The Diviner


light on the water
before the minnow
its shadow

He knows me this man. He doesn’t claim to, but he does. Not that I’m going to
alert him to that fact, despite the uncanny knack he has of being able to read me long before I’ve taken up my pen. Let him continue to believe I am the insoluble conundrum, an uncrackable code.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been met with a flash-bulb grin and a nudge-nudgewink-wink proclamation along the lines of: “I know what makes you tick . . .” (I’m not a clock); “I know what pulls your string . . .” (I’m not a kite); “I know what floats your boat . . .” (I’m not a marina) & &

one kiss
and you think you know me . . .
peony buds

Where is it located, this Me, this I? Can it be pinpointed on a map; is there a
symbol in the key that denotes me? Perhaps I’m the human equivalent of a little known tumulus, or a spring, long dried up, still whispering its secrets to a 1970s tower block. Could it be that my mystery remains intact, but I’m uniquely traceable, situated on some well-documented maternal leyline? No matter. This me, whatever it is, wherever it resides, is known, somehow, by this man.

scent of rain . . .
the winter hazel

NOTES FROM THE GEAN 14, December 2012





But to Each Other Dream


This is the blue hour, when the blackbird drinks its fill of fading stars. I can no longer recall when I first sensed her gentle hand was at the latch. Perhaps, even before I learned the words by which she makes herself known I could hear her morning-step upon the stair?

A breeze parts the curtains, lets slip a chink of light; I must taste the blossoms that unfold. Or else, I wake to the music of her laughter, lift my eyes from a dream to catch a glimpse of her smile through an indoor lattice, all delight. Soft, her tread, closer, until I feel the circle of her arm, the warmth of her cheek, her fingers, still stained with the dawn. She lifts her knee, rests her foot upon the prie-dieu and gathers me into her swoon. Of all her gowns, this is my favourite, with mackerel skies in the hang of the folds and a train that carries the scent of pines. We share the inward fragrance of each other’s heart.

where have you been?

not far, not far…

I have come, swift

as a hen-bird on the wing

to breast her eggs again

She says she forgot the stars, the moon and sun….the blue above the trees. Did I forget them too?  They were not the same without her near…   If I should die…if she…  Let us speak, then, only of now. The cool cascades of her ink-dark hair, the sweetness of her tears. One hundred, one thousand years from now, it will not matter what became of one without the other.

what is my mind

in this pot-of-basil day?


my dark-eyed muse



The title and all text in italics excerpted from ‘Isabella, or The Pot of Basil’  by John Keats (1795-1821)

Isabella and the Pot of Basil (1868) by William Holman Hunt:


Notes from the Gean 4:1, 2012

For Good Measure   
Autumn Noelle HallClaire Everett 

on the sill, Ball jars
empty of all but sea-green
her memories of canning
slipping, like skin from a peach
blush-indigo to damask
gems from bough to jar
gifts from the Romans
to my mother, to me
on fermented fruit perfume
she giggles
spreading pinafore to catch
what brother shakes from the tree
a fluted edge
and an apple pie smile
patting and pricking
I make-believe the trimmings
into something warm and sweet
tin cutters:
hearts, stars, gingerbread men
pressed into scraps
the way those days were shaped
and sugar-sprinkled
not quite big enough
each spoonful of her not quite
sweet enough jam
like a small surgeon, I watch,
be-gloved with shortcrust dough
upside-down in the
bowl of her silver teaspoon,
faces, time-tarnished
loosened wisps of hair curled
against steam-ruddied cheeks
down three steps
to the fragrant, red tiled chill
of Grandma’s pantry –
the love she could not show us
melted in our mouths
stuck to cellar shelves
green tomato marmalade
wreathed in cobwebs
her need to preserve even
labor’s unripe fruits
chopping mint
with a curved blade —
sickle moon,
all that she kept concealed
expressed in the details
on her hands
as on her old butcher block
visible scars
some pits resist removal
some stones cling to flesh
holding my breath
I remove the spine intact.
how weak this flesh
clinging to promises
just as easily broken
hogs head cheese
bits of brain and cheek meat jelled
in its own aspic
having to make do with scraps
learning to stomach this…
simmering on the stove
this thin broth
fragrant with thyme, enough
to fill memory’s childhood home
the scent of bread
rising from the oven’s warmth
fills the emptiness
all the little tricks she had
for leavening our lives
deep in the core
brown sugar, fruit and spices
fit to burst
slow-baking Bramley apples
while you tell me all your plans
leaving at first light
the kettle cold on the stove
you take only
your favorite wooden spoon
to stir up a whole new life
safely gathered in
“may you never hunger,
may you never thirst. . .”
how the years come and go
measured by place-settings
After learning from each of us separately how meaningful For Good Measure was to us, Alan Summers invited Claire and I to do something tanka poets rarely get the chance to—to “tell” exactly why that was.  Excited to be offered such an opportunity, we had no idea how difficult answering that little question might be.  As we’d known one another just a few months when this sequence began, having been introduced only through our work on Jeffrey Woodward’s Tanka Prose Group board, and having communicated solely through e-mails, it was difficult to separate the evolution of our relationship from the development of this sequence.
* * *
Claire and I have many significant life events in common:  we are nearly the same age, we’ve both lost our fathers, and we each went through difficult divorces during the exact same time.  Nature lovers, we share compatible world views and spiritual outlooks.  But perhaps most notable in relation to this sequence, is the fact that we are both stay-at-home mothers, descended from long lines of mothers who prioritized rearing their own children.  Especially in these tough economic times, in societies where livelihoods are largely dependent upon dual incomes, this has often meant sacrificing in order to provide for our growing children’s needs.  But it is a sacrifice borne of great love and commitment, one which generations of women have made before us; and it is that foundation upon which For Good Measure is built.
 * * *
Within its talking tanka, there is a wistful sense of nostalgia, a conversation of inheritance and tradition passed grandmother-to-mother-to-daughter.  Synchronistic discoveries emerged with each new link.  When Claire wrote of the Romans’ gift, she had no way of knowing that my maternal great-grandmother and grandmother had emigrated to America from Rome, that they’d planted a damson plum tree in their new brownstone’s back yard.  When I wreathed green tomato marmalade jars in cobwebs, I had no idea it might bring the same tears to Claire’s eyes that her favorite film, Fried Green Tomatoes, invoked every time she watched it.  Swirling in the scent of baking bread and Bramley apples were shared recollections of our mothers’ care and kitchens.  Pressed into scraps and simmering in thin broth was the idea not only of making do, but of making something special out of little-or-nothing—of making memories.  And underneath it all was a growing sense that we were speaking not only for ourselves, but for generations of undervalued women who’d remained largely unrecognized; that in empowering ourselves through writing this together, we were somehow empowering them, too.
 * * *
Looking back over our old e-mails, we remembered again the founding of a friendship we’d longed for with our mothers and wish for with our daughters.  Memories have a funny way of slipping unexpectedly in, and just as unexpectedly away.  It is our hope that this sequence will honor and preserve the memories of many women, along with their secret longings and unspoken dreams.  In the end, like them, we bring to our tables what we are able, invoke blessings in the words we have, in the hope that our love and our families will continue to grow beyond ourselves.

—Autumn Noelle Hall
 * * *

Notes from the Gean  4:1 , June 2012

with love and thanks to Autumn — hoping you make it back home to Colorado!

Guilty Pleasures


Never one for affection. A woman of few words. And yet there was something in the way she rolled up her sleeves to knead the dough, or how a wisp of silver hair would slip loose from the severe bun to catch on the damp blush of her cheek. Now and then, we’d watch her through a gap in the scullery door as she stood, elbow-deep in hot soap suds, humming along to some old-fashioned melody. When she sensed our presence, she’d wipe her rough, red hands on her apron and bark at us to, “mind the floor”. Like her Battenburg cake, she would partake of life’s pleasures, in slivers.

creaking pond ice…
Grandmother’s best
poker face


We all knew where she kept The Box. Right at the back of the sideboard in the musty front room that was only aired on special occasions, like wakes, or baptisms. Through the cellophane, the faint, bittersweet smell of rumour and speculation. A gift from whom? How long ago? Would each mouthful be unblemished, or would it bear the bloom of age? We’d turn the questions over in our minds, give The Box a little shake and, in turn, hold it to our ears, as if the contents would this time offer up their secrets. Would they go with her, to the grave? We imagined her in her own dark box, with this one cradled in her lap, embalmed in eternal silence. And the worms would turn, unable to penetrate the film.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to The Box, but there’s no one left to ask.

chocolate violets…
Grandma’s forbidden love
still under wraps

Notes from the Gean, 3:4, March 2012

out of the blue

clear water
cascading down my spine
I shake myself
out of the blue
of a kingfisher
splashed with china blue
turning over
the spoils of the tide
this curlew mind
razor shell…
again, the raw edge
of grief
the nuthatch
shows its belly…
winter dawn

Notes from the Gean  3:4 March 2012

Comb Beck


stolen moments…
this pocket watch clasped
to a silver chain
and tucked away
for me to discover

I walk the trail to the lower slopes of Whinlatter Forest, where the beck tumbles through what is often called the Seldom Seen Ravine on its journey to the lake. Here and there, moss and fern pass through the fine toothcomb of pine tree light. Skiddaw slate finds its voice in late spring rains and I cherish the notion that these fairy falls did not exist until I found them. Yet I know that this is country beloved by Wordsworth and the distant salver of Bassenthwaite is reputed to be the setting for Tennyson’s ‘Idylls of the King’. Waterfall begets stream. Lake, glen and gill bask forever in the shadows of mountains.
how gentle the touch
of air and water…
the stonemason
stooped in morning light
keeping the time of stars

Notes from the Gean, volume 3, issue 3, December 2011

the open door


at the drop

of a pine needle


I find the forest

deep in thought


Notes from the Gean, 3:3, December 2011




the sconce

in the hornbeam…

leaf-gold light


Notes from the Gean, 3:3, December 2011



son of mine

what’s done is done…

seed by seed, I’d breathe

back the dandelion clock,

place its stem in your hand


Eucalypt, issue 11, 2011




your tea’s by the bed!

dust motes twirl in the light

from the open door…

he’s up with the sun, Mum says,

our Dad, dead thirty years


Eucalypt, issue 11, 2011


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