August 18, 2017 § Leave a comment
I am grateful to Linda Thomas for publishing several of my photographs in the Winter 2017 issue of New England Memories.
June 19, 2017 § Leave a comment
The unsettled light of an approaching storm settles over the land, this barn, edging the way home.
February 14, 2017 § Leave a comment
A Cautionary Tale
So much hinges on the texture of a moment: how one word, one gesture can shift the earth beneath our feet. Suddenly the ground cracks open, swallowing people, houses, animals, rail lines. Whole villages disappear, collapsed into the earth or hauled somewhere else. Whole families vanish, erased from the record.
Think of the Jackmans: how quickly they became a story not to be told. How they arrived in Assam with the flush and speed of their missionary zeal, how later Reverend Jackman discovered that his wife was having an affair, how he fell stunned to the ground, how he ran to their bungalow to get his revolver, how he crossed the road, how he called the Major to his verandah, how he shot him dead, how William Witter was called up to Sadiya to serve as his spiritual advisor, how Mary Barss Witter cautioned her children not to speak of this to the outside world.
Silence: such a strange demand, a betrayal of the most human of instincts – to have at least one person on this strange earth who can say, Yes, this is what I see, this is what I feel.
[Note: This is one section of my essay “Dangerous Archaeology: A Daughter’s Search for Her Mother (and Others) – A Memoir in Fragments” published in Hayden’s Ferry Review #50, Spring/Summer 2012]
December 31, 2016 § 4 Comments
Here on This Ridge
Children with sparklers illumine the night, a dozen
children with a dozen sparklers racing in circles
around the old well boarded up like a swimming
float in the middle of the field. They spin and careen,
a crazy constellation of legs and laughter and shooting
stars, tiny sparks rising behind them into the dark. We
watch them and remember our own days here on this ridge –
lying with our backs to the solid earth, eyes seeking the shooting
stars that our own parents promised would come, or learning
to dance for the first time at the Fourth of July street dance
in front of Highway Market Number 2, here at the end of this spit
of land, hardly a highway at all this dirt road that tumbled
into the ocean and upon which we danced, or jumping off
Ronnie’s dock at midnight under a full moon shimmering
its light onto the surface of the sea and feeling the coldness
of that water not as something to be feared but as simply
a feeling, a sensation like hunger or sleepiness or maybe
even love. On this July night, we watch our own children
for whom the night holds no fear. There has been no catastrophe
as the news had cautioned, no planes plunging to earth, no
children falling down empty wells, no children drowning in the sea,
no broken legs, no broken hearts, just children running around
like wild children of the forest bearing flowers as gifts for us
for whom even a simple sound has become suspect.
Martha Andrews Donovan
Publication note: “Here on This Ridge” was awarded First Place in the Poetry Society of New Hampshire National Contest for November 2011 and was published in Poets’ Touchstone that year.
The first draft of this poem was written in the summer of 2002 when so many of us – after September 11, 2001 – felt shattered and uncertain. As we enter 2017 – another time of great uncertainty – I hope, perhaps naively but certainly fervently, that we may all find moments of beauty, these unexpected gifts that sometimes appear and surprise us.
December 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
Let the sea’s constancy – the strangeness of water – startle you.
September 29, 2016 § 2 Comments
There are many ways to be lonely and there are many ways to be free –
follow the sea, the rushes of the salt marsh, the curve of a peregrine’s wings.
June 13, 2016 § 2 Comments
Field Notes from Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico. 13 August 2015.
I went toward a wall of light and then a wall of red – I went to the edge of devastation – the edge where the waters had raged – Attracted by the greens of a sea before a wall of red, I found my way to the edge of the devastation – trees uprooted – leaves lodged, trees lodged in the wedge, the embrace of trees – I stood at the edge of the ravine – This is where I belong – facing the devastation – standing at the precipice and looking down – but I had been given a task – Find red – I didn’t want to leave, yet there was the matter of red – As I shifted my weight, I noticed at my feet flashes of red – and I laughed out loud – there, in this sea of sand and silt – in this heavily eroded arroyo, there at my feet, a delicate flower – the red blossoms like birds caught in flight – barely tethered – just barely attached
Notes on these Field Notes:
In August 2015, I was fortunate to have been chosen to join nearly 120 accomplished women writers from across the United States to spend time musing and writing in the high desert of New Mexico at the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s “Writing Against the Current” Retreat for Women Writers. This was my third consecutive participation in this biennial retreat. While there, I joined a small group of women as part of Bhanu Kapil’s magical “Write Yourself Out of One Life and Into Another.” As part of the pilgrimage we took collectively and individually, we each spent a day wandering in search of the color red.
A flash flood had screamed through the ranch just shortly before our arrival. I found my way to the edge of an arroyo where the devastation of that flood was written in the landscape. I was so focused on the wreckage there that I almost missed the beautiful flower blooming at my feet. As I crouched down to take a photograph of trees wedged in a sea of sand, staring me in the face was the color I had gone seeking. I laughed out loud. I thought of Georgia O’Keeffe: “When one begins to wander around in one’s own thoughts and half-thoughts what one sees is often surprising” (Some Memories of Drawings). After the currents that ravaged there, this flower rose up, reminding me of the power of resilience, the persistence of beauty.