Icon in a Green Walnut Shell
the sound of wind shifting stones, slowly,
over centuries, is how a woman walks
the land. a sound you can only hear
when you grow still
between the thud of heart
(the blue vein of the horizon)
and the night (the red veil
of the lung).
a man is how we silence trees. the sound
of the wind shifting stones
is an avalanche in the white sheet of
the tongue. is how a child grasps
wheat fields, scratches stars down
from the dark. We use words
borrowed from old countrysides. look up.
their meanings as if they are vials
full of nostrum brewed by no one. the rest
is the way a man speaks
trees, that blossom into houses. then prays.
the green veil of the fingers
plucking the sky from its roots
is how a woman listens. slowly, over centuries
is how plutonium blossoms in the core
of our bones. is how a child gasps The
call of the raven startles us
into a story, where we are not
the beginning, and words
not the end or the telling
but what we break open. in our half-lives.
what we share, what we crouch to eat.
on the edge of night
This process started years ago, when I (Harold) used to climb my walnut tree in the mountains of British Columbia and shake down walnuts which I picked up from the fall chrysanthemums, and, far away in Bulgaria, I (Daniela) was falling in love with a walnut tree in my grandmother’s yard, staining my fingers on their husks, eating the milky fruit inside.
After that, things were quiet for many years, we both became better writers while working with Daniela’s poems, and began to wonder how we could apply what we had learned. We discussed working out the parameters of a new method of teaching, but it was difficult to get beyond the roles of teacher and student, although we were neither. I (Harold) got the idea that the next step might be to write poems together, without selves, to write them as shared objects. I conceived of them as dramas. W>i<e made a couple attempts that went nowhere, as the process began with poems that appeared finished and the work of breaking them, so they could be reformed, was more difficult than w<i>e anticipated. Thus invitation was already there.
Then Daniela found a line in a story of Harold’s in The Malahat Review, quickly added a few verses to it, and sent it Harold’s way, suggesting he mutate the signature.
I (Harold) had fun with it, picked up on the rhythms (I) Daniela had set up, modified them, depersonalized adjectives, and ran with it as far as I could.
W>i<e both continued this process of shuffling and movement, and within two days of tossing it back and forth w<i>e had a poem that was larger than w>i<e were (was). Most of what was exchanged between us was the poem back and forth. Not much else in terms of explanations. Now that w<i>e have found a way to balance form with improvisation, w>i<e will be writing many more.