It's just poetry, it won't bite

Taking Notice

10.02.18 Posted in today's words by

Howard F. Stein’s most recent poem to appear here was “Unanswered Questions” (September 2018).

Taking Notice
By Howard F. Stein

I sat on my porch
in a fierce summer storm,
beneath the shelter
of wide eaves.
Vertical bullets of rain,
razor lightning bolts, explosive thunder,
all so familiar—every storm
I had known over a lifetime
converged on this moment.
Past was now, making now
all the worse.

Today’s storm violently merged with
and melted into my father’s rages,
his vicious arguments with my mother,
our pleading with him not to leave,
her father’s contempt for him,
my mother’s suicide attempts,
my heaving sobs until blood flowed
from my nose onto the pillow
when I fled to my bedroom—
and the abiding dread
of pogroms against Jews.

In the midst of the storm’s fury,
sudden calm—
an opening in the sky,
intense light broke through.
My eyes glanced upward;
for an instant
treetops glowed
in evening sun—
as if the earth had turned
and changed its mood.
Not intending to look,
I took notice
of the gift given,
though so brief the spell.

In waves of storm,
sunburst was exceptional;
the welcome interlude
was all too brief before
more grief set in.
(So too at home
when I was young.)
Soon chaos again
engulfed me.
The sky turned black,
sharp skeletal fingers of lightning
clawed the growing night.

Storms overwhelmed hope once again,
swallowed what light
had so fleetingly burst through.
I withdrew further under the eaves
as relentless rain returned—
rehearsing a lifetime
in a single storm.

4 Responses to “Taking Notice”

  1. Dolores says:

    There is something very “eastern”, (Taoist), in this poem: Stein perfectly describes a deeply meditative state of mind through which the poet’s absolute presence in the moment—his immersion in Nature’s play— simultaneously elicits engagement with a particularly resonant sequence of personal life experiences held in his memory bank. As disturbing as the memory is, the poet remains calmly in the external—perhaps even eternal—moment, fully able “to take notice” of the sun. In so doing he achieves, via the poem, a perfect recognition of the micro/macrocosmic ebb and flow of darkness and light.

    • Howard Stein says:

      Dear Dolores, Thank you for your brief essay. I learn from you about both poem and poet. You help me to locate myself and my state of mind. Although I treasure meditation, mindfulness, reflection, introspection, and immersion, I rarely think of myself as “eastern” or Taoist. You help me to see and recognize myself anew. You are a gifted “surveyor” of how my mind/body work, and of where I am in relation to the poem. You, the empathic observer, also “take notice.” And I am grateful.

  2. Sandy Soli says:

    Dear Howard, the remembered storm at home is a heart-rending backdrop for the storm you observe on the porch. Emotional weather stays with us always. Thank you for sharing this.
    Best regards, Sandy

    • Howard Stein says:

      Dear Sandy, Thank you for your observations. They make me think of the photographic image of a kind of “double exposure,” the weather in the natural world, and the weather in my family and psyche, both of them in the same photograph! I love your sentence and image that “Emotional weather stays with us always.” In addition to my “remembered storm at home” being a backdrop for the violent rainstorm I observe from the tenuous safety of my little porch, remembering that storm in my family and in my-self felt like a re-experiencing of it at the same time I was immersed in Nature’s storm. It was like an intrusive thought, triggered by the thunderstorm outside. I simultaneously observed and experienced both storms. Thank you, Sandy, for triggering these thoughts and emotions in me.

Latest Podcast Episode
vox poetica archives