The Tower Journal

Judith Cody

Guide to Pruning Roses

Not this morning—bad elbow.
Misplaced the healing thingee wrap that helps my tennis elbow.

Pruning shears need sharpening.
Unknown neighbor borrowed sharpening stone and never returned it!
So upset about that—just can’t get started.

Wrong pruning shears—should be bypass type!
Need time to research correct type of pruning shears.
Need time to research good price for correct pruning shears on Web.

Excellent PBS political debate—must be a good citizen.
Is that the Rose Bowl on TV?

Uh oh! Too early to prune.
Whoops! Too late to prune.
Not sure exactly when to prune.

Life Is Good Except for Eternal Flames

Inspired by true events
—Screen credit

Last count: one thousand eight hundred wildfires surround us as we sleep, eat, inhale them along with the orange-tinted TV news reports (they are now an addiction). Strangling-gray shrouds stainless steel B-rex barbecues, ash-bathed investment automobiles. Strangling-gray mushes tightly against the many window-paneled monster mansions, the calm little row houses, the soft struggle of suburbia. Strangling-gray dips beneath freeway overpasses, seeking the homeless sheltered there. Strangling-gray oozes into nostrils, creeps beneath Ray-Bans, scratching laser-sculpted corneas. Occasionally, as if signaling a turn of events, rose gardens flicker preposterous hues (just for several seconds) that puncture the dense pall before they are instantaneously incinerated, joining the other ash-coated hillsides. On Fourth of July week, the strangling-gray drifted away on a mellow wind off of the Pacific Ocean. No one prayed to the ocean for this wonder-wind that cleansed the sky to Paul Newman blue and allowed tamed-by-man fireworks to come out of hiding and celebrate the holiday with ingenious boxed and/or bottled fires to do playful things in that deeply cleaned air. Fire is loved, even worshiped, maybe that’s why it returns so often. The media is insanely infatuated with the towering, sky-scorching flames. The higher they tower, the more likely those burning-brightly areas will be chosen to show on TV news over and over, channel after channel. Even after the fire is finished, the old conflagration images will keep on appearing everywhere until you know them by heart, have the place and time of the flame’s site memorized, and are able to pick that photo out from a thousand other home-on-fire photos. A man escaped the fire in Butte County. He had only his worn shirt, pants, and a beat-up jacket on. These were the only possessions that remained from his life. Looking preoccupied, he spoke to the hovering camera, “I wish I’d had a little box with some of my stuff in it. Stuff I’ll really miss. By the door. So I could’ve grabbed it when the fire roared high as hell toward my house that day. I wish I’d…” His hand lightly brushed a smear of soot on his brow. Sometimes California burns exceptionally bright and anguished extinguishing the sun in an immemorial contest of fire against fire.

The Mists Regroup. Suddenly.

Notice the view:
Fog (or so the weather channels try to tell us!) filters in from the ocean side of this long, thin peninsula, drapes over the squat Silicon Valley mountains like a tear-stained widow’s veil, enshrouds our valley, buries alive the lot of us all: people, porridge, and pigs. Greening flecks of thousands of gardens intertwine, an urban lace decoration widely scattered, surrounding the monoliths of the world’s cyber chattering Internet, the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, they that straddle the once fecund farm pastures that hosted native peoples in their unsurpassed societies before the yawning maw of time devoured it all, as it continues to do. In my Lilliputian green patch of paradise, prosaic tree limbs change into puny, pale fingers pawing over my home and garden mural mired in the middle of our Pacific Northwest winter. Sky disappeared sometime after midnight, dawn never arrived, sun went out for an Aztec breakfast. Now released from its last, lurking haunt, the looming mist-creature struts around the landscape, steals even tall trees away while it stomps on my breeze-fluttering garden, which is a butterfly beneath the behemoth’s boots. Beyond the window glass there are wispy echoes of the sorts of sounds the writhing mist makes; as if it’s bouncing invisible basketballs off of something congealing—something that yields suspiciously—something growling like a stomach full of rot—as if it is alive.

Later at the café:
But, listen to this, can it be that the bones of those ancient inhabitants are not sleeping as serenely (as it’s convenient to believe) beneath their headstones of malls, or can they find no peace inside the twittering tombs of the World Wide Web cyberstructures twisting tighter and tighter? And another thing, is there a chance that the gardens (wouldn’t you think our houses would be next?) are irretrievable—that this whole place, I mean everything, will not see the sun rise again that everything has been stolen under the caul of fog tonight that we are next that morning is a myth that tonight’s gray gathering-together-of-the-mists is really a visitant, that these things are real…

A Few Words on Being Deceased

Sitting by the window:
There is not one thing romantic or even noble about death. Poets, biologists, saints and sinners are wrong. It just is. Like a galaxy or algae or a scream just is. Loving is death to love is inevitable grief. Death is a heap of putrescence: all that you ever loved is gone all at once suddenly must be refrigerated is transformed into an inert lump becoming clay. One instant ago time was alive with the burning eyes of the beloved that instant was all time with life then erased replaced with empty glazed “jelly globes” taken away by strangers to a strange place in the ground why did God not answer when I called out, asked mercy? The ground is so lonely and cold a place to put something so loved so once bright. If death is so natural why haven’t we a better response to its devastation? Why isn’t acceptance built into our genetic patterns? Why so much suffering at the end if all is so natural? Vikings sent the corpse out to sea to burn on a boat. Sailors and the like have been flung into the sea with a prayer or two. Tender waves seem more the natural return point than thick clay or ashes. The pounding pulse of our planet, the sea can accept the silent heart in kinder waves. Are not bodies more water than dirt? Some of our ancestors ate their own relatives rather than put them into the dirt as a banquet for alien insects. This may be a great kindness to memory—to love. Is it? Do you know? Are these words too cruel to the living? Most of these words on being deceased are questions. Why? Is there no answer? Or will the answer twist, wormlike, through speculations safely entombed out of mind for eons?

Later at the café:
They walked in as if they had got the place cheap at a billion bucks, wearing mud-stiffened, factory-ragged jeans, designer-branded tees, hair and beards overgrown for effect, with the whole of the rank-smelling lot of them ostentatiously topped off with the type of straw hats worn by local farmers—who they were not; then sucking, at six-fifty a paper cup, from triple espressos plus while jabbering on like Congress in session about exhuming a lamentable handful of “Maybe, maybe, if we’re lucky…Indian bones from the look of them.”

Copyright © 2014 Judith Cody

Judith CodyJudith Cody, poet and composer, has won national poetry awards from Atlantic and Amelia magazines, as well as a national award in music. One of her poems, with its historical documents, is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Three of her poems were chosen as quarter-finalists in the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry; her poetry was put forward for the Lyric Recovery Award’s Carnegie Hall reading; and poems were cited for honorable mentions by the National League of American Pen Women. Her poems have been published in over eighty journals, such as: Nimrod, New York Quarterly, Stand, South Carolina Review, Texas Review, Confluence, Fugue, Carquinez Poetry Review, Distillery, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Cumberland Poetry Review, The Montreal Review, Rio Grande Review, Fox Cry Review, Louisville Review, Madison Review, Phoebe, Quiddity, Primavera, Poet Lore, Poem, Xavier Review, Assisi, Bathyspheric Review, Eureka Literary Magazine, Phantasmagoria, The Binnacle, Splash Of Red, Soundings East, Westview, Caduceus, Chaffin Journal, Arabesques Review, Central California Poetry Journal, Language and Culture, Edison Literary Review, Lost and Found Times, Androgyne, Ginosko, Forge, Rattlesnake Review, and others. Her work is anthologized in: Oakland Out Loud, Words Upon the Water, Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and others. She is currently the editor of a PEN anthology and is the editor for a NASA division history. She wrote the internationally notable biography of composer Vivian Fine: A Bio-Bibliography (Greenwood Press) and Eight Frames Eight (poems).

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014