Category Archives: Poetry

THE HEALING PLACE

DSCF8634This summer I decided to create a specific place in my garden where I could go and put aside the constant rush to project myself into the future. It would be a touchstone to remind me to stop, breathe, live in that specific moment, and the next, and the next.

It began life as an herb garden more than a decade ago in my first vigorous flush of gardening when we moved out of the city. I had dreamed of pebble paths and demarcations of boxwood and stone. Each quadrant was to be like a painting of a medieval apothecary garden, simple but potent and filled with thyme and sage and mint).

For a few years I diligently tended the paths and herb beds. But the woods were always trying to reclaim their birthright, and the giant black walnut in the middle of the yard spread its shade and toxic roots far and wide. Four beds became three, then two as the wild bergamot and dame’s rocket overran the oregano and parsley.

Still the bones of the herb garden remained, anchored by a granite sculpture at its center—the result of a rash bid at a silent auction. I often found myself gravitating to this spot, ambulating in figure eights around the boxwoods, letting the stresses of the day leave my body. Or sitting on the sun-warmed limestone pavers, listening to the orchestra of birds and insects. Eyes closed, breathing in the scent of phlox reminded me to revel in the moment and let myself sink into the fabric of the natural world around me.

So this fall I took clippers and a shovel to the unruly tangle of weeds, planted a few more boxwoods to mark the boundaries from the encroaching woodland, and repurposed some broken pavers. The soft days of autumn sunshine and rain coaxed a haze of green from the newly sown grass seed.

Now, even on the coldest days, when the sun barely skims the treetops, I bask in a spot of afternoon sunshine, drawing strength and peace from my grounding place.
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WHAT THE RAVEN SAW

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The raven came by in the late afternoon
three caws for hello, I see you down there
fingering the damp wash on the line
weak sun on your back, wondering
if it’s strong enough for drying, halfheartedly
sweeping wet leaves, pulling
shocking green weeds out of the gutter
stroking the tabby, scenting the apple decay.

You, walking around and around
your garden, cutting tangled armfuls
of herbs to suspend in the sunny spot
over the kitchen table, pulling
rattling skeleton pods of beans out of the rain
softened earth, mounding horse manure
over the rhubarb, turning the compost
disturbing the worms.

You, standing in a tree-framed window
of sunshine, ear half listening to the whispering
of oak leaves laughing dryly at their shriveled jokes
breathing the must of leaf mold
seeking the spot by the back door, somewhere
behind the three waiting pumpkins
where the cricket has chosen to sing
and wondering why?

You, hefting clods of earth into a bucket, paying homage
to the wooly bear, curled in a patch of near-sun
the ladybug carcass—yellow and black
walnuts thudding on the roof and the ungodly
splashes of brilliance across the landscape

You, lullabying your garden to sleep.

UNDONE

IMG_2557She was undone by small things
a lost button, a missed call, stale bread.
Her ribs could only expand to take in so much air
Guilt was a wolf’s shadow haunting
the end of her bed at night.
To darn a frayed patch gave her some satisfaction—
a wound remade with stout thread.
For brief moments she could make the world
stand still, cup water in her hands and watch
the pink light slipping through her fingers.
The veil was pulled back
skin against skin, moments so intense
tears burst from her eyes making her
laugh with joy and surprise.

Samhain Eve by Laurie Byro

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Snow-white birches bend low to the ground,
begging to be stripped of yellow leaves. In my head,
I am reading a poem to Geordie. You spread

your black pea-coat on damp earth, invite me
near the bonfire you have made. You cup
your hands as if around a match, enter me as easily

as breathing in–releasing oxygen, dispelling
strength. Smoke snakes around our ankles. A sooty
leaf rises a black-ghost smudges a cross on

my forehead. I carry my shoes across a stream,
stepping barefoot on stones warmed by the sun.
Hemlock boughs are are flattened soft from rain.

In England, a woman washes nappies rinses out
piss while composing a poem in her head. There
are scars where electricity scorched her temples.

If you call me by her name, I won’t answer. I’ll trudge
through fiery leaves that late autumn trees have shed.
I tell you it looks as if someone has been bleeding.

You say it’s the time of year to be lonely. We forage
branches of gold on our way home. We place them in clay
jars to lure love to a table glittering with beads of honey.

This poem can be found in my friend Laurie Byro’s very fine new book of poems, Luna

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ACCUMULATION

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Like a miniature garden
growing in a cup of limestone
a bond forms over time

scraps of leaves and bird droppings and seeds
roots, faint wisps at first
tap into the life force and dig down, deep

the bright flourish of first growth
gives way to a steady accumulation of experiences
big and small, good and bad

weather of all sorts caresses, buffets
and the seasons, revolving imperceptibly
turning us to and away from the source

branches wither and die
leaving the scar of remembrance
deep in the tissue

fibers of memory knot and twist
into strong rope
binding us together.

SYMPHONY

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I walk around the house in the summer twilight
opening windows
letting in the insect orchestra
katydids run scales in the tree tops
crickets, the violins of summer
carry the tune from tree and field and bush
an owl makes its first exploratory sounding
of the evening, three solitary hoots—no reply
the night rhythm begins

Warm August air pushes through the hammock
mosquitoes whine by my ankles
and through a hole in the canopy
I watch bats shadow puppet
against a column of darkening sky
I strain to catch the thread of each vibration
each pattern, rhythm, pitch
a unique life cycle
a specific niche filled
a gorgeous tapestry of sound

It’s carnival this time of year
no sooner has one reveler bowed out
than the next chorus crowds in from the wings
the belligerent rise and fall of the dog day cicadas
makes way for the ululations of the grey tree frogs
at high noon the meadow shimmered
with the stridulation of grasshoppers
and now young coyotes yip and howl
as they prowl the long grasses

Sunlight creeps into the garden once more
illuminating tomatoes tear-dropped with dew
songbirds and crows take to the stage
and under the stone in the wall
the constant cricket sings.

TROLL UNDER THE BRIDGE

Faintly he hears the bleat of Mr. Dollar’s goats from up the road.
No chance of a nice fat one trit-trotting across his bridge.
Troll must settle for devouring, with his unblinking eyes,
the beer swilling teenagers wielding spray cans,
the solitary Sunday morning fisherman,
the motionless heron gazing into the slow eddies for young trout.

In spring he feasts his eyes on the surge of brown flood water
muscling its way downstream,
and gorges on backyard debris—broken deckchairs, bicycle tires, chicken wire

In summer he drinks in the swallows swirling in the fly-riddled air
and the young ones peeping from their nests
tucked under the bridge’s metal struts

In fall he savors the acorns and maple helicopters
tossed into the current by kids hanging over the railings,
and the flocks of Canada geese settling into the marsh at twilight

And in winter the old troll digests the slow trickle under ice,
and the eagle perched in bare branches with one eye on the open water,
the other on the motionless figure watching from under the bridge.
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HERE, NOW, ALWAYS

DSCF5127The air is warm as blood,
buzzing with the vibrations of mating cicadas.
A swarm of red ants scurry
over the slats of the deck chair
that has not been moved since my father last sat in it;
this is now their territory.
Whilst he slumbered
under the green canopy of the walnut tree
they crept, antennae quivering, into his world.
Soon fertile eggs clustered
in a coral of larvae under the armrests.
Workers foraged relentlessly
from the lawn to the deck chair to feed their queen,
right under my father’s oblivious arse.

Did his brain search so diligently for words
to describe the scene in front of him?
Or did he simply accept if for a seamless whole
and himself embroidered into a corner of it—all of a piece?
I brought him a cup of coffee, thinking he’d linger,
beguiled by the natural world he once loved; but no.
Maybe the ants crept up his pant leg
or the swoop of a red-bellied woodpecker
jolted him out of his being
and sent him shuffling inside for a spoon of sugar.

MICA

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The man who balanced stones
took them home to bed with him, you know.

He rolled them under the covers
and ran the soles of his feet,

callous by callous,
over the fissures and dimples.

He knew the landscape of limestone and slate,
the terrain of every one of those globes of granite,

each freckle and glint of mica,
his namesake; and god knows the hands,

the great gulfed hands of a wall builder.
By day he pawed those bed stones of fieldstone

eyes closed to a flicker of emotion
and a slow sweet smile as

he found each one’s sweet spot—
the point at which it rested in perfect balance.