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

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.




Monday, October 23, 2017

She Has Work to Do

She has work to do, establishing
Her anchor threads, her frame threads,
Even her bridge thread and all her radii,

Hub to be ready by dawn, herself resting --
All-powerful, so far as any lacewing can
See. Seeking out the ripest berries, she 

Works not to eat drupelets, but entirely to
Offer them as bait to fruit flies and their ilk.
Right away along comes another
Killer, a ladybird beetle, seeking the berries

Too, and for the same reason. He's caught,
Offers resistance, is overwhelmed, rolled up,

Done. Whatever comes in, if protein, her
Ovum will accept. Death it is brings life.




Monday, October 16, 2017

Clearing the Knotweed

Commonly, this is done with herbicide.
Leery of that, she tried a chain saw. That was
Easy enough, but made fumes and sets fire to
All the earth's air over time. Electric clippers
Ruled the roost awhile, but that, we know,
In the scheme of things is but a longer tailpipe,
Neither the labor direct nor personal. She's
Going to have to simplify further. She takes

The hand pruner with her to the patch. It means
Her time in blighted shade, bending, will be
Extended, reaching to each stem in turn,

Killing with a snip and twist, dragging four or five
Not so much weeds as small trees outward
Or upward from the dry wash, toward hot sun,
Toward the roasting garden, into the paths
Where they'll be tossed as instant mulch
Entreating the drought to respect their shade,
Entreating irrigation not to evaporate,
Dimming, in sacrifice, the roving eye of Death.




Monday, October 9, 2017

Three Deep Breaths

Three deep breaths, palms together,
Here in her room, or elsewhere, she may
Rise and take. A habit she has formed,
Even as most of her ideas, ideals,
Even her so cherished findings, hard found,

Deducted, inducted, reasoned, debated, polished,
Even those most like faith, as taught her,
Even those most like science, measured, observed,
Peeled one by one: a human desert, she.

By three deep breaths, she centers somehow: how?
Reality itself a question she's no longer asking,
Eating and sleeping themselves provisional.
All she bothers to call caring is now to listen
To breath, room sounds, outside sounds, to
Her friends, their worries unpacked, their voices
Spending both hope and pain. She bows.




Monday, October 2, 2017

In Season

What she will do today is walk and take in
Hand her apple staff, leaning on it
As she does now, more and yet more 
The nearer arriving to a last heart beat

She comes, and check for vegs and berries.
Here are yet more peas; she's not as
Eager for them as three days ago.

With a bit more busy-ness, she'd go
In for blanching those. Onions and
Leeks too small yet; almost out of
Lettuce; tomatoes on the other hand

Doing well, and some ready already.
Oh, she could cut kale, collards or chard 

This morning like any late spring morning, 
Only she's hungry for something more.
Do what she will, there are yet no pears, 
Apples, zukes, potatoes, corn, or beans.
You must make with what you have.




Monday, September 25, 2017

French Pink

There are two climbing roses by her gate,
one to each side, with velvet blooms, small,
but heavily scented, suitable for soaps, salves

and potpourri. They blossom out together,
several hundred, perhaps a thousand whorls
French pink, shading to cream, the haunt

of matching shy arachnids. How tall they'd grow
she doesn't know, having twined an arch of willow
whips atop her gate, to bind them to.

In her middle years, her family took this place
and named it for the stony creek, dry
in summer, rolling through between their house

and garden. A storm year came; that garden up
and vanished down a river to the sea,
leaving them three dead plum trees and a rose.

She started fresh, gardening by the house,
planting new beds and trees, then moved the rose,
a monumental task, involving pick and spade,

wheelbarrow, calluses, and a tan. She chose
north, a shaded wall, and while the rose
liked a hidden spring there, for drinking,

it never cared for the paucity of light. It'd
stretch its greeny fingers roofward, up
and over; send roots drilling left and right;

make awkward shoots. Shift it one more time,
she thought. Maybe both sides of a sunny gate
she'd build, with an arch. The spot she had in view

she could muse on from her kitchen window.
Again two days of digging, and with her bowsaw
made one rose two. Would they take another journey?

It seemed they would, though they'd always want water;
She'd have to remember to make the hoses reach.
She wouldn't mind if the roses wouldn't mind.




Monday, September 18, 2017

Knowledge

She knows the weeds will win. Sometimes, at night,
Hearing them grow in her dreams, she'll wake, grasp
Even in her two hands, a phantom thistle, or

Knotweed, errant blackberry, or teasel.
Now not able to turn and sleep, she'll rise, throw
On her robe, and step out into night;
Walking the way the slim moon shows her,
She throws aside her garden gate and listens.

There might be corn and tomatoes chatting,
Having about as much to say as farmed things.
Even a whisper among the kales and chard --

Whatever such things say. Beyond are beds
Ensnarled in dock, barnyardgrass, mallow,
Everlasting hedge bindweed.
Dire straits; but there's no sound there.
She knows they're biding their time,

Watching for her sudden return, sickle
In hand, fire in eye, seed packets in mind.
Level them, they fear she means to, or
Leave roots drying in summer sun.

Well, that's tomorrow. She turns now; steps
Into her lightless house. She'll give this up
Not soon, yet knows how it must end.




Monday, September 11, 2017

A Path

Along the new trail, built by no one I knew, 
acorns had fallen by thousands, more than enough
to leave creatures dazed by too much fortune.

Conkers have tumbled among them, each
experimentally chipped and then rejected
by some set of tiny teeth. Hazel nuts

were better, it seems. Should an adder pass en route
to denning, amid this rich mast, amid 
this late fall of goldened leaves of ash

and beech, I might merely step aside, 
unalarmed as any fattened squirrel. 
Across the pasture, I remember, past

the partly shaded ferns, cowslips, bluebells, 
buttercups of spring and summer, where 
falling water, catkin-patterned, drowned out

the cygnet's cry in an otter's teeth (witnessed 
by a kingfisher, two low-flying larks and a heron),
a willow had leaned to hide that tiny sorrow

and also shade a loafing spotted newt.
The hill behind, where bees sought nectar of a kind
from sunburnt heather, swept up to a copse of oak,

wrapped in a druid's dream of mistletoe and ivy.
There I had paused for dandelion wine.
Perhaps the trail will help some find this place. 

My children, do not forget there is a world.




This was written in response to a report, by the great writer Robert MacFarlane, of the disappearance of certain words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.




Monday, September 4, 2017

Waiting for Rain to Stop

While watching forests comb those wet bellies,
All grey and louring, of the heartless clouds,
I wondered how the heavy earth breathes
Thus more than dampened, more than drowned
In so much rain. The very snails could gasp,
Nudging toward such daylight as they might,
Grudged them by the endless drops, dropping.

Fear for my crops, standing in chill pools
Or bent, prostrated, shambled, lying left and
Right, I feel, yet not enough to go and see.

There are tree branches, if I go, ready to pull
Hair, poke eyes, and shower me to my skin,
Every direction, along each path and bed.

Running streamlets ease a darkening land
All river-bound, discovering the slightest slope,
Inland being anathema to them,
No place like home, their wide and welcoming sea.

There all streams meet, mingle, and play.
Ocean the lowest place, where rain may end in

Stillness some times, or leap about, yet bounded.
There it may stop awhile, then one day mist forth
Over the waves and shores, plains and mountains
Putting forth life and death again, a cycle.




Monday, August 28, 2017

Praying for Rain

Perhaps the seedlings were better off inside,
Really. She's never sure what's best for them,
All down the years trying peat pots, blocks,
Yanking down flats from storage, penciling markers,
Ingratiating herself with baked soils,
Now trying perlite, vermiculite, moss,
Getting out lamps and heaters, rotating flats,

Fighting intruding snails, mice and rats
Or even knotweed and bindweed
Running their tendrils up through brick.

Right now, she wishes she hadn't hurried.
All her helpless babies in cracked clay!
If it doesn't rain tonight, she tells herself,
Never again shall I call April May.




Monday, August 21, 2017

Bent Umbrella

Upon slowly waking, she rouses from a dream
of fear. Was it her life threatened by someone, waving
rusted weaponry, or had she herself sought to destroy

a trusted neighbor or loved parent? Suppressing
a moan, spine filled with fluids overnight,
yes, again, and ankles still in pain, across

the flanks of her beloved she now crawls,
stumbles round the room to find the handle
of her life, or only the door, sliding her feet along.

A floor creaks with dry rot as she steps among
the objects that reshape her: bloomers, slips,
half-slips, girdles, bras, tights, stockings.

She feels, Braille-fingered, for the small room where
all who seek may find that men or women are
only men or women; here they see themselves

before any other's eyes, and by a harsh light.
Her eye looks deeply through her from the glass;
tells her that her sorrows are contemptible. So?

She does not plan to die today, no, nor call in
sick, returning to the now cold sheets, seeking
to resolve that awful dream. Call it what you will,

habit if you like, but she carries herself into
the living room, satisfactory sight, remodeled
somehow, despite poverty: white walls

and ceiling, cleanly textured, fireplace patched,
mantel graced with oil lamps and seemly books:
here she dresses. Outside, darkness, low

clouds, and the rattling of busy downspouts.
She shrugs. Through kitchen to the cold mudroom,
listening to the change in foot-fall of her heels,

from wood to tile, to concrete, she moves on,
pace quickening. No entropy now stops her.
Gathering her bent umbrella and stained coat,

she opens a door. She walks out to the world.

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 o...