Paumanok, Poems and Pictures of Long Island, 2009
(An anthology of poems and photographs on Long Island, theme: the beauty in nature.)
Long Island Life
Cover photo by:
Bob Schmitz of Levittown, New York
Cross-Island Communications in Merrick
Photo editor: Rob Bonnano
Color Images Laboratory in St. James
Book Binding: Frank Papp
Cross Island Bindery in Massapequa
Graphic design: Stoyan "Tchouki" Tchoukanov
from Sofia, Bulgaria
Printed by:Super Print
End Paper Printing: John Kelley
Island Color Graphics and Print in Hauppauge
Map created by Professor Gilbert Hansen, Stony Brook University
Paumanok, Long Island's original name, used by our native Americans, has many gifted artists. This book began with an idea, collecting beautiful images of our natural world, photographs no one had ever seen before, and never would, the ones that collect dust after being shared with family and friends. But the idea grew, inspiration coming from the many talented photographers in the Sweetbriar Nature Camera Club, and then the Photography Federation of Long Island (PFLI), which represents work from one end of the island to the other. The photography was elevated to art, and I discovered there was so much more to be found. The idea grew when poet Claire Nicolas White showed an interest and invited George Wallace, Poet Laureate of Long Island at the time, to tea. There the idea of the marriage of poetry and photography took shape . . . Long Island's life, through the verbal and the visual, through the eyes of the people who live or lived here. A year's worth, for journaling to also find its place. Letters found their way to the post. The idea blossomed when the many made up for what I could not do alone, and so I became its guardian, nudging it along, making sure it progressed; writing, meeting, calling, collecting... going just short of mad!
Paumanok: Poems and Pictures of Long Island
is not about the hustle and bustle of our harried, pedestrian lives, loss,
or the disappearance of good things.
It is about life on this island, the one we can find if we look hard enough
into the secret places all around,
through th bramble and thickets of forests,
deep into the pine barrens,
in gardens and flower fields,
along cliffs and rocky shorelines of the Sound,
by river edges,
near ponds, around lakes,
and, often time,
over the sandy dunes to the sea.
Even over the bridges to our beloved Manhattan.
The island Walt Whitman knew, just yesteryear.
It is about the beauty and wonder in our natural world,
with us day in and out,
just waiting to be explored.
And while exploring,
perhaps there is paper and pen,
camera or paint brush
and an idea, inside of you,
waiting to find its voice.
I hope you enjoy this work!
From my Manorville home
A leaf tumbles across the deck
Like a scampering mouse.
My eyes follow it to a resting place in a shadow.
April wind lifts fallen leaves to dancing.
These drying breezes sway bare branches,
Move clouds eastward over the meadow
in a parade of motion.
In the hoop house, tropical warmth, deep stillness,
And hope in basil seeds spreads on damp starter mix.
I am that tossing and turning leaf
Allowing outside forces to move me.
Let me fly across the lawn, find a lee spot to rest,
Catch my breath;
Move on...move on
For Mark Egan
Yesthere are some things
that elude words &
simply must be sung:
how the rim shots of rain
& the bass line of wind
make more than a rhythm section
how the laughter of musicians
before the set is also a music
how the pretty girl suddenly
a beautiful woman makes
concentration tough all day
how the color green defies definition
is simply what it is
cannot be described
beyond the naming
beyond the singing
of green things
Sands At Seventy: Paumanok Soon Shall The Winter's Foil Be Here
Thine eyes, ears - all thy best attributes - all that takes cognizance of natural beauty,
Shall wake and fill. Thou shalt perceive the simple shows, the delicate miracles of earth,
Dandelions, clover, the emerald grass, the early scents and flowers,
The arbutus under foot, the willow's yellow-green the blossoming plum and cherry,
With these the robin, lark and thrush, singing their songs - the flitting bluebird
For such the scenes the annual play brings on.
(for Jack and Bernice)
This is the end
of what we know.
Beyond here it is all
migrations of wind
and water so dark
the fish like miners
bear their own light.
This is the edge,
where the green water
changes its mind,
then changes its mind again,
as we cast outward
from the green shore.
Back home, it rains
and the watercolors left
outside on the table
begin to run,
blurring like ecstatic maps
left by explorersheaded for the interior
and never heard from again.
Ralph Pugliese, Jr.
The crane dips and bows,
turning, showing his best side
before his chosen mate, shifting
feet, stretching his long neck,
saying, See me? I’m the one—
handsome, tall, full-feathered,
at my best age and dress.
If she agrees, they cross bills
as emphasis, and hurry away.
You come to my door, hair shining,
wearing Sunday clothes, teeth
gleaming behind come-hither smiles,
teasing me with your ocean eyes.
I hear the sound of music. Drawn
together by an unseen force
we discover the same inland sea—
a private edge of sky.
IN THE WINTER SILENCE OF THE WOODS
In the winter silence of the woods
Standing on a hilltop deep in snow
I gazed downhill and watched a grazing doe.
She hoofed the snow in search of still green buds.
Although she saw me there, she was not shy
Like she’d forgotten not to trust our kind.
Then, as if sent solely to remind,
An Air Force fighter jet roared past nearby.
Disturbed, I turned and looked to see it fly.
It was so swift it far outpaced its sound
And suddenly flew by right overhead.
I lowered my gaze from that cold blue sky
And eyed the silent doe on frozen ground.
She turned to the valley and fled.
as the mind clears
At the Seam of Everything We Are
Spring's everywhere out there,
stitching itself in hot and early and unexpected
a hundred miles, a thousand, from the fettered tongue,
a universe away from our first valedictions.
Flies zigzag skylights, a blue buzzing
as if no world will ever be large enough.
Wet things slit their shells, pink or ocher
or an odd oval blue
as we might have once been ourselves,
feet slicked with the brown translucence
of soft, uncertain bottomland.
Fern-feet, silver-fish disappear
when we cut through the dark “we see
only wisps of them slipping around
the notch of bark, rim of green. Old dreams
unravel in starlight, overturned from winter logs.
Spiders whisper over porchwood,
slip under the door, navigate the arm in sleep.
The crumbs dropped on yesterday's floor“
now a trembling froth of ants pinned to windfall.
Below thicket and grove, in spartina
thickening with the sudden season,
so many bodies bear the news
“jellyfish, horseshoe crab,
last November's fleeing wings,
yesterday's history in the channeled whelk.
Though all of these may be melodies
of the undone, we still remain,
our hungers poised at the intersection
of every place we are,
syllables of ribbons and rags,
lucky legs dancing down the road.
After gray daydawn:
Shade-trees, limpid pools,
Apart from burning noon-tide:
God and carmine, blending
Into purple twilight:
Caressing silent stars.
Urging me forward,
Leading me onward
To the hopeful distances,
While the mist clears,
On the far horizon
Olivia Ward Bush-Banks
Green is a code, saying itself, unable to stop—blissfully in love with its secret.
A bird whirs by me, wrapping up the air.
I gather courage
the bird deep inside myself.
I say her movement, her eyes, the body
And the little feet.
As I move past the word suspicion disappears
And she answers
I say things over and over, not knowing
where else to start:
branch, eye, feather, moving toward each meaning
so the forest may begin to recognize me
as someone who knows
without the word.
The fox that run
sits twenty miles a night
stopped at my house
shrilled its electric note
to the open air—
a challenge? A mating call?
I thrilled at its quivering stalks,
wondered that it survives
beside the expressway
somewhere in suburbia.
Our patch of woods behind the house
can’t be enough.
Charlene Babb Knadle
On This Particular Morning
the man of the woodland wakes up
and it is autumn, and he is amazed
at how fast his feet and leggings become soaked
in the tall grass
when not so long ago it was all a wild clinging on
of seed and insects in the dry summer sun
But now it is morning and he wakes up
and the leaves and branches
he chopped from the walnut in August
smell like cider along the trail. The man
of the woodlands breathes it in, and deeply,
expecting the usual intoxication. Instead
his breath returns, in a clean and quiet
exhalation of clouds,
into the general decay o f the forest.
There is more dignity in the heavy going
of the red maple, with its wet, rusty leaves
that nearly touch the ground, now ready
for another brush with death, he reflects,
there is more dignity in that, than
in the raucous combat of God knows
how many crows on Kettleback Hill,
in the linden trees - so the man of the woodlands
decides he will not take a swing at the red maple
on this particular morning. No! on this
autumn morning he will head for Kettleback Hill.
Afternoon At Short Beach
The river's mouth widens here
strewn with salt marsh islands,
reeds burnished in a dull gold
in autumn at low tide
waving lean limbs, or flattened
to the sand like wet hair.
This broad expanse of emptiness
its water rippling silver in pale sun,
extends to darker, wooded coasts.
Distant sounds of life, a barking dog,
a pounding hammer, a motor's dull
drone, and the sea-torn cry
of a gull, reverberate in silence,
even the wind's voice stilled.
A few men stand, alone,
with bucket and pole to catch
something, or nothing.
They ignore each other
having found their peace
while somewhere, inland,
talk, like birds
that twitter in the trees.
Claire Nicolas White
on the back
of the ladybug
the sun rises
M. James Pion
That wind knows how to walk on sand, leaving a dance of prints
To puzzle teams of cryptographers, that light colors water like a child,
That oceans shore up history even before its telling,
That logs ease up on a beach, ragged after years of adventure,
That a pale flank of sky steps gingerly on hard, cold sand bed,
That grains from the Indian coast wash up on Jones Beach,
A shock of maroon dots white rivers cascading from a fenced road,
That froth freezes into cream puffs, serving itself to gulls,
That an orchestra of dried weeds awakens fingers nesting in a lovers hand,
That waves find stillness in their movement,
That birds fall like messages, but rise again with the next easterly,
That wind and sun, sea and sand, weave into us their tales,
Makes this human telling the least spectacular of all.
To An Old Friend At A Poetry Reading
A small leaf settled on your shoulder,
stuck to the threads of your sweater.
I was about to pick it off, but you bent forward,
suddenly attentive to the speaker,
and your wild gray hair flapped and rustled about your head
as if in a wind.
I thought how much like an old tree you had become,
and I would not remove your only leaf.
M. James Pion
Milkweed pods settle
on my mind
like sleeping birds.
Curled on branches
wait or the wind.
I pry one open.
and take wing
flaring to orange
as if each dark seed
were the tip of a match.
While filaments fly
claiming the Earth
with milky light.
DAISIES GROW ON MY WINDOWSILL
I’m too young to join the kids who garden
at the neighborhood park, mom says.
So I’m gonna grow little daisies on my windowsill.
Grandma calls me a windowbox Gardener,
and I like that.
The colors of my daisies are as winter as snowflakes
and as summer as lemons.
I planted some snips of hanging ivy at the edges of the box,
hoping some leaves would reach down to
Mrs. Sander’s window (I hear she’s lonely).
My window box is made of cedar.
Uncle Emil built it. And I think I’m a leader
of windowboxing . . .
People have been watching my daisies grow
in this city and whattya know—
they’ve got window gardens of their own.
From her collection of poems on children and gardening.
Island Of Longing
Again and again, leveled by love,
I've come back down to
this island, considering the things
I might have done, all
the ascendant lives I lost
by not insisting that I am.
I've lived by longing quietly, an
island wherever I am, always
one of my letters silent,
dependent on the free, good will
of continents, the company of visitors
coaxed by a light to the land that is --
the long, low, retreating way I am.
It’s not about the flowers
but who we are as we tend
to their spidery pinkish wisps
to seed-pouched splendor
It’s because we bend
before them with meal
as we wonder if
beauty like God
didn’t really exist
would we will-o’-the wisp
petal by petal by petal
have to invent
with our fists full
of white powdered animal bones
as we stoke what we know
of earthen fireworks
so as they release their
small starbursts they feed us
on air- loomed
essences … …
POEM FOR YOU
a moment of peace, palpable
draws me as a drop of living dew
into the morning hawk-wild
an osprey nesting on steel
and the wind among wires
visible vast the bloody heart of the world
quivers upon will
mechanical day breaks up
I speak the air
attuned to affection
the stones the stars
the length of a true road
through a salt forest by an ocean
towards the snow mountain beyond
which we are tending
On that first warm day
when the air was eiderdown
beckoned, we would
kick off our Buster Browns
and ankle socks
to race across the lawn,
green velvet underfoot,
until we reached
the gavel drive
when our pace slowed,
by sharp-edged stones
and toes burned
by sidewalk. We winced
but would not retreat.
Feet must be toughened
for days of summer stretched
in an endless cloverchain
beneath a turquoise sky.