Times and Seasons

Name your hardship, your challenge, your agony.  That is what this poem is about.  Is it divorce? abuse? death? disability?  That is what this poem is about.  Caution: if you do what this poem explores, do not do it for too long.  Sooner than later, we need to get out of our fox holes, leave the old battlefields, and make new peace.  We can.  We can.  That is what this poem is about.

TIMES AND SEASONS

A time to retrench,
to dig the fox hole deeper,
though the enemy’s tanks have gone,
the rumble and the smoke and the clatter, gone;
deep ruts angling off in the mud.

A time to hunker down,
to close my eyes and let
the war rage on in
some other field.

My battle is done.
In my trench I hide,
safely.

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The House

The Erda house was the house of our dreams, the house we built together, the house in which we reared our children, the house in which we intended to grow old together, to which we would welcome our children and grandchildren for decades to come. But it was not to be. After 17 years in that house, that beautiful house, she asked me to leave, and the dream ended. And that house, she tells me, will soon be for sale, on the market. I wrote this poem to express my old hopes, my dreams, my memories, the agonies of human disappointment—as well as new hopes and dreams for a new future.

THE HOUSE

This is the house:
where
children scampered
through rough-ploughed soil,
pickup up stones and sticks
in advance
of the grumbling John Deere,
disking;
just two, he was,
in broad arcs running
around the house,
barefoot in Spring turf
with untroubled joy, screaming
“Whoopie Ti Yi Yo!”;
where
in that room, up there,
after church, we withdrew—
“Your mom and I need to talk.
Alone,” I announced,
and we talked a little
as we kissed and grabbed
and our eyes rolled back,
and the littlest sat,
her back to the door,
coloring, waiting
for the door knob to turn;
where
lightning sought
out the chimney
through the squall,
blackened outlets,
knocked out the phones;
her three-year-old voice
chuckled all callers:
“We’re not home . . . or
we can’t find the phone . . .
please leave
a message.”

This is the house:
where
our goats died,
our kittens died,
our dogs died,
the skunks and raccoons died,
and we buried them all
in the garden,
sprinkled with rose petals,
sprinkled with children’s tears,
tucked in with old sheets,
topped with stick crosses
that fell over,
covered over
with wild grass
and fast-spreading peppermint
and morning glory vines,
clinging and clambering,
obscuring the low mounds,
next the empty arbor
where the grapes would not grow,
where the rotting birdhouses perched,
houses for angry yellow jackets.

This is the house:
where
smoke oozing
from the chimney
meant a welcome fire
in the stove,
lighted by children
who sometimes forgot
to open the flue
with the sliding lever,
handled with a spring-like bulb
that burned its print
on your hand
at the base,
a welcome, hot, orange, roaring fire,
air hissing through
intake vents,
children lolling on the floor,
on the rag rug I wove
on a handmade loom
from thrift store wool skirts
cut in repurposed strips,
children staring, hypnotized
to happy stupor, waking
enough to ask
“should I put in another log?”
logs cut with Mathew’s
Husqvarna, borrowed
still after his heart quit,
lots cut from the ancient cottonwood tree
where the Bald Eagle once stood,
surveying, glaring
at my mere humanity
far below.

This is the house:
where
we built our chicken coop,
gathered warm pastel eggs,
clucked to the hens,
cut the head off
the devil rooster;
where
we planted our garden,
holding our breath for weeks
until corn blades
shot up, improbably,
pulling weeds, interminably,
sweltering under mid-Saturday sun
for more weeks until
we did not care anymore;
we knew tomatoes
by the red spots
in the green morass.

This is the house:
where
we sang campfire songs—
“Swing Low Sweet Chariot”
“White Wings”
“Springtime in the Rockies”—
roasted wieners, roasted apples,
threw the baseball,
chased the bolted goldendoodle pup,
freed the Black-chinned Hummingbird
from garage incarceration;
where
we cried and screamed and sang and laughed,
chased the goats
that jumped their fence,
found the neighbors’
black angus bull
in the back yard,
heard the Ring-necked Pheasant’s
“Er! Er!” in the man-tall grass,
heard the Mourning Dove’s
muffled wail;
where
we walked on cool evenings,
a family,
on the dirt farm road
named Rabbit Lane.

This is the house
that was mine
until you told me to leave,
told me to leave,
that was mine,
then was yours,
till you sold,
till you sold.
This
was
The House.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

The Trick

Living alone changes a person.  I have lived alone nearly three years now, after 27 years of marriage.  The longer I live alone, the more difficult it is for me to be around people.  I become anxious as they use my towels, dirty my dishes, watch my TV, sleep in my spare beds (not making them the next morning), and occupy my space.  I feel compelled to put everything back in its place when they leave.  When I began this new phase of my life, I could foresee the danger of drawing into myself with time as I lived alone.  I wrote this poem one week into the experience.  I fear I have fulfilled my own poetic prophecy of misanthropy.  I need to work that much harder to be social with people in their space and in my space.  If I am not careful, I will become the hermit I feared.  (I am not feeling sorry for myself, just noticing subtleties of change in a human spirit.)

THE TRICK

This will be the trick:
to not slip into idiosyncrasy,
peculiarity, even
queerness,
needing everything to be
just so, or nothing
to be just so;
to not harden to stone or ice, but
to not melt entirely away.

(I took the above photo of a sunrise moon from my apartment balcony a few days ago.)

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Little Girl

I experienced today, in church, a moment of purity, of innocence, of love, not due to any sermon or ritual or hymn, but as a gift from a small child.

LITTLE GIRL

I chanced to glance
at a little girl of three
sitting nearby
in the pew:
she looked up at me,
an old man,
not comely to warrant,
and smiled a smile
bright as the spring sun
full on my face.
I could not refrain
reciprocation
and twisted a grin
in return, and found
ice melting,
stone warming,
stiff boughs bending.
Another glance
revealed
colored pencils scratching
intently
between the lines.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Anchors in Wind

Wind blows hard from the south in Summer, the north in Winter, catching the sheet metal at its corners, pulling, ripping, and flapping until it tears off and flies away.  So many nights I laid in bed, listening to the grinding and rapping, unable to sleep, powerless to stop it, and dreading the repair job.  Still, I was proud of my makeshift coop in Erda, Utah, and my chickens and their eggs, and the dusty, sweet smell of dry straw.  This is poem is about needing to anchor the roof down against the wind, a metaphor for anchoring our lives to sound principles against the storms of life.

ANCHORS IN WIND

Wind blows noisily through the leaves,
snaps the brittle branches,
penetrates the pores in my window
screen, sibilating angrily,
seeking for bottles and knick-knacks
to knock off the sills
to break and spill upon the floor,
slams my door on its whooshing way out,
where I have neglected to place a stopping cushion.
The old steel on the chicken coop roof
has come unscrewed on its southern windward sides
to creek and groan and complain and moan
until I climb the stepladder with
a new box of screws
to really, this time,
anchor it down.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Empty Arbor

I worked for years to convince grape vines to grow up my arbor.  I imagined an arbor crisscrossed with verdant vines, heavy clusters of green and red grapes hanging down, and me sitting in a chair underneath, in grape-shade, pleasantly paralyzed by grape and wild flower and spice garden perfume.  But the vines never grew more than a few feet high before turning brown and dying.  Too much water?  Not enough iron or acid to compensate for the alkaline soil?  It no longer matters.  The grape arbor became my bird arbor, hosting many pretty species year-round.

EMPTY ARBOR

Bird feeders swing empty from nails pounded in the arbor.
After years of compost, fertilizer, water, and iron,
the vines still grow sickly and yellow, vines that grow no grapes.
I once dreamed of the arbor covered in a dense green,
with plump, hanging clusters of white and purple grapes.

Bird houses nailed to the arbor sit vacant,
the entrance holes too large or two small, too high or too low,
or too exposed to climbing cats,
vacant but for teaming yellow jackets that relish dark nooks.

The finches prefer the spiny blue spruce nearby.
Who knows where the sparrows and blackbirds live?
But they visit by the hundred, chirping and chasing, cracking at shells.

I must fill the swinging feeders
for the little birds that descend to my empty arbor.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Travelers

Oh Pioneers!  Song of the Open Road.  I have enjoyed reading these and other poems from Walt Whitman’s anthology Leaves of Grass.  Whitman shows such ebullience and enthusiasm for life, such hope for the progress of humanity.  After reading these more than once, I thought to write my own poem about this journey of life, after my own heart and style, inspired by Whitman.

TRAVELERS

Ho!
Fellow traveler!
Share the road
with a vagabond?
May I walk with you
to wherever?
I’ll be glad
of your company,
to be sure!
Such a dusty, lonely road
it has been.
Look at these shoes!
The holes in the soles!
Now, they have seen
a pretty mile or two,
and have a story or two
to tell! Aye!
Hey—them is prodigious
holes of your own!
Wary that stone, now,
friend,
for tis but the tip
of a larger,
and would break your kicking toe!
Whence hail you,
if you do not mind?
It be a long way?
Aye, that be a distance!
You seek
a situation, then, employ?
Or, may I be bold,
my new friend,
flee you a broken heart?
I understand you, aye,
only too well.
Though you walk and walk,
the break follows,
and the sorrow.
You search for solace:
tis natural.
And death—
you know it?
That we all flee,
yet it follows, too close,
stalking,
at times, too close,
from us taking,
left and right,
the ones we love
most. Aye. Aye.
I know it, too,
my brother….
But, my dear fellow!
Look!
See!
The sun sets behind.
Always behind!
And on the morrow?
A New Sun rises!
To be sure.
To be sure!
Let not us part
the way we walk
together,
for we will find
companionship in company,
in the step step step
of our direction,
in the clop clop clop
of our resolve.
The morrow
we will command!
The Heavens will send manna,
coveys of quail,
and waters
from the dry stone!
You shall see!
You shall certainly see!

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.