Daffodils at Dawn
After William Wordsworth
Last night of stars, a field of bulbs.
You, in blue-black dark, unaware.
Planted in fall, pointy end up.
Each of us inches deep and apart.
How calm the bay, you say.
Yellowest of yellowness, we are
hello hello hello––
ten thousand times hello.
Flash in your after-eye, as you
so often lie, on your futon, alone.
Sunflower 3 O’Clock
On the grounds of the former Medfield Insane Asylum
annuus, yellow haloed
chocolate-centered, beams up
under red brick tower
hot fumed afternoon.
beyond horizon, still
this visceral being
tracks east all night
to absorb dawn
strain-faced, drying fast
loose-plump, petals curled.
Seed-headed, bent down
free by flat of hand
or spill with fork.
A Swampy Area
one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken ― M.F.K. Fisher
By an aging pine, he finds,
beigely blue, on needles
at the tree’s root, an egg
he cups in his sappy palm.
A pin hole bleeds yolk.
This, if kept warm––half-moon
of a boy’s hand––will hatch,
Riding home, front seated––
near as he can be to you––
his sticky hand holds open.
When eggs fall out of trees
he wishes they would bounce
back into their nests.
You are home when––
you should know––
How did it fall?
No, birds build smart––
His sister says another bird
stole it and dropped it.
Birds don’t do that to each other.
Probably got pushed out––
No, a mother would never––
Finally, is it a rotten egg now––will it stink?
His sister is eager to smell it.
Belly stretched, hammer-
kicked. Read up on epidurals before
sleep––no, I will induce self-hypnotic.
Door-creak, comes in––first-born. Spring,
he’s been early out to play, under blue
dome, a crescent moon. Bird’s egg from nest
found, frets his palm, puts it in mine––
to explain. When will it happen––how she
from my belly will be––he so reluctantly
sucked out by scalp, me, never ever again,
my upturned hand––Look––she is
Place & Poetry, Eggs & Diaries
You must love the crust of the earth on which you dwell more than the sweet crust of any bread or cake; you must be able to extract nutriment out of a sand heap. ~ Henry David Thoreau
Place inspires my poetry. And by place, what do I mean? A physical space? Yes. Some acres of land, a swamp, a forest, a river, a raingarden, a meadow, a grove. These are the particular places that inspire my writing. Places I walk daily, breathing, thinking, sensing, and observing nature, in all variations of heat or cold, moisture or dryness, windlessness and fragrance. These places are what the poet Robert Creeley would call my “poet’s locale”– where one feels an intimate association with the ground underfoot.
My home, my ground underfoot, is the woods and wetlands of the Charles River, nestled on the edge of Rocky Narrows, a land bank preserved by the Trustees of Reservations. Centuries ago, Native Americans, including the Wampanoags, walked this land and it was theirs underfoot. Then the Pilgrims, colonists, walked along the river’s land and wanted it for their farms and homes. So, the colonists battled the Wampanoags, led by their chief, Metacomet, along this river, to claim it.
The land on the other side of my spot on the river, also a place I walk frequently, held a state mental asylum, in 1892, which later became Medfield State Hospital where thousands of patients lived and walked and where some are buried in graves that were only recently discovered and marked.
At its height the complex included 58 buildings, on a property of some 1.4 sq mi (3.6 km2), and a capacity of 2,200 patients. It raised its own livestock and produce, and generated its own heat, light and power. . .the property was closed in April 2003 and the buildings shuttered. The grounds have been restored, and reopened to the public and are open every day from sun up to sundown. [Wikipedia]
Certainly, each of my four poems published here rose out of an intimate connection with its own particular spot on the earth. Isn’t that a wonderful idea to contemplate? A poem rises from a specific plot of ground? But how? Does putting our feet on the ground give rise to our unconscious, or psychic, material––memory and emotion? Is this the process that juices our imagination to rise into an impulse for a particular poem? Eudora Welty points me toward this idea. She said, place induces poetry––When the poet is extremely attentive to what is there, a meaning may even attach to his poem out of the spot on earth where it is spoken, and the poem signify the more because it does spring so wholly out of its place, and the sap has run up into it as into a tree.
Sap running up from the ground we’re standing on is a wonderful metaphor for the inspiration of our unconscious. But, if I believe place inspires poetry, even though I mean this literally, I also mean it does this figuratively. A place could be a poem written by someone else that has become so intimate and familiar it’s embodied in the psyche as if it’s a place one has lived. Particularly, perhaps, if one has memorized it, and recited it countless times. As I have taken in William Wordsworth’s poem, I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud so that Wordsworth’s daffodils have taken root in my psyche. So that I cannot go, at dawn, to a favorite cliff walk on the Atlantic shore of Newport, Rhode Island, as I did one recent April, and see the host of golden daffodils, morning lit, in full bloom, without feeling an impulse toward a poem merging those spots of earth: the cliffwalk, and Wordsworth’s iconic poem––the locale that gave rise to my Daffodils at Dawn.
In Sunflower 3 O’clock, there is a literal place that inspired my poem––the small garden plot where the sunflowers grew. And the ghost place all around where I walk (as a visitor): the grounds of the former state mental hospital, now shuttered and uninhabited, except by walkers, dogs, trees and lawn––and sunflowers blooming in view of the clock tower built above the brick chapel whose doors are long locked, whose clock has long ago stopped keeping time.
A Swampy Area was also inspired by a physical place I walked with my son and daughter, as a young mother, near the elementary school my son was attending in the town next door. But also, this poem grew out of a figurative place: the handwritten diary I kept for him where this story was originally written. The literal swamp was the place the story was experienced; the diary was the place where the story was concretized, processed and felt. And the poem came from the broken egg that fell out of the nest which is the psychic origin of all.
There are three places of origin in my poem, Mid-March. A mother’s body holding a baby about to be born, a nest from a dream, and the diary, like a nest, where I originally recorded the dream. Oh, these diaries. How would I have mothered without making these nests of words that fed me then, fed my children, then and now, feed us still? Today, they’re held in boxes in a huge metal storage container in my front yard. The bedroom where I kept them had a fire and the diaries, unharmed, and all of us, unharmed, survive. And my son, the one who found the fallen egg, now a man––and a fine one––wants me to get them out of storage, wants to hold the books of my words of the stories of his origin. Wants his hands to hold them on the spot of earth from which they sprung.
Kelly DuMar is a poet, playwright and workshop facilitator from Boston. She’s author of three poetry chapbooks, and her fourth is upcoming from Lily Press, 2023. Kelly’s poems, prose and photos are published in Bellevue Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Thrush, Glassworks and more. Kelly serves on the Board of the Transformative Language Arts Network, and produces the Open Mic Writer Series for the Journal of Expressive Writing, attended by writers worldwide. She blogs her daily nature photos & creative writing at kellydumar.com/blog.