The Portsmouth Poetry Hoot, sponsored by the Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program, is usually held on the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. at Café Espresso, 738 Islington Street, Portsmouth. The next Hoot, to be held on Oct. 5, will feature New Hampshire Poet Laureate Alice Fogel and poet Sid Hall.

 

The Pale Tears of Solomon Seal

 

The moony curls of the fiddlehead glow green with meaning and sentiment, migrant

leaves arrive in spring rain and the clematis springs to the arbor, a host of frostbitten

 

flames. I make the day a field in my body, a field that is a headwater my soul gulls in, but

when the groundhog, round as a cigar, waddles out of the forest, nose wrinkling, jaws

 

tapping like castanets, I watch the fat bastard head for the Gorse yellow fritillary,

wimpled by mother-set petals, and not for the trap baited with butter lettuce, bread. I

 

release my terrier whose barks whip the air into shape. The tumor, big as a golf ball on

her foreleg, doesn’t stop her because spring can’t be halted, it’s too dire, intense, yappy

 

with wonder and bafflement. May has glossed cold, false indigo, astute with lonely blue

spires, sit in plastic pots and the field that is my body is tended by beards of bitterness

 

in which seeds tap, a field where I’m the sole docent. Groundhog will be back, lit

with hunger for my masterwort, my pasque flowers, red as coughed-up blood. I’ll ply

 

the trap with fish fillets and tender, urgent, pea shoots, the trap in which I’ve caught, then

released two crows, a wharf rat, big as a basketball. I know groundhog, that codgy coach,

 

and I know terrier. Groundhog will return, but not the terrier. How do I release her,

her perfect black soul which mine gulls in, her yaps, bunny hops? She whose nose holds

 

spring’s dank stricken interiors? Who will I be without her whirly gig tail, steady

as a pump, drawing up the well water we ache for? Who? How? She whose ashes

 

will fleece the garden and sit in the little clay birdcage on the mantle aside the gold

Buddha. Ashes I’ll fling like dung into the whiskey sea while wind, brash, honest, homes

 

my bones. How? She who will leave me, stranded, without love or reason. Beings live

for beings, beings full of atrocious springs, strident buds which plié on mindless leaves

 

for the glory of one full-stopped moment. Aren’t we this gross, bred by brevity and

bearing, but how much bearing can be done? Is death an opiate? Pendulous,

 

the pale tears of Solomon Seal. Pendulous. Wholly I love her tender, tented ears.

 

—Elizabeth Kirschner

 

I knelt, or sat—don’t recall which—on the floor with Sam, another’s best friend, but friend enough to me to warrant my presence at his passing; ached with my daughter when she bade farewell to aged, white Ruby, whom she’d loved since a kitten, wept over pale Lucky, sole survivor of a fated litter, whose passing took a piece of her heart, and in doing so a piece of mine; felt Ella grow still under my stroking, stretched on the floor with the two dogs in whose company Max was wont to breathe his last. I have felt Ms. Kirschner’s grief, ardor for life preserved, so eloquently manifested in “The Pale Tears of Solomon Seal.” “Beings live for beings,” she writes. Asks, “Is death an opiate?” So much we don’t know, so much don’t control. Statements and questions that limn the notion that life is a gift of indeterminate duration. Losing the whole, we cling to the parts, “tender, tented ears.” We are disconsolate, are ourselves no longer whole, would do well to hold this knowledge foremost, that it guide, moment to moment, acts that in remembering will be more good than otherwise.

Elizabeth Kirschner is a dog widow who lives on the water in Kittery Point. She is the author of seven books, most recently a memoir, "Waking the Bones," published by Piscataqua Press and winner of the North Street Book Prize for best work of nonfiction by an independent writer. Her dog, Larka, remarkable and beautiful, died on Sept. 6, but remains Kirschner's best friend and companion.

 

—John Simon