There is an invitation to reflect in the words of “Practical Meditation” in Ash Steps by M. Travis Lane. We are invited to contemplate the similarities between our life and the firefly’s brief flicker “as splendid in its vanishing / as in its blaze.” This calls to mind an earlier poem from An Inch Or So Of Garden where the totem animal providing the meditative moment is a bit larger … a bear in “The Mine” disturbs “A placer stream, slow, speckled in gold, / wrapped in warm perfectness […] And on the perfect filmlessness / the skaters skim.” All is quiet and placid until the bear bursts on the scene
Until the oaf thwacks down the bush,
breaks twigs. He comes
from grubbing worms, will mine
The waters are muddied and the fish and creatures upset. But by poem’s end we are expected to imagine the bear missing the catch and that all returns to a previous state and the not previous state.
he mines no dinner, goes again.
Then wait, not long,
all things return
beneath the sun’s soft negligence —
all things, all visions, walkers, fish —
and even bears.
This is wry commentary with its wink at the folk song derived from Ecclesiastes. Travis Lane will pick up the motif of disturbed water in many images of mirrors that populate the later poetry. Take for instance the beginning of “Ash Steps”
jumped into the water bin.
But something fell, and for a while
that tepid mirror shifted, squirmed,
and shook beige shreds of floating leaf,
a pigeon feather, dust
Further on in the collection, one encounters a whole panoply of disturbers and a most intriguing catch and release method to not restore circumstances but to trigger the meditative reflection. “Les Pêcheurs d’eau” ends with a complex figure of exhaustion and renewal:
For centuries they’ve caught our music,
Poets, moths, flies, frogs, dogs, cats, and lunatics.
Some years an iceberg, snagged, overturns.
So little’s left, they have been fishing for so long!
Whatever they catch, they do, at least
they do throw it all back again:
but hooked, unhooked, now maimed.
The ecological scale seems vast and the focus on decline poignant but we recall other instances of disturbed mirrors and earlier in the collection the wisdom of “Practical Meditation”.
Epiphanies splash up like waves on windy days
against the green edge of a pier;
you don’t have to go out to look for them,
abundant, brief, like fireflies as they are.
I like how whether it be plethora or scarcity, there is opportunity with and without our ursine cousins. Exeunt pursued by a bear. And the re-citing of the stage direction from The Winter’s Tale is in a sense rewritten as our pursuit. Chased and chasing. Firefly flickers. Mined and mine.
And so for day 1008