North Peak

It is raining in the valley and
The snow pack melts into clear pools and rivulets
That soak deep into wooden frames of homes and bones and
Everything is damp and cold and rotting.

Above the town
A belt of clouds encircles the waists of mountains and
Hugs the moisture into the hillside.
Above there still
The sky breaks clear and
It’s windy and brisk with aliveness.

I alone contemplate
The vast expanse of spreading white
A scar torn from the arms of forests and descending
Carve serpentine curls through beads of frosted ice and snow
Molded through freeze and thaw into
Tiny grains of crystalline sand. And

Higher still towards the sky
Clouds cling to conical boughs of pine trees
Snagged like strands of cotton webbing slowly spreading and
Holding the cold silent stillness in
To feminine contours of distant mountaintops
Soft fresh cloudsnow deposited in their wake.

It is still winter here. 

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the intimacy of presence

This one I love.
“When you are under this influence, you cannot get caught up in the misery of the world”
~ *Simonne
Poetry, and love, won’t allow escape from the intimacy of presence…

Sur la route de San Romano
by Andre Breton
translated by Simonne Guillerm Allen

Poetry is made like love in a bed
Its undone sheets are the beginning of things
Poetry is done in the woods

It has the space it needs
Not this one but the one that depends

On the eyes of the hawk
The dew on the snake-grass
The fogged souvenir of a bottle of Gewürztraminer on a silver tray
A high stem of tourmaline over the sea
And the road of mental adventure
Which rises up abruptly
One pause and she is mixed up right away.

It is not screamed on the rooftop
It is unproper to leave the door open
Or call witnesses

The school of fish the hedge of chickadees
The rail and the entrance of a great station
The reflection from two banks
The furrows in the bread
The bubble of the brook
The days of the calendar
The St. John’s Wort

The act of love and the act of poetry
Are not compatible
With the reading of the newspaper loudly.

The direction of the ray of the sun
The blue light of the return of the blow of the axe of the woodcutter
The thread of the kite shaped like a heart or a fish keep-net
The beating in rhyme of the tail of the beaver
The diligence of the lightning
The throw of the sugar coated pill from the top of the steps
The avalanche

The chamber of prestigious things
No sir, it is not the eighth chamber
Nor the vapor of the bedroom on a Sunday evening

The dancing figures executed transparently above the palms
The delineation of the outline of the body of a woman from the throw of daggers against the wall
The light undulation of the smoke
The curls of your hair
The curve of the sponge from the Philippines
The snares of the coral snake
The entrance of ivy in the ruins
She has all of time in front of her.

The poetic embrace like the fleshy one
As long as it lasts
Forbids all escape on the misery of the world.

*For more about Simonne see:
https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/translation/
https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/imprint/

Imprint

Simonne* translated this poem today. I breathe these poems in and they reveal themselves to me like the resonance of a dream I am sharing with the poet. They encapsulate a moment in time or an emotion like a memory held in a raindrop that seeps inside me as Simonne reads me her translation and I transcribe the words into into the computer. We are painting in mental imagery together, the poets, Simonne and I. Once it is in the computer, we read at least one other translation to inspire us, line by line comparing it to her own, sometimes adapting her version minimally to make sure her very direct translation expresses in English grammar what we feel the poet was articulating in French, sometimes adopting a more precise word if we happen upon one. We then read this almost final version together, she reading a line in French and then I in English, back and forth, to make sure we like the final image it presents. 

This is a very sad and beautiful poem by Jacques Prevert, a French poet and playwright of the twentieth century. He was one of the original members of the surrealist movement, who eventually rejected both the movement and its founder Andre Breton. Perhaps more on this as I research further, I am fascinated by the sudden intimacy I feel with these deep, sensitive and passionate writers. 

This particular poem published in 1945 reflects, to me, the imprint of a sense memory of an amorous moment, of an experience of beauty that touches us deeply and allows a sense of connection that stays with us even if the encounter is brief, even if the encounter is only witnessed rather than directly shared. And perhaps if and when remembered is a tether to that beauty, to that connection, that can transcend erasure, even from the shadow of war, from the pouring rain that rots and washes everything away until nothing remains, nothing but maybe the resonance of memory.  

Barbara
de Jacques Prevert
translated by Simonne Guillerm Allen

Remember Barbara
It was raining on Brest that day, constantly,
And you went walking, smiling
Radiant, delighted, dripping under the rain
Remember Barbara
It was raining continuously on Brest
And I crossed you on Siam Street
You were smiling
And as for me, I was smiling also
Did you remember Barbara
You whom I did not know
You who did not know me
Do you remember
Do you remember at least that day
Don’t forget
A man was sheltered under a porch
He shouted your name
Barbara
And you ran towards him under the rain
Dripping, delighted, radiant
And you threw yourself in his arms
Do you remember that, Barbara?
And no hard feelings if I use the familiar “tu” with you
I say “tu” to all that I love
Even if I’ve seen them only once
I say “tu” to all that love each other
Even if I do not know them
Remember Barbara
Don’t forget
This rain wise and happy
On your happy face,
On this happy town
This rain on the sea
On the arsenal
On the boat from Ouessant
Oh, Barbara
What stupidity the war is
What has become of you?
Under this rain of iron,
Of fire, of bloody steel
And the one who holds you tight in his arms
Amorously
Is he dead, vanished, or still alive?
Oh, Barbara
It is raining constantly
Like it was raining before
But it is not quite the same and
Everything is damaged
It’s the rain of terrible and desolate mourning
Its no longer a storm
Of iron blood
But quite simply clouds,
Which die like dogs
Dogs which disappear
In the course of the water towards Brest
And go to rot far off
Far off, very far off from Brest
Of which nothing remains.

Prevert often collaborated with musician Joseph Kosma to turn his poetry into music, this version is performed by one of Simonne’s favorites, Yves Montand.

*For more on SImonne and the work we are doing together reference ~
https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/translation/

Vernal Equinox Yoga and Snowshoe Meditation Retreat in the White Mountains

Spring in the White Mountains

Spring in the White Mountains

The word yoga has the same root as yoke, meaning the yoking together of polar opposites as two sides of the same thing. Holding both extremes and the continuum between, balanced at the center.

The vernal, or spring, equinox, balanced precisely between the Winter and Summer Solstices, is typically the turning point weather wise as we begin to experience the effects of the shifting, as daylight becomes equal to nighttime and the still and silent winter woods are being balanced by the warmth and awakening of spring melt.

Come experience the extremes simultaneously on this pinnacle day, balanced right at the center. The winter woodlands opening up with a celebration of the sounds and signs of spring.

http://deniseporterkemp.com/events–snowshoe.html

frame ~ another everyday metaphor

I have a potted plant living in my living room that is at least 30 years old. It belonged to my mother-in-law Mary Atala and to her mother Atala Mary before her. It came to me when my son was around two, so about 11 years ago.

When I lived in Salisbury, New Hampshire, it sat in a big window overlooking forests, mountains, fields and the Blackwater River, where we would swim in the summer and build extreme snow tube tracks and cross country ski in the winter. In front of this plant and this window is where I practiced yoga passionately and dedicatedly as often as possible when I first started teaching. The plant grew a really long tendril that spanned the length of the window that ran the length of the long room that used to be the top level of a chicken coop barn at some point in its incarnation.

The tendril across my window in Salisbury

The tendril across my window in Salisbury

When we moved from that room and that valley into Concord, I repotted the plant and it became huge, several tendrils winding their way across three of the four yellow walls that are my current living room.

In this video, the second long tendril winds across the backdrop…

Not too long ago, most of the leaves along the original tendril from Salisbury began to yellow and wither and die. All except the leaves at the very end. I pulled the dead leaves off, which left an empty tendril all across the main wall of the room where my son Philip and I hang out together, and where I practice and teach yoga now. I wanted to cut it and put the living end in a jar of water to grow new roots, and then replant it so the part that was alive could still grow. Yet I was having trouble letting go of the stem, and that the leaves that looked like they were still living beautifully graced the bay window of the room. So there it sat, dying stem plastered across my wall, me too attached to let go of it.

Philip likes to play indoor mini basketball in this room, and yesterday while he was playing I heard an, “Uh oh” and then silence. I called from my bedroom, “Are you okay?” And he responded, “I broke the plant.” I could hear he was sorry, and afraid I was going to be angry. For a brief second I was. And then I felt a rush of such relief.

He said, “The ball hit the stem and it was like a dried branch. Mom, it was already dead. It just broke off.”

Which was true. By not letting go of this that was obviously passing, the part that was still alive and hanging in my front window looking vibrant and beautiful was slowly dying too. I just hadn’t noticed it yet ~ because I didn’t want to. Partially because I was afraid of the change. And so the vine was inadvertently severed for me.

We cut the rest loose, untangled the dead stem and made it into a cat toy. I put the part that was still living into a jar of water where it will make new roots, and twisted the tip of the tendril that was left across the doorway where it currently hangs. For now.

now

now

I love just watching it grow, witnessing what might happen next.

ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ।।

Aum tryambakam yajāmahe sugandhim puṣṭi-vardhanam ǀ
urvārukam-iva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya māmṛtāt ǁ

Mahamrityunjaya mantra, a prayer of protection and surrender, to remind us when we are trying to hold onto something that is passing…
What it means to me…may we be released from our attachments, when we are ready, like the cucumber is released from the vine, without scar, when it is ripe.
The protection – may we be held by what nourishes us until it is our time to be let go.
The surrender – once we are let go there is no reattaching. When it is our time, may we have the grace and courage to let go.
One thing transforms into the next.

https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/mahamrityunjaya/

https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/everyday-metaphor/

Everyday Metaphor

I took a botany class a long time ago, and a class on growing orchids. I loved the classes and was doing well. The orchids lived under grow lights in my living room and were beautiful. I pampered them constantly. I fancied myself an aspiring botanist.

There was a local scholarship contest, and everyone in the class wrote proposals on what we would do with the money if we won. Looking back, I have no idea what I wrote. But I won. Then those of us who were chosen had to go before a committee to speak about our ideas, and the committee would decide how much each of us would receive.

I was super nervous. I could write but I was scared of people. That they wouldn’t like me. What I had written was authentically me, yet when I went before the committee I tried to be what I thought they wanted. I wore makeup and a skirt from my mom. I wore small heels which I never wore and probably walked funny. For a botany scholarship in San Francisco. None of these women were like that, they were more like me. Yet I bumbled and was awkward. And was not awarded any scholarship funds.

I felt humiliated. The orchids became covered in spiderwebs. I quit botany. Just like that. I felt it was obvious that this was not meant to be.

This past Mother’s Day, last year, I was gifted an orchid in full bloom. It was beautiful and I was grateful. It reminded me of that girl who loved orchids, and botany. Yet I was busy and forgot to water it for the most part. Even so, the flowers stayed for a long time. I never pruned the stems after the flowers passed, which I think I was supposed to do. It has been sitting in my windowsill, and I water it from time to time. I figured it wouldn’t make it.

The other day, when I remembered to water my oh-so-resilient plants, I noticed there was a small bud on one of the orchid stems. I wondered if it was left over from before and I hadn’t noticed it? I watered it by taking it out of its pot and letting warmish water run through the roots. Then put it back on the windowsill.

This morning I happened to look over at the orchid…

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Don’t give up. Seeds are being planted your whole life through. Sometimes it takes awhile for them to grow. And often they unfold differently than you imagined, and at the most unsuspecting of times.