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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Luck

Padding along among roots and stobs in shade,
I take the north-slope path to see old friends:
red huckleberry and mountain hemlock 

subsisting on nurse logs amid moss; vanilla 
leaf, false Solomon's seal, sword fern, bracken,
sorrel, twinflower, wild ginger, salmonberry,

maiden-hair fern, ninebark, viney maple.
They seem well; it's steep shade and deep
mouldering duff. Enough rain has alighted

upon this slope for centuries to build tall firs,
straight cedars, twisted, hoary, wrangling maples.
Yet the riverbed below seems troubled, shrunken.

Stones I never see have suddenly shown
themselves, shouldering past dried caddis cases
and empty snail shells, standing in desiccated air.

Here no trout hide from tiring current,
awaiting mayflies. No osprey hovers above,
awaiting trout. The river has shifted from 

its bed, lifted past every thirst, and gone 
to fall somewhere in the world as flood.
A slug has blundered into dust in broiling 

sun and is in trouble. Not one for caressing 
slugs, I break two twigs for chopsticks, and move 
the mollusk to, I hope, a better place.

In fellow feeling I expound to the slug
my sunstruck orchard, panting flock,
failing well and kitchen garden hard as ice.

We'll all of us start shifting soon, I tell it,
as ants shift from a burning glass. From here on
you and I will need what's more than luck.




Monday, February 12, 2018

There Are Rooms in a Life

There are rooms in a life that may sometimes
Have someone in them; but they are guests there.
Even when one most loves, one may find,
Really, a solitude that begins at this wall,
Ends at that wall; the rest is not entirely ours.

As years turn and suns, moons and stars
Rise up and fall like rain by every window
Even one's hands will shrivel soon enough

Right at the ends of one's arms, as hands
Of strangers. But to fret at this discovery
Of emptiness arrived at and emptiness 
Made clear by moon's dance with water,
Sun's dance with dust, by endings never sought

In even that one room that is one's own, is
Not worthy of even that we call our life.

All our guests deserve from us restraint.

Little enough we can offer them as it is;
In a short while each vacates each room,
Feeling for the light switch as each goes.
Evening comes. Do not grieve the door.




Monday, February 5, 2018

Wassail

In August, but this year in July, Gravensteins:
golden fleshed, generous, kind to cook,
ciderer and ring-dryer. She tries everything,

but mostly butter: a large crockpotful
of peeled rings, quartered, lightly cloved,
cinnamoned and nutmegged will make

six pints and one short jelly jar. After
that, the old Egremont Russet, Cortland,
Honeycrisp and Jonagold come all together;

what can she do but slice them all in quarters,
toss them into her dedicated shredder,
pour pomace into a burlap bag

and hang that, with her father's pulley
and old hemp rope, to a maple branch?
Juice will run for hours, collecting

in a tub beneath; at evening she dips gold,
pouring through filter and funnel into quarts --
forty-five glass jars or more, most years. 

Last, she'll think of cider (but not too much),
making in a cool jug by adding wine yeast.
In seven days or less she will sing to trees.




Monday, January 29, 2018

More

Rattling around in her potting shed once
she came across packets five years old;
had not heart to toss the things away.
Popping the lid from an empty parsley shaker,
she tipped the packets' contents in and stirred.
Ten flats she sowed at random with this mix,
come March, that first year; a month earlier
thereafter, as springs grew warmer. Bits of green
appeared, some here, more there. She'd prick out any

that went to a second pair of leaves, and give them
each its own square pot. What might they be?
Some Red Russian, curly or Lacinato

kale, some radishes, turnips, beets. Six kinds
of lettuce, collards, cabbage -- Dutch or red --
some spinach, also chard. Carrots, kohlrabi

and parsnips never showed, but she allowed
enough's a feast. Those that proved up
were hardened off in April, then set out
in beds on a grid, each as its turn came next 
from the flat. That shaker lasted half a garden 
half a decade. Nothing the catalogs
had taught was even tried. Whatever she thought 
they'd said to do with seeds, well! The seeds 
knew more than seedsmen, and much, much more than she.




Monday, January 22, 2018

The Grace at the Heart of the World

She's not much for recipes. The bowl sometimes
invites her, and she oils it, cracks a duck egg 
or two, throws in a bit of stock or well water,

maple syrup and leavening, and says to it:
sit there and I'll be back with something for you.
"Something" might be a beet leaf, or an apple,

or a spray of young mint -- once it was a whole
handful of chives. Chopped and thrown in,
the whatever might vanish under oats or rye,

buckwheat flour, or crumbs from the last loaf,
and then salt -- late, so as not to insult the yeast.
Last, she may tug the spelt barrel from beneath

the counter, and dip a porcelain bowl into
the cool brown powder five -- six -- seven 
times. She stirs the makings between heaps

with a pair of chopsticks. Never quite
the same thing twice! In summer she'll oil
a crock pot and turn the lump in to bake;

in winter, a Dutch oven. In either case,
the secret is prop the lid onto a chopstick,
letting a little steam out over time.

The end is not the prettiest bread you'll ever see,
nor the best tasting, she'll admit. But slice it,
add a little butter to it still hot,

and sit, eating slowly, in a western window
as the sun goes gold, then falls. Are you not
now the grace at the red heart of the world?




Monday, January 15, 2018

Learning to Walk

It's not that she hasn't been doing this all along:
She'd walked to school as yellow lozenges, oozing screams,
fumed past her along hot asphalt. She'd splashed the creek,

anxious for a path, then built it herself, kenning
to use her father's axe without lost blood.
She'd walked from Springer Mountain north, chatting in

her offhand way with bears, a big cat and a ghost.
She'd walked the halls of academia and then the hills,
big ones, bringing seedling trees to snug up to

the raw stumps of firs machines had eaten.
She'd walked to a job for decades, block after block
of homes with eyes of black glass inching

past her tired, angry shoes. Now, late in life,
she keeps a small dog bereft by her parents'
breathing stopped. The dog has taught much:

when to stop and sniff; how to attend with one's
whole being the business of squirrels. Bound
by the leash, that necessary thing, they two as one

take in, absorb, imbibe, inhale, entaste
all the arriving and leaving of the living things.




Monday, January 8, 2018

The Things to Do

The things to do: bring an egg from her
Hens, a found apple, beet leaf, cat's-ear foliage,
Ensuring freshness even in October.

The skillet she heats, oil frisking.
Here's egg: break yolk, turn once or twice;
Insert chopped fruit and greens, with salt and pepper;
Now turn again, wait, remove from heat,
Give all to a spelt wrap. As she sits to her meal, a
Sun rises, invests her eastern window, spills in

To caress and warm six thick maple boards
Of her grandmother's table. Whatever remains to be

Done's already forgotten: the meal an emblem
Of all her morning cared to be.




Luck

Padding along among roots and stobs in shade, I take the north-slope path to see old friends: red huckleberry and mountain hemlock  subsist...