indra’s net by Donna Fleischer Bottle Rockets Press Wethersfield, Connecticut Introduction and haibun copyright © 2003 by Donna

Fleischer and Stanford M. Forrester all rights reserved under international and pan-american conventions Published in the United States by Bottle Rockets Press 1st edition In comradeship – hi/low poets, Brickwalk Poets and the Charter Oak Cultural Center Poetry Exchange Poets. Appreciation to bottle rockets, Frogpond and Contemporary Haibun, in which some of these haibun appeared. Bottle Rockets Press P.O. box 290691 Wethersfield, CT 06129-0691

Introduction Donna Fleischer is a poet. It’s as simple as that. Her prose and her verse weaves her sensitivity, sincerity and awareness with deep insightfulness. Donna’s world is poetry. In this eclectic collection, we find a poet who has cast a net— a net that connects all these haibun beneath a surface of consciousness. This net captures and entangles the reader, pulling him or her down into one’s own self. In order to work, a net must have a web of space. It is in this all important space, this all important emptiness, where we find we are truly connected to everything in the universe. Stanford M. Forrester Wethersfield, CT

for Bettina Viereck

Table of Contents indra’s net hibernal milk carton time a jar Olmsted Street bird without wing chill nativity even these silken cascades rabbit in the grass lotus almond Orpheus at the Movies first snow winter bowl testimony as usual the visit undertow blue hills late in the October day in the soup Darwin’s Urn Petersen Field 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 29

Indra’s Net

It is nautical and not, this going, waiting, back and forth through waves of time without chart. A time already behind me that distance does not dissolve. Here i am, a wreck, Adrienne, and there, there i see Neruda’s net. this the sea, the innominata, me. I cannot see the deepest part. There is no bottom and no weightlessness an eddy sloshes in my ear the inner silence

In Hua-yen and Zen Buddhist thought the Net of Indra, which originates in the Sanskrit Avatamsaka Sutra, constructs the cosmos as a multi-dimensional array of infinite interrelationships that simultaneously and repeatedly reflect each other and the whole as jewels embedded within each node of the net.

Hibernal What do I eat here? half of it cupped in completeness in the palm of my hand on one of these closing autumn days when darkness burrows into light. what is this from which I hollow out my yellow-green portion? from whose garden, if not ours?—a final rinse of sun all used up on this last edge of imminence. little boat leaky with olive oil, lemon juice, floats in a mid-lit ripple of the harbor made in my grandmother’s faded porcelain dish ark of longing now empty now full

Milk Carton Time Half pint milk cartons, wax wings pulled open at both ends, to form a square. A few spoonfuls of dirt and a seed dropped in. The row of them, along a schoolroom windowsill, half empty and half full. Only our names tell them apart. Day after day. Nothing happening. We lose interest. “You must water them,” urges our beloved teacher, Mrs. Peters. yes we water yes we wait and still nothing One morning, though, I glance, and again, at a green fleck dwarfed by a glint of mica when I shift my weight. Flick it with my thumb. Carefully. Return to my seat. Perplexed. The day is long. Before leaving for home I give it a half hearted check—a muscular arch has breached the dark earth only since morning, its shining new green coil a little sticky to the touch. The suddenness suddenly thank you bean thank you milk carton thank you silence

A Jar Insect in a jar. metal holes gouged in a blue sky and a few sprigs of torn grass. . . glass tower reflecting the many deaths of childhood

Olmsted Street

You made me carry the red boots in my arms, all the way to school. “In case it rains,” you would warn on days you seemed to need some comforting too. It was your kind of love, after all, I had to be careful of. Jostling satchel, galoshes, lunchbox down Olmsted Street, dropping boots behind a last outcrop of bushes. So relieved to find them still there for my return home. Abandoning them as you’d abandoned me. It seemed right, finally, to lose myself to keep you. To see you speak through all things, like a Puritan’s god. That nothing would ever be merely itself anymore. A reappearance of mottled red through green-brown brush, or sidewalk cracks averted, secret heart signals that you would be home too. Until glimpsing our empty driveway with forced half-shut eyes, hope and constancy snagged, like a caught fish gasping and doomed. Season after season become a hiding thing bramble rose shadow on a gravel driveway grows

Bird Without Wing All week long the bird was obedient to its caged routine; fed promptly at regularly measured intervals, even naps taken perfunctorily with cosmic discipline and good birdism. in this manner the bird did deliver song—an efficient ecstasy. On weekends the bird was allowed to escape its cage. in moments of disturbed flurry—a dollhouse flight tiny bell by the mirror rings again

Chill Summer floated then fell. a green world turns to bright syrup colors that sicken and fade; deckled leaves flake from trees, autumn’s hemorrhage over. Earth left, drained on the cold grey table of sky. How will we carry you? her head still warm. . . in October light the rattle of gourds

Nativity Legs folded to his side. a captive reindeer looks upward …noses the charged morning air scent of snowy flakes free fall

Even These Moss and yellow flowering weeds somehow took hold, even thrive up here in mid-air forgotten space. Pumice for soil, traffic fumes, clattered rain from railing, roof. On elemental edges of moon mist, shadow, sun—blooming, withering, several times and each time at least because no one interfered, or noticed. Fugitive. And pilgrim across rusted wrought iron a spider webs

Silken A pie tin of sparrows taking millet and yellow light in the late July afternoon. Muskrat taking its water young home across sharp rocks as if silken, plunging deeper, disappear. Everything germinated and growing, except a week ago, a blue jay, fallen back in his own arms, head turned to the right, eyes glinting from his soft pillow of death as if he’d been…well, loved. Belly and breast, mounds of song caved in now, pillaged flat against the faded blue shoulders. Feathered fishbones expose their stilled harp the ruddy sun sets a sparrow’s feather left behind

Cascades Crescents of moonlight, growth rings of sun, cascade up dimpled corners from the mouth to the start of each earlobe; make furrows of sun-burnished skin, cross-sections of alternating xylem and phloem a look-out’s life— sky trees earth the mountain face
– for Gary Snyder

Rabbit in the Grass Rabbit in the grass come from a dark wood to feed on dandelion and clover from a bowl of clear night air and earth commingling in my memory…totem in the night as upright and furtive in the grass as I was watching from a darkened top floor back-of-the-house window—your nostrils and my temples pounding breathlessness after my latest attempt to only get closer to you I promise…flying through the house out the back screen door to suddenly find you vanished as if—hiding behind the night somewhere I could not see… Tonight there is another rabbit in the grass, and me. This time we sit at eye level on a quiet peninsula broken off from a parking lot, from an ever-widening contracting of our world—people, road death, traps, possession… How to even say these things without lobbying or rhetoric or making and taking sides. how to interrupt this poem, for poetry will not do everything. How to know what nothing in this natural world could ever itself know, to prepare you, for this. But for now there is yet, no cat. Your sidelong glances confirm momentary trust and my peering tries to fathom more than I am able; your ability to outrun, mine to withstand, free us in this balance moonless night— in and out of such darkness fireflies alight

Lotus Almond White, blue and black feathers gathering light; pine needle grottos fanned by half-open wings. Every branch tried out for its advantage, until a decision to fly beyond the familiar. Swooping down one by one for almonds placed on balcony stone; claws like tiny pliers locked open, alight. Hairs at the back of my neck rise in cresting astonishment—this the closest I will ever come to flight, then reach too awkwardly for my cup of tea and all of them—gone, until the red one sudden lands, makes me laugh, slanting oddly sideways his carrot color beak to take an almond and turn into flight; pine branches flutter on a hinge of blurred light a poppy red bird colors the air with song

Orpheus at the Movies Too late to be seated so we stand at a door that just closed off the dark. Turning back, toward this other side of the film — you and me, Swiss chocolate labels, imported beer bottles — all staring into space. And suddenly, air. It rolls by; from a door that hurls a funnel of light across a threshold, for a moment, and closes again. Almost imperceptibly, someone else’s shadow materializes across the emulsion of the lobby. We watch, indifferently, David, race from seat to men’s room and back again as the movie relentlessly pursues some predetermined end without him. Doors open and close. He reappears, sees us for an embrace, and crosses over. You and I blend into the strange night air a flower — the time it took, to open you were gone

First Snow Ducks up on the points of webbed feet easily break the clear ice cover of a trough. Churn and sweep the deep, still water, snow water, ice melt, side-to-side with their broad bills, and drink. Water streams from the sides as they lift, and pause…necks elongate and again they slide back in, pouring themselves into the sparkling chilly waters muffled clapping of tongues and beaks no pond in sight

Winter Bowl The seasoned cast iron pot boiled over several times to which he would exclaim good! and slam back another shot of warm sake, wipe his brow, skim off the frothy top, ahhh…chortling pots, bellies of rice wine, swelling, spilling over the sides Time to sit down to a winter gruel of boiled water, milk, kudzu root, rice noodles, shiitake mushrooms, tofu shiny with agar agar and the exotic bonito flakes—all washed down with Japanese beer aplenty empty bowl— winter shadows on the snow

Testimony Early morning wakes me from you, asleep in our bed, for twelve hour printing shift empty of craft. Bring with me to keep spirit watered: your Bach, Pergolesi tapes; a strand of your fine, blonde hair, which surprises, from somewhere and placed in my pocket, at work, for dreaming; beige fawn, still free, that loped across the road for Talcott Mountain pleases again my sleepy gaze; organic berries from the Cascades which you washed last night . . . bluish clouds float sweetly in my mouth; recent poems of Adrienne Rich, a loved prism for the difficult day. Noon radio news reports the murder of Phoolan Devi, India’s Dasyu Sundari — a woman, illiterate, who once said, “I was born into violence . . . and I will die by violence. It is my fate.” My four-day ordeal ends. Mind and body hurt, forced apart to perform. Return home, clumsy with exhaustion, fumble to connect, and fail . . . anger burns, cauterizes torn places that were one, numbs with its dull bandages. Rest. Revisit another sighting while on my way home — a deer, lying on its side, near the verge where one had earlier crossed the strange surface of road, then onto the mountain plain trail guided by ancestral memory and car-struck trying to return, probably dead a driver on foot hesitates towards it I drive on

Dasyu Sundari, or Beautiful Bandit is what lower-caste Indians called Devi because she fought for the rights of both women and the poor.

As Usual Saturday. Early morning drive to work. Slow down here and there to note some insignificant upheaval in the apparent samenessness of November…bow my head (inside my head) in greeting as I pass a Pinchot Sycamore on the bank of this odd Farmington River coursing northward. A small gathering of Pure Land Buddhists blessed the tree last year—this very tree dogtagged by a state plaque declaring its place in record books, for size, and so, floodlit by fame all through each night by a hideous spotlight provoking tormented wakefulness… Bow my head, as well, for the deer on the run; for the ones I rarely see but know to be there from a bevy of SUVs and station wagons, of men with rifles who check for filled chambers one last time, for the deer, in this invisibility and washed silence I need to pray but to whom? To what? To this tree, finally, its arms pointing skyward giant boughs velvet maps of heaven

The Visit I visit knowing she will not be there. In need of sun, air, sight of sky, treetops, feel of earth, and without likelihood of not being alone. She is overnight at her ocean home, and I sit back in certain joyful calm, quiet enough to listen as my own thoughts leave…the first wintry rattle of some, a soft leafy glide, to earth, of others. Chipmunk springs up suddenly in prairie dog pose, forages for seed, chews while scratching at fleas, glances intermittently, lazily, at me and leaps aboard her stone Buddha’s head for another view. Slender colt of a rabbit, maybe a hare, lopes onto the lawn from straggly forest growth. Nibbles edgegrass as if the afternoon would never end. Dissolves into the geography of a boxwood bush atop which a certain garter snake often sleeps uncoiled, but not today. When a hummingbird zigzags into view, pauses for each tall, white flower and disappears without waiting for me to decide what I was seeing, I find peace in their indifference and realize they also were accustomed to a benign human presence in this place who sat in the grass so long she left herself behind

Undertow Mid-July morning rain falls clapping among oak leaves. Woodpeckers queue on tree bark for suet cake in view. black cat cries. Watching from inside he cannot help himself. Twitterings, chirpings, staccato rasps, glissando uproar highway drones through morning birdsong mournful undertow

Blue Hills I drive, Even walk the long flood plain road as often as I can—Talcott Mountain and the Metacomet Trail to the south, blue hills running east-west. Wetland and meadow. An occasional outcropping of bushes and trees. Red-tailed hawk, wild turkey, whitetail deer, Eastern garter snake, red-winged blackbird, and deer tick aplenty. Every so often the pulling scent of a far-away ocean. a vista of telephone poles that every few hundred yards dependably string the singing voltage two mourning doves so close upon a wire face the setting sun

Late in the October day Late in the October day sun drifts profusive and mild. Thin petal of a new moon unwrinkles in blue vapor, shivers in air grown bright as a canary. A pageant of lime yellow leaves stilled on their branches hold themselves out, like Chinese fans, out like shock waves… leaves on cold cement imponderable winter

In the Soup “...the brushes—now that’s really hard.” the young drummer makes slow, sweeping crescents with each wrist.“—they call that stirrin’ the soup” doin’ an ol’ soft shoe in the air with his hands

Darwin’s Urn Trapped inside the daily noise of man’s machinery an atonal fugue without music of the spheres cyclical and blessed, even when all machines are on off an irritating drone pervades this room without apology, this power grid. Human beings plug into it with their paycheck prongs. Vacuum pump fluctuates, fans oscillate, chase proceeds along X and Y axes on worm bores of forged steel. My heart, suspires…down around the corroded canyon of an old cast-iron drainage pipe surrounded by spilled photochemicals and rusting razor blades, who will believe it, a cricket sings. Aerosal spray can of ant and termite killer sadly within reach, I hurl it into the trash, smile calmly at the prescience of our possible common doom. The bug’s little choir lifts me throughout the twelve hour shift in between volume spikes that drown out its tune when the wee peripatetic heartbeat resumes. Yet such miniature beauty-making, I fear, will merely draw enough attention to be crushed or poisoned. Could cricket be enjoying its peculiar new digs? I flinch to wonder how we can escape, together, with Sartre and Disney breathing down my neck. Just the few steps through a door and onto sweet simple grasses outside… right effort cricket knows does not stop its song for long

Petersen Field Late winter bone stillness of the field. Dog’s soft footfall herding gait in figure eights encircling us, ghost-like, chasing shadows as they engulf us; knows no less than we whose footsteps spoon snow parfait crust halted by a clutch of briar on the northside of the workers’ house “in ruin before they left ten years ago,” says this new friend and suddenly we’re in the open field—escaped into late day light and free, for a while, to feel the farm’s passing millennium; the golf course recently finalized that will come of the next. we turn slowly to face each other. Staggering greyness of sky surprises with a hem of orange light from behind the far away and darkening hills the white dog up the snowy rise disappears