Usually it seems I labor for years. The well known quote from a craftsman in the field, “a poem isn’t finished, it’s abandoned,” has at times described my experience. But once in a while a spontaneous outburst, one great gush of words, happens like it did when I wrote Strawberry Moon the evening of June 5th, night of that month’s full moon. I knew from American Indian tradition that it was the Strawberry Moon, a signal for the harvest of the ripe red fruit to begin.
After seeing on The Rachel Maddow Show the reaction of our congressional representatives to the tear gassing of peaceful protestors when police cleared the way for Trump’s now infamous Bible photo-op, I ran out into our yard to see if the moon actually had a rose pink tone. Couldn’t see it yet. I came back inside, wrote down things my mind, maybe my spirit guide, was insisting I pay attention to. How did all these threads get orchestrated into one composition?
Stray words were bubbling up in my brain, “everything is broken;” I feel we’re being carried “with the flotsam” over the dam. I wrote down my feelings of dismay watching the treatment of the reporter attempting to get comments from our representatives in Washington.
The flow of words continued: “the color of harvest,” and another thought, “gonna drown when the ship goes down,” a ship which didn’t become the Titanic, the first obvious image, but became Leonard Cohen’s “ship of state,” (which he in turn had picked up from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). I went outside, watched the sun set and gathered more phrases, “dark angel cloud, a belly of fire,” running back and forth, looking for the moon, writing thoughts into my notebook, “sump’in brewin’,” (I didn’t use that! Poetry is inspiration but also work that’s like weeding a garden, some you pull up to let the more desirable plants thrive.)
We started rewatching the wonderful Italian movie “Il Postino,” a fictionalized story of Pablo Neruda’s exile in Italy, and so “the naked lovers,” entered the scene of my poem.
As I gathered up all these rough images and began typing, they took a shape, a curve, even a circle that readers found pleasing. Other pictures came to mind while I typed: Athena birthed from Zeus’s brow, only this time it was the tyrant birthed from the frustrated, hurt, and angry minds of the American electorate. I had been thinking about our parliamentary democracy back in Canada where we didn’t vote for a leader directly, we voted for a party, the Members of Parliament we supported determined which party took power, and who the Prime Minister would be. Is there something significant there in the difference between the 2 systems? Hmm. The poem came full circle to waiting under the Strawberry Moon for the berry fruit harvest, picking time under the June sun, words that recall a time when I was once a strawberry picker as a teenager working on one of the vanishing farms of my Canadian hometown.
Dark angel cloud, belly of fire, sunset, but soon
strawberry moon, color of summer,
sometimes feeling, all of us, caught, lovers naked,
vulnerable to moonlight, carried with the flotsam
of everything broken, through torn hull of the ship of state,
yet no one leads the way to safety; passive politicians,
the women too, downcast, speechless, fleeing to hidey holes,
floodwaters gonna follow, find ‘em,
still gonna drown when the ship goes down.
Staring hopeless into abyss, I think longingly
of the homeland where I was born, where I think
we would not be encouraged to adulate
such a strongman tyrant, as this false one
sprung fully formed from the troubled brow
of America’s frowning Zeus-cloud, storm cloud
shadow over the waiting world.
We wait for strawberry moon; it rides
on the marine wind, herald of the harvest,
fields of red berry fruit under warm June sun.
© Dave Holt, Bohemian Hwy Music and Books