Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That Fierce Energy \ Woodpile, Thanksgiving Day

Nancy:  Trees fall, pastures fill in with young forest, but the landscape grows full and complex with stores, names, memories.
That Fierce Energy
The thickets were almost pasture
          when time ran out.
He spared nothing, tractor, tree,
          live rock; he fought alders, weather;
          he chainsawed his neighbors with a rough tongue;
          he bit off more than he could chew; he
          helped; bitched; preached.
Right from the beginning I believe he did see
          pasture, thick with sheep; smoke
          rising from stone chimneys;
          all his kingdom sound and green; painted;
          mended; whole and harmonious.
We saw more, and less:
The house unfinished; the jumble of bulldozed stumps
          and man-high weeds; the causes and crusades;
          a raw and chafed look on land and friend.
No one ever really goes, in a small town.
          Ten rough acres full of popple and spruce
          and rotting stumps will be “Buck’s sheep pasture”
          forever.  I watched him sweat wife and kids and stone
          all one summer: those chimneys are his.
Marriages dissolve, but the neighborhood is history,
          indissoluble.  We all own a piece, now, of
          that fierce energy.  No matter how the land goes,
          we’re the owners of record of Buck’s dream.
Alan: Our first winter here, we ordered our firewood late, in tree lengths.  The logger misunderstood our directions and dropped it off a half mile up the lane, where we sweated to get a cord or two chain-sawed and brought down to the house by the pickup load.  Before we could split it, an ice storm encased it all in a half inch of glass.  We spend winter days mopping up the meltwater from wood brought in green to thaw beside the stove for tomorrow, and mornings mopping up creosote that dripped out of the stovepipe through the cold night past.
Now we measure wealth in wood cut, split and piled a couple of years ahead, ready to go in the shed when seasoned.
Woodpile, Thanksgiving Day
piling the firewood.
the white-hearted maple pink-hearted birch.
throwing the cold junks higher than my reach:
             tumulus    cumulous
promising warmth.
not for this winter, no –    not for next winter, no –
               too pink too white too green!
two winters from now.
Will you still be here?     Will I still be here?
“yes” says the firewood whatever the future holds.
“Junk”: a piece of indeterminate size; also a verb, as in “Got your firewood junked up yet?”
“That Fierce Energy” first appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Orange \ Deer Season

Nancy: It only took one woman, dead in her own backyard because her white mittens triggered carelessness, to make trips to the well or the woodpile feel less casual, more tense.
Not the maple, not the sumac,
not the old gold faded hackmatack,
no, orange men, at the field edge, the roadside,
drifting between the trees,
garishly, fluorescently, aggressively orange.
Taking the dog for a walk,
I put on my coat, my hat, reach for the orange –
flimsy plastic vest – think “no”,
think of the woman in the white mittens,
think “yes”.
The dog, so small, couldn’t look like a deer?
Couldn’t, but I take an orange bandana
and fasten it around his neck.
He doesn’t care, he goes out, happy,
white flag of a tail flying.
Not a deer, I think, not a deer,
again, over and over, not a deer.
Alan: The four-legged hunters are out there, watching the deer, watching the two-legged hunters too.
Deer Season
All night, the coyotes howl, shredding our sleep.
The dog barks back, ten pounds of courage
behind an eighth inch of glass.
We rise to hard white frost
and talk of strangers at the head of the driveway,
itchy for deer.
  I walk out
to truck tracks, the slots of a doe and lamb,
to scat with fur and bone in it,
the dog silent at the end of his lead, dancing
warily, warily.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

These Gifts Of Moose \ Monk In A Vat

Nancy: Alive they surprise us, arouse the dogs, astonish with their size and otherness.  Packaged they may mean winter meat, a badge of prowess, even a lucky roadkill – or generosity.  I understand and yet feel puzzled.
These Gifts Of Moose
The smell in the thicket
oddly domestic
Loose limbed
long strides
between the cabin and the grass
We measure with our hands
down to the edge of the tide;
across the bay
the alders shake and close
But this, too
a knock a gift a thankyou
a quick shy handshake
Moose? this, these packages?
Alan: And who would the monk be, if he could choose?  
Monk In A Vat
Mornings like this,
I would be a monk
abiding in an old whiskey vat
settled deep in the redwoods
of northern California,
spending days heavy with moisture
muffling all sound of people, machines
in samadhi, attending to mist
dripping from shingled eaves,
watching through the half-round doorway
the small local animals,
their careful routines.
(Warmed by a wrapped ember,
he sits in full lotus, or rises stiffly
to stroll among the immense furred boles,
face impassive as bark, robes mottled as lichens,
recollecting the day’s visitors, a writer and photographer
who will make of his life and his dwelling
something so wished-for, so acute
in the pages of some glossy
it will seem like the tree of heaven itself
to at least one being
gulping coffee, a bite before work
on a morning like this.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Village 04652 \ Buffleheads

Nancy:  Like so many other coastal villages it rises uphill above the bay.  Only the water sets it apart.  The Narrows, a race of tidal change, always in motion as Cobscook Bay fills and empties.
Village 04652
The tides surge through the narrows.
Hill shingled with buildings, canneries
smokehouse, shops
salt scoured, storm gapped
– steeple
Every six hours the tides turn.
Hill crowned with steeple
pickets and green
rising through, rising past
driftwood and fog
Seals follow the water, the fish.
Lunch on the landing
draggers swing on their moorings
fog shreds and re-forms
conquers shingle and steeple and gull
One seal pauses, stares at me, dives.
The tides surge through the narrows.
Alan:  Some days the northwest wind churns the bay and the ducks huddle along the lea shore or, on our side, in the calm backwaters at the saltmarsh edge.
Ducks lift
from gray water
by my approach
except one, near,
turned, facing the
oncoming chop.
Wounded?,  I think.
It is the season.
Swimming here,
blown almost on shore,
watching the flock
disappear against
the distant trees,
watching me.
I turn to go,
to add stress
to her stress,
then see
fluttering this way
the black and white
of the male
above the waves.
He drops beside her,
settles, turns
upwind: two now
moving as one,
a discrete distance
from each other,
from the shore,
from me.
or just tame
with the aplomb
of her kind?
And what brought him,
anyway?  Would we
call it, in ourselves,
"concern," even "worry,”
even "love"?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Apple Tree \ The Demise Of The Halloween Pumpkins

Nancy:  Hard to say how old it was, its heart so hollowed out, but a cloud of pink/white in May.  One night a ground burst (mini-tornado) twisted and tore the heavy trunk.
Apple Tree
Trees fall.  Uncounted trees fall,
but they are like men not in my sight or lineage,
and this tree was my friend.  This tree was the link
that promised me continuity beyond fire and abandonment,
and domesticated my dooryard; a friend, this tree.
The wind has taken it.  This wind would remake
the wilderness; it seems to blow foe, foe, always foe,
never friend, testing me.  Now the wind says that my house
will not stand, forever, by this tree.
But the grouse have not heard the slow word of death.
They come at dusk, fill the branches, and I watch
a miracle; they are fed; apple blossoms become grouse
and fly into the night, transformed and transforming,
bearing away into the air, against the wind,
everywhere, this tree.
Alan:  This is the time of year when the coyotes howl closest and a mere porcupine grunting out of sight in the woods seems a portent.
The Demise Of The Halloween Pumpkins
After a decent interval of days
when we’re sure the ghouls have crawled back in their holes,
hauling their sacks of trouble out of the night,
we take the Halloween pumpkins
and cut off their faces.
(Disembodied, staring from the garbage,
these surrogate expressions of ourselves,
our little jokes about mystery and fear.)
We quarter and slice the skulls, pare the mold away
and whittle the rind down to the veined and glowing flesh.
Meaty chunks in the pan,
steamed up for soup or pie or bread,
pumpkins make sturdy meals to fend off the bully cold.
Good food, hearty, these autumn sacrifices,
heads that were trying to say something
we did not wish to hear.
“Apple Tree” first appeared in Cafe Review.