Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Moon Lace: Desert Poetics, Night Wandering

19th Century Burano needle-lace fan leaf

Moon Lace

Quartered, now halved, she dresses me
in a gown of finely laced light,
so spidery and buoyant,
her enchantment is a snare—

I curve,
along this slight arc
of an earth animated by moonshine
in a wilderness of boundless night:
trails of stars
I follow,
until a slight rotation of the planet
pulls me back to my place among

where this mistress moon
weaves me into her thin glimmers,
twisting a glow into the curls of my hair
scattered like snaking vines along the red dirt,
my skin a luminous satin, such a smooth
surface for the embroidered frills and flounces
she laces upon my bare neck,
delicate gossamers looped, plaited, knotted into
a decorative and illusory noose.

I have imagined myself
as a million beautiful
yet time-bound things.
In every bondage
is the key to breaking free.
Escape is simple here in the desert
where the scale of the warp
and weft and arid conditions
render mental threads brittle,
the free flowing flower motifs and illusions
snap and break in their exposure to vastness—

just stitches in air,
defying grid patterns, lifting
their heavy adornment away from me.
And then I fly freely in the night,

wicked and released.

-Renee Podunovich, 2018
Seated Under Half Moon, photo by Renee Podunovich

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Back Home in the Vastness: Wide Wordscapes of Land

What is it to come home? 

It is how the body finds a way back into relationship with familiar landscape- its light and shadow, its smells and sounds, its continual offering of a wordscape through mindful and intentional communion of senses and place. 

I spend my first days back home looking for familiar animals and plants, noticing what has propagated this year and what lies dormant because of the changing conditions (that always change). After 15 years on this land, I am still learning her language, and I hear her with different ears than when I left six years ago for a stint in the city. My ears are eager for her dialect.

This summer saw the worst drought on record and yet- the wild plum bushes that I planted 15 years ago as bare root stock from the county extension, have managed to produce a modest crop.

My heart dances at the sight of the ripe plums framed against the palace blue sky and swirling afternoon clouds; the long afternoon light brushing our cheeks so we are illuminated like satin.

Home is where wild plums are the riff that I can contemplate and improvise on all day long. The ease of focusing on just one trope - wild plums - allows me to be in a creative reverie with the present moment, letting images and words and inspiration live inside me without interruption, knowing they are forming into something that will delight and surprise me; that I will give away like anyone blessed with such a harvest.

Deer Eating Wild Plums, photo by Renee Podunovich
Give Them Away

Wild plums fallen
on gray gravel, perfectly
ripe, red like lipstick on full
mouths (dusted lightly with powdered
     Pick up
     each one,
     this is
     a meditation, a prayer.

Gather these plums,
toss them over the fence,
into the wilderness-
a gift for fox and bear.
The uneaten fruit will shrivel
in the heat, evaporate in the sun,
maybe nothing will come
of these pits, but potential-
     hard, wrinkled and black
     is tucked inside each one.

Let the dirt have them,
give them away to unknown
forces, nature, magic, not
mine, magnificent web, matrix,
mystery, unsolved,
I can only taste ripe
flesh on my tongue, tart,
sharp, pungent juice-
     the wilderness of my body
     fed by fallen fruit.

-Renee Podunovich, 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Found: Old Story as New Inspiration and Reminder of Mindfulness

photo by Renee Podunovich
Found!! Circa 2000, one of just a few short stories I've composed and had published over the course of my writing life. I am so glad to find it though as a recent trip to Paris and visit to Notre Dame had me enchanted with the beheaded St. John all over again. I spotted him among the many saints that decorate the western facade of the cathedral. Finding my old story, still circulating innocently on the inter web, reminds me of how much I love short stories and inspires me in that direction again.

Sorry to say that the Catholic meaning of it all is totally lost on me, but the image of this man, holding his own head so tenderly, reminds me about mindful awareness. Isn't this the goal after all of so many spiritual disciplines- to get ahold of the mind and its errant ways via compassionate witnessing, rather than letting it drive the bus of our life so recklessly? And somehow, getting free (however momentarily) of the mind through mindful awareness practice is akin to creative process for me.

I've posted the story here. Enjoy! http://newworldwriting.net/backissues/2000/012300-podunovich.htm

Renee Podunovich

The Café Patio

 “You’re birthday party falls on The Feast Day of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist,” she says, laughing then pushing her yellow-gray front tooth in and out with her tongue, making a slight clicking sound.  Slowly, gently she rolls wads of dry Prince Albert tobacco into an almost translucent Rizla paper, like bundling an infant into a soft warm blanket.  Such care for something so habitual and ordinary;  a lacy white baptismal gown for dried plant matter.  I want to reach over and help her, hurry her diligent fingers.  I  lift my coffee cup from the small patio table which tips toward her.  Milk froth must have stuck on my lip, because she motions with one of her veiny hands to her own lip.  I lick it off.  I set the cup back down on the table, and like a seesaw with the added weight it settles back toward me.  I wonder at her slow, meticulous rolling, and the secret enjoyment in her eyes at the idea of St. John loosing his head on the day of my party.  Had she not mentioned it, I would not anticipate him.  Now, on top of fading into another year with more premature gray hair, I will be sure to hear him all that day.  He will be tiptoeing one step behind me, hiding in doorways as I glance back, then showing up at the party, mingling with the headed guests who are at a total loss for words.

It is hot in the mid-morning New Mexico sun.  Out on the streets, the heat is blazing off the adobe walls and the black asphalt, the whole town looking like a mirage. Funny that it never disappears, even when you switch angles or get nearer to it.  You just become filmy like children’s bubble liquid.  Then the hype, the marketing and the  “atmosphere” blow until you are round, floaty and a momentary part of the illusion.  The cafe patio is under the shade of a trellis thick with leafy vines, itself snuggled under a tall and slender cottonwood which stands like a grandmother with her shawl spread to shade us.  The patio is cool, and the small dirt alleyway quiet.  A slight breeze shuffles the leaves, and blows out her match. Strands of her long gray hair blow into her eyes like naughty ghosts.  It is the kind of hair that birds love to gather for their nests.

Suddenly, walking briskly up the alley is a stout man, in his early forties, wearing a tan trench-coat and what appear to be combat boots.  His walk is hurried and intent, and his head would appear jutted forward, only he has no head.  He passes the patio and opens the turquoise door to the bookstore that is across the alley. The sleigh bells on the door jingle as he shuts it behind him.  The breeze delivers the scent of gardenias and garlic upon its airy fingers.

“You really believe in Saints?” I inquire, as I get up quickly from the table.  I cross the alley and pretend to look at a patch of giant Hollyhocks growing in a crack of cement in front of the bookstore window. She is too immersed in lighting her cigarette to hear, or if she does, feels it is optional to answer.  I  peer through the enormous stalks and see that inside, the beheaded St. John is browsing with the other customers.  Satiny petals brush against my cheek and I get the idea to collect some of the Hollyhock seeds and plant them in my own garden at home.  The seeds are plentiful, hundreds in one round pod, and hundreds of pods on the six foot stalks.  There is nothing extraordinary about the flowers but that they grow where no other plant will dare.  Poor, dry soil makes them proliferate, and like true ascetics, they delight in the absence of pleasure.  Their display is so simple and it hides no mysteries.  There are the tight buds, the open blossoms flushed and thick with pollen, and then the wilt and decay of the wadded brown petals.  And finally the seeds nestled in their pods.

“God! What does it mean?” I ask her.  The words muffle into an open red blossom that I am examining up close.

“What?” she asks.

“About the Feast Day!”

“Well, I don’t know,” she says, leafy green eyes on her cigarette the whole time.  She exhales dramatically and her words are carried like smoke signals in the air.  “Mine always falls on The Feast Day of The Sacred Heart of Jesus,”  she adds, as if this is an obvious point that needs no further explanation.  Gingerly she picks at the variety of stray things that have gathered in her lap; scraps of tobacco, granules of sugar, even vagrant leaves.

 “Sacred Heart,” I say, fingering the seed pods, now grabbing and pulling them off the jostled and swaying stalks.  Pulling and grabbing, stuffing the pockets of my blazer with them, imagining them in full bloom along the rusty wire fence of my garden.  I notice St. John again, right on the other side of the window.  He is pretending to look at a book on Georgia O’Keefe, without his head of course, and holds the book open in his palms like it is a bible and he might be administering mass to the crowds.

“God! I hate Santa Fe!”  I say, loud enough so that two tourists, enamored by the Wild West as only tourists can be, look disapprovingly as they enter the bookstore. “They act like I am stealing something,”  I complain, “it’s just weed seeds after all.”

“Who?” she asks.  Of course she wouldn’t know.  She doesn’t pay attention to anything but what is in front of her directly; a rolled cigarette, a cup of coffee.  Even across the small alley, only 100 feet away, I could be across the Grand Canyon to her.  She doesn’t notice that St. John has decided to purchase the book.  He is presenting it to the poor gawking clerk, who doesn’t remember this situation from customer service training.

“Maybe it’s like an allusion to a Zen Koan.  ‘No mind is all mind,’ or ‘The head is not ahead” I say, giggling silently about my pun.  I walk back to the table and sit down, carefully, so that I won’t bump it off balance.  It tips toward her anyway.

“No,” she says very seriously. She clasps her hands in front of her chest as if to pray or emphasize her point. For a long moment she eyes the labyrinth trail of vines above us, as if they understand something that I don’t.  “It wouldn’t be that obvious.  We won’t know until the actual day arrives and then we’ll see what turns up.  How can we know?” she asks.

Yes, it is so obvious.  How can we know anything except that we are sipping coffee on the patio of the cafe?  St. John is by the Hollyhocks admiring them, or at least has his body turned toward them.  His purchase is in a brown paper sack tucked under his arm.  He starts to pluck at the stalks, just as I had done, collecting the seed pods and putting them in his coat.  He turns toward us suddenly, as if waiting.  With his free hand he is fingering the rough seeds that are falling now, out of the pods and into the silky lining of his pocket.

“What more is there to know beyond the contents of a seed?”  she inquires.  Bud, blossom, death. These everyday emotions, thoughts and activities are just days of sun, rain and photosynthesis, ending always in exactly the same place:  Seeds in the pockets of the living and the Saints.

Renee Podunovich is a conglomeration of small particles of light that came together through specific strands of genetic coding and DNA, creating a complex chemical combination that was charged by the unique pattern of the cosmos at that time. Indeed, she will continue to burn off the karmic patterns of these influences until she disperses back into the vast ocean of the unmanifest life force from whence she came.
photo by Renee Podunovich

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Poems Gathered in High Desert Wandering

photo L. Escalanti

Red Sand Rainbow:  Private Prayers

I am finished. regarding the inquiry
about power and control— 
in the end,
there is only vulnerability.

fragile. the suffering of living.

soften into evenness.
let go into a net of existence,
blend into red rock canyon—
            time so old it slips
my grasping,
buffered briefly
from seduction and the need
to be seen (unique).

If there are new words
to describe the sunrise—
I don’t have them.
I give that requirement over
to the building heat of the day.

sun gains height in summer sky
and I let my karma burn
along that fire path.
the embers of that incineration
will be stars tonight.
            their alignment reminds me
            of my relationship
            to pause

and endlessness

-Renee Podunovich, 2018
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Boulder, UT
photo by rattenpatten

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dreaming Awake: The Gift of Allowing Each Moment

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. - Carl Jung
Great Salt Lake photo by Renee Podunovich


light winding
a way back to center
my body
a drum hide that vibrates in the numen.
            I shine
a small candle in the quiet dark of mo(u)rning

with each flicker of flame
I know—
            All is Connected
            & I am intact

each moment
                        each moment
                        has its own time and way,
these elements arise and take shape,
an endless intelligence
that I bow down to.

                        I bow to this that is given me
                        each moment:
                        the ease and clarity
so brief,
the tortures and sorrows
that steel me for equanimity,
dream me awake.

I bow to you, my teachers—
seen and unseen,
benevolent and menacing

                        just as this bud becomes a flower
                        (then seeds and husk)
                        I trust this unfolding and allow.

-Renee Podunovich, 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Art of Loss; The Air of the Grief We Breathe Together


pump smashheart
bloodgrief a locamotive
turned butterfly:
a fleeting life,
delicate wings and steel mechanics
animated fully by the imminence 
of endings.

cut by sharp stopping;
i opened a new chamber
inside the tender tissues
of this idiotic and misbehaved organ

suddenly left alone.
vulnerability is liquid and evaporation;
impossible to hold in either state
despite the desire for permanence—
the necessity of flight and distance.

the taking away
loss is air that i breathe
over and over again

i swim in that atmosphere 
like a snake diving in banks of winter snow

a winding smoothness
i imagined your skin
yet yearning
for summer heat and melt,
for open space in the long constricted places
where small identities collapsed and new love germinated.

i will not be put together
as i was before you.

-Renee Podunovich, 2018

Friday, May 4, 2018

Experiments in WordSpin

I've had a growing fascination with pushing the edges of post-modernism, particularly with a pestering and un-scratchable itch of an interest about meaning making. Once a belief in the impossibility of the existence of true objectivity is embraced, a curiosity arises about how far into the personal rabbit hole of subjective reality a writer can descend before others stop following you.

There is a cliché already about poetry, or perhaps a mark of shame it wears, that often others “don’t know what it means”.  Haters of this poor, misplaced child of the arts complain that it is cryptic, irrelevant, an antiquated form of expression resuscitated briefly by Hip Hop and slams and now lingering around, impossible to kill, moaning in it’s own sense of preciousness. These poems do nothing to mediate or apologize for that.

I am a therapist as well as a poet, so by trade I am constantly pointing people in the direction of their feelings; encouraging them to find meaning.  Past poetry collection of mine have offered the reader that same consideration. I’ve used a narrative approach, creating meanings that others can pick up on because they are built on emotions; the most common language we speak. I’m actually pretty good at it.

Please forgive me here. I have not been able to do that for you, especially since the impetus and curiosity for me was not with conveying a numinous and transcendent message of any kind. Rather, these poems come from a giddy sense of authenticity, a carefree jaunt of wordplay, a fascination with sounds and constructing language for the purpose of hearing it like notes of a chime in the wind, a sense of intense pleasure that comes from two words put next to each other for no reason at all. If a deeper sense of meaning comes through, consider it a Rorschach inkblot effect; a projection. And there is nothing wrong with that, they tell us that about art when it gets abstract— find your own meaning, there is no wrong way. Or let go of the need for meaning momentarily. Notice how hard that is to do!

I thought this would be a full collection at one point, but have found it challenging to sustain. Here are some of my favorites from this experiment. For those who take the ride, thanks for coming along. How unexpected and wonderful. For those who have to hop off the bus, I understand.

          pool of myself

in the rainy thump check my pulse twice,
heart walloping, tat and whap,
spoons fit together, quiet, so quiet,
knuckles and castanets, floorboards, 
creak seams slick,
skimmy-slip the suitcases
pack up or under packing,
road maps unfolded, they will never go back
to flatness.
She runs like a star,
the woodlands and needles,
intelligences and atmospheres,
she is elastic and inaudible,
nothing but crumbs breaking up the heavy
swags of dull,
time gets on the sheer,
a lace of containment,
the magnificence of lace undressing.
bluster the lethargies, china patterns,
shatter the combs say, “Yeah”.
her dog in the cupboard,
hungry, hungry, hungry.
hunger brewed into fervent tea,
clamber into that liquid and drench
in your own un-coming,
don’t let it go aloof, a forgotten spat,
wasted industry. Gulp your particular nature
out of thinker limits,
lazy vernacular, neuro-elipses (not a thing)
go poking in netting,
novelty traipses about casually or needlessly,
afraid to fluster bareness. barren.

under microscopes-

the break-downing, splits or
pneumonia in the chronicles,
the upper apartment awakens because footsteps,
the phenomena of skin molted and re-grown
or so they tell us.
this kind of thing.
sciences, they say so.


no teeth to hold
the tongue in
flop out rain chaser
wet streets unknown appliance sound
quivers her letters irregular
prescriptions are waiting
chase the hours spent sounding
irregular vowels the Os
he puts down tracks
gadgetry finish the coffee
reheat & reheat
a bigger book means mind in the margins
wander the rumble under the refrigerator
the food gone
an arrow made of engine poking the rain
& wet tongue

          “i just want to pull the linchpin”

.she says.
as if bits would ever stop falling,
once they come apart.
                                                       raven caw cracks dawn.
keep landing
in the same nest of storylines
tatted together
with a beak full of string&twigs
&the need for lastingness.  
                                                     things grow. they fly away.
she is left with habits.
beneath them (a witness)
her own compassion             feathers on wind.