honor heritage. We Jews
remember what it means to fight.
I light this candle as I choose,
to hold the darkness back, these nights.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Because I’m feeling the need for those small lights in the darkness that send a message two thousand years old: “You did your worst, but we’re still here.”

Diwali has come and gone –
any light it left behind has dimmed,
lost in the shadow of later events –
darkness, division, disenchantment
and encroaching despair.

But this is the seasons of lights in the darkness,
and the calling of bells –
the rebellious candles of Chanukah
and the innocent ones of Saint Lucia,
the warm hearthfires of Sinterklaasdag,
the conscience-fires of Kwanzaa,
the peals for every earthly desire of Omisoka,
and those for peace at CHristmas.

This year,
can we kindle enough flames,
can we keep the bells ringing
to call us together
to do whatever is needed:
to resist, to protect, to stand forth
or to heal?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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The notes app I’ve been using for years, since I got my first iPhone, Fliq Notes does not seem to be playing well with iOS 10 – and as far as I can tell, they’re not supporting it for iPhones any more at all. I can open notes, but I can’t edit or even copy the text in them. Fortunately, the whole reason I was using that app instead of Apple’s own Notes was the fact that Notes didn’t let you sort items into folders, and that capability seems to have been added now. I am managing to port notes from one app to the other by going into each note I want to save, clicking the email button, copying the text in the email that comes up and then deleting the draft, then pasting it into the Notes app. (This is stuff I really need, anything from gift ideas for next holiday season to meal plans for the week to details of health issues I was trying to pin down to my Dutch social security number in case I ever need it again.)

The only fun part is coming across things I’d forgotten were there, like a poem I wrote last month in the Galapagos:

When Was the Time Before Fear?

Yesterday a sea lion
rested her head on my foot –
a sweet surprise but a small one,
here in these islands
where fear was never conceived.

How far back, I wonder
would you have to go
for that to happen
in places less remote?

Before there were billions of us?
Before there were millions?
Before the first hunters learned
that, banded together,
they were more formidable
than those who hunted them?
Before spears?
Before fire?

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

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Sparked by a discussion on Ravelry’s “This is What a Feminist Knits Like” Forum:

Baba Yaga Meets the Mansplainer

So, you know all of the stories about me;
Tales of my long nose and my skinny knees
and my house that walks on chicken feet.
You are told that I cannot hurt the pure of heart
and a wise man can trick treasure from me.

Yes, you know all about me
and how to stay safe from the Baba Yaga,
who haunts small children’s nightmares.

But are you so safe, after all?
You know all about me –
pity you know yourself so little …
for the man who knows all about everything
and vaunts his knowledge
is neither pure of heart nor wise.

Little mouse, lawful prey,
you’ll cease squeaking soon enough.
In all your stories you missed one more detail:
my house walks, not on chicken’s feet but duck’s –
all the better to squash you with!

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I think this year’s Chanukah poem came out a little more bellicose than I was intending, so may need some explanation. I don’t actually mind may of the ways that Chanukah has grown due to being close to Christmas, because I *like* giving gifts, and I think people of any religion need a solstice-type holiday celebrating light when at the darkest time of year. (And this year here in Oregon has been exceptionally dark. I’m not making metaphors about the news – I mean literally: it’s rained almost incessantly for weeks now and aside from a few sunny hours here and there it has been dark when I go to work, dark when I get home, and not very bright during the time between. Seattle, only three hours away, just had its darkest day in decades the other day by actual measurement.)

What’s been weirding me out a little this year are all the greetings I’ve been noticing like “may the spirit of Chanukah bring you joy and peace” or “may the light and love of Chanukah fill your heart all year.” I even heard a Chanukah song that (was otherwise terrible and) contained the lyrics “It doesn’t matter what your faith / For eight days we’re all one.” Hello, ANTI-assimilation holiday!! Light, yes. But love? If you look at the story behind the holiday, the “spirit of Chanukah” would be something like “kick the butt of all those people who want to impose a state religion on you!” – which is definitely relevant, but probably not what they’re intending. (I would post this to FaceBook, but I’m afraid it would come out sounding like the fundies claiming that the Evil Government is oppressing them by not letting everything be Christian, as opposed to the fight for everyone being able to worship in their own way without being saddled with a state religion.)

So that’s what I’m getting at here – to have the kind of peace that is a real peace rather than one imposed from outside that works by stifling everyone equally, may actually require some fighting.

(I also think this year’s poem came out more like the ones I wrote back in 9th grade than I’d like, but that’s what happens when you go from writing lots of poetry down to roughly one per year. Unfortunately I have no explanation for that part.)

And now that I have completely ruined my poem by overexplaining it:

Peace is the Thing You Fight For

So many legends told this time of year
Show peace descending, gifted from on high-
A battlefield is turned to softer games
And foes befriended, though just for the night.

Our stories show a peace that’s harder-won
No gift but struggle set out its conditions –
No glorying in all reduced to one,
But earned respect, without assimilation.

And so we pull the light out of the darkness
Remembering we fought for who we are
We love to see the lights of all our neighbors
While knowing it is we who guard our spark

It may be, after all, the peace worth having
Is one you care enough to fight for saving.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

THe first one suffers from lack of water time. It’s a response to Millay’s “My heart, Being Hungry”, and its startings came to me while I was out rowing. But I haven’t been in a boat for a while (and I won’t be, until after the Holiday Challenge at least) and so finishing it was a plod. In particular, Millay has that beautifully polished lapidary ending (“Nor linger in the rain to mark the smell of tansy after dark”) while here I was trying to evoke grander pleasures with the idea of working up to them, and I think in the process I lost the tight specific focus that makes a good poem. But anyway:

A Growing Heart

Millay would deprecate as meager gain
the sweetness of a stolen ear of corn,
the smell of sagebrush desert after rain,
a red moon rising, early in the morn.

She’d swear a well-filled heart would never feed
on pillow’s kiss that ends a weary day
or sunglow captured in a field of weed
or kind-eyed stranger’s smile shared on the way.

But, rudest wildflower or cultured rose,
on these quotidian pleasures my heart grows
and burnishes a place with anxious care
with room enough for any it might snare:
sprawled mountain views, a star-filled night
heart-filling dreams of love and hope and light.

And this one is part of my annual light-in-darkness series, but it’s purely a romp:

When days draw down and nights grow colder,
Tasks seem endless, aching joints feel older
All ahead looks only weary,
Joyless, rocky, grey and dreary,

Then light a flame to call the dragons!
Roast the feast and fill the flagons,
Sing your songs of light and better days.
Dream of wild rides and plan adventure,
Hoist your flag and flee the drear indenture,
Kindle fires to keep your life ablaze.

In other news, I’ve done 121,000m in the Hoiliday Challenge – 79km to go before Christmas so I’m well ahead of schedule. I can’t say all this exercise is making me feel fitter, but it’s affecting my sleep for sure. feel like I begin each week rested, sleep lightly the first two nights, and then by midweek I’m just zonked and being surprised by the alarm every morning. My head is getting better at distance, at least; whenever I start working on longer pieces, they go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r, and then eventually I get to where I can zone out and focus on the view of my audiobook. I’m at that point now and it definitely makes the whole experience a lot pleasanter.

I’ve got one present to buy and about 5 cards to write, so I’m in decent shape for the holidays. We won’t decorate until the weekend before Christmas when we get to the lakehouse, so the only thing I need to do right now is start planning menus and shopping lists. (Other than Dec 25: turkey.)

And I’m due for a new phone, which I’ll go order probably today or tomorrow, so I need to deciude between the iPhone 6 (big) or the 6+ (bigger).

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

This comes from a bunch of things. Elizabeth Goudge sent me to Rupert Brooke (and wow – I’d never seen that sonnet before. What a wallop it has!) which of course made me think of the end of his life, which got me curious enough to look up his American contemporary (born just 3 years later) Christopher Morley. I’m sure the war must have affected Morley somehow, but you can’t see it in a brief biography, and it just seemed so odd to be so apparently untouched by an event that ravaged half the world. Add to that Ken Burns’ documentary on the Roosevelts, which seemed to have a lot of uncanny modern echoes (great show – it’s the first time I can remember when everyone at work is talking about a TV documentary) and this percolated through.

The Unlearned Lessons of 1914-1818

what was it like when the storm unfurled
for those whose raft lolled in calmer waters?
Across the ocean, rip currents swirled
swamping and drowning the sons and daughters
of cousins and uncles left behind
by those who fled to a newer world.

What was it like in ’17,
when the currents threatened the other side,
when the winds of war blew cutting and keen
calling a new tithe to sail a tide
flowing back to wash the wounded land
with wrack-strewn waters, incarnadine?

And what are we like as we doze, lulled to sleep
by the news of atrocities far away
denying the tides that rise and seep
and undermine the lands we say
(we echoing fools!) will keep us safe
….meanwhile, the waters are growing deep.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

Somehow it feels like the days are getting short earlier this year. That is actually true: sunset tonight is six minutes earlier here than it is in Eindhoven, where I was at this time last year. (This surprises me – Eindhoven is six degrees further north, and I’d have thought we were close enough to solstice for sunset to be earlier there now. Apparently not.)

Anyway, apparently this is what you get from that feeling, when you combine it with a tradition of writing a light-in-darkness poem for CHanukah and a recent reading of H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy. I’m not very happy with it as a poem, but I am kind of enthralled with the idea of the very first sentient, having a backlog of animal instincts with a new way of wondering “what if things are different this time?”

The First One

It’s said that the first peoples,
terrified the sun was leaving forever,
sent up prayers and sacrifices and lit fires
to lure it back.

I don’t believe it.

Animals follow the rhythm of seasons
and surely our earliest ur-parents
would have inherited that sense of the year
from their animal forebears.

But if sentience is a binary thing,
an on-off switch, then it’s not possible
that a whole tribe emerged at once
into the light of self-awareness.

I see her, that first woman,
the first one to ask questions,
standing unique in a world
where all other life was
animal or vegetable.

the first to wonder “what if?”

Waiting for brothers and sisters
and her own children to be born
so they could invent language together

and learn to light fires
and tell stories of where the sun goes
and how it always comes back.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

dichroic: (oar asterisk)

This year’s iteration of my annual light-in-darkness poem seems to be a tiny one:

In the darkest part of the year,
we set out, our keel pointed into midnight,
trusting the stars and our own hand on the tiller
to guide us into sunlit seas.

Earlier years’ versions: I seem to have missed 2011, but I wrote two in 2010, so it evens out. Apparently I wrote but never published the 2009 ones, so I’ve just put those up, with the correct date.2008 and earlier

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.


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April 2019

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