The Wild Iris

Louise Glück’s lyrical voice springs up from the deep recesses of her soul onto the essence of the flowers, the spirits and to god. The meditative contemplation of what it means to be alive and crossing to the conflicting feelings of fitting your life in the confines of the reality of death. She undresses it all delicately plucking the shadows off of the petals, the days, and the seasons.

A rebirth happens, “hear me out: that which you call death I remember” (The Wild Iris). Glück goes on to speak to god as a monk who toils in god’s garden in prayers, poems she names “Matins”. God responds, and so do the spirits residing in the garden, near the flowers, “you are all the same to us, solitary, standing above us planning your silly lives…” (Scilla). Glück seems to make god’s voice as a resentful entity, a little indifferent to the suffering because in the end its not that god doesn’t care, it’s because our lives are meant to be lived, “you wanted everything told to you and nothing thought through yourselves” (Retreating Light).

It’s interesting how when we come to deal with our mortality, we will extend our hands and point accusingly to a god we make up on our own. Through each poem Glück progresses with this idea, unraveling our human condition to want everything spelled out, “we do not grieve as you grieve, dear suffering master; you are more lost than we are” (Violets). Identifying a great entity as something like us, grabbing them by the ear and scolding them for our existence. In Daises, she plainly argues, “the garden is not the real world. Machines are the real world” as a reciprocation to this god who says, “all this belongs to you: on the other hand, I planted the seeds”.

This argument that bounces like light illuminating these ideas of the world as god’s garden; humans as the creation, and the humble servant monk trying to find a connection to this hard work and its meaning to this god. I think The Wild Iris is such a beautiful collection of poetry, a lyrical meditation on the soul’s longing to reach out its arms to touch this god we’ve been told about.

In my opinion our maker is not some man crossed arms in judgement of his creation, the true god is not like us at all but is an entity that manifests through the bloom and perpetual seeding of life. It’s up to us, through our own observation, aware of the soul residing in us, to speak to god in time. And Louise Glück’s The Wild Iris gives us a glimpse of how that conversation might go. It might be different for everyone, and that’s the beauty in searching within and trying to make sense of what is presented to us as faith and how then we interpret and unravel it in the language of our own individual souls.

a sigh

what do i say to the feelings that spill?
they run down too fast
and evaporate as I
try to whisper them

what do you say to those fleeing?
they run from you
fooling you with their side shuffles
little crabs, snapping the claws
to the beat of your broken heart

what can we say to those who refuse to love us?
we wallow in our own mess
call it a swamp
and fester with the silence
until we blend in with everything

what can we say about a person?
broken down into cubbyholes
the meaning just withering between the lips
evaporating with the breath
hoping to be more than a whisper

disastrous

i too have someone who speaks to me in the dark
the shadows of shadows, burnt umbra of a heart
and a sullen smile crooked in its wake.
the sadness of the soul dissipates in the contrast of the days. singling out the tumors, overgrown thoughts clumped and blocking new ones. the growth of a tomorrow stained by the sorrows of today.
i too have someone who speaks to me in the dark, a shadow of a shadow, a name within a name, the tectonic shifts of broken pieces of a heart determined to stay within the lines of a god, within the maze of the celestial plane.

a march morning

on a march morning
rain falls and falls
the love songs coo in your ears
and the sheet of rain
gently kisses your skin
on a march morning
a cold, cold day
wrapped up in memories
in melancholy
the drops of cool water
cleanses them away slowly
scene by scene
face by face
running down your fingertips
and fading into the cement
on a march morning
the cool rain
rid you of all that you couldn’t
hold on to anymore

estrangement

the search for love
the search for warmth
can lead you to strange beds
with strange fellows
holding strange emotions
straddled between cages
you have no key to open

the search for compassion
the search for empathy
can lead to a strange plea
that holds your pieces
that fall when you’re not looking
nestling between cracks
you have no eyes for

your humanity fractured
hinging on what you can collect
on what you can hold on to
and of what others can make of it
can lead to the estrangement
to your own soul

rainy day

blemished skin by the humidity that passes. the clouds look so careless, they leave as they came, swirling into itself before it crawls on forward. the sky holds and the sky lets go. your eyes pull and they push and i let go. waters fill into every crack on the asphalt. droplets pounding against the pavement, creating music as it hits the plastic of the umbrella with tiny little fists knocking insistently. i don’t insist. i fall over gently and join the queue heading into the sewers. the tires swish about the leftover rain, propelling them onto those waiting to cross corners, waiting to wait for the bus. i’m a little raft on my own, my spirit is sanitized with each prayer, the dark shields me from the sky, the tunnel filters us out. the promise of paradise is nothing to aim for. paradise is the breeze playing with your hair. i close my eyes. if i try hard enough i become the sky.

the pond

time is water. the pond is a mirror and a door. once it flowed over and the droplets felt like rain on my knuckles. you shouted but i couldn’t make out the words. but your lips looked so pretty moving. you became a statue that moved and then retreated back into the frame. time froze you under a sheet of ice, it mirrored the sky and on occasion my searching face in pursuit of yours. the curtained water, melting as the summer is well under way. you make it through one more time. your hands reach out, your arms peel away from the water and they reach my face. i am the anchor that pulls you up and the daydream is real. your lips are real, your face is real, you are real. a kiss hello and a kiss goodbye. you retreat into winter, you lay still. you wait for my feet to unhinge from the ground and climb into the water with you. so soon, oh soon, i just can’t seem to learn to swim.

so you dyed the chickens

one floor stone house, painted a soft coral, bright in the day, sad in the night, an orange tree, guanabana tree, and a vegetable garden pecked about by the chickens, a lone rooster nodding along to its foot steps, cement stove, coal burned fire, an oven dug into the dirt, lined with wood, closed with cement blocks, washing the laundry by the river, hauling it back, little satchel of your vanity tied up, sitting in the clay, laying in the water, watching the blue sky, thinking of dancing, of sewing together the final piece to your dress and one day he will dance with you, and only you

memorizing recipes as you make them, taste them and plate them to hand them over, you liked your little bowl and your big spoon, designated cup with your lip prints on them, the nuns taught you to weave and sew, to crotchet, to knit, your aunties were your mothers, and you were your mother’s apprentice, toiling with her by the stand, making the sweet corn cakes, the rice pudding as she pocketed the money, warmly thanking the workers, sweaty from plowing the fields, and it would buy bags of rice, flour, beans, little chicks, more seeds- no need to ask your father, no need to ask anyone

long hair curled in rolos, dried under the sun, walking here and there, the anticipation of his hand on your hip, a mobile salon, you make house calls, in the pueblo, they tap your shoulder, they name your father, they know you and you have now met them, smile, easy, you are filled with love and gratitude and no matter how sad your little stone house gets during the night, you won’t let it take root to shadow your days

final stitch, pinched cheeks, loose curls hugged in sugar water, ready to go, picked up on a motor bike and your friend is at it again, you laugh, she flirts with the driver, let off into the party, live band, accordion blazing fire, saxophones running marathons, and voices loudly exclaiming to the earth, to the mother, why is she indifferent to their breathing? you spot him, twirling every girl and he watches you take the hand of a friend, and he holds you and you dance, giving joy to his eyes, giving rhythm, a gift from you to everyone

he asks to cut in and you radiate with joy, but boy looks brighter, happier, wanting to spread it around, unable to contain the happiness that pools underneath his lids, and he’s off again, but no shortage on your card, you are a gift, they say, a precious gift to the world

your dreams are premonitions your aunty the santera loved to pick apart, your intuition is keen and sharp, you are a universe holding onto nothing, a perpetual child given chores done to just get them over with, sweeping them aside neatly to go out and play, and he will never love you, and you will never get a chance to know why, for he was found with a needle to his arm, face down in the river

his devastated mother cries and you knew, you dreamed it, you saw the house, you saw him draw the needle, you saw him fall, but something diverted your attention on the way to him and to this day I know, if you were able to go back in time, you would go back to save him, but that is the past, and you cried him dry

there was nothing left to do so you dyed the chickens red, pink, blue, purple, you watched the sun rise and fall, you waited for your mother to be your mother and watched your father plant his seeds in all the pueblos, you forgave him just in time, before he died but it still hurt didn’t it? to be the servant to everyone and not be loved like the gift that you are to this world

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you never wanted me that’s for sure clear as the sky is the eggshell blue painted on the walls the one where you placed your hands and after you asked me if I saw god I saw god walking in a garden when I was five but I saw you working too hard to be loved and not do any loving in return you never wanted me that’s a truth you roll in your mouth chewing on my faith and blowing bubbles out of my sweetness while mocking my affections over another soft hide and you hide in the fire of her eyes you never wanted anything well not from me dirty nails dirt under your nails and you were offended that I didn’t want you to come digging yourself up through me you don’t want you devour a monster of the makings of a love denied from you a making of something you picture to have stolen your human you never wanted me that’s clear as the sky is clear for me now I see why I know why I see how and now as I clean the pavement hose in hand rushing waters cleaning the dirty mess of you how a shattered heart ran so far distorting the image of love whenever held