Alexander Kern

About Place Journal Volume III Issue I Enlightened Visions June 2014 aboutplacejournal.org Section 2: Water/Blood/Being
Alexander Levering Kern
 
Grandparents, Salvaging
Daybreak Over the Renaissance Hotel
Soundings from Chebeague Island, the “Land of Many Springs
 
 
Grandparents, Salvaging

Their sacred duty, she explains
is to patrol the beach for plastic & glass
castoffs of a wanton world.
So they walk, the grandmother, crowned in white
her husband like Superman in a fedora:
each with a bag –
this island, their home, which salvaged
their lives from the empty nest,
gathering up whatever
sharp ugly things
might threaten the blue heron as it descends
with a cry as old as morning light.
 
 
Daybreak Over the Renaissance Hotel
                                    Atlanta Airport, 2004
 
Outside the fortress window, down beyond the trees
past the moat of shimmering cars
the lone valet turns his key
 
swinging his jacket over one shoulder,
girding himself for whatever it is
this one-more day will bring.
 
Even here, on godknowswhat floor,
his name badge glints a word of Welcome
to an Atlanta morning blinking its one eye awake.
 
Send him prayers now, something quiet
and lonely says. Send prayers of unknowing,
prayers for a stranger beginning his day.
 
Beyond him cars scamper over the highway,
rodents seeking their daily bread.
On the runway, chrome chariots come and go,
swinging low to steal the captives or carry them home.
 
And miles from here across the parched fields of East Carolina,
they’re tearing down tobacco barns, recycling old boards
to fashion from the father’s house
 
of blackened lung & old Jim Crow
new kitchen floors and bright rec rooms
for the son’s resplendent home.
 
And miles from here, Florida’s swimming deep under water
dodging the hurricane, awaiting the flood.
And miles from here, Mount Saint Helens rumbles again
her nostrils flaring like seraphim.
 
And soon the oil spill will snake its tongue
across the gaping Delaware,
with silent armies ready to breach
the waters of Philadelphia.
 
The land is warring abroad and within,
while the lone blind man is throwing stones
          at mirrors in the flooded hall
 
singing It’s time to turn now, time to move
          before the hour of wet ash and soot
          before it all comes round again
          before it all comes round.
 
 
Soundings from Chebeague Island,
          the “Land of Many Springs

          – overheard on North Road, and down by the shore
 
If an island could speak, what might it say
          and what might we, if listening, hear?
 
Restless feet
                    running on gravel
The squish of new pavement
                                        along North Road
The quiet of the Grannell Cottage
                                                  awakening
          white as enamel
                              a molar glistening in the sun
The soft contraction
                    of wet towels drying
                              reminder of yesterday’s joy
The silence of guns
                              in the gravel pit
The word “Where?”
                    stretched out
                              by the lobsterman
          grown
                    to three syllables at least
The puttering motors of fishing boats
          and down by the wharf
                              the lobsters plotting their escape
The mourning dove
          and riot of crows
                    demanding new food to eat
The crunch of sea grass
                    the panting dog’s tongue
The blue heron’s complaint
          when startled from stillness
                    and her great one-legged last stand
 
The chatter of brooks
          exchanging yesterday’s news
                    from deep within
                                         the aquifer
 
The Wabanakis’ final song
          and the cry of an island
                                        as sea levels rise
 
The thunder of an ice floe the size of New Jersey
          breaking off from the coast
                    of Greenland this week
 
And the sound of returning
          to the cabin by the creek:
                    the clicking of Legos
                              on the hardwood floor
 
          as our children build a new world.
 
 
  
Alexander Levering Kern is a poet, writer, educator and Quaker activist. His writing has received various awards and appeared in publications such as Georgetown Review, Concho River Review, Mobius, Spare Change News, Blue Collar Review, and anthologies from Meridian Anthology, Pudding House, Ibbetson Street, and others. He is editor of the anthology Becoming Fire: Spiritual Writing from Rising Generations. Living in Boston (and at times on Chebeague Island, Maine), he has worked on climate action and environmental issues with the NAACP in North Carolina in the 1990s, Tolupane Indians in Honduras, farmers on the Navajo reservation in Leupp, Arizona, and interfaith communities around urban toxins and 350.org Tar Sands organizing in New England. He serves as Executive Director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue, and Service at Northeastern University in Boston.
 

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