Maria van Beuren
Maria lives in an arena of greenery and animals. And from that comes a life of editing and writing. Her new tee-shirt says "STAY CLAM AND PROOFREAD." We're glad she proofed these poems to begin our New Year. We hope 2014 will be as inspired and prismatic as Maria's work - thought without error. - Grace Cavalieri
Maria van Beuren lives and works at Toad Hall in New Hampshire. Toad Hall is a by-invitation-only writers’ and artists’ retreat and has its own imprint, Toad Hall Press. Maria is ably assisted in her various enterprises by her 8 dogs and the highly skilled Toad Hall Press Editorial Board. Maria’s chief pleasure in life is, during the days when there are no writers and artists in residence at Toad Hall, keeping nothing in the fridge but expensive champagne. Maria writes poetry, and has had some of her poems published, but she steadfastly refuses to take herself seriously. She won’t divulge anything about her invisible means of support, although she once was president of the American Society for Indexing.
Too Close to the Truth
The poems were having a party –
they invited everyone except me.
Later, they talked about it in front of me:
how good the wine was,
where to get more of that balsamic dressing,
the best cherry pie ever.
When I invite a poem over to my house,
she can’t be bothered to say Yes or No
and if she does show up, she might bring a friend,
and they barge right in,
sit down and tell me I’m too fat,
my hair looks terrible,
and I look tired.
I don’t mention that
the poems drink too much,
their hands shake,
they go silent and even sulk
for no good reason.
The poems brag about their grandkids,
complain about the weather,
gossip about the murder
that happened so long ago
but just up the road.
I have nothing to add:
I have no children,
I know no other weather,
and I’m too new here
to have any murders in my trove.
I listen to them, but
I’d rather they had something important to say.
I’d never claim I’m the neighbor
of Homer or Blake;
I’m just a small, solitary poet,
wishing her real poems
weren’t so far away, so faithless, and so frail.
This the truth:
Love is not weak.
Love is a sailplane flight,
with an invisible cause
and best attempted in the light
(because in the dark, Earth doesn’t breathe).
Soaring on fixed wings
is silent, swift,
and rarely requires an oxygen mask,
but when it comes to its end,
there is the mercy of ground effect,
the last forgiveness the air can offer.
Of course, there are some rules:
always have a place to land;
don’t run out of altitude;
keep an eye on those electric strands
that pulse disaster.
To prolong the trip, ride the ridge,
don’t fear an unplanned route.
No matter what terms you’re forced to hear--
the physical, like palliation, sedation, or pain control,
the legal, like capacity, competence, or consent,
and the spiritual, like acceptance or afterlife--
what they mean is
don’t peg your hopes on a miracle,
they are ultimately just the language of rest.
Love is not weak.
This is the truth.
I wouldn’t lie to you:
Cross my heart and hope to die.
The Moons of Jupiter
Le silence éternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie.
Today, a mouse perished in agony
on my doorstep.
I know because in the morning
I went to sweep the steps
and saw him there,
struggling in his death throes,
and I was too cowardly to help him
out of his misery, and only
placed my straw hat over him.
At noon, I bend to the earth
to dig a place for him,
so that he will rest among the flowers,
but even in this moment
my mind is not with him.
Instead, I think of the tripod set in the field
and of the million starry eyes
that will look down on my telescope,
as I peer outward,
searching for the moons of Jupiter,
while I sing his name like a prayer.
So, nearly five centuries after he lived,
I make a small placard: “Galileo,”
to mark the mouse’s grave.
And I think that this is no worse
than any of the other untruths.
You might travel the world over
and never see anything as beautiful
as the gold hairs on a baby’s head,
and late in life you learn that all mothers lie
to their children when they say that
one needs to learn to walk only once,
because one needs to learn to walk
in infancy, and then one needs to learn
all over again, in grief.
At a Loss
My words left me
silently, like migratory birds
catching a prevailing wind
at the last moment before the freeze.
Or maybe they sloped off in disgust,
offended by all the rejection letters
that prove I don’t know how to use them.
Of course they left behind some non-natives
who are happy to yell “Santé” and “Nazdarovye”
each time I lift a glass.
Who cares? The little darlings
were bastards anyway –
disloyal, lazy, stubborn, ambiguous, obscure
and resentful. Just like their author.
In the garden, the crickets
staple summer to fall,
and the last of the year’s butterflies
wander among the asters.
The field guide
identifies one butterfly
by its ability to mimic poison.
I reject this affront.
Why must the pedestrian rule nomenclature?
(What would my name be
if all my neighbors knew I dwell in a bog?)
Today I shall rename three,
and capture, for their elfin wings,
a parcel of joy in air.
A pearly evanescence.
In the morning, I lean close to the window,
and my warm breath on the cold glass
obscures the view.
Frost painted the lawn last night
as the full moon claimed
the last of the harvest.
The birches responded
by positing sulfur-colored leaves.
Tonight, I predict, the moon will wear
a ragged, clouded cloak,
as if ashamed of eternal return.
© Maria van Buren, all rights reserved