FIELD AND BARN
An undecided mid-spring day, not yet
entirely sunburned. Creek has given up
on cleansing last year’s deadfall;
what’s left is muck in the low spots.
Last night, distant lightning flashes
without thunder over the mountains;
too far away to charge our foothills sky.
Inside the barn, still air. Must of long-
gone cattle, natural dim. Warped boards
can’t fit tight. Only one crack—one
grants the common grace of
of this ordinary day.
I drove that road again, the one I tried to catch in a poem recalling waves of green—in April, wild growth gone willy-nilly. Today I see I got the details wrong. No orchards in sight, Graham’s Pear Shed’s out of view. But here, new vineyards encroach on pasture; they aren’t in blossom. My mind was busy with plans—so imagery goes wild in some corner of the brain.
white waves of blossom
surging against the ridge-road—
buckbrush wild with spring
The old familiar sign on Main Street, big enough
so drivers can read it: Antiques. The new
little shingle above the door says Art Gallery.
Which are we? three poets sitting at temporary
tables with antiquated typewriters—mine’s
an old manual portable, and for lack of chairs
I sit on its upturned case—waiting for someone
to ask for a poem, one-of-its-kind written-on-the-
spot. Who came up with this idea? Why did
I say OK? A lady admires my machine, For her,
a brand-new old-typewriter poem. And this girl
who almost stepped backwards into my
table for a better view of that owl print on
the wall—I’ll write her an ode to the silent raptor
of the dark. Across the way, under an abstract
lizard, my fellow poet is too busy typing to
notice the guy standing in the doorway looking
skeptical of all this business, this art gallery.
Maybe he expected to find old chamber pots
or an antique typewriter. I’d make him a poem—
pounding one key then the next—of empty space
becoming beautiful mind-itch, room to breathe
a new image in and out, each breath like the last
but suddenly surprising; no carbon copy;
unique to this moment, this temporary place.
CLIMBING THE DIVIDE
He’s walked these hills till his feet wore off.
No matter boots or barefoot, the flesh gives out
above the sole. The soul keeps rising, faster
as the flesh grows thin. These hills alive
with the voice in never-ending wander-songs,
refrains—child at her rhyme, blacksmith
at the forge, the mason at his stone. Hands
that fall asleep at the wheel still turning, feet
still keeping rhythm climbing the divide.
KEEPING YOUR WHEELS IN MIND
Imagination takes you back in memory—
summers past—as muscle-memory negotiates
ruts and fords to the cow camp. First return
of the year, snow gone but in sheltered patches.
Imagination might run gauntlets of chances,
but it’s late afternoon, you’ll set up camp
by the old barn. Just off this ridgelet, surprise
scrap of snowbank across the road.
Wheels sunk in rotten snow. You’re stuck.
Camp here. New puppy snuggles against
your mummy bag, old dog on guard outside
the tent. Old dog sleeps sound in old-dog
dreams as coyotes raid your camp, scour
the empty stew can, trash the bag of kibble.
Old dog embarrassed to have slept through it
all. Coyotes still howling through the holes
in your imagination.
WEED-EATING IN THUNDERSTORM
I avoid the tallest trees. No lightning
punctuates dark clouds, but drumroll thunder’s
pretty close. I bow my head to small hail.
Would my umbrella policy cover this?
I keep swinging my motor-scythe,
trying to make my piece of God’s garden
fire-safe, make my peace with weather.
Monday was a red-flag warning—too early
He gave us mastery—
husbandry—over all this green growing wild,
more flammable each day. I must keep mowing.
At last, thunder moves along,
a bit of blue pushes through cloud.
I’ll not check my comprehensive just yet,
but thank heavens once more.
The earthen doormat beckons—
so many years of boot-stomp
in its fibers, Come outside!
For hours you’ve been sleeping,
the clock is a wheel for turning.
What remains now of the night?
Crocus pulses up on pressure
of its corm and rooted plumbing
counting springs and not the clock.
But already it’s near summer,
seasons wheeling while you sleep.
The gate post is your sundial
while so many scarves of clouds
are floating, wishing
to go flying on an updraft, away.
Wake up, you on the doorstep.
What will you call yourself
this very morning, this today?
The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
Our thanks to Taylor Graham for her fine poems and photos today! Tonight, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe features Angela James, Allegra Silberstein, and Paul Robins, plus open mic, 8pm, hosted by frank andrick. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
Celebrate poetry and its unknown destinations!
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