Sunday, December 13, 2020


Over the last couple of months, I have been reflecting on the process of writing my chapbook, Portal of Light.  It is curious to see how much it has changed since I began it.  In the early days of its construction, I had done quite a bit of research into ziggurats and flung up scaffolding around the main section of the chapbook as I built up the sections in layers and planted trees, shrubs and flowers as I raised the whole structure into a cohesive whole on which I could drape my poetry like the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon. It appeared to be created somewhat haphazardly; I began with a poem on our fifth daughter and did not proceed chronologically, except in ending with our son, who was sixth.

The sections on meeting the boy who would become my husband, our marriage, and ultimately his death and my widowhood did proceed in order in the chapbook although the years that included his illness and death and my becoming a widow seemed more like an illusory zigzag than an orderly progression of days and months.  

At some point, I was reflecting on a particular day and said that it had been productive but not full of fireworks. When I first wrote that, I said it had not been full of "firewords," which is a good description of what I am writing when I am into full-blown creative mode.

The ending of a poem I wrote for my poetry mentor, Colette Inez, is a good illustration of "firewords."

The poet's spell curls in from the sea,

bellows on billows sizzling foam and spume

forged into dazzling interior flares

so even our fingertips bloom into fire and flight.

Standing here, I juggle your spangled lines

fire-kindled, hammered to amber that sings

and burns:

splash them in clear streams

where they congeal into facets of crystal 

or filaments of flame, lash ourselves to dream

in their distant beauty till we ignite,

breathe them into bubbles, ether, champagne, 

blow them into glass, pour their wild

heat into molten sorcery

throw them on the wheel to rise on air

illuminated with radiant runes

dip our brushes in their dripping oil,

burnish them, weld them, whittle them into wings

to spiral Everest, ski them down astounded

Fuji, swirling calligraphy on scrolls,

enter their icons at door of the eye and shine

                    in aureole.

                            (from "Watching the Minting of Words" ©2020)

When I look back at something I have written and find that it expresses exactly what I hoped to say--and it often develops into more than I originally intended--I feel as if I am suddenly aflame, like a liquidambar tree that overnight exchanges its green cloak for raiment that has burst into garnet and gold, its pointed leaves transformed into tongues of fire.

My soul dances, taking effervescent leaps into the air, twirling trails of sparkling words and reverberating phrases like a gymnast's ribbon streamers, curving about into a spiral of gold and bursting forth into bell-rounded melodies with the ringing resonance of French horns.

As I enter more deeply into "Portal of Light" and submit to my daughter Mary's sculpting away of the dross, including the skeleton of the ziggurat, its heart occasionally leaps into a beat, heat rises in sparse streams of mist, and the wings begin to flutter at the tips. The spirit of creation begins to creep from one verse to another, animating the limp pages, and pouring fresh new color into pale icons.

Such kaleidoscopic pageantry as we head into the last week before the turning of the year and the lengthening of days and the distant light of spring!

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