Monday, July 5, 2010

The hand had stirred her mind.

Yma still doesn't feel very comfortable gripping a pencil, but she never tires of dictating. Recently we've been gathering her dictated compositions into a collection that we'd like to make into a book. In going through the work I noticed that Yma created two writing games that we can present in her book: the "hand game" and the "speak for the trees game." Both of these games sprung out of the moment very organically and were instant classics. We were cruising through the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County, feeling the cool breath of the ferns when Yma informed us in a languid tone that she would let us know what the trees were saying.

Speaking for the Trees

The sticks of the lemon tree in the riverbed
the trees in the river
the bridge over the rocky path

The scroll is on the cave of the beast
the thousand scrolls of love

papyrus, frames of fresh bamboo

we can get through all this
we have passed it & know that it is true

"Speaking for the trees" reminds me of a book we have called Who Speaks for Wolf about a tribe of Native Americans who are in competition with wolves for the space they occupy. I've also heard of Shamans speaking on behalf of places and animals to their people–being intermediaries with the wild. It's an old and venerable concept that she tapped into and I liked the resulting poem.

Another time we were lying on Yma's bed reading The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. As I read aloud she placed her hand over the text, so instead of reading the next word I said the word "hand." Yma liked it and asked if I we could continue like that for a while. Then we started writing down the phrases as we went. We went back to The Secret Garden and read it through later so we didn't have a hole in the beautiful narrative.


In a house with one hundred mysteriously closed hands
there is no doubt that the hand, the fresh,
strong hand had given her an appetite.

The hand had stirred her mind.

She had been too weak to care about the hand.
But already she felt she could look at the ivy
growing on the hand. Howsoever carefully
she looked, she could see nothing
but thickly growing hands.

And, she looked them over, as the tree-tops
inside her hand- it seemed so silly-
she said to herself –to be near the hand.
If she ever should find the hidden hand,
she would be ready.

Today was Yma's first typesetting lesson. We got out the diagram of the California job case so she could search out the letters and place them upside-down into the composing stick. It had been months since we played the hand game, but the concept was awakened in her mind and she composed "Why did the hand go into the hand?" Then she placed a little star above it shining down on the cryptic words.

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