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
or merely a flicker?--
and the clerk says,
that'll be seven-fifty.
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?
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