Author Archives: Roger Baker-Utah

About Roger Baker-Utah

By profession a 23-year municipal lawyer, my real loves are poetry, music, story, and nature. Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, represents a 15-year creative effort. I hope you enjoy!

Angles of Sun and Shadow Showed the Forest Butterfly

The Red-spotted Purple is my favorite butterfly.  I have seen her only once.  As a youth in New Jersey, I roamed the fields and woods hunting butterflies and moths.  I counted over 200 species in my collection.  I regret those killing days.  Beauty is most beautiful when alive.  The beauty of butterflies, the beauty I was trying to capture and make a part of my soul, inspires me still and always.  I found the Red-spotted Purple by knowing the position of the sun, seeing the butterfly’s shadow, then knowing just where to look in the canopy.  Knowing where to look is the key to so many things.

Angles of Sun and Shadow Showed the Forest Butterfly

Shadows have wings,
sometimes—
did you know? They flit

through green canopies, they race
over forest floors. I can find
their masters by discerning

the relative position of the Sun.
That one—see there—
I have found her

only once, the prettiest
of them all, I say,
all melding swirls and spots

of royal and rust, the rarest,
also, for my having found her
only once

in so many woodland ramblings,
or perhaps she spites
ubiquity with stealth. To me

she is a rare beauty, spied
by no mere chance, but by calculating
from the relative position of the Sun.

First image by skeeze from Pixabay.   Second image by Peggy Dyar from Pixabay.

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

Water in the Ditch

As a child reared in New Jersey, our family set off cross country about every three years to visit relatives in Utah, 2,200 miles distant.  How I loved exploring Grandma’s yards and gardens and sheds and coops, and the irrigation ditch hugging the dirt road in front of her bungalow house built by Grandpa.  Fifty years later, I can hear the water trickling, see my leaf boats bobbing, feel the song inside.  Today, the entire scene has been erased, except in memory, in the song inside, and in this poem.  (My father painted the bungalow before its demise.)

Water in the Ditch

water in the irrigation ditch
babbled
alongside the gravely road,

          bermed banks sprouting
tangled sunflowers, where
Grandma lived neatly

in a bungalow built
by her groom
in Depression years,

          where I skipped and crowed
and threw rocks
and floated little boats of leaves

and sticks down the trickles,
where the parched yards opened themselves
to receive irrigation floods

          and nightcrawlers rose and wriggled,
where my heart whooped
and sang little-boy melodies

that sing still,
though
the ditch has been piped and buried and the house bulldozed for a parking lot

 

Roger circa 1970 on a ditch culvert, complete with bug box.

The Turtle Pond Before The Subdivision Came

As a teenager, I relished my hours in the woods near my home in New Jersey.  I followed the meandering paths on my 10-speed.  One day I happened upon a little pond.  Painted turtles sunned themselves contentedly on a floating log.  At my approach they slipped into the murky water and disappeared from view.  I waited long minutes.  But, losing patience, I left before they resurfaced.  New subdivisions came, and the paths and ponds disappeared.  Looking back 40 years has transformed this happy memory into a new poem.

The Turtle Pond Before the Subdivision Came

When you pedal
on a wooded path, all brown
and green shadow, framed houses
out of view, you might discover
a little pond, water brown
as forest earth and gray
as autumn sky, fallen log
stuck at half past two,
a perch for turtles, carapaces
painted red and yellow, for what purpose
I am sure I do not know, but
perhaps from the sheer joy of their aliveness,
sunning unconcerned, but slipping
quickly, when I arrive,
into opaque shallows, hiding,
holding longer than my patience,
safely unseen.

(Image by Scottslm from Pixabay)

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

A Mother Suckles her Fawn

Laboring uphill on my mountain bike on Settlement Canyon’s Left-hand Fork trail, I rounded a corner to encounter a mother mule deer suckling her fawn.  I quickly stopped, not wanting to frighten them, and gazed and the sight, both wild and tender.  She, for her part, stood taut, ready to bound away.  I spoke quietly, apologizing for startling them, assuring them of my peaceful intentions, and thanking them for their gift.  Mother was sleek and graceful and beautiful.  Baby was adorable, white-spotted, and oblivious of me for her mother’s milk.  After long moments, the doe turned her head and marched up the steep hill, her fawn following.  Enjoy the poem that has come a year later.

A Mother Suckles Her Fawn

    In speckled shade on a steep
hillside with a trickle and a trail
below, a mule deer doe, her spotted fawn

    punching feebly
her belly, drawing warm draughts,
my sweating and puffing are incongruous:

    I have stepped upon holy ground
with soiled sandals, entered
the covenant tabernacle unwashed,

    holy garments laid aside, so,
I stop and watch and speak
gentle affirmations of beauty and peace,

    harmlessness, though
the mother stands firm and taut, head
turned attentively toward me,

    an intruder, her great ears
erect, black stone eyes watching
in turn, ready…

 

(Image by Sr. Maria-Magdalena R. from Pixabay.)

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure 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.

Dedicating a Friday to the Drafting of New Parking Rules

On a recent Friday morning I found myself faced with a list of statutory shortcomings (provided to me by the police chief) necessitating amendments to my city’s parking regulations.  Well, I thought, there’s nothing for it but to get on with itStill, I wondered, is this what my 25-year career as a municipal lawyer has come to, spending a day revising the rules of on-street parking?  The question was less one of disconsolation than of amusement.  Of course, that’s what city attorneys do.  Exploring these thoughts led to the pleasure of a poem, which I share with you below.  Should this poem come to the attention of my wonderful employers, let it be known that the poem is (mostly) in jest, though serious effort went into its composition.

Dedicating a Friday to the Drafting of New Parking Rules

So, it has come
to this, after 25 years, a day
drafting new rules for parking
cars in the public rights-of-way.

Someone else is drafting
international trade policy,
affordable housing strategies,
immigration reform,

civil rights initiatives,
climate change regulations. Someone else
is changing the world while I
change the rules for where one may

park one’s car, if there is a curb,
if there is not a curb,
if the car is too far from the curb, or at an angle
to the curb, or on the curb, or too close

to a fire hydrant or stop sign or driveway, or, heaven
forbid, pointed in the wrong direction, who
is authorized to write a parking ticket, and
what the fine will be, and how quickly

the fine must be paid,
and how to appeal—yes, the Constitution gives
you due process before I can take
your $15, the right to property

and all that… the officers will be
glad to have unambiguous rules
to prevent parking pandemonium
when they have a free moment

between investigating house burglaries,
racing to domestic violence incidents,
and arresting drug dealers.
Someone must do it,

I suppose. You can park here.

 

(Image by nile from Pixabay)

Dad Leads Me on a Bullfrog Hunt at Dallenbachs

Dad and Me (ca 1969)

At dusk at the abandoned Dallenbachs quarry turned deep lake in East Brunswick, New Jersey, Dad and I turned our attention from the bluegills to the bullfrogs.  This was a new experience for me, and I was wide-eyed and expectant.  Enormous frogs croaked, a loud, deep, rumbling song.  Spying a bullfrog, Dad pounced just at the frog jumped under his shoe.  Dad felt so upset about hurting the frog.  I didn’t know what to do or feel.  I simply stood quietly, then followed, quietly, to the car.  Fifty years later, the memory has reappeared and found its way into this new poem.

Dad Leads Me on a Bullfrog Hunt at Dallenbachs

From reedy black bank-water emanated the rumbling
thrum that I knew, at four,
came from big bullfrogs. Even the bluegills

eluded our hooks, so we skulked the flank
because we could and because we were serious and excited
and on the hunt. I followed his point to two

gray spheres, an iceberg of frog flesh, its ears
metallic yellow discs just below. Two things
happened then, a concomitance in four

dimensions, the giant frog launching
a great leap, the big man’s
wet sneaker falling hard on the frog

sitting dazed, pink tongue bulging, while dad cussed
a grimace, I watched
and I listened and I knew both were

hurt, the soft body and the gentle mind,
and I did not move or speak
and I did not know what to feel

and I did not know how to help the bullfrog or
the father, hearing not a gravelly croak
on the long lake shore.

 

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure 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.

Medicine Wheel

Twenty years ago we took our young family to Mesa Verde National Park, where we marveled at ancient desert cliff dwellings, and to Four Corners, where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet at a point marked with a brass cap and monument.  We walked from one American Indian artisan’s tent to another to another, admiring their skill and craft.  I lingered over a beautiful object, which the Navajo artist explained was a medicine wheel.  With some prompting, she told me of its symbolism and meaning.  I offered to type up the story, which she could copy onto a business card for her customers.  I bought the medicine wheel, mailed her the typed story, and dangled the medicine wheel from my staff.  I do no remember her name, sadly symbolic of how much suffering this country’s indigenous peoples have endured, and of how much they and their craft and their culture have been forgotten.  Twenty years later, I have written this poem.

MEDICINE WHEEL

four corners
mark a spot of rusty desert
a greening brass cap

dusty canopies
cover black hair plaited
long, smiles wanting, waiting
behind wares, soft eyes

I gaze long:
a crossed circle worked
with leather and bone beads
feathers dangle
              It is the medicine wheel.
I nod and gaze and question

              The medicine wheel shows
       Mother Earth
around us-beneath us-above us
       Paths of Life
on Earth-through Earth-under Sun
       Great Spirit: in all

The medicine wheel brings healing to believer and seeker

I offer to type this up
for her
on a card
maybe, to give
to her customers

          if you want….

I have forgotten
her name

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure 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.