Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday Poem - Water by Melissa Green

                 v Water

                  Father, I'm drowsy in April's humming sun and think
                  A girl the color of Autumn kneels at the Squanicook's bank,
                  Who is the river's daughter, dressed in driven skins,
                  Who knows a cedar wind at Nissequassick brings
                  The schools of alewife, herring, yellow perch ashore.
                  The place of Salmon roars with light. She steps, sure-
                  Footed onto stone; lithe as a poplar, bends over
                  The water. Wren feathers, shells, seven quills quiver
                  In her sable hair. Her eyes, a spring-fed stream, 
                  Like silica, seek bottom. Deep in her mossy brain,
                  The white-tailed mouse is born. She carries in her supple
                  Body all of spring - a tree frog in the apple,
                  A kit fox dozing in the brush, a brash otter
                  Diving her river-veins - the new, young, utterly
                  Green morning beads her skin. How simply she leans
                  Into understanding, baptized by light and the delicate lines
                  Of shadow from cedar. A goldfinch has flown its ribbed nest,
                  Dusting her cheek with its wing, a hummingbird throbs in her wrist, 
                  She is drenched in waking. Wonder, a long-legged doe,
                  Drinks in deeply, as all instinctive creatures do, 
                  And laughs, leaping the current, printing the field with dew. 

                  Melissa Green 
                     from The Squanicook Eclogues - pg 15. (W.W Norton & Company, Inc., 1987)

Melissa Green - whose 'vision is wonderbursts of wordstruts, inveterately inner, complex and subtle'* - is well-known within our community and beyond. The first time I read The Squanicook Eclogues, I cried. Noisily. Full-heartedly. Aghast at her exquisite, authoritative, passionate command of language, I audaciously imagined I might one day create a suite of paintings in response to these four poems. I made a start with an image-homage to 'v Fire'. 

Amy Clampitt endorsed Melissa's first collection with these words, "Melissa Green is a born, a natural poet, with whose work I've felt a quick affinity, along with an astonished admiration. Who could have supposed that Wilfred Owen would find such a disciple? It is an index of her originality that beginning with his strict and demanding consonances, she has gone her own gravely, sonorously engrossing way, and done so with such winning assurance." Melissa is one of our Tuesday Poets; the poem she posted on her blog today Statue of a Couple by Czesław Miłosz seems to me an echo of her Water. . . 

*Richard Eberhart

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 
This week's editor is Seattle poet, Therese Clear. She has chosen the poem Talking Mean by Paul Hunter


  1. Awesome - an over-used word these days, but in fact the first word that came unbidden to my mind after reading this and after allowing all the brightness and dazzle to settle. Each line holds a weight of images. Startling. Astonishing. Satisfying. Thank you Claire. Thank you Melissa.

  2. Dear Claire,

    I will be back tomorrow, when more alert, to re-read and celebrate Melissa here. Thank you. ((((0)))) xo

  3. "She carries in her supple/Body all of spring...."

    ...and all of a particular universe.

    Stunning work.

    Thank you to both Claire and Melissa.

  4. penelope said it. i can only nod my head in affirmation. tred softly.

  5. "a hummingbird throbs in her wrist"

    oh I love that - I can feel that thumping in my own.
    Beautiful, Melissa.
    Thanks for sharing it, Claire.

  6. Hi Kay - yes, each line 'a weight of images'. A lightness of images, too. Melissa knows about balance; like a trapeze artist, she somehow knows how and when to lean whilst standing poised and upright. Her poems often seem to me to uphold and defy gravity at one and the same time. Awesome indeed xo

  7. Marylinn - your pebbles and presence are known, felt and always welcome. xo

  8. dbs - yes, that's it exactly. Water for parched throats. This water effervesces. One can see, touch, taste, smell and hear it.

  9. I agree, T - all of a particular universe. So many lines here to take the breath away - and restore it. I so love the 'brash otter diving her river-veins' and 'how simply she leans into understanding, baptized by light and the delicate lines of shadow from cedar.' Oh, but the same is so for every line - not a word, comma, dash out of place. . . I love every shimmering word and moment of this poem.

  10. Pen and Susan - yes, I, too, nod my head in agreement, holy ground to be entered and crossed on soft feet.


  11. Hi Rach - I wonder how it would be if we all walked in awareness of the 'hummingbird throbbing in our wrists' (for I imagine we might all live with one)?

    Love to you in Wilkes Barr, C xx

  12. =) people say Wilkes-Barr as well actually. I don't actually know where I live.
    I have a couple month old bird tattooed on my wrist. I definitely feel it thumping. xo

  13. 'Father, I'm drowsy in April's humming sun ...' talk about grabbing someone at hello. It's like being grabbed by collar - tightly - made to listen. Astonishing. All of it. The rhythms, the flow from line to line, like water ... And Claire, where is the river in the photo?

  14. Rach, we live in our own skins and in many ways and shapes beyond time and actual place. (What are time and space anyway? Measurable, immeasurable non-entities/constructs/illusions? I don't know.).

    I have thought of you and the bird you etched into your wrist a couple of months ago. . . what species of bird did you choose, Rach? Or is it one of your own creation, a winged version of you? xo

  15. Mary, yes, the opening line of Melissa's poem is a salutation and an invitation at one and the same time. . . an invitation to listen. One cannot help but stop and pay attention, each word taking its perfect place - allusion, sound. Weight.

    Have you read this collection? (I am going to add a link to it on Amazon - there were, however, very few copies still available when I ordered mine back in early 2009).

    The river is one I swam in under beating sun and nights of falling stars and fireflies in the Cape Province, SA. Somehow the bluer waters of our NZ rivers didn't seem right. . . I wonder what Melissa thinks? (M, does this river 'match' your Squanicook in tone and temperament? Perhaps I should have checked with you before posting it. . . your poem conjures its own landscape and the pic may detract? Let me know, won't you, please? xx)

  16. Thank you all for your exquisite comments. I'm rather overwhelmed. (Mary, dear, you'll never find a copy--I'll send you one of mine if you send me your address, tit for tat?)

    Claire, the picture of the river is quite perfect, although the Squanicook is surrounded by a lot of pine trees and is quite sandy, the water is brown, not blue, with a gentle current most of the time; though the shore is ringed by a great many granite boulders, as is your photo.

    It's a small river, I suppose a brook, really, and it's in the middle of the state of Massachusetts, about 50 miles from Boston--in my day, quite out in the country.

  17. Thanks, M. Each of us forms our own images according to our different history and stories so it's a stroke of (more than?) coincidence when two or more settle into place and resonate one with the other. You place the Squanicook and 'her daughters' within our reach as you paint these waters as a unique and universal river. xo

  18. A sense of The Goddess is so strong, each image and pulse speak in Nature's voice. (using the cap letters was all I could think of to emphasize) What glorious expression of a rare vision that sees the worlds we contain. And I can see Rachel's bird, an imagined species, in the wrist pulse. So glad you shared Melissa and "Water" with us, Claire. xo

  19. I'm in awe of sweet Melissa's art. Awestruck when I read her.
    "She steps, sure-
    Footed onto stone.." This is precisely Melissa with her poems. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. :)