Eight Notes from the Bell Tower*

1.
She is in the tower,
the camponologist,
calling out to heaven from her stony perch,
pulling thick rope until the tower shakes, resonating
the air with beautiful clamor.

2.
A new voice was pulled that day, and it washed the sky
from dusk to starlight, pastel morning to deep night,
striking thick tones.
She bathed the blank sky until
the air was crisp, the stars shone, and all was so,
so still.

3.
The bell tower stands
like an empty shell.
Tiny window-gems rise
in a golden line.
Empty thuds of feet climb
the inner ring
to the top where sallys hang
like the ends of candy canes.

4.
Down and up
back and forth
pull and
pause

in perfect union, all eight, and she
the first to call in the year,
to whisper the command
into tremulous, thundering beauty!

5.
“Look to!”

curves of steel, ageless, without wrinkles,
arch in graceful curves
others hold their breath
tension all around

“Treble’s Going!”

now ring in time, in birth, in death, in union
sing clear and strong
for years to fall in place.
all around she rings them in,
a lassoer of skies.

“She’s Gone.”

6.
The campanile
watches
the village sleep
and rise.
The bells
wait
and ring
accordingly.

7.
Cambridge Surprise?
Not a dessert of clotted cream eaten with small spoons,
but a clear chorus of bells, rung by human hands.

Grandsire?
Not a grand sire, ruling from his palace,
but a faithful ring, struck true and constant.

Double Bob Minor?
Not a slow duo of melancholy notes,
but the clean, swift weave of a two ton bell dancing among the other seven.

8.
Birds hold, people stop,
airs quiver, stars twinkle.
The awesome resonance of bells,
bells she rang – the first – the camponologist.

*St. Mary’s church in Adderbury, England, (see below) houses 8 bells, the largest of which is 2 tons. It takes a minimum of one year to learn the most basic combinations. The leader of the bell ringers is a “camponologist,” a position that takes many years to earn. This poem celebrates the first woman in Adderbury to do so.

adderburybelltower

Insubordination

The ravens’ wings flashed

In a high sun

Purple blue iridescences

Like a mob of teenagers

Good natured

Unruly 
Riding the sky

Like bicycles
Climbing and coasting

Taste testing freedom
Carefree-ing exhilaration
Squeezing dare

into every fibrous feather

Resonating flares

Into every hollow bone

Riding invisible drafts higher

And higher
Bold and fierce
Plumes of feathers

Cawing, climbing,

Defying

Alive

I know you

I know you.
Your face behind the window in North Beach,
how you sit alone and order coffee on a cloudy afternoon.
I know you.
The notebook you keep in a purse, the pen you can never find,
how you feel your thighs on the chair beneath you before crossing your legs and making a promise.
I know you.
The way hours slip by in shades of grey and purple,
how you wander in front of the couch or lie curled up on the floor.
I know you.
The sound of an ocean crashing in your ears,
how the tide goes out each day taking away some of the ache until it comes in again.
I know you.
Planning to create and write and do something that touches people on the other side of the glass,
how you see all of them walking past.
Shatter the glass if that’s the only way.
I know you.
Your away-glancing catches you mid-life and suddenly
it is urgent,
how you look back at the tree of your life
and find yourself stranded on a limb and no fork left to take.
I know you.
Let’s sit together now, both of us.
The roots remain. It’s not too late.
I know you.