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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Today and Tomorrow

Polyhymnia walks between beds
critical of eye, noting the way blades
of corn have curled upon themselves,

rattling in hardly any breeze at all.
They'd like to make believe it's Autumn now,
would they? Playing at getting past the part

where seed heads form, waving silky hair
but then departing, leaving leaves bereft
of any purpose but to leave this world --

except, of course, they don't: that is the gift
of mulch. She brings a hose and couples to
its end a yellow whirligig, made to sing

the holy song of water to those leaves.
Today, green fulness. Tomorrow, living grain.




Monday, August 7, 2017

Gift

When Polyhymnia sends refracted light
shimmering toward parched and shriveled roots,
seeking some semblance of promise kept alive

between her hands, her well, her seeds and soil,
A bit of fluff, a female Anna's, comes
to perch nearby, cocking its tiny head

and waiting. Waiting for the hose to steady
its cold blast toward some fainting eggplant
or tomatillo, ready for a burst of aimed

delight, to catch one rainbowed drop of water
short, then flit haphazard to the fence again,
shivering. To the Muse of hymns and farmers it's

a game, to the throbbing ball of feathers more.
Its heart will stop without the gift of rain.




Monday, July 31, 2017

Drought

It is so dry now, my desiccated friend
spits in the bowl of his pipe before applying
flame to its bitter balm, for some kind of balance.

We tread on rustling mulch to study rustling leaves,
folded in desperate prayer, of what will surely be,
still, next year, an orchard and a kitchen garden

if -- large if -- the well does not run dry.
Everywhere flit wasps, sipping at beetles'
abdomens, having small aphids for dessert.

The birds have capped their singing, panting in
small shade. "Ninety, ninety, ninety-three and ninety,
ninety-seven today, and ninety yet

for all the week ahead, with this drying wind.
Don't you think things are getting out of hand?"
I ask him. He blows a little rueful smoke

but makes no answer. I anyway know from long
acquaintance his position: "there is a law,
and you and I and all these aching things

can never break it." It's that second law
of course, the one that is the silence heard
after all laughter, after songs and tears.

Soon the moon will rise, grand but red,
dressed in soot from a dozen cackling fires.




Monday, July 24, 2017

Lethe

When her back began alarmingly
to creak, and all the earth receded far
below, she made herself a bench, a slat

of fir between two other slats of fir.
Her knees derided her presumption, so
she tacked a bit of carpet on, to ease

the landings when she launched them out and down,
hoping, as she did so, nothing was
missing: not the ho-mi, nor the seeds

or seedlings in their flat, or soil she'd stolen
from the neighbor's molehills, baked and sifted,
nor the hose-end with its chilly hand

of brass. Any unpresent thing could send her
wandering from barn to potting shed
to kitchen counter, swearing at herself,

ending in her having yet another
cup of something, using up the morning's
bag of tea -- again. Gardening

is knowing what to do, and when, they say,
leaving out that bit about old brains
forgetting what to do about forgetting.




Monday, July 17, 2017

Clevis

"There was a word for that -- I am forgettin' it;
forgettin' things I thought I'd never not know --
like I once understood th' way a shackle will turn

to follow th' wire rope reaching back to th' pulley,
or which way th' water will run when it falls
from th' crook of an east-leaning alder in th' rain,

or run from an alder's elbow that leans west,
when th' storm comes in, always from southwest.
Oh, th' word! A short one, I should be able to just

say it! ... Clevis! Yes, we called a shackle a Clevis,
I don't know why. So, John, he picked up th' Clevis
and hung it on th' drawbar of the Cat, slipped

th' loop onto it, and reached to set th' pin;
but Alley, he thought he'd heard John say 'Ready,'
an' put her into gear. So. That wire rope

sang just like a bowstring, an' th' Clevis
rotated right around th' slot in th' drawbar
an' went through John like he was made of suet.

He stood there for a moment -- like me now – 
trying to remember. Fixin' in his mind
what it had been like, bein' alive."




Monday, July 10, 2017

Cityscape, with Pink Rose

I stop at the flower lady's cart
to see does she have roses. There are a few,
with straggling leaves. The blooms

are decent still, especially those in pink.
She interrupts her desultory lunch,
brushing crumbs from her sleeve, to slip

a long-stemmed pink from among red buds,
carries it to her work table, and deftly wraps
the stalk in yellow paper, tying it,

gentle-fingered, with a thin red ribbon.
I watch her eyes as I buy; they are like
those in the face I love, but the spirit is closed:

she has dwelt upon disappointments.
As I turn away, I see in my mind's
eye, myself turning back to buy for her

one of her own roses. Ha! no doubt she must
throw away many; of all things, wouldn't
she be sick, by now, of flowers?

Trading as she does in signs
of happiness to others, what would be
happiness for her, here, now? I catch

her tracking me warily as if to say:
is there some problem with the rose? No.
Or, rather, yes. No. I stand, unworded

by the mystery of unsharable joy.




Monday, July 3, 2017

Carefully

As the rains return again, she notes, almost
in passing, how her strait love remains;
how darkness, wind, and sorry days of

work and worry cannot shake it. We are not
built to last; we know that. Some speak of life
as it were stark tragedy alone, a

trudging from diaper to death bed, doomed
because end it must. Others try, by seeking
comedic relief, to put such gloom aside,

assuming that to live brightly today will,
somehow, pay for the pain of barely living
later, when last years have but begun.

Her truth: somewhere between. She would,
if the gods permitted, lose herself in your eyes
every day of forever, but knowing this

will end, and relatively soon, makes her not
over-sad, nor will she lie to you now
with thoughtless laughter; rather it makes her

carefully love you, deeply as she does here,
breathing your name in, breathing it out, like prayer.




Monday, June 26, 2017

Grace

They do not always sit with an easy grace,
the aging: in afternoon light, even in October,
cracks invade her clear skin,

showing in relief, and he knows dismay,
seeing her, his own once simple face
crowding itself, as when a life within

doors runs out of thought. Yet, sober
as this renders him, he will not turn away
from her to seek some easier play:

there is no win or lose, no hunt, no race,
no battle. His eyes would disrobe her,
for she is to him more than she has been,

and he would know all, even here,
as passers pass, not seeing what his eyes see;
but he will wait on her clear sign

that this is welcome, even from his gaze,
for she has known most men hold themselves dear;
known too long their avarice that she

should shape to their dreams, their ways,
their endless drawing round her of sharp lines,
their wrapping an arm carelessly round her days,

their failing, in this many years, to touch the key
moment of her heart, that movement lacking fear
when she might freely give, without design.

Placing her hand in his, she shifts and sighs;
a not unhappy sound, considering the hour
and how late, as well, this man has come to her:

five decades they have lived apart,
as though all meaning had to be deferred;
as though autumn alone might show love's power;

as though some god, having hated happy hearts,
had suddenly relented, offering them this prize.




Monday, June 19, 2017

Separation

Round the circle of her garden she walks, and stops
again, taking in, as one absent from her own
senses yet unwilling to forgo their gifts,

the half-dimmed light of a low, prepubescent
moon, its influence on lingering clouds,
some few stars brave enough to compete with

mercury vapor or halogen or tungsten,
and taking in also the pungent garlic border,
its enclosure of bean vines, celery, snap peas:

celebratory things, even in this half-light,
this dew of forgotten hours. Her feet,
though well shod, warn her of night, by noting

slow seep of dew round toes and heels.
Her hand, brushing wet night-blooming
jasmine, shrinks from chill. These, and trees

she has encouraged -- apple, plum, pear, cherry,
maple, ash -- seem to her reproachful,
watching, as it were, her heart begin to slip

to a life they cannot share. Beyond, in a stillness
of curtained rooms, lie children.
Innocent of this need, they dream of loss.




Monday, June 12, 2017

New Found Land

Whiteness enough off that coast to last a summer,
with chunks sized to drift among swells
like lost boats rising bottoms up to glimmer,

then dropping from a coastal watcher's view
halfway from here to wherever it is sky
comes down to touch water, blue on blue,

or even larger continents of white
shot through with green, shouldering breakers
with unhurried calm, things for night

to break on, or even day. You and I,
not having seen such before, go out
to frame each other with one in a camera's eye

and watch a schooner nosing among bays
scalloped along fringes of the beast.
The little ship goes near, but turns away

over and over to run, a cur who knows how strong
the behemoth it harries, how final its mere touch.
The white rock nothing notes, but wades along,

a mindless thing, and yet it knows command: we
think of the Titanic, sleeping in her mud --
having discharged frail cargo on the sea.




Monday, June 5, 2017

William Stafford

Here was a man who was known
as an Oregon poet.

He never wasted words.
He wrote a poem

Every day, rain or shine, and so
he had some

rain poems and some shine poems
and if people

came to him saying, sir, give us a book
he would turn

and rummage in desk drawers
or grope

along shelves in the kitchen.
Pretty soon

there was their book, bright as
Sunday morning

but sharp, too, like bottle glass.
He'd hand

it to them carefully, carefully.
And it was

their hint. After that they'd have to
look out for themselves,

and that, I guess, was his Oregon
message.




Monday, May 29, 2017

Beech Lake

Spring, and spring of her life also. She walks
to water to stand behind sedges, thinking of snakes.
And snakes come. First one, lazily, tail

sculling, head high, counterclockwise along
shore, and then another. And then -- another.
All going, she notes, the same way round. Next day,

incorrigible child, she rigs a black fly rod
with stout green line tied, butt end and tip end:
a snare. Back to the sun-long lake. The snakes

continue their rounds. She casts loop, she waits.
One comes, riding high in clear water, black eye
bright. Caught, the looping, livid thing

bends the rod double almost. On close inspection
she speaks its given name: common water snake.
Proudly she touches the twisting ribbon of flesh,

but it turns to sink four quiet rows of teeth
deep in the base of her thumb. Shamefaced, she
lets the bright creature go; it swims sedately,

maddeningly counter-clockwise: nothing
has happened to change its agenda. Rod forgotten,
she sinks to her knees among sedges to watch

fishing men quietly fishing in beech-shade,
shading her eyes with her still throbbing hand.




Monday, May 22, 2017

The Wall

The wall her father built to muscle back
the brown flood waters of the creek still stands.
It leans away from the run and hugs the contour

of serpentine embankment, redeeming years of silt
by interlacing a thousand granite slabs
against the tide of spring and spill of storm.

He could not bear the thought of land he'd
paid for picking up to run away downstream,
ending in useless mingling with other men's dirt

deep at the foot of the continental shelf
ten miles beyond the Chattahoochee's mouth.
So he built. Each day, though tired from climbing

poles in Georgia sun for the Georgia Rail Road,
he slowly removed his cotton shirt and sank
to his knees in the creek, feeling for stones

with his bare toes, prying them out of their beds
with a five-foot iron bar. He heaved them up,
wet and substantial, on the opposite bank,

and judged them, then carried them, staggering
under the load, to their exact spot in the rising wall,
setting them down like Hammurabi's laws, never

to be revoked. The whole he stocked and faced
with wet cement his daughter carried to him,
breathless, in a pair of buckets slung

from a home-carved yoke. Wall done,
he capped it with a pointing trowel, and with
his finger wrote the child's name and the year

nineteen fifty-five, which you will find today
if you scrape back moss. The house has had
six owners since, and of these none has given thought

to who prevented their foundation washing out
with freely offered labor long ago: or perhaps
they have. There's something in a wall's

being there that speaks of someone's having lived
and looked upon the land, giving shape to time
and place. Then taking stone in hand ...




Today and Tomorrow

Polyhymnia walks between beds critical of eye, noting the way blades of corn have curled upon themselves, rattling in hardly any breeze...