Friday, December 16, 2011


TONIGHT WHEN I WENT OUT TO SHUT THE CHICKENS IN, DARKNESS ENVELOPED ME. I think the moon is still waning some from full, but the cloud cover snuffed all illumination from the sky. No moon, no stars. I hope you'll pardon the cliché when I tell you I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I tried it: held my hand out in front of my face and after a moment or two I could see a ghostly outline of a hand, pale grey in the inky blackness, but I could have imagined it. It was raining a little, but fairly warm for December, and I worried some about tripping on the way out to close up the coop, but didn't go back for a flashlight. I felt what was left of the soft mulch pile under my feet—not so much a pile anymore, but a cushioned layer at the end of the lane—and hoped I was walking in the direction of the coop. I held my hand out, feeling for chicken wire, and was almost there before I saw the faint outline of the galvanized tin roof and heard the soft chuckle of the flock settling in for the night. I stood for a moment appreciating the velvet dark.
A short walk to many places
 It was our recent trip to the city that made me notice the darkness at home. Chicago doesn't seem to get dark. All night long a muddy glow pushed in through the window. At home, when the moon is full I wake often to find my bedroom full of a silvery light, and sometimes find it hard to get back to sleep. This light was different. The moon's trip across the sky makes the light coming in my room fluid. I can tell how soon morning will come by the angle of the light. When I see the silver disc hanging over the chicken coop, I know daybreak is near. In the city, the light is static. The same angle, the same intensity, every hour of my wakening.

But enough about insomnia! This all sounds like I don't like the city, when, in fact, I had such a good trip that I need to remember what I didn't like. We packed Ursula into her soft crate for the long drive. A few pit stops along the way and we arrived at our Uptown destination. We had come to do some work and enjoy some of the city's offerings. Our home in the city is a short walk to the beach, to the dog park, to a supermarket and to many small owner-operated shops. After a walk with Ursula, we went to an Indian grocery, where we bought a box of some rich and aromatic chai masala. 100 tea bags for the price of two 20 bag boxes at home. Next stop, the grocery where I maintained my country mouse status by being too slow at that newfangled ATM they have up there. While I was taking my time, reading the directions, the machine got impatient, sucked up my card and shredded it. At least they gave me my money first, so we went on to a couple of poetry readings. In a blue room with a swordfish on the wall, one poet read his translations of a few of Petrarch's sonnets, and sang I Fall in Love too Easily. Next a woman, the featured poet, read a prose poem set on a small farm in New Mexico. In the narrative, the speaker couldn't bring herself to kill her turkey, so her friend wrapped the one she killed for herself and put it in the trunk of the speaker's car. Her work was respectful and engaging and fresh. I'm inspired to look up her name so I can read more of her work.

The next evening we went to another reading in an Irish Pub before heading home. There we splurged on a plate of bangers and mash and let the words and songs wash over us. I chickened out about reading my own poem, then chickened back in once the readers began. I read badly, and plumb forgot to tell the funny back story that I planned while I was waiting my turn. We ate and drank and laughed and visited with other writers during the break. I let the poems take me to their worlds and then drop me back down in the pub. They were ephemeral, made of breath. We sat in the warm pub and listened to the rise and fall of the rhythms and rhymes and reasons. I feel inspired to add a new rhythm to my life. To join this gallant community in breathing out inspiration each month.

Travel in Beauty; Recite Peace; Blessed Be.

I let the poetry take me to other worlds....

The poems were ephemeral--made of breath...


  1. Hi Mary, I like your Chicago pictures and stories. Seeing the lake pic reminded me of how those waves freeze up like a crystal roostertail in the deep winter. Made me miss those days I lived across the street from Lincoln Park!

  2. I love the image: Roostertail! :) Thanks, Karen.