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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Beets Are a Thing

Beets are a thing, she mused; all summer
Every seed she'd planted out refused
Every opportunity to sprout, but 
Those in flats thrived, just as those
Seedsmen told her they would not.

As for after they were transplanted, well!
Rare was the beet that was not found by gophers.
Even so, some were left not quite finished

As the gophers waddled away, and

Those she was grateful for. She brought in
Her greens; made wilted salad; then
In winter came across again the muddy half-moons.
Nothing is better than gifted beetroot steamed,
Gopher bitten, she told herself, or otherwise.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What to Do about Trees

What to do about trees, for she had room:
Have an orchard. But isn't that thinking
About twenty years ahead? So she went
To the tool room for her spade in November;

Took that and four apple saplings down
Onto the flat by the road, and began. Years she

Did this, working up and around the rise
Of better ground. Pears, cherries, quince

Abounded, but the plums got blight, and had to
Be started over. She was too old to harvest
Or even get shade from nut trees, they're so slow;
Uncoupling crop from objective, she anyway set
Them out, along with all the rest. Last, she 

Thought of mulberries. The hens could have
Really used those. Oh, well. She ordered,
Even this late in life, and planted once more,
Even as those old hens looked on amazed:
Something to offer folks not yet alive.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Rhythm of the Work

The rhythm of the work is to set down
Her padded bench, a flat and trowel at the
End of a bed and drop as if in prayer,

Reach for the trowel (bent for her old
Hand at right angles), dig, then grope for a pot.
You may see each hole is deep and wide enough
To exactly take the root ball. She carefully
Holds this in her shade, tips the damp
Mass in, packs with trowel, repeats all -- three

Or four times -- then stands. Behind her, some
Four plants glow green in any six feet of bed.

The rhythm of this work, when best, resembles
How monks or nuns in supplication glide
Easily to the floor, centered, unconcerned 

With body or mind, then rise, then glide again,
Outcomes not sought, nor merit earned.
Right to the end of the bed she goes,
Kneeling to simply do with her rough hands.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Just About Her Favorite Thing

Just about her favorite thing is to
Unseal bright papery packets and 
Set out flats of germination soil
The length of her bench, then scratch in parallel

Along each flat, with a stick, five lines for seeds.
By and by, the covered infant sprouts appear;
Or don't, in which case repeat until satisfactory.
Under her grow lights, not great ones, but good enough,
The seedlings make two leaves and then two more:

Here she makes more flats, with this time in
Each flat eighteen pots, filled with dampened
Rooting soil. A hole in each pot waits

For one tiny plant; the soil to be pressed
Around the taproot and tiny rootlets, then
Very gently watered -- from below, pouring
Over the flat's lip a tea of comfrey.
Really she overdoes it, making hundreds,
In every kind, of vegetable starts, far more
Than she can plant, but is fine with that; most
Everyone she knows will willingly give them homes.

That's her means, in old age, of making
Happen a kind of revolution. There are 
In towers far away, those who would 
Not have us eat what will not make them rich.
Go, little plants! Feed free souls free food.

Monday, February 19, 2018


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


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.

Beets Are a Thing

Beets are a thing, she mused; all summer Every seed she'd planted out refused Every opportunity to sprout, but  Those in flats t...