steven fortney | hymn to my hands

4 01 2011

PoetryDispatch No. 338 | January 5, 2011


Hymn to My Hands
Steven Fortney

Again, the spider appears on the ceiling
above my head as he always does each time
he approves my thinking. The mudra
I make at my work and puja table floats thus:
both hands flat. Aum: The right hand rises
and touches my heart. Mani: The left hand
joins it there. Padme: The right hand
floats back to the table top. Hum: The left hand
then joins it there. In the heart is the flowering
of universes
. My hands rest on the altar.
They, with their body, have both lived more
than eight decades. They are small for a man,
short fingered, yet strong enough. On one
finger of the left hand, a wedding ring;
a university ring on the finger of the right.
The hair on both is sparse: oak opening,
African savannah, sparse. On the sandy
loam plains are rivers, blue veins that course
through that tanned tundra that is the back
of both hands. In places the surface cracks
in the parallelograms and triangles of soil
surfaces starved of water. Whirlpools
and eddys at fingertips. Canyons and arroyos
in palms. Hands can caress or make a fist.
Living things, they. Even here, a mystery.
Consciousness can will some things,
holding a pencil, saluting; but when still,
life, vitality, beyond mere will. I tell my thumb
to move and it does. But then the hands
at rest are packed with energy. I do not
know how this has happened. I cherish
the mystery. And there are spots.
Death spots? Liver marks? Sunspots?
Speak of the mortal life. Speak of coming
terminus. Speak of the star inset in galaxies.
The spots are galaxies. They become groups
of galaxies. On my hands, universes. We are
made of star stuff. Those astronomies
before me on my two hands are the astronomies
of the ever living, pulsing, unlimited Cosmos.
That should make me afraid, as I was terrified
when seated on my meditation blanket and I saw,
long ago, paralyzed by the sight of my dissolution
among the pulsars and exploding novas. I did not
want to die. But now watching the galaxies
on the backs of my two hands, I am not afraid.
I take comfort. My meditation is cool. I am grateful.

Aum mani padme hum. Bodhi svaha. Alleluia. Amen.
In my heart is the flowering of universes.
So let it be! Praise God! Amen!


steven fortney | ll garden

13 03 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 274 | March 13, 2009

Steven Fortney

Editor’s Note: Steven Fortney is one of those larger-than-life guys. A descendent of Lutheran preachers who jumped the seminary ship at a certain point and found himself in the daily world of newspaper writing, teaching, politics, union and management negotiating…not to mention taking a further leap from Lutheran to Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. Not your average resident of Lake Wobegon– though he holds valid Norwegian- American credentials, and is probably the only one reading this besides me and a handful of others who knows where the hell Oulu is in this country. (What’s more, has a place there!)

He is a great spirit. A poet in his bones. A man of words that will both settle comfortably inside you and/or possibly disrupt your thinking. (Martin Luther in a yoga position).

I would like to return to him again sometime, but for now…just one small poem—his response to the piece about gardens which appeared in a recent posting (Notes from the Underground #172, March 7, 2009).

Steven Fortney’s “Garden “ is Part II from Canto Three of a most amazing longer poem, “A Canticle for Palmquist” which, in itself, is part of a larger collection of poems in a book of the same title: A CANTICLE FOR PALMQUIST.-–Norbert Blei


II Garden

His poems improve the more he gardens.
He made twelve that ran east and west
at the south-west end of the yard; each
is a four foot square. He analyzed the earth,
then made these squares. They are level and
on a straight line with each other, save for three
which are a bit askew. In them he does not
plant what he does not need. He plants what
they eat. Tomatoes. Potatoes. Beans. Squash.
Cantaloupe. Each square is a verse. Before
his boxes, his large garden would get away
from him, from weeds. He lost the food. But
now he breaks things down, separate. He
rewrites each plot. Though he still has
weeds, the plants scan, images clear; as in
history there is even rhyme. The people are
nourished. He always saves two squares for
compost; yard and kitchen trash enters, is
renewed to food. He works by the sweat of his
brow for this; his delight is to be cast into
this garden. He dresses and keeps his poems.

[from A Canticle for Palmquist, Black Buzzard Press]

Steve Fortney can be reached via: sfortneyATcharter.DOTnet and on Freeservers plus his Steven Fortney web page.