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

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.

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.




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 ...