Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Turning The Wind Rose \ Planting Her Beans

Nancy: We live spruce and ledge and tide, with the wind as a constant presence.

Turning The Wind Rose

I stay.  The wind comes to me:
today the wind comes with a sound
like palm trees, from the south,
across water from the south,
with a sound of sand against our stone,
a sound of long-needled pines, not
a harsh sound

like wind from the north: that wind
comes and barks at the cracks, the north
wind is ten men beating on the wall
with cudgels; we turn our backs on
the north wind and it hammers us
with fists

but the south wind strikes us
with wings: muscular, feathered;
its sigh in the firs is a long curl
of sea hissing through sand.
I stay.

I stay, and the long, deep fetch of wind,
the south wind, comes to me.

Alan: If we’re lucky, between the cold wet days of spring and the hot dry days of summer (or vice versa), there’s a time of perfect weather to get a garden in.  

Planting Her Beans

The Master Gardener is planting her beans:
bush beans, pole beans, dry beans, scarlet runner beans.
She bends to plant: the breeze catches her purple muumuu,
billows it out and then back in against her hips.
It is purple like nothing else in the garden:
not even the clematis in full bloom can match it.

As she bends, the sun catches her old straw hat,
burnishing the straw, the crushed brim and salmon band.
The Master Gardener is stamping on the beans,
pressing the soil, wearing low slip-on shoes with no socks.

She wears nothing under the muumuu, nothing at all.
The beans know all this.  Already they are softening,
preparing to reach up toward the sun,
up and around her dark ankles and pale calves.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back To The Land \ Bobby

Nancy: How many times have these woodlands been cut?  These fields broken? Strangers become friends over plain shared garden talk?  How many hopes and how many dreams hover in the air?

Back To The Land

I’m going to plant potatoes,
as good a way as any to make a framework
around the holy madness I seek.
Potatoes will help me communicate with my neighbors;
we can shake our heads, together,
over the plague of porcupines.  I can
talk about cutting the gnawed spruce.
I can know that the whine of my saw
carries – “Clearing the old field,” they’ll say,
and they’ll come by with hints about stumps
and the virtues of turnips.
Good people.  They’ll see that I earn my crop,
sweating it out of the spruce and sod,
and judge that.

Potatoes will free me.
My back and my hands and my mouth
will be apprenticed to reality;
I’ll talk about rain and manure.
I know that what I search for in silence and fear
may be unspeakable.  I may go too far, lose my way,
or I may come back empty handed.  That’s why
I’m going to plant potatoes, as a hedge against failure
as a poet or a saint.
                                        My neighbors are good people,
they’ll measure my field, and judge that.

Alan: For 30 years, he was a steady presence on my trips into town, an adult child slowly turning gray.  I never knew his last name. One day I realized I hadn’t seen him for awhile.  Now the house is for sale.


Bobby sits by himself at the roadside,
coat pulled up and hat pulled down,
watching the cars driving by,
watching me heading to town.

Bobby sits in a chair marked “Bobby.”
That’s how I can tell it is he.
If I wave, his smile hardly wavers.
I don’t think he’s smiling at me.

The kids never play with Bobby.
The grownups don’t stop for a chat.
He just sits and rocks by the roadside
in his overcoat and hat.

“Back To The Land” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Planes Out Of Boston \ The Rainbow Completes Itself

Nancy:  Transatlantic flights follow the coastline until reaching the Maine border, then head out over the Atlantic.

The Planes Out Of Boston

I never said it was a wilderness,
just a bay so empty that I could sit
naked where the rocks shelved down
to the water, where I made so little difference
to the marsh hawk that she swept down
the shoreline, across, back, again, again.
It wasn’t wilderness, it was forest
and bobcat and bear and the wildness
of abandonment.

Until the sun set.
After the sun set, Orion ruled.  Orion,
the Swan, Sirius, the Great Bear.  And
that was wilderness.  I could stand
in an opening between black trees and be
in the wilderness of Arcturus.

Now, after the sun sets, I’m in the suburbs
of Boston, or New York, or Chicago.  Here,
where the land shelves off into the North Atlantic,
the planes head east past the pole star,
blinking red toward breakfast in London.

I know, I never said it was a wilderness.
But now I realize it’s just a small, dark woodland;
I am very very far from Arcturus.

Alan: We all know there’s no pot of gold at the end.  Rather, I think, each rainbow seeks its destiny underground.

The Rainbow Completes Itself

in the roots
in the stones
in the graves
the rainbow completes itself
in the ground
the rainbow completes itself
in what we call earth
that is no more earth
than what we call sky
is sky –
in the deep waters
in fissures of granite
in the basalt
in the magma
in the molten core
and in the core of iron
the rainbow completes itself –
though it begins in air
as we do
the rainbow completes itself
in the ground
as we do

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Greening Of The Meadow \ XX

Nancy: How does it happen so suddenly?  The meadow a green I’d almost forgotten, all the weary gray-brown only a memory.

The Greening Of The Meadow

Although this may sound like a line
from a ballad,
you may be expecting me to write
the fa la la
and my lord he came a riding oh

This is not a song, but the true
calendar of Straight Bay.
The greening of the meadow
falls after
the tasseling of the alders,
the going out of the ice,
the furring green and red
of the maples.

Watch and soon you will see the trembling
flowers of the shadblow.
by the waters, leaning
waiting in vain for the shad.
These are the things that
make our calendar.
The day by day returning
of the birds,
the warming and yearning and gliding
of the snakes,
frogs singing, by night
and by day.

And we step into the calendar,
with backs bent,
with the spade and the hoe and the seeds
and the greening then
of the rows.

Perhaps then there is a song
of sun and sweat,
of joy and gratitude as the pages turn
and as we
sit on the shore singing quietly
the calendar of Straight Bay.

Alan:  Absence as a presence that defines the space around it.  The poem itself speaking from farther and farther away – still sending its signal over all the distance of the years.

for Nancy

Twenty years ago,
I came here
to stay a month – or a season.
Love held me,
through all the summer droughts
and winter cold.

Today I gaze
past daffodils, forsythia we planted,
heavy with showers, nodding,
to rough low fields
we never could subdue.

Around me,
books and papers of an
untidy existence,
dishes in the sink,
dust on the shelves.

It is not hard to live alone
and have no standards,
still I long for you now,
to help me wonder
where the time goes
when it slips off down the hill.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

They Call It Shadblow, Sugar Pear, Beach Plum \ Families

Nancy:  Like bursts of flowers, the luxury of enough – of more than enough – the reward for all of us for surviving the long hard winter months.

They Call It Shadblow, Sugar Pear, Beach Plum

Foxes fill themselves with the fruits,
birds toss the branches
rising and falling, rising and falling,
gusting from plenty to plenty.

– my own dogs do this –
draw the clusters of fruit through
their teeth and roll the sweetness
on their tongues.

Even the bears
standing in the thickets, bend the
branches, embrace the branches
and rumble pleasure through full jaws,
purple rivulets of juice.

Maybe, here and there, some woman
thinking cobbler or muffins picks
into an old pan.  An old man
asks me, “Did you get beach plums
this year?”

So much fruit it lies crushed
on the lane.  I can pick fruit,
suck on it, spit seeds, remember
the lane white with petals, remember
snow up to my hips.

I never expected to be so lucky,
to live in a place so demanding,
so hard and stony, yes, and yes,
so quick and rich and sweet.

Alan: Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  But what is the “you” that’s allowed past the door?


We sow what is in us to sow:
          Forget-me-not, Heart’s-ease,
          Love-in-a-mist, Love-lies-bleeding.
Yanking the seeds from our guts,
we spill dusty clouds of them
over wives-kids-fathers-husbands-sisters-mothers-brothers.

Our near and dear: far and away
the stoniest soil in town.
But they have other things in mind
after checking the catalogues:
          forced Amaryllis, black Gladiolus,
          fern that lives on air, hot-house orchid.
What we offer are weeds.

Don’t you see, dear ones, don’t you see,
that we sow what is in us to sow,
that our guts are giving out
with the last, the very last, of the
Forget-me-not, Heart’s-ease, Love-in-a-mist, Love-lies-bleeding?