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.
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.