A poem a week until the entire book is blogged. See also Collected Poems

Monday, December 11, 2017

She Likes Red in September

She likes red in September. Viney maple, poison oak;
Her plum trees dress well in it. Where she lives, all
Else goes brown. Except the dog roses 

Leavening hedges with their hips. She stuffs these
In her pockets on every walk, then does research,
Kindling a ken of potions, liqueurs, oils.
Easily, drying comes to mind; to prep for that
She'll split each pod and rake away hard seeds, 

Removing them to her freezer to stratify;
Else they might not emerge come spring. She
Digs out also myriad tiny hairs,

Irritants if retained. It's a slow business,
Not for the impatient, which well describes her;

She knows of this but means to tough it out.
Each hip's a silent mantra: she'll
Push, pull, twist, scrape, sort, and set aside
The emptied husks for drying or infusing.
Eventually the pile is done, just as light fades.
My eyes, she tells herself, are getting on,
But this I can still do. I'll make rose tea;
Evening will fill my cup of mindfulness.
Really, there's nothing more than what there is.




Monday, December 4, 2017

Just-Enough

The ubiquity of Queen-Anne's lace annoys her;
it's not the plant's not doing its job; her soil
is loosened and enriched; in time of human 

hunger, roots, young leaves and even umbels
would have table use. But there is so much 
of it; her chickens dislike the stuff, especially 

in its second year, allowing their yard and moat 
to fill with cohort-ranks of pungent spikes. 
Her friend keeps bees and tells her they will feed 

on this exclusively, bittering his honey, 
bringing down its price. So he watches; 
when the umbels bloom he moves his hives. 

She'd like to query those who thought of Anne;
these tiny droplets in a sea of lace
Need not have been a queen's: she tells herself

her own blood has fed this thorned and rock-
embedded acre thoroughly. So, queen
of weeds, she! Or queen of just-enough.




Monday, November 27, 2017

It is Quiet Out There Now

It is quiet out there now. She
Takes her hat, stick and forage bag,

Into which she slips her pruners, then
Slides her feet into green clogs, feeling

Quite exurban-agrarian, ready to look
Under brush piles and into cottonwoods --
In every place that might consent to harbor
Even a hint of birds' music. They have flown,
The silence tells her; those that haven't died.

Out along the roadside she waves to cars,
Understanding her neighbors have to drive,
Then pockets up her apples, rose hips, leaves

That now are turning away from green: cat's ear,
High mallow, chicory, plantain, sow thistle, her
Ears pricked for passing flights of geese.
Really, thinks she to herself, there ought
Even now to be more birds. There are 

Not so many feral cats round here as that. 
Or could it be the sprays? She supposes
War has been declared. A war on song.




Monday, November 20, 2017

Terrified of Them

Terrified of them she was through long
Experience being swarmed with stings,
Running, her hands over eyes and mouth,
Running to the house or jumping in the lake,
In whatever way possible to stop the punishers.
For years, she made herself their nemesis
In revenge, setting nests afire! Or in
Evenings inverting a glass bowl upside
Down over their holes to watch them starve.

Only in recent years, as her ways have slowed,
Finding in books their part in the scheme of

Things as helpers in garden and orchard,
Has she learned to move more gently
Even as they light on her cidery hands,
Milking fingers for juice, never stinging.




Monday, November 13, 2017

And Now It Sings

She stands in wet and likes it; drips rolling 
around the brim of her split-bamboo conical
hat to fall on thirsting clay. Here's

weather at last, there having been sun,
sun, sun, a lip-cracking and tree-splitting
dry, since the vernal equinox. Nothing

had been vernal about it, and her land
knew so. The very fir limbs sulked;
willows on creek banks browned up and died;

birds fell everlastingly silent, dropping
on needle-sharp tufts of what had been haymow
beneath their perches in rattling cedars;

fish sought pools deeper than any there were,
crowding in together, fin by fin, 
gulping and grunting, then rolling over

to bump along hot, slimed rocks and lodge
somewhere, stinking. Her crops had miniaturized,
flavorful but insufficient to pay her labor;

She'd lost heart and let vining morning glories
into her cracked farm at last. And now here
comes weather. Not enough to top off the well,

maybe, and certainly not enough to start the creek.
But here she stops, catching chill -- watching
a goldfinch settle on fence wire with a twist

of foraged thistledown. It drops the meal,
opens its beak, cranes skyward. And now it sings.




Monday, November 6, 2017

These Are Highlands

These are highlands, in a region of highlands, so
not especially notable. It takes a long 
time to get there, though the graveled road

is short enough; park and walk -- not far,
but bring a lunch and water. Sign in; it's wilderness
according to the kiosk and its map.

Immediately you have shade. These are
Douglas fir, mountain hemlock, perhaps
some red cedar. Beneath, on both sides the trail,

a scattering of vine maple, ocean spray,
rhododendron, and, in the draws, willow.
Sometimes bear grass is in flower;

not this year. As late season turns, first
vanilla leaf, then devil's club, then red
huckleberry, then the blue, will shade through

gold to sienna to cranberry: cool nights.
Kinnickinnick under foot will be your sign
you are straying; do not lose the path.

Along the way are springs, but they are dry;
near them are holes of mountain beaver,
a town like that of prairie dogs. You will

not see them; they go abroad at night.
Admire twinflowers and trilliums, though
they are past bloom. So it is as well

with gooseberry and false Solomon's seal --
they are tired now, and long for snow.
As your path turns upon itself and climbs

rocks and trees will change to andesite
and alpine fir; soil to red dust, shrubs
to ceanothus. Now you discover that view

eyes come here to see; a mountainscape
of scree and scarp and what remains of ice,
not far away as the crows fly, yet leaning

over miles of air, blue with smoke and firs.
You may eat, and drink your water, leaving some
for your return. Wait here for me a bit

while I go to see a stone nearby
where both my parents' ashes lie at rest.




Monday, October 30, 2017

Where Are the Potatoes, She Wondered

Where are the potatoes, she wondered, watching
Heat shimmer across her corn block, its leaves
Each rustling against other, turning brown.
Right here they were planted, next bed over,
Evenly spaced, in two long lines, eyes up

And covered in soft soil, mixed with compost --
Really exactly as she had done these fifty years.
Early next morning, she reached for her mason's hammer,

The experiment with the spud hook having failed, and
Heaving her old bones down onto her gardening stool
Exactly at the end of that mysterious weedy bed;

Pulled block after block of solid hexagonal clod
Over, busting up each as she went, feeling for
That coolness she knew as round starch balls
All her life she'd depended on. It's not 
That she hadn't watered and weeded, no,
Or fought those gophers well, newly arrived.
Earth could not drink for once, it seemed.
Some spuds appeared. They were even

Smaller than those from last year. Some felt
Hollow. Some were cracked. Some were
Even green with poisons though they'd grown

Well deep enough never to have seen sun.
Oh, well, she thought, I'll take what I can get;
Now we'll have barley for every other soup, with 
Dandelion to help stretch out my kale. This
Earth, she told herself, never did all,
Really even in days of rain. Barley I bought.
Ere I go forth from here as buried flesh or ash, I'll
Do as I have done: work with what is.




She Likes Red in September

She likes red in September. Viney maple, poison oak; Her plum trees dress well in it. Where she lives, all Else goes brown. Except the...