Tag Archives: writing

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.

TWO BAD BEDBUGS VISIT NEW YORK: A Bloodthirsty Tale

Felice and Festus were two bad bedbugs. They came from a long line of bloodsuckers out west. An adventurous pair, they packed their bags and headed to New York City for an all-you-can-eat vacation. Those two bad bedbugs touched down at the airport, itching for a good time. They hitched a ride to their hotel with an unsuspecting businessman.

“Oh, Festus, the honeymoon suite. Isn’t this fancy!”
“Only the best for my love bug.”
“And look at the view!” squeaked Felice.
“Ah, the city that never sleeps! I can’t wait to check out the night life.”
“And I can’t wait to go shopping. Don’t forget your comfortable shoes, Festus!”

The bedbugs hopped onto the New York Nighttime Skyline bus tour. “Whee!” squealed Felice. “Feel the wind in your antennae.”

They zipped past the Empire State building. “Awesome!” cheered Festus, eyeing a large tourist.

At Time Square Felice and Festus jumped off and joined the crowds with their cameras.
“Lights. Cameras. Action!” shouted Festus.
“Festus, I feel like a movie star.”
“Dinner?” asked Festus, licking his lips and scanning the crowd.
“And a show.” Felice gazed longingly at the Spiderman poster.

Just then, Felice spotted the designer handbag of her dreams.
“Festus, it’s to die for!” Before he could stop her, she leaped into the bag.
“Don’t get carried away my honeybug!” Festus jumped in after her.

Felice and Festus zipped downtown in a cab, and were carried aboard the Staten Island ferry. Felice peeked out of the handbag. “Look! It’s the Statue of Liberty. Festus, suck in your gut and let me get a picture.”
“Felice, I’m feeling a little queasy . . . must have been somebody I ate.”

Luckily, a passing pigeon came to their rescue. A short time later they touched down at Wall Street.
“Wowy-Zowy! Wait ’til the boys back home see this,” crowed Festus, striking a pose on top of the Wall Street bull.
“Next stop Chinatown,” called the pigeon.

Festus bought himself a souvenir T-shirt—I Took a Bite out of the Big Apple.
They were about to try some local delicacies, when Felice shrieked, “Crunching cockroaches, Festus, scuttle for your life!” Pursued by a gang of tough looking roaches, they managed to escape down a sewer grating just in the nick of time.

Safe at last, those feisty bedbugs rode the subway uptown and sneaked into the Natural History Museum. It was time for a midnight snack. “Pah!” Festus spat out a mouthful of dried elephant hide. “This stuff is for the dust mites. I’m out of here.”

Felice snuggled up to Festus and looked up at the moon over Central Park. “Ah, that’s more like it—a romantic carriage ride with my little bugaboo.”

Back at their hotel, Felice and Festus enjoyed a succulent feast.
“A toast to New York,” said Festus. “A bloody wonderful city.”
“Festus, if I drink another drop I’ll burst,” sighed Felice. “The portions here are humungous. I must have gained 10 grams.”

At last, that bloodthirsty pair came to the end of their vacation. Felice and Festus, two bad bedbugs, cozied up for the long journey home.

Text & images © Melissa Shaw-Smith

Text & images © Melissa Shaw-Smith

 

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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SUMMER TIME

It’s been a busy but rewarding season. My parents came from Ireland to visit and experience glorious summer weather and the constant circus of wildlife that surrounds our house in New York’s Hudson Valley. I celebrated my 50th birthday in my wild but fruitful garden, surrounded by family and friends. My wonderful daughter and mother helped me cook up a feast with lots of tasty local produce. Every day I marveled at my daughter’s artistic skills–painting, writing, embroidering. I watched my youngest son find grace and joy with each new physical skill he mastered. My eldest son’s summer was one long celebration of friends and freedom after four diligent years of high school.  Taking him to college we got to explore two new amazing cities and states, Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. In between times, I interviewed fascinating and talented artisans for Dirt magazine. And I’ve been out and about with my notebook and camera, making the most of the long beautiful days. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the season as much as I have. –Your health! Melissa
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Columbia River Gorge

Multnomah Falls, OR

Multinomah Falls, OR

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Sunrise through wildfire smoke over Mosier bluff, OR

Sunrise through wildfire smoke over Mosier bluff, OR

Short Sands Beach, nr. Manzanita, OR

Short Sands Beach, nr. Manzanita, OR

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Manzanita sunset, OR

Manzanita sunset, OR

Mt. Rainier, WA

Mt. Rainier, WA

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Mandarin Cloak, brooch by Mena Messina

Mandarin Cloak, brooch by Mena Messina

Here’s a link to my latest article in Dirt Magazine

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.

TO UNDO A SPELL

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Crow, why did you have to strut across the road, swaggering your tail feathers at me, one beady eye twitching?

I only meant to ruffle your skirts, take some of the smug off your bold face—call your bluff

but I was impatient, eager to get home, and didn’t see the scree of gravel on the road

for a blustering fellow, you made such a small thump and crunch under the wheels of the car

I winced, smiled reassuringly at the child in the rear view mirror, his face turned out the window looking for damage

inside, the sinking feeling, the consequence of misplaced emotions embedding in my gut

ever since that moment the bone china jumps out of my hands, slippery as wet soap, and spangles the kitchen floor with a cymbal of sound

milkjugs of seafoam green and eggcups by the dozen—tiny smithereens the lot of them

I want to blame you crow for putting the evil eye on me, make you carry the burden of my guilt

but how ridiculous is that. This morning it was the teapot—my grandmother’s—and I vowed it was the last shard

to unwind a spell you must pick at the knots, teasing with your fingers, like unraveling an old sweater

each knot an undoing, paying back the threads, unlearning you crow and asking forgiveness.