The Rose by Patricia Nelson

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—After Dante: Paradiso

i.
How, but by forgetting, can I leave
the yellow brightness of the center,
the white rose raveling beauty?

I who grew brighter even in its shadow
must turn earthward now,
cooling like a cloud.

That white, lost flower rests in my skin
like a shape on the distorted, moving water,
which the water does not see.

ii.
The shape and noise of the world returns:
the calls, the changes like a thudding of stairs.
After radiant stars, the eloquent hardness of a wall.

I touch it with blank, soft hands,
the sounds in the underlying wood
like a creaking of bridges.

The night lifts its black and crooked sigh.
The old confusion is above me, close as a clamor of beaks,
its meanness striving like a windmill.

iii.
What used to comfort with its distance, its lack of odor
or a shadow, its yaw of unkempt stories—
now is real. More real after my nearness to the light.

The light of the earth is to the left and small
as I go forward, and I must
love that cold which reaches out to me.

Though I am colder here, and dimmer,
I will stand, a beast with the moon around him
hitting the ground like bird strikes, with a dead light.

I will tell them the symmetrical story
with stinging and struggle, a beauty with noise
and falling. And I will love them as I tell it.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who now volunteers with an environmental organization. She worked for many years with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Artwork, Isolated, by Jenn Zed.

High Priestess by Patricia Nelson

RWS_Tarot_02_High_Priestess

High Priestess

—a tarot card

Narrow by narrow she rides.
Woman with a blue ball on her head
and a horn and another horn
and a no eye and a why eye
and a new moon through her dress.

To see her you must live in a jar
or a rock or an alphabet
or a planet balanced on a dark.
On a “why” of seed and stem and under
and made of wide by wide.

You must see white to white,
your heart stem paling at the leaf.
Face of chalk and torso hard as tooth.
In the high-low, pile moonlight silent as sand.
Release the cold and falling salt of judgment.

RWS_Tarot_02_High_Priestess-1

 

Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who now volunteers with an environmental organization. She worked for many years with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

The High Priestess card of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman-Smith.

Smoke by Patricia Nelson

Georges_de_La_Tour_006

Angled like the waves
are extinct lovers
who say time and distance
with a silver light.

Their breaths still rise
distinct as ions, commemorate
their thoughtless pulsing—
thoughtless only in the moment.

They are the grey dissolving opal
at the tip of the flame,
smoke undulant with stone and fish-scale.

They lift the weight and shine
not wholly seen
but gathering everything.

The space
between burning and nothing.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a retired attorney who has worked with the Activist group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Detail of painting by Georges de la Tour. 

Where the Oldest Gods Lived by Patricia Nelson

 

Liliyam Parva Iranian artist

Dark rock and cold, bright water.
Edges of great height, large lines
where sky and shadow move without rest.

Nothing that implies the things
alert and toothed and tilted at the eye,
the little warm cries with large, absurd intentions.

There’s no way to foretell the change
that will dull the rocks
with a callus of creatures.

No animal to eat things smaller
and more beautiful than itself.
Nothing that flees or tricks or dies

among the thoughtlessly strong.
Nothing yet that moves the gods to leave,
to lift like angry waters over black rock.

The old gods see the sky come down
to those alive and temporary, dragging its particles,
making its gradual case for blue or gray or cold.

The sky holds too the gods’ migration,
the odd wish to watch the mortal and the accidental,
to want the foolish awe, the alteration.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a retired attorney who has worked with the Activist group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Painting, On Coming News, by Liliyam Parva. Used by permission.

 

Crazy Otto by Patricia Nelson

Heidelberg Project Penny Car David Yarnall Crazy Otto Patricia Nelson

Otto paints his house again,
with his changing love of colors.

The blue and green are high with hopsack edges,
the stops of yellow clear and low.

As if something is recited and a mark made
where each mistake is swallowed by another.

No one color ever makes it
to the sky-colored end of the job.

Each daub taller, brighter than his eye or word,
his loud and undistinguished singing.

Someday, one color, one light
uniting all the eyes.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a retired attorney who has worked with the Activist group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Detail of photograph by David Yarnall, The Heidelberg Project – Penny Car.

 

Heidelberg Project Mission & Vision, from their website:

Mission

The Heidelberg Project (“HP”) is an outdoor art environment in the heart of an urban area and a Detroit based community organization with a mission to improve the lives of people and neighborhoods through art.

Vision

The theory of change for the Heidelberg Project begins with the belief that all citizens, from all cultures, have the right to grow and flourish in their communities. The HP believes that a community can re-develop and sustain itself, from the inside out, by embracing its diverse cultures and artistic attributes as the essential building blocks for a fulfilling and economically viable way of life.

Conquest by Patricia Nelson

Conquest by Patricia Nelson Painting by Samuel Walters

Once it is done, the women live in the surges,
the dark that changes like a tide
as if refusing to demolish or decide.
They know the fall is a pact with the shore.

The colors here are crossed and banging,
old carpets hung among their dusts.
The air and loss around them visible as flour,
swatted by those whose time and thought don’t matter.

Each bolt of cloth is retroactive, angry.
It falls downward, opens crookedly
the repeating blue-white lightning
and the thought of the shore.

They who are angry grow clumsy,
large, black, raucous birds
who rock on bent legs
in the brown stubble.

They call and sing to the lost way,
the wind to carry us all intact.
They remember the shore,
the shore revised with knowledge.

 

 

Patricia Nelson is a retired attorney who has worked with the Activist group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her most recent book is Spokes of Dream or Bird, Poetic Matrix Press.

 

Painting by Samuel Walters.