On this episode, four pieces celebrating Spring, the season of hope.
First, “Experiment” from Kathy Mangan’s book Taproot.
After my bisected planaria dried up and died
in their unwatered petri dish over spring
break – thus prematurely terminating
my tenth grade science project on regeneration –
my biology teacher let me create a lab report
describing what should have happened
had the ten amputated halves been hydrated
and permitted to regrow their missing
parts. I dutifully drew pictures of segmented
squiggles gradually elongating, adding a final
page depicting a bullet-shaped head and an arrowed
tail to prove that renewal was possible.
It was Eastertime. Resurrection in the air.
I didn’t care about my deceased, possibly
hermaphroditic flatworms. I was sixteen,
had recently been on my longed-for first date
with an unbrilliant boy from the bio class
who owned a car. I remember sitting next to him
in the movie theater, our shoulders not quite
joined, thinking: Now I’m whole, like other
girls. I was wearing a pale green sweater with a pair
of yellow butterflies embroidered over my left breast –
a breast I would let him fondle a few weeks later
as we sat parked in his orange Chevy at Compo
Beach, me getting wet, wondering what
“Experiment, from Kathy Mangan’s book Taproot.
John L. Wright started writing poetry in 1988 when he was 59. Here’s his poem, from Passager’s newest issue, “What Poetry Taught Me About Hope.”
It’s a verb.
For much of my life I thought it a noun –
like the scriptures, Hope, Faith and Love,
the preferred cuisine of desert saints,
something you pray for.
But, since making poems,
it feels more like it acts from within –
like in a salmon swimming upstream,
or a dandelion cycling through seed, root,
leaf and flower.
Could it be in my DNA too?
It’s part of me that is restored
by a spray of white blossoms, by an owl
on the branch of a big leaf maple.
Hope is what keeps me knocking
with goodwill on every man’s door.
John L. Wright’s “What Poetry Taught Me About Hope” from Passager Issue 70.
Vermont poet Jean Connor said, “I find silence to be very rich. It’s able to receive fits of creativity and beauty and spiritual strength that one does not experience with too much busyness, too much radio, too much TV, too much talk.”
Here’s Jean’s poem “The Feast” from her book A Hinge of Joy.
All morning the fitful rising and descent
of birds, goldfinches gathering, scattering,
then gathering again, wary, but certain
of the need to feed, feed! Beneath
a low gray sky, the feast is spread upon
the snow. The host, obscured behind some
curtained window, bids the birds, “Eat! Eat!”
And if the finches cannot name the host,
nor recount the paschal story, is the gift
to them any less than that to us,
who stand abashed before the fire
which burns in the weightless bodies
of the birds, . . . to us, who as we sing
the Easter alleluias, find ourselves
lifted to a place, far beyond,
beyond all knowing . . .
“The Feast,” by Jean Connor from her book A Hinge of Joy which Passager published in 2009.
Finally, this from Helen Vo-Dinh from Passager Issue 43 published 14 years ago in 2007.
When I reached my fifties, I joked that my gray hair resembled grass in a winter field. One March I decided to spend a weekend at a friend’s cabin on Sidling Hill in southern Pennsylvania. I hauled an old mattress onto the deck and covered myself with a sleeping bag . . . Suddenly something fluttered about my face. My eyes opened to see a tiny brown bird whirl off to the nearest railing where it perched, staring down at me. We eyed each other for a few minutes before my lids dropped again. When the fluttering returned, I kept my eyes shut. A moment later the bird landed on my head. I felt a sharp tug on my scalp followed by several more decisive pulls. Then the little bird flew off, carrying a few strands of my hair in her beak. She returned three more times, each time departing with additional nesting material plucked from my head. That spring, I smiled at the calls of fledglings in my garden. Somewhere on Sidling Hill was a nest where two or three baby birds were enjoying their first days of life snuggled down in my hair.
A passage about hair and hope by Helen VoDinh from Passager Issue 43.
To buy Kathy Mangan’s book Taproot or Jean Connor’s A Hinge of Joy or her first book A Cartography of Peace, or to subscribe to Passager, or to learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to passagerbooks.com.
You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.
For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.