You Always

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for Suzanne

Lilacs fragrant bloom in the yard no more
old stone pillars     chimneys     scattered stones
cannot speak of what is past     though
they hold secrets     imagined

Ebenezer’s to what once was

Dust thou art     and unto dust shalt thou return
is the spoken phrase    but you did not
perish here     no dust is to be found

We long for place but nothing lasts
nothing is forever     but love

Only shadows remain in these broken walls
the places we have been are not us
but we are the places we’ve been

Through it all    your love has been
all that has mattered

I have carried it with me wherever
I have gone     companion in my weakness
my solitude     my exultation and my joy

Standing among these ruins of what once was
I realize I am not here     but here is me
and

only you     always

Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood

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Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood

William Cullen Bryant, 1794 – 1878

Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengeance. God hath yoked to guilt
Her pale tormentor, misery. Hence, these shades
Are still the abodes of gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while below
The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect,
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade
Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The massy rocks themselves,
And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees
That lead from knoll to knoll a causey rude
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots,
With all their earth upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o’er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,
Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice
In its own being. Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.

Still Winter’s Night

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Barren branches collect the sky
in somber waning evening,
the shadow of some spriest small creature
seeking shelter scurries past,
while children stand at frosted windows
entranced they watch the tumbling white,
through the stillness of the night.
This winter’s night is not for man,
but hearth and soup and bread
designed, to sit before the fire
when all but snow can scarce descry,
in the stillness of the night.
Streetlights give but flickering light,
while children play before the fire’s
soft wagging light when the moon
appears and lifts the shadows,
in the stillness of the night.

The long road before me

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The long road before me
the hues of evening skies
barred owls are stirring while
you slumbering lay,
have you thought of me
as you loaded the dishes
and locked the doors?
Do running waters think of the
sea, and swallows dream of
their summer nests? Driving
through the night rubbing my
eyes, the owls beat wings and
soar the fields stalking prey
calling the night to my
attention, and I, a long long
way from home, a long
long way from home.

Spring Runoff

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Laden clouds are awaiting their cue to
unburden their load across these fields,
swollen pastures already saturated
are powerless to decline the deluge;
where sky meets ground on far horizon
grass reaches up to meet the drops,
and tillers of soil await impatient
to sow in fields now ponds,
the towering Pines apathetic to the plight,
roots sunk deep over years of growth
through dry seasons, welcome the rain;
ditches fill to the roads, as orphaned
water seeks its home in the saturated earth;
the rivers flowing frothy and brown are raging
towards the Columbia then on to the sea,
as a teeming horde of locusts devouring
the soil, it travels where it may
depositing its silty spoils in the sea.

Long Country Roads

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Driving long country roads at the start of Spring
the dirt doesn’t billow and hover
coating everything and everyone like in heat of Summer,
Winter’s blanket removed – the fields are
greening – the earth is breathing;
the palpitating earth passes by as I drive and
wipers beat a calming rhythm,
as nourishing rain gently falls
in the moist of spring, the soil is receptive,
waiting to yield to the plow –
to give itself, to offer its bounty long dormant.

The Drupe

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This idyllic trail through the woods
along the river has been scene
to many a thoughtful hour, befitting
the reveries of Rousseau;
my secrets, my desires, my scorn – these woods
know them all – a silent partner to my
pontification.

The river flows slowly – as leisurely as
my walk – neither I nor the water has anywhere
to be, but the river always listening,
carries my worry to the sea;
in late fall before first frost,
but after the rains begin, no
one else haunts these woods but me.

Slogging down the trail the sucking
sound of mud at my heels, the wet
underbrush grown back – salal slaps
my legs as I pass;
It is quiet and still but for the
sound of the raindrops, the squirrels and deer
are absent, the regular repartee
of the birds fall silent.

The trail widens where the walnut
trees grow and undergrowth disappears,
I pick up a drupe and absentmindedly
fondle the husk while I meander,
picking it as I amble in the gentle
rain – my thoughts escaping my mind
to stain my fingers a brownish yellow
that will not wash out for a week, reminding
me where I have been.

Blackberry Brambles

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Blackberry brambles
fingers stained and sticky
the swollen orbs ready to burst –
some at the mere touch.

Sent out with ice cream buckets
forbid to return until full,
we rode down Charleston Beach Road –
before they widened the highway –
all the way to Jarstad park.

Blackberry bushes lined the road,
belonging to no one but little boys
riding their bikes on hot summer
Saturdays.

Always a cluster
just out of reach, we dared
each other to go deeper.
The wounds, while self-inflicted,
were a badge of honor.

Returning like a cat
who lost a fight, prickly leaves
in our hair, scratches over hands and arms –
our fingers a deep purple
that would not wash out for days.

Presenting our treasure,
Mother said making cobbler
was a small price to pay to
get you boys out of the house.

Pussy Willow

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A sonorous song an effulgent aubade,
here in this sea of concrete
and glass, a delicate bird offers his tune
perched in a pussy willow.

Its barely dawn in the heart of the city,
only morning joggers and homeless
patrons attend the performance to hear
a carol at the prelude of day.

The discordant cacophony of business as usual
soon mocks the bird’s morning song, yet
each start of day this bird can be found
perched in the pussy willow.

Like Jonah to Nineveh the bird comes to preach
deliverance to those who will hear it,
I stop for a moment on my morning stroll
paying tribute to the welcoming warbler.

Beckoning day with his mellifluous song
though little notice is paid
the beauteous strain independent of hearing,
perched in this pussy willow.

The cost of the beauty we seek in the world
is the attention we give it,
like the warblers welcoming abaude
we must pause to hear it

over the discordant rising din,
after the prelude of day
that mocks the song of the delicate bird,
perched in a pussy willow.