At February's End


It's the first warm day, tomato seeds

waiting to germinate beside the stove,

the newly-emerged winged ants flying

through the kitchen, looking for their home.


What would it be like to be a stranger

walking abroad, over hill and field and stone?


Outside, first harsh sun casts shadow

through a stand of trees, patterning 

the ground: charcoal on silver-gray,

a contrast for hungry eyes.


I'm rolling out dough 

the yellow-white of winter bark

in smooth, long strokes,

shaping my contentment.


If my longing could become the wind, I'd skim

the blue hollow rising to the farming town where I lived.


I don't know why I say this.

I lean close to the kitchen window

of the house we made, far south.


Wind rouses the trees, and nests

become visible in the crowns, vulnerable

as they always were, before I took notice.

--Red Earth Review, July 2016



Woman at the Post Office


An old woman's trouble in deciding

is holding up the line.

Another crowd, another time,

a loudmouth might complain,

but here in mid-morning, the retired,

mothers, students, all stand quiet.

Her jaw slowly slackening,

insistence draining from her face.

Finally, she lifts her finger

--a pronouncement,

or merely a flicker?--

and the clerk says,

that'll be seven-fifty.

We witnesses 

stop holding our breath.

She reaches into her bag, that reflex

intact, and no wonder, considering

how a woman's life is comprised

of procurement.  The clerk

hands back her change.

Still, she hesitates.

Who can relax, knowing

there could be something else

she'd meant to say or to send?

--Streetlight 3



After the Haying


In the wake of that machine, the cutgrass smell

of plentitude and contentment floods the senses,


overcoming its victims--even those who have lost

their fathers and mothers look up from their grief


and the young awaken to the glint and surge,

broken clouds rush above the distant fields and hills,


a child's lungs fill as she soars swing's pendulum

to where she can see the curvature of the horizon.


Along the tree-lined aisles of the cemetery

those family members who do the tending, 


who draw up jugs of water from the standpipe,

are surprised to find themselves no longer dogged


by their sadness.  There is nothing left to fear--

what they expected has come to pass.

--Hospital Drive, 2008



Fogged In, Late Autumn, Blue Ridge Mountains


Clouds lower on the ridge top,

an illness descending on the body,

and we have no choice

but to accept what has happened.


Fog has vaporized the red-burned

black gum trees, the grove

of bitter-scented witch hazel

where only yesterday we went gathering.


A mist has closed off the vista,

trunks push forward

out of gloom, and the path's faint grass

levitates into unknowingness.


We want to turn back, now that

we only see as far as we

can reach: windswept moss,

lichens, the mushroom colonies--


just these, because

who looks further than the next

foothold, here on the ledges, where a misstep

could send us plummeting?


Once pain has shut a door,

we can't ask what

if the clouds would open?

We can't afford regret,


compelled to meditate upon the pale lichens,

the charcoal-colored rock,

until their endless snowfields

are etched into our depths.

--Appalachia, Summer/Fall 2007