Saturday, August 30, 2014

Separation


s e p a r a t i o n

Round the circle of her garden she walks, and stops
again, taking in, as one absent from her own
senses yet unwilling to forgo their gifts,

the half-dimmed light of a low, prepubescent
moon, its influence on lingering clouds,
some few stars brave enough to compete with

mercury vapor or halogen or tungsten,
and taking in also the pungent garlic border,
its enclosure of bean vines, celery, snap peas:

celebratory things, even in this half-light,
this dew of forgotten hours. Her feet,
though well shod, warn her of night, by noting

slow seep of dew round toes and heels.
Her hand, brushing wet night-blooming
jasmine, shrinks from chill. These, and trees

she has encouraged -- apple, plum, pear, cherry,
maple, ash -- seem to her reproachful,
watching, as it were, her heart begin to slip

to a life they cannot share. Beyond, in a stillness
of curtained rooms, lie children.
innocent of this need, they dream of loss.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

New found land


n e w  f o u n d   l a n d

Whiteness enough off that coast to last a summer,
with chunks sized to drift among swells
like lost boats rising bottoms up to glimmer,

then dropping from a coastal watcher's view
halfway from here to wherever it is sky
comes down to touch water, blue on blue,

or even larger continents of white
shot through with green, shouldering breakers
with unhurried calm, things for night

to break on, or even day. You and I,
not having seen such before, go out
to frame each other with one in a camera's eye

and watch a schooner nosing among bays
scalloped along fringes of the beast.
The little ship goes near, but turns away

over and over to run, a cur who knows how strong
the behemoth it harries, how final its mere touch.
The white rock nothing notes, but wades along,

a mindless thing, and yet it knows command: we
think of the Titanic, sleeping in her mud --
having discharged frail cargo on the sea.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

William Stafford


w i l l i a m  s t a f f o r d

Here was a man who was known
as an Oregon poet.

He never wasted words, either.
He wrote a poem

Every day, rain or shine, and so
he had some

rain poems and some shine poems
and if people

came to him saying, sir, give us a book
he would turn

and rummage in desk drawers
or grope

along shelves in the kitchen.
Pretty soon

there was their book, bright as
Sunday morning

but sharp, too, like bottle glass.
He'd hand

it to them carefully, carefully.
And it was

their hint. After that they'd have to
look out for themselves,

and that, I guess, was his Oregon
message.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beech Lake


b e e c h l a k e

Spring, and spring of her life also. She walks
to water to stand behind sedges, thinking of snakes.
And snakes come. First one, lazily, tail

sculling, head high, counterclockwise along
shore, and then another. And then -- another.
All going, she notes, the same way round. Next day,

incorrigible child, she rigs a black fly rod
with stout green line tied, butt end and tip end:
a snare. Back to the sun-long lake. The snakes

continue their rounds. She casts loop, she waits.
One comes, riding high in clear water, black eye
bright. Caught, the looping, livid thing

bends the rod double almost. On close inspection
she speaks its given name: common water snake.
Proudly she touches the twisting ribbon of flesh,

but it turns to sink four quiet rows of teeth
deep in the base of her thumb. Shamefaced, she
lets the bright creature go; it swims sedately,

maddeningly counter-clockwise: nothing
has happened to change its agenda. Rod forgotten,
she sinks to her knees among sedges to watch

fishing men quietly fishing in beech-shade,
shading her eyes with her still throbbing hand.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The wall her father built



t h e  w a l l  h e r  f a t h e r  b u i l t

                                            to muscle back
the brown flood waters of the creek still stands.
It leans away from the run and hugs the contour

of serpentine embankment, redeeming years of silt
by interlacing a thousand granite slabs
against the tide of spring and spill of storm.

He could not bear the thought of land he'd
paid for picking up to run away downstream,
ending in useless mingling with other men's dirt

deep at the foot of the continental shelf
ten miles beyond the Chattahoochee's mouth.
So he built. Each day, though tired from climbing

poles in Georgia sun for the Georgia Rail Road,
he slowly removed his cotton shirt and sank
to his knees in the creek, feeling for stones

with his bare toes, prying them out of their beds
with a five-foot iron bar. He heaved them up,
wet and substantial, on the opposite bank,

and judged them, then carried them, staggering
under the load, to their exact spot in the rising wall,
setting them down like Hammurabi's laws, never

to be revoked. The whole he stocked and faced
with wet cement his daughter carried to him,
breathless, in a pair of buckets slung

from a home-carved yoke. Wall done,
he capped it with a pointing trowel, and with
his finger wrote the child's name and the year

nineteen fifty-five, which you will find today
if you scrape back moss. The house has had
six owners since, and of these none has given thought

to who prevented their foundation washing out
with freely offered labor long ago: or perhaps
they have. There's something in a wall's

being there that speaks of someone's having lived
and looked upon the land, giving shape to time
and place. Then taking stone in hand ...