Which came first…

An ekphrastic poem inspired by The Egg by Susan Doolittle

Which came first…

Who better to guard
the mountains than
Ursa Major?

Great She Bear
mothers over
oak and pine
where Noctua / Owl
keeps watchful eyes on
swayed grasses
grown by Eridanus.
Sister river flows
clean and pure,
sings bubbling songs to
Grus and Vulpecula
crane and little fox —
running nearby

We can almost imagine Aquarius,
great water carrier
divine this lush, verdant sphere,
pour life from a star-crystal pitcher.

But man gives and man takes
hardly in equal measure —

The ghost of Lepus, rabbit,
runs quick from Orion
hunter and destroyer
wondering: is this your Eden before
or our Eden finally after?

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. Poem presented at the Guilford Poets Guild Fantastic Ekphrastic event at Guilford Art Center, March 1, 2020 in response to its 2020 Student Art Show. IMAGE: The Egg by Susan Doolittle. Susan’s stoneware egg is carved, painted, and glazed with animals, trees, plants, rivers, and oceans. It’s crowning glory is the cobalt blue sky with stars. Throughout the years, there have been hundreds of constellations named in the sky, some with familiar names, some with Latin counterparts, like Ursa Major/great bear, Noctua/owl (noke-tua), Eridanus/river (eri-dah-noose), Grus/crane (g-roose), Vulpecula/Little Fox (ool-peck-oola), Aquarius/water bearer, and Lepus/rabbit (lay-poose) who is said to be chased in the sky by Orion/hunter.

Transubstantiation

Be the change you wish to see in the world — be the change you fear.

Serve it up in bite-size pieces and make peace with it because resistance is futile.

Change comes and change comes and change comes
and you change and you change and you change.

Extra change in your pocket
is just reserve for the next detour.

Recalculating.

Better to live in fluidic space, liquid and organic,
bending time, not biding,
moving from here to there effortlessly.

Gracefully.
Gratefully.

Because an object at rest stays at rest
but an object in motion stays in motion

and we all know it’s the motion in the ocean that counts.

©Jen Payne. This poem appears in the Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, Our Changing Environment. To purchase your copy, click here.

Second Nature to Me Now

As if she is brand new,

I touch the soft folds,

remark at the marks,

notice the skin and

its propensity to

count time with lines.

There is no preparation

for this reflection,

this time spent

considering

the countenance.

They call it pause

for good reason,

as these mirrored moments

will attest,

for it is here I pause

— and pause again —

as if she is brand new.

©Jen Payne. Image: Standing Odalisque Reflected in a Mirror, Henri Matisse. This poem appears in the Guilford Poets Guild 20th Anniversary Anthology, Our Changing Environment. To purchase your copy, click here.

For Want of a Bowl Garden

Ah, this.
Yes. This is what I need.
A garden of bowls!

Small enough just
to hold the pieces of stories
I hunger to tell you.
The rhythms and rhymes,
etched in fine detail,
their mark-made patterns
like notes to self:
the whats to remember,
the whos and wheres
to scoop from delicate vessels.
Yessss.
These patinaed memories,
complete and incomplete —

holy, one might say —

swaying like blossoms,
await the bee and me
to drink their sweet nectar,
propagate prose or poems.

Yes this, this is what I need.

Thank you!

Poem ©2019, Jen Payne. An ekphrastic poem read at a Guilford Poets Guild event. Inspired by Linda Edwards’ sculpture Bowl Garden (pictured) at the Guilford Art Center 2019 Faculty Exhibition.