Three autumns ago, Mary Kathryn Jablonski and I co-featured at the Woodstock Poetry Society. She read from her chapbook, To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met, while I read from My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse plus a poem about an autumn leaf, for which I passed around a brown shopping bag filled with colorful leaves for the audience to take like those tiny flags everyone waves at parades. As I read in the poem addressing the leaf:
…. You are not my beautiful death.
You are the tiny flag in my hand
declaring victory for what was
and what is to come.
Now Mary Kathryn has been married for a year, and spring has draped the world in fresh green leaves. We caught up over brunch in Woodstock the other day after she’d driven down from Saratoga. She has fond memories of this town where she spent a summer as an arts student years ago and rode her bike out to Cooper Lake for the prettiest view in the world. Still an artist, as well as a poet, she showed me some of her beautiful handmade books. She also brought three poems to chose among for the blog. I read them all and said “Yes!”
The first comes from To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met. She offers some helpful notes. The title is one of the “seas” or lava plains on the moon. The poem refers to fly fishing: “darning needles” are dragon flies, a “rainbow” is a trout, and “Gray Ghost” is a fly fishing lure. Mary Lane, Pawlet, Flour Brook, and the Mattawee River are in Vermont. (Come to think of it, I forgot to ask if her husband is a fisherman. She did say that they love taking bird walks together.) The final italicized lines come from the Book of Thomas the Contender, one of the Gnostic gospels.
Mare Vaporum (Sea of Vapor)
Take me to that floating light in fractals,
conjuring new hues of remedy mirrored
in the meniscus. Drive me back to Mary Lane
past Hebron and the great blue heron, nodding
Pye weed and the watchful kestrel of Pawlet,
beside the Flour Brook where it joins
the Mettawee, honeysuckle steep, circled
by luminous darning needles, two and two
in flight. Threading nymphs, try to thwart the rainbow,
riverwalking wordless Gray Ghost days, for
this place in all the universe has marked us.
Let that which is visible and brought to naught
dissolve. Let me perish in concern for this life.
At seventeen Mary Kathryn lost her mother. Now she has a recurring dream of opening doors. That’s in the final line of this dream poem that appeared in the Beliot Poetry Journal. The title refers to an open star cluster that resembles a beehive in the constellation Cancer.
Praesepe (The Beehive)
It was a liquid world: viscous, mutable,
at times even joyous, a world of florals,
open/closed. I distilled your every word
to nectar. In repetition of James Gould’s
experiment at Princeton: you moved
the sugar and I found it, you moved
the sugar and I found it, you moved
the sugar and I found it, you got out
of the car with the jar, and I was
already there. But now the hive is dead.
Desperately, I beat this union down
like Virgil’s bullock, still no bees emerge.
Instead, like truths, they escape my mouth
in wild dreams as I ascend darkening hillsides,
combing open graves for the lost queen.
Mary Kathryn grew up on a farm with hard work, goats, and four older brothers. Her maternal grandmother, Zofia, lived next door. Blueline published this one. Over brunch we discussed the centralness of metaphor to poetry. Here’s a compelling example. Plus, it smells delicious.
They grew wild surrounding Zofia’s
abandoned barn in which I’d hide, first
to volunteer for picking. Nail holes
in the tin roof pierced lines of light
the dust would ride in waves, like the scent
of decades-old hay and straw, breath of cows
long gone. Mother’s dull scissors tucked
in my pocket, I snipped baskets full
of these dark eyes from which she’d bake, not
stealing even a few, like the cherries –
or sweet peas lost in shucking. No, these
were so tart, they seared the tongue, begging
a cup of sugar in each recipe. My
fingers stained bruise-blue from gently slipping
them off stems for pies full of shades and sun.