Wednesday, January 25, 2012

You Came In \ Homecoming

Nancy:  What a small thing, the bright blue of delphinium on a day of wind and snow.  What a promise of change.
You Came In
Winter always yields to spring.
                                               I know
The snow falls heavy
dawn never arrives
twilight comes early
the wind comes up
Where the alders give cover
                                               some respite
                                               small birds shelter
                                               just as the ducks
                                               at the clotted edge
                                               of the marsh.
Just as I
stir up the woodstove
And I was sitting there
so far from spring
when you came home
                                              when you walked in
                                              with two stems of delphinium
You came in
with two stems of blue delphinium
reminding me
that winter always yields
                                              to May.
Alan:  There are always questions, coming back, aren’t there?  Who are we... who are we returning to... has anything changed... is anything the same?  The trip only ends when we have the answers.
Seven hours of slow driving –
spitting snow, road grit blasting the windshield –
down the long lane to the house
shockingly dark.  Then, rounding the circle,
I see one light in the kitchen:
go in to find you baking
biscuits for my return.
Unpacking the car, I feel the storm
coming on harder, a deep sighing in the woods,
wet tightening my face,
suddenly realize how glad I am to be here
and, after all this time, how much I still love you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ice-bound On The Way To The Morning Star \ Hardhack And Hackmatack

Nancy:  January’s short dark days and long nights leave the door open to memories of places long unseen, memories rich in detail building on one another.
Ice-bound On The Way To The Morning Star
No one ever said, pack everything, but I did:
bluegills and hollyhocks and the jackknife I carried
in fourth grade, an eagle feather and a month’s worth
of old hymns and the soft sound of turtles leaving
a log for pale water,
And so, when the sun drifts south and the color
seeps out of the marsh and the ice tightens,
this is what I do: I unpack what I need,
sometimes singing in the dark, sometimes unwrapping
a day of sweet mud and woodsmoke, always
Needing what I find: it could be
grits, axe handles, the white stars
of puccoon, or it could be
the page that says favorable winds
bright sky to the east
red cliffs and the precious water
of Santa Elena canyon
(in boxes still to be opened: fossils,
old valentines, the page that says sunrise:
headed home.)
Alan:  What we do will be erased soon enough, if not quite completely.  Like those who came before, we too will leave faint signs that others may some day try to read.
     Hardhack is a common name for Spirea; very descriptive if you're trying to clear it by hand.  Hackmatack is what people in this area call tamarack or American larch.
Hardhack And Hackmatack
Hardhack and hackmatack, spruce and fir;
chokeberry, chokecherry, bramble, thorn;
water where you don’t want it, ledge where you do.
Thirty years mowing and thirty years growing:
the trees watch their children hidden in the grass.
Where cows puddled the clay soil, alders followed.
Where sheep wandered the cleared land, wire lies down.
Hundred-year-old fence wire, found by the feet
at the head of a gulley or above the bay –
running now under the roots of the spruces.
On the hill slope there must have been a woodlot.
After the fire of ’57, it all came back birches.
Dead snags still hugged the skyline in the ‘80s –
we watched an osprey perch there, tearing a fish.
Last time I climbed: snags fallen; young softwoods.
Rectangles of field stones show under the turf.
Bricks – an old chimney – under the spade.
Liniment bottles, bits of rusted stove.
Our house needs work.  There’s no foundation.
Just an  old cellar hole, slumped in and muddy.
Thirty years mowing and thirty years growing:
once we’re gone, the trees will own the fields.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Snow Never Tires Of Falling \ Winter Night

Nancy:  There are days when the snow falls so quietly that it becomes hypnotic.  There’s nothing to do but give up, lie down, fall asleep.
The Snow Never Tires Of Falling
the sky is white and
the trees where the sky has fallen
are white and the roses are white stems
wound through a white fence
and the quilt I pull over myself
is white with blue flowers
I am so sleepy
somewhere in the white trees
the birds are sleeping, the bear
in her white mound is sleeping
and the dogs too, lying at my feet
and by my side, are drowsy, drowsy
we are breathing slowly
the sky has forgotten every color
but white, we are letting it fall
winter is so long
my quilt has blue flowers
I am so sleepy
Alan:  Here's something  I’ve seen many times on the coldest, crispest, brightest nights of mid-winter.  It’s when I want to walk into the woods and rise up, myself, like the trees.
Winter Night
The trees stand up from themselves in light.
No doubt someone will explain this –
but the trees stand up from themselves in cold fire.
No doubt science can tell me the hows and whys,
but I know these sharp-tipped spruces,
and what they put up with,
waiting for nights like this – snow and moonlight –
to stand ghostly above themselves,
a second forest risen from the first.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Year To Year \ New Year

Nancy:  Every year, the catalogues come earlier and earlier.  Already the mailbox is filled with catalogues: luscious vegetables, unbelievable flowers.  I’m a sucker: I fall for it every time.  And every time, the garden is so glorious, it’s so easy to do it again.
Year To Year
Winter’s barely begun when the catalogs
deliver their dreams of perfect leaves,
their fantasies of round red ripeness.
Ha, I scoff, where are the hares,
the hares and the slugs and the cabbage worms?
But why not?  Why not check the EZ Pick
beans, and the Bull’s Blood Beets?
What’s August for, if not the silky ears
of corn, the tomatoes, the zucchini
crying eat me, eat me?
How mean of me, to think that
I’ll begrudge the hare a taste of beans.
Check beans check peas check broccoli,
sing hey for tendril, twine and ramble.
And yes, it does come to pass.
The hares eat the beans, but
there are still too many.  Tomatoes escape
their cages, peas hide and we seek,
and we eat and we eat and we eat.
Hidden from us, garlic swells, carrots fatten.
We pick the last corn.  Roll the pumpkins
into heaps.  Shell out beans.
Take the spading fork and tumble potatoes,
large, small, laughable, miraculous,
what jewels, what wealth, what a year.
Soon, too soon, comes cold, comes snow,
comes catalogs.  Where are the hares,
I grumble.    Oh . . .  Oh, look . . .
An earlier corn?  A more perfect tomato?
And it comes to pass: I do it all over again.
Alan:  I search along the edge of the bay for clues as to what the new year might bring.  Every time I return empty-handed.  The answer is out there, unreadable.
New Year
The tide today
does not flow in
so much as lift,
barely perceptible,
like a cloudy table
rising slowly
on silent, hydraulic legs,
filling each nuance
of the scooped,
impassive shore,
filling the marsh,
filling the mouths
of the small, still streams.
More solid, it seems,
than liquid: ice patches
scabbing the surface,
a substance one could fall into
or fly over, with one's eyes,
as if over Arctic seas
in a small plane, endlessly,
just above the surface.
Rain falls
almost as ice
with a sound like someone
shuffling crisp cards
in a nearby, hidden dimension,
and preparing to deal
the hands we will soon
be required to pick up,
study, and, with our careful faces,