Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Eclipse \ A Kind Of Immortality

Alan: Remembered scenes come back as gifts, turned in the mind until ready to be passed on.  This is from the late years of my family’s many decades of summers spent on Squam Lake, New Hampshire.

                         for Mims at 90

The day after Bob
slugged the coast
breaking trees
from Portland to the border
I drove Rte 25 –
KezarFallsPorter –
the huge moon
in a washed-clean sky
over my shoulder
like being in a folk song,
the shadows rich and suggestive,
even the broken branches of the pines
along the roadside
rich and suggestive,
until somewhere beside the river
the night darkened
bit by bit, becoming at last
only the night,
and I arrived at camp
to find Doug and Betty and Bud
sitting on the deck
talking quietly
watching a perfect round patch
of old yellowed skin
high above the cove.

We waited, content
in each other’s company,
until at last
the shadow pulled away
leaving the moon
again the moon,
pure and simple as longing,
preening in the
dancing waters

Nothing else happened.
Bud paddled home;
we all went to bed.
I have held that moon all these years
until it is smooth and rounded as beach glass,
and because 9 and 0
are such beautiful round numerals
I give it to you now:
that night
those people
this moon.

Nancy: Columbine, roses, lilac and peony: push through the thickets to the memories, the old gardens, the women who tended them.  Mary and Nancy, Sarah and Jane live on, live in the breeze.

A Kind Of Immortality

farms fail
fire takes the houses
frost takes the cellar holes

fences fall
roads fill
fields go to alders
alders to maple
maple to spruce

graves subside
families disperse
to wanderlust
gold dust
fruitless love

but here
in a kind of immortality
white columbine

from the scree of the cellar holes
from the veins of the ledge
white columbine
on a blue cloth
on a black stove

ours to hold
ours to pass on
now our immortality
when we are gone

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Short Ballad Of The Swimmer / In An Old Inkwell

Alan:   Memories change in the remembering, and more in the telling.  Did this happen, all that time ago?  I’d say yes – but now I can’t be sure.

Short Ballad Of The Swimmer

The sea smiled blandly – calm, benign –
As I looked out on him –
Two arms arched flashing, quick and blind:
A ripple – then a skim –

And where he was, he was no more
Although the sea smiled on,
And no one else on sea or shore
Remarked that he was gone.

I listened to the white gull’s cries
And wondered if I’d seen
Someone vanish before my eyes
Or one who’d never been.

I watched until the last light flamed
And stars devoured the day,
Then turned and found one car unclaimed
As others filed away.

I had not thought of this strange sight
For thirty years or more,
But then his eyes met mine last night
A hundred yards from shore.

Nancy: Just a few – and then a few more – until every container is filled, every tabletop.  August is field flowers, garden flowers, all the seeded, self-seeded beauty of the summer calling out to me.

In An Old Inkwell

August, oh August
sweet drunken August
August of burning gold
it's already too late to turn away
more, it whispers, I have more
and you want it
that bliss of too much, but
just a sip, you say
just a sip
what harm could there be
in a few orange/red/gold flowers
in an old inkwell
as if you forget
that August always wins

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wind Shift \ Plowing In August

Alan: Suddenly, sooner or later, everything changes.  At the height of summer’s rule, autumn enters on the wind, singing of impermanence.

Wind Shift
                        for Nancy

There is an ache to August, that for you
walks with the shadow of your first, lost child,
and as for me lives in this wind, grown wild,
that, day by heedless day, slips furtive through
the sun’s lowering gate.  This northern air,
assertive, hints now of fall, when it comes.
The nuthatch snagging seeds, cicadas’ thrums,
goldenrod, speak a language, urgent, spare
as the yellowleg’s cry from the salt marsh
at dawn, and the loon’s distant keen at dusk.
We feel a restlessness, beyond the musk
of spent flowers, ripening fruit; sense the harsh
suchness of impermanency; how Time
steepens.  Come, take my hand.  We’ll share the climb.

Nancy: Out after breakfast for a morning of bug bites, scratched skin and sweat – some mornings I wanted to quit, to say no.  But the reward: squash and beans and corn planted among the stumps; the pride of a hard job well done.

Plowing In August

We cut the spruce in July.
I doubt that this ground has ever been broken:
cut, pastured, abandoned to raspberry and hardhack
and then to a crop of tormented spruce so chewed
and bitten and asymmetrical that in two weeks of cutting
we were lucky to get two poles and a post, and the rest
firewood and poor at that.
Sometimes I worked barefoot, limbing
ahead of the saw, liking the cool slippery feel
of the needles, the liquid way they moved
under my feet.  I should wear boots, everyone
tells me that, but I liked the feel.

July was hot.  What little warmth we had
this summer was in July.  It seemed airless
and buggy in the thickets of spruce; by ten
in the morning I felt grimy and scratched, and yet
the piles of slash smelled of Christmas,
and the work was satisfying.

By August we were ready to plow.  Plowing
is more than steel, it’s shoulder and calf and thigh,
especially plowing like this, biting Vs in to each stump,
skirting the largest roots, tearing the sinewy skin
apart.  I can only offer to pile the largest stones to the side,
to bring a cool drink, not wanting to be inside
while the new ground is turned for the first time, wanting
to remember the cool needles with my bare feet, thinking
that they are there in pools.  But they have slipped
underground, and now I like the feel
of the dusty stony soil and the rough web of roots.
After the plowing, we walk back and forth, back and forth,
seeding buckwheat in the new ground.

By next Spring, I won’t expect to see spruce there; by June
the corn will be high enough to hide the stumps.  I hope
that by July I will have cleared east of the barn, all the way
to the alders.  We ought to be plowing in August,
again, a day just like this, next year.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Address The Porcupine \ The Yucatecan Hammock

Alan:  A small clearing with a garden, almost surrounded by trees: an Eden for a host of herbivores, vertebrate and invertebrate, including the porcupine, among our least discriminating and most persistent of devourers, with a weakness for slices of salted fruit.

I Address The Porcupine

O Pig-of-the-woods, get back!  Get back!
Do not tread upon my deck at night.
Do not sample my garden.
I cage the eggplants
that you have found and shredded,
and the tomatoes that you broke
getting at the eggplants.
I have fenced the three tubs of petunias
that you grazed to stubs – the great deflowering! –
and have watered and trimmed
the marigolds, zinnias that you stomped
in their boxes.

I have baited the trap, and now
I see you by first light, jailed,
disgruntled, indeed fretful, even
deeply pissed off.
We are taking a ride, O Pig-of-the-woods,
to the wildlife refuge.
I apologize for the jouncing
as I drive down this long dirt road.

At last we are here: a pond,
old spruces, young popple.
Plenty to eat, if boring, and shelter.
I lift the trap door
and before I am done
out you squeeze and hustle into the forest,
leaving behind a few quills, a musty smell,
the sweet taste of watermelon still in your mouth.

Nancy: August – perfect afternoons for drowsing coincide with the sudden rush of growth in the garden.  The vegetables see their chance and take it.

The Yucatecan Hammock

While the woman drowses in the Yucatecan hammock,
the beans are forcing the shingles off the roof of the shed.
She’s dreaming lassitudinous tropical fish dreams, while,
unwatched, the zucchini reveal their destinies
and prepare for deep-water reunions.
She should not sleep.  Witch grass never sleeps.
Beets do not slumber.

                                The woman in the Yucatecan hammock?
The peas are sly; their hooded eyes reveal nothing.
Splay-footed beets close ranks.

                                 Ah yes, the woman.
But it was August – the corn whispers and turns –
she was falling behind.