Author Archives: Roger Baker-Utah

About Roger Baker-Utah

By profession a 26-year municipal lawyer, my real loves are poetry, music, story, and nature. Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, represents a 19-year creative effort. I hope you enjoy!

We Swam the Mile Swim

I was 13 in the summer of 1977.  I had failed the 100-yard swim at scout camp the year before.  Now I was going for the mile swim.  Mist hung heavy on Lake Seneca in the early morning.  My dad lowered himself into the water with a cold shudder and swam out into the lake, while Fritz rowed alongside, with me a passenger.  Dad swam and swam and swam.  Fritz finally said he had swum a mile.  We hauled Dad in, and I jumped out of the rowboat for the long swim back.  The sidestroke was my savior as I swam slowly back to Camp Liahona.  As lake finally gave way to shore and I stood on firm ground, both calves cramped, and I fell to the ground.  Two men lifted me up and put my arms around their shoulders, congratulating me on my accomplishment.  I was proud to sew our seahorse patches on my merit badge sash.  We had done it.  What’s more, we had accidentally swum two miles each, Fritz having rowed us to the wrong landmark!  But we were proud and happy to have done it, and to have done it together.

We Swam the Mile Swim

You know that
patch on the back
of my old olive sash:
white with red
seahorse? I worked
for that patch: I swam
2 miles for 1 patch
2 miles
for the 1-mile swim

because the rower pulled to
the wrong landmark. Of course
I didn’t know
until the long swim ended
and two men shouldered
my dead arms after
both calves imploded
and the mile-swim boss
giggled Why
did you swim so
far? I knew all
along I could do it
no matter how far
because my dad had swum
out to that far landmark
and I had only to
sidestroke slowly
back while he watched
poised
over the gunwale
on Lake Seneca: still
steaming morning’s mist.

Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

Lily Pond in Summer Drouth

Do you ever feel dried out and empty, with no zest for life?  I know I do.  I am thinking that feeling is a common human experience.  The happy parts of life are there but seem just out of reach.  The heat of guilt and the sun of duty sap our strength, along with many other troublesome things.  But I also believe that if we work for it and wait for it, relief comes to us, in the form of a smile, a kind word, a personal achievement, and many other ennobling things.  In this poem I used a dried-out lake bed as a metaphor for the hard times in life, trusting that hope hangs just around the bend of tomorrow.

Lily Pond in Summer Drouth

The lily pond has
completely dried out, birds
have picked the flesh off white-boned fish, old
slimy greenery mats into dark
paper that flakes and flies
away like cindered news:

the sun has sucked all moisture from the muck:

the bowled bed lies cracked and ravined
in a million baked-mud islands:
the definition of a desiccation:

I recall:
red sliders scooting off their sun-logs, fiery
newts crawling with wet leafy fragility,
butter-cream lilies crowning: lotuses
bursting with wisdom and beauty . . .

but the spring will not flow:
the pond has dried and died:
and there is nothing for it
but to settle in

until tomorrow’s heaviness sheds
abundance.

 

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 heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Above image by Carabo Spain from Pixabay.

On the Jordan at Dusk

Knowing the beaver come out in the evening, I launched from Porter’s Landing at 7:00 p.m. and sprinted three miles upstream, then turn and paddled slowly and quietly with the current, looking for beaver.  I saw 7 beaver, 3 great blue heron, 2 black-capped night heron, and a belted kingfisher: all miraculous.  I arrived at the launch just as the dark settled in.  By the time I hauled out, this poem had composed itself and was gently asking to be written.

On the Jordan at Dusk

settle into the rhythm…
dip and pull…
breathe…
dip and pull…
breathe…
wiggle
on the keel…

Belted Kingfisher
splashes indigo and rust
on white canvas…

Great Blue Heron
flies low and wide toward me,
and I wonder if I resemble a fish…

pink petals and perfume
droop transfigured into ripe
red rose hips…

evening’s green aromas
drift over the water,
warm and pungent…

silent beaver swim
in the shadows of a gibbous moon,
waning…

Inconsequential

Walking along Idaho’s Salmon River shore at sunset during a 52-mile float, I began to notice the ridges of tiny underwater dunes.  I thought about how inconsequential the weak waves were, yet how they shaped the dunes.  I thought about how the little things in life may seem inconsequential, but always have important formational significance.

Inconsequential

inconsequential waves
lap the river bank:
a sandy river bank:

in the shallows
long ridges run
along the shore—

not straight, but undulating,
now breaking off
now splitting,

now rejoining—
ridgelines a centimeter high:
and each incoming

and each outgoing
adds to the tiny dunes,
takes away,

reshapes . . .

Spa Time!

Even a lizard enjoys a little spa time, and Amy sees that Sunshine does not go without.  Being a creature of the Australian Outback desert, a warm bath is in order, followed by time lounging under the sun lamp.  Isn’t his color gorgeous?  All I can say is, if I were a bearded dragon, I would want Amy to be my human.

Fiddle Fever

I have attended some great concerts in my many years: Journey: Billy Joel; Boston; John Taylor.  But the best concert I ever attended was a free community Concert in the Park in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in the summer 1981.  The band was Fiddle Fever, and I was 17.  From the first note, I was completely captivated.  Their Appalachian bluegrass music was earthy and mystical, happy and tender, evoking generations and adventures past and yet to come, and expertly performed.  The players radiated enthusiasm and utter joy that washed over and through me.  We bought the vinyl and listened to it hundreds of times until it was too scratched to play.  To my delight, I recently found a CD of the original LP, with several bonus tracks.  Thirty-nine years later, I am playing Fiddle Fever again.  I am captivated still.

Silver Spoon Chimes

Forty years ago my parents loaded the station wagon and drove the family from our New Jersey home to the woods of Maine for a modest vacation.  We stayed at Gray’s Cabins, which had no central heat (but a fireplace) or running water, but an abundance of gorgeous views and rustic nostalgia.  At a small bait shop on a winding country road, while Dad bought lures and earthworms, I stood on the porch admiring a mobile of flattened silver spoons suspended from bent and curled fork tines.  The spoons met each other, as the breeze passed through, with surprisingly rich peals, as from a bell.  For two decades I haunted thrift stores for discarded silver-plate, and made dozens of chimes for family and friends.  I recently pulled out of a box the scattered spoons and fork of my last remaining set of chimes, polished the silver, restrung the spoons, and hung the chimes in my patio, where they tinkle and take me back to the green woods of Maine.

If plated silver is not available, you can make your own set with any inexpensive metal ware.  Tools you will need:

  • hammer
  • rag to buffer the spoons from the hammer and concrete surface as you carefully flatten them
  • power drill with very small drill bit
  • block of wood under the ware as you drill
  • needle-nose pliers
  • fishing line or stout threat (thick string will muffle the spoon vibrations and dampen their sound)
  • nail or hook to hang from

The colder your metal ware, the higher the likelihood the spoons will crack and the tines will break off.  Work with the spoons and fork after leaving them in the sun for a few minutes.

A Portrait of Sunshine as a Young Dragon

Sunshine began his life of friendship with Amy just seven months ago as a tiny young lizard.  Now he is in full adolescence, and still calm, patient, and pleasant.  Amy thought a portrait of her friend was in order.  Here is her first “peek-a-boo” angle.

And now, Sunshine’s full-color portrait, drawn expertly by Amy.  In Portuguese one would say, “Tal e qual,” meaning “Exactly so.”  Great work, Amy!

Your Package Has Arrived!

Amy and Sunshine decided to go into the delivery business, called “Delivery Squad.”  Watch out UPS!  Amy did all the initial heavy lifting by building the business headquarters.  And she designed and fabricated a specialty delivery van, backpack, and cap to fit her Bearded Lizard partner.  Perhaps unfortunately, Sunshine can deliver packages only from one side of the dining table to the other.  But the service is personal!

Ready for business!

 

Why in Heaven’s Name Can’t We Get There?

For 400 years America has struggled with the racial hatred that enabled slavery and perpetuates inequity.  For untold thousands of years one people has subjugated and enslaved another.  Why can’t humanity rise above its hate?  Please, we must.  This is not a political post, or a racial post, or an activist post.  This is a human post, a poem begging for hope and love and equity.

Why in Heaven’s Name Can’t We Get There?

George Floyd: a name:
the name of a Man:
a Black Man:
an African-American man:
who wanted only to breathe:

To Breathe!

to breathe the crisp air of freedom:
to breathe kisses upon his children:
to breathe love to his beloved:
a Black Man who has gathered us together:
a world of all color:
in chant and march and rage:
in song:
in colorful earthy human song:
singing the name of every Man:
every Black Man:
every White Man:
every Yellow and Brown and Red Man:
subject to subjugation:
chafing and straining against the rough blistering cords of bondage:
singing the name of every Woman:
who hoped for her Child:
as good as any Child:
a Black Child or a White Child:
who dared to hope:
hope against We don’t want you! signs:
in the windows and on the doors:
hope against blood and bombs and broken bones:
hope against the burning, cutting ropes:
who dare to hope against that universal

NO!

He could not breathe:
another man pressed a knee on his neck:
and he could not breathe:
George Floyd:
the name of a Man:
a Black Man:
the name of every Child:
the name of every Woman:
the name of every Man:
the name of a nation:
a nation that cannot breathe:

We Want To Breathe!

the name of a nation of people who can barely breathe:
a nation of too many who do not know love, except:
the false love of defending what we think is our own:
which is no love at all:
but sticky, unctuous pride:
but a bashing-teeth hatred:
but a cheap rickety need to be better, somehow intrinsically better, than another:

How Absurd!

how absurd to think:

I am better than you:
better than anyone:
better than George Floyd:
better than any other human:
better than any other equal human:

Equal Equal Equal!

But we cannot seem to do it:
we cannot seem to allow any skin to be better than our own:
better: a strange notion we can reconcile only if we lie.

Well, we had better:
we had better stop chewing glass:
the broken glass of hate:
we had better stop swallowing the cutting nails of arrogance:
we had better put our arms around one another, and hold one another’s hands
and weep our declaration:

We are the same, you and I!

The Same!

with the same pleasant dreams:
with the same color of pounding blood:
with the same innate capacities:
for love and for hate;
for love, and for caring and kindness:
for helping a Sister:
for helping a Brother:
for helping a Daughter and a Son.

So:
come on:
come on out:
come on out of yourself:
give it all up:
let go of anything, of everything, that makes you less:
less than what you are:
less than what you can be:
be Equal
and
be Good
and
be Free . . .

(Image above by truthseeker08 from Pixabay)

Game Night!

Every Sunday night Amy’s family gathers for a nice family dinner, a spiritual or musical devotional, dessert, and games.  Even Sunshine joins in, munching his salad and playing along in a game of Sorry.  These special times have been important for Amy’s family bond and strengthen relationships, and could well be replicated in some form by other families.  Enjoy especially the desserts and games–only, Sunshine won’t be on your team!

Osprey Brings a Snake for Her Crying Chick

During a visit to Greer, Arizona, we played at River Reservoir, where I searched for the Osprey my sister had seen weeks before.  The children canoed and fished for crayfish and napped on a quilt under the pines, while I scanned the sky.  The tree-top nest stood tall in front of me, and I was not disappointed:

Osprey Brings a Snake for Her Crying Chick

on a barkless ponderosa snag
ascending the hill—
a lightning kill—
a nest of rough twigs tangled
in the crook of its crown

a beak rises
peaks out and over
scans from north to south to north again

and from that beak a hunger call:
cry cry cry cry cry cry cry—

then the long wait for the mother

and the regurgitated trout:

              cry cry cry cry cry—

Here she comes!
swooping through pine tops
a snake slack with death dangling
from the ebony nails of her talons

Roger Baker is a municipal attorney, aspiring poet, and amateur naturalist.  He 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.

Sunshine’s Summer Hat

With Phoenix Arizona regularly reaching 110F in June, Amy has made sure Sunshine is prepared for the hot sun, with his own straw hat.  Of course, the Bearded Dragon lizard is native to the brutally hot Australian desert.  But whether Sunshine needs a hat or not, Amy is loyal and caring and looks after Sunshine’s every need.

Sunshine on my Shoulder

The iconic John Denver song gained a new dimension for me when I met Sunshine face to face. Sunshine enjoys being held, but his* favorite vantage point is my shoulder, where he sits contentedly, blinking now and again, but otherwise quite still. But he’s not partial to my shoulder, necessarily, as you can see.

Sunshine on Amy’s shoulder
Sunshine on my shoulder
Sunshine on Hyrum’s shoulder

(*I just learned that Sunshine is a male Bearded Dragon!)

Not the Zip Line!

Amy loves riding the zip line her dad built in the back yard.  What a thrill for to speed through the air.  But this is one activity where Sunshine says, Leave me out!  The whirring metallic sound of the pulley racing over the cable alarms the lizard, and is the only sound or event that has caused her to gape and frill.  And that’s okay.  Sunshine doesn’t have to like everything!

Sunshine’s Green Hammock

Amy loves swinging in her hammock under the big shade tree, or in the covered glider chair, with Sunshine in tow.  Thinking that Sunshine might like to have her own hammock, Amy sewed her a green cloth hammock.  Now they can enjoy hammocking together in the Arizona shade.

 

When a Feather Falls from an Osprey

This is my staff.  An old mountain-man friend, Harvey, whose Indian name is Many Feathers, taught me the technique of shaving the feather shafts and curling them back into themselves to make a loop, then threading a string to tie to the staff.  Thus attached, the feathers sway freely in the breeze without damage.  Watching it rest in a corner, I wonder why I made it and what it means, to me, today.  Well, perhaps it is enough that the feathers are beautiful, and that I carved the staff, and that I love them.  Is more rationale needed?  This poem imagines finding real raptor feathers, creating a staff, and pondering the meanings.

When a Feather Falls from an Osprey

when a feather falls from an Osprey
wing and lies on a lakeshore
path a boy might find

her and raise her up and stroke
along her stiff-soft vane and hide
her in his sleeping bag

to take home, and, when
considerably older, he might learn
from Many Feathers to drape

her from a staff carved smooth,
from a waxy string tied through
a loop in her shaved shaft

where she sways
in an air-conditioned corner
with companions

—and just what are they for?
—what do they mean, now?
dead feathers not

flying just remembering
flights taken—short bursts—and more
merely dreamed of—

 

(All feathers depicted are lawfully possessed.)

Sunshine Is Growing Up Beautifully!

In just six months, Sunshine has grown from a rather drab little pointy creature to a beautifully-hued growing pointy creature.  (Keep those crickets coming!)  Sunshine is as gentle as ever, and she and Amy remain the best of friends.

Baby Sunshine

Growing Sunshine, with Bracelet

Amy and Sunshine: “Buds and Pards Forever”

I Have Never Heard Such Joy

On a canyon ride through gambel oaks, a streak of scarlet and yellow caught my eye, and the prettiest cascading song pleasured my ears.  I stopped my bicycle and stared at the miraculous little creature.  She in turn eyed me curiously and opened her beak in renewed song.  How could I not try to write her into a poem, though she remains joyfully wild in the woods?

I Have Never Heard Such Joy

I have never heard
such joy
as when a tanager opened
her soul to sing her trilling
song: a symphony compressed in
a single glorious line—

and, I know I should not
begin a poem with “I”
but to pen “much joy was heard” simply
will not do, for
I saw her scarlet streak through green,
I heard her delightsomeness,
I discerned her eager joy—

and as I stared, baffled
and thrilled, she again yielded up,
again, knowing
I could not
fathom after hearing but once her cleansing
cascade of happiness

 

Image by PublicDomainImages from Pixabay

Roger Baker is a municipal attorney, aspiring poet, and amateur naturalist.  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 heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

High School Graduation!

Thousands of high school graduations happened by pre-recorded broadcast with empty auditoriums.  Among the illustrious graduates were Amy’s sister, Afton, and cousin, Hyrum.  Unfazed, when Amy couldn’t go to Afton’s cap-and-gown, Amy brought the cap-and-gown to Afton, with a little help from Sunshine.  Congratulations graduates of the Class of 2020!

I Would Love To See the River in that Way

The river pulls me back and back, and I see from the level of the water what I cannot see from the high-bank trail.  They look at me wistfully, wanting.  They can have it, if they will look.  This new poem tells what I saw, and how you can see it, too.

I Would Love To See the River in that Way

 

a cyclist braked

and waved:

 

                                                Have you seen anything interesting

                                    on the river

            today? Any wild things?

 

Oh, always . . .

            always.

                        I have to remember: I cannot

                                    make them come.  I

                                                allow them, if

                                                            they will . . .

 

heron dropped from the sky, not

beating her wings even once, just

expertly angling, dangling

crooked legs

 

and five fluffy goslings disappeared

in dive, rising obscured under

dark bank branches

 

and old red slider slid

from his sunning log

 

and beaver sat munching

a willow stem straight

on: I could see

chisel teeth, black-bead eyes,

little red hands holding

the bough: he dove

with a splashy slap, more

annoyed than alarmed:

and I felt so happy—

 

she looked past,

and I began to drift.

 

            I would love to see

                                    the river

                                                in that way.

 

Roger Baker is a municipal attorney, aspiring poet, and amateur naturalist.  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 heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

The Baking of a Quiche

I have enjoyed learning, ever so slowly, from Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  And I am learning.  First came a simple soup, then delectable cream of mushroom, then a Bavarian cream, then a gratin (casserole), then a quiche, which requires a pastry shell and the filling.  After a successful baking adventure, I sometimes enjoy writing a poem on the subject.  So, here is my poem (perhaps the world’s first?) about baking a quiche.

The Baking of a Quiche

The baking
of a quiche
is no great enterprise

when the baker knows
how to bake a quiche,
has baked a quiche

before, one time or two,
and has at hand, of course,
fresh ingredients,

quality equipment,
a careful recipe,
and the right frame of mind,

joyful and long-suffering,
so the savory custard sits creamy
and the shell hints of crunch after kneading

four parts butter and five flour
with quick nimble fingertips
and never the too-warm palms.

Intro to “Adventures with Sunshine”

Welcome to the new page “Adventures with Sunshine” on my Rabbit Lane blog.  This page chronicles the adventures of my niece Amy and Sunshine, her pet bearded dragon.

Amy discovered a You Tube channel called Snake Discovery.  She loved learning about reptiles.  Her good mama (my sister) started taking her on field trips to the Arizona Reptile Center to see many varieties of reptiles.   Amy’s interest deepened, and she began asking for a pet lizard.  In advance of her 8th birthday, Amy picked out a Bearded Dragon, and they purchased it and put it on hold for the day of the birthday celebration.  The week of her birthday, Amy became ill with the flu.  On her fourth day of fever, she looked up at her mama with sad eyes and asked if they could go get her dragon a little early.  Of course, my sister said, and brought home the 6-week-old lizard.  Amy named her Sunshine.  Sunshine is the perfect little friend and playmate for Amy.  They are inseparable.  Amy loves Sunshine, and Sunshine is gentle, patient, and even quietly affectionate with Amy.

Stay tuned for more Adventures with Sunshine!

Who Ever Thought That Old River Could Be So Lovely

I often escape to the canyon for a mountain bike ride or to the Jordan River with a kayak.  Both have their attractions.  But when I want to be slow and quiet, to see wildlife, and to forget my troubles, there is nothing like a long paddle on the river.  Turtles sunning on logs.  Mallards flying upstream.  Great blue herons and belted kingfishers.  And signs of beaver chew.  This humble river runs the length of the great Salt Lake Valley, home to 1.2 million people.  The river runs mostly unseen and ignored right up the middle of the valley.  I am grateful for decades of visionaries who have seen to the river’s cleanup and restoration for people to kayak and canoe, fish, and cycle and walk and run on the riverside trails.  I can’t wait for my next glide on the river.  In the meantime, this poem distills some of my observations and impressions.

Who Ever Thought That Old River Could Be So Lovely

Paddling is as much pushing as it is pulling, a balance of both with each stroke, to spread the strain and stretch my strength to keep on.

The moment my kayak slips into the dark smooth water I feel free from sticky attachments and my fears float off with clouds of elm seeds.

Today I learn that when a Canada goose flies its elongated neck slightly dips and tremors with each wing beat.

Why would so many hundreds of swallows, swarming around me, glue their mud-daub domiciles under the lip of the rumbling interstate?

I feel a surge of joy just knowing that these new gnawings on elm trunks and new nippings of willow shoots mean that beaver again work the river.

A hen quacks increasing irritation as I keep arriving and she keeps needing to fly off. Her drake makes no protest, and I ask if he is lazy, or unconcerned, or thinks his partner makes sufficient complaint for them both.

My peace is disturbed by the screams of two-cycle engines racing on dirt tracks and spinning up dust: I pick up my paddling pace.

A snipe calls a chiding chirrup as she flushes then flutters on short wings, her beak longer than half her round body.

Squat socks knitted from gray grasses hang by the dozen on the ends of elm boughs: oriole nests: empty and sagging and looking forlorn.

I float close enough to a wide flat turtle sunning on a log to see scarlet stripes on his face and we stare carefully at one other until he slowly slides off and I swear I can hear him sighing, yet another human has interrupted my nap.

Women speed by on the riverside trail and some wave and call out a hello, and I wonder if a man gliding alone on a glassy green river seems romantic.

Young perfume from budding olives embraces me gently with intimate arms, and I know this is where I want to be.

 

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.

She Gifted to Me a Treasure

In 2012 my daughter Laura and I joined a multi-week pottery class.  She turned and glazed many beautiful pieces (see photos below).  While the wheel tested our (my) patience, taking the class was a wonderful daddy-daughter experience.  As a younger child, Laura formed a clay blob of which she is not so proud.  But I love it because she made it, and it has become one of my treasures–which is why I wanted to write this poem.

She Gifted to Me a Treasure

It is
a blob of fired clay,

fist-size, resembling
a woven straw beehive

in shape—a slanting thumb hole
welcomes pencils and pens,
barred pheasant feathers.

I am so fond of this blob because her hands formed
this blob, the masterpiece of a child creating,

and she made a present of it to me
because she doubted

her creation’s merit
as a thing, a tapering firm-based thing
with a cream sky dangling turquoise clouds and royal-blue stars:

a treasure to me
as is she.

Laura at the pottery wheel.

With expert instructor Jon Wexels.

Laura’s little masterpieces.

 

Front Corner Pew

Church can be a welcoming, joyful experience or a lonely, isolating experience, depending on from where one is coming and to where one is going, and on one’s frame of mind along the way.  This poem shares one perspective, where the influence of little children and of love make all the difference.  That I could do for someone what they did for me–that is a wish.

Front Corner Pew

the front corner pew
is least conspicuous for one
who desires to be both

faithful and unseen, for the pastor
looks long across the harvest
to who occupies the back

corner chair signaling
I am broken and belligerent, but here
where the hard metal numbs

the mind, the Good News
half heard across the distance
and having given both ample chance

I had chosen to sit unseen
alone on the front corner pew
when a father marched by

with his three fidgety lambs
who looked at me and relaxed their faces and uncrossed their arms
to each smile and wave

at me
and incapable of resisting I
twitched a smile

and convulsed little waves
in return
and wondered how

something so soft
could chisel stone
and without excoriation

alter me forever
though they were quickly gone
through the chapel side door

Image by ddzphoto 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.

Supping from Pink Silk Blossoms

Spreading its canopy over the back corner of the lot of my childhood home grew a Mimosa tree.  I relished the pleasing sight of its abundant aromatic feathery flowers, running the soft leaflets gently through my hands.  I marveled at the dozens of swallowtails visiting the pink blossoms.  This corner was magical for its tree.  Here is my memory, in a poem.

SUPPING FROM PINK SILK BLOSSOMS

Mimosa blooms spring open in soft pink spheres,
smelling sweet, seducing me to slow my walking-by
and turn for another slow pass, but I do not pass by
but climb in to sit in a high wide crook. Feather
leaves waft, gently, brush my face, gently. There I
luxuriate in soft green light, lean back against pale
smooth bark, pull in the perfume, and black swallow
tails and tiger swallowtails flit all over and around.

This same silk tree threw father out when he pruned
a branch on a very hot and humid Saturday, and he
lay unconscious on the soft grass concealing stony
earth, three ribs cracked.

Image by Chorengel 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.

Vessels in the Tear

This is a poem for troubled times, an allegory of sorts, short, and I wish helpful and hopeful.  Be strengthened in your sailing.

VESSELS IN THE TEAR

how does one
sail when
the keel hangs
cracked and the sails flap
all frayed
and the bailing bucket falls overboard, when
the wind
twists hysterically liked an eel
on a hook? perhaps
then it is
best to release
the rudder
and loosen the jib and main and knot
oneself to the mast, to follow
frightening lists and unknown
currents, reconciled
to ride the writhe

Image by Noupload 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.

Poppies in Winter

When I moved five years ago, I decided to keep a beautiful centerpiece on my kitchen table, in all seasons, from fall maple leaves to spring daffodils to summer poppies.  They have brought cheer and color to my little dining room.  These silk and plastic decorations, from the dollar store, never fade in the dark or the cold.  The poppies are my favorite, and sit on my table still in late winter.  Their vase is a papier machet bottle made by my sister in elementary school.  Admiring them both from my sofa, I decided they deserved a poem.

Poppies in Winter

my poppies are plastic, yet
they huddle so prettily
on my dinner table with a real sun-
fire brilliance in summer

     I smell their perfume, I
fancy

my poppies stand in a bunched bouquet
in a narrow neck of glass glazed
with mottled patches of rust and brown,
earth of paper and glue

since grade school arts and crafts the bottle
has hid on a closet shelf until becoming
soil for my poppies:
sun-fire scarlet in winter

 

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.

Bid Them Come When I Am Quiet


(Mama and me in Rio, December 1964)

I seem to be always reading or writing or working–doing, doing, doing.  But sweetness of memory and poetry come in the non-doing, the quiet times, when we ponder and reflect.  I took a rare moment to reminisce, on this leap year day, and make this poetic offering.

Bid Them Come When I Am Quiet

shall I sit here on the grass
under this old apple bough
and conjure some old memory—

as when I reclined propped and
pillowed in a wicker picnic basket
on Copacabana’s broad sands:

but that scene belongs to my Mother
who recounted it to me
her eyes still reflecting the Brazilian sea—

or when my friend snagged
his lure in my neck
on the dock at Lake Seneca

and I hollered good and loud
for the sting of fear
and a ruined afternoon of bass fishing—

perhaps that blue-sky day we stopped the car
on the way through Paraná to cut wild lemon grass,
its perfume lingering sweetly these long years—

I finally netted the elusive Red-spotted Purple,
and pinned its beauty to a board
where it never lived brightly—

we wandered through the meadow
with Mom to pick asparagus, and at home
picked the ticks off of us—

I felt happy to carry
my sister, who grew tired
on the hike to Sunfish Pond—

 

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Image by ASSY 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.

Homemade Granola

Laura compiled a family recipe book for Christmas 2018: A Little Bit of Everything.  My favorite recipe so far, her own, is for yummy homemade granola, full of oats, coconut, almonds, and flavor.  I decided to put the process to poetry.  (The full recipe follows the poem.)

Homemade Granola

A gifted daughter gifted
to me her granola
recipe for Christmas
with smiles and promises
of customer satisfaction
and I have made it these twelve months
one gallon at a time: it is so
very tasty and crunchy
with flaked coconut and almonds,
slivered, and rolled oats, ground flax
sweet from honey and brown sugar,
and that flavor enhanced with happy splashes
of coconut, almond, and vanilla extracts
all mixed
with melted coconut oil and baked
for 13 minutes then turned
and baked for 13 more
at 325 until golden
brown and glistening from the egg whites, oh,
can you smell it! the confluence
of aromas, warm and delicious and balanced:
they linger for hours and I do not even
need to nibble
though I no doubt will eat some in the morning
from my favorite clay bowl
the bowl with the chip and the bright
colored rings, with icy whole milk.
I say thank you with a slurp
I do not intend despite its
inevitability. But
no matter: I have no audience
to impress, and, if I had,
she would surely
understand
if not
approve.

The Recipe

Beat well in large mixing bowl:
¼ cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
1 egg white
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
¼ tsp almond extract
½ tsp coconut extract
½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix well with wet ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup ground flax seed

Bake:
Spread mixture evenly on large cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes at 325F. Remove from oven and turn mixture well, then spread again. Bake for another 13 minutes, still at 325F, until golden on top. Remove from oven and turn. Allow to cool. Eat it up!

 

I Must . . . Trust

As I have studied African-American history during this celebratory month, I am heartbroken by the stories of human suffering, and lament the cruelty of which we are capable.  I wonder: Can we elevate ourselves?  Can we be better?  Despite our communal history, I believe we can overcome our baser natures to become better, individually and as a world society.  Let us, together, through kindness, fairness, and toughness, coax from ourselves our better selves, demand from our institutions a new way to see and to be.  Let us trust in whatever forces we believe in, above and within, to achieve greater equality and generosity.  And let us not despair, but choose to move forward and upward with strength.

I Must . . . Trust

Every human life is tragic
if one sees it that way
which I do
much of the time

others capture us
sell us off
for a few coins—
and we sell them
in turn

others grin at us
at the tortures they inflict
our weeping wounds—
and we laugh at them
in turn

they must gather wealth
greater wealth than us all
if they can

they must amass power
greater might than us all
if they can

they must be right
righter than everyone
more justified than us all
and they will

and when they cannot
as they know they cannot
then they rage
then they break their teeth with clenched hatred
and you can do nothing for them
nothing with them

then the devil has full sway
to spit in the face of human virtue
the more the better to grind us
beneath the great granite millstone

and new centuries of civility and law and goodness
may not be enough
to right the listing ship
to tip the rusty scales

and I must trust
though a hundred billion have suffered their way to the grave
with too-scant joys

must trust the Invisible Beyond
through all the manipulations and sorceries
imprisonments and abandonments
the utter isolations

must trust the Silence inside
and kindness and gentleness—mocked
and forgiveness and forbearance—mocked

I must . . . trust
or despair
and perhaps
both

(Image provided by Clker-Free-Vector-Images 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.

Starting the Old Chain Saw

I built this old wood shed as a raccoon pen, but Harvey sent his raccoons to live somewhere else–a good thing, probably, as the raccoons will have fared better, I fared better for not having raccoons to care for, and I now had a covered place for my wood stove firewood supply, all cut with a Husqvarna chain saw Reza lent me before he died, and spit and stacked with my children (see the photos after the poem).  That chain saw was complicated to keep running well and sharp, but I managed, and even taught my sons to use it, until I had to leave home.  And now the youngest must learn on his own, over the phone, and with his own considerable smarts.  I wrote this poem after yesterday’s phone call from Hyrum.

Starting the Old Chain Saw

Well, first you move the blue
lever forward (that’s the choke) then push-
squeeze the clear bulb

five times or so (you’ll see it fill with fuel)
to prime the motor,
and now you’re ready to pull the chord, but,

of course, you need fresh fuel in the tank
(old gas has water in it, and the motor won’t run with water in the gas)
and don’t forget the bar chain oil to cool and grease the chain.

Is the chain loose? The chain can’t be so tight
it binds on the bar, nor falling off neither,
but just loose enough. Pull and pull that chord,

and when the motor starts to putter,
ease that choke back and let that motor purr.
Ease that blade into that old cottonwood,

rock your way right on through.
You’ll know the blade is sharp if the sawdust flies in flakes;
powder means it’s dull.

I’m sorry I can’t be there to help you, son,
but I know you will figure things out:
you will cut the wood of your life,

make beautiful things,
beautiful things:
I will watch, and see.

And here are my children, splitting all that wood we cut in September 2015 and filling the wood shed.

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.

Thoughts about the Inside and Outside of Caves

While visiting my first grandchild with her parents in Kentucky, we chose to spend a day in Mammoth Cave National Park.  Progressing, stooped, through the cave as we took notes on what we noted, I suggested to my son, Brian, a professional writer, that we should each compose a poem of our cave experience, and exchange them with each other.  Here is my effort.

Thoughts about the Inside and Outside of Caves

outside,
the river rises with yesterday’s rains, and tree trunks
are submerged, and footpaths are submerged, all in
a swirling brown tangle, and roads and bridges
are consumed in opaque immersion

studded steel stairs take us
in steep angles and twists, and we must
contort in our down following

walls drip and ceilings drip and despite hundreds
of hands ahead the cold railings drip
new water as we grip and slide,
never relinquishing the rod
for our fears of stumbling—how gladsome the amber lights,
subdued!

silhouetted cave crickets hang on long legs, harmless
but fearsome in our spidery imaginations,
crickets that browse on leafy detritus and migrate
back to the passages to drop kind guano
for undetected little creatures having little
else for their feasting

so many scratchings scar the stone and the curtains
hang chipped from many who did not know and more who knew
but did not care: these defaced bulkheads
reveal the bulk and bent of humankind—I exhale:

do not touch the walls:
do not touch the curtains:
do not touch the crickets:
they are perfect…

we happen to accompany a choir of forty
tied and bonneted Mennonite youth who gather and take their breath
and fill the high twisting chambers
with eight-part echoes and images of a child
in Bethlehem
and notes that settle on the soul:
no one speaks

outside,
a sycamore lunges
into the gray-cloud sky,
her ancient girth steadfast, the slender of old giants,
her pale smooth arms reaching and reaching,
always reaching

 

spidery cave cricket

with little Lila Jean

 

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.

Another View of Venice

Roaming Seattle’s Pikes Peak Market 20 years ago, I met an artist selling his numbered prints.  This one caught my eye, and I could not resist bringing it home to Utah, where it has hung on my walls these two decades.  And the poem finally came.

Another View of Venice

These fishing boats, here,
moored in rows along the sun-twisted
planks of the wharf, do you see their

fancy colored stripes and singular
bow ornaments, carved, do you see
the fanciful names, betrayals

of deep-buried griefs
of lost loves and unrequited
loves and dreamed-of loves never told, yet

these little boats all bob
along on the swells, prow
through the crests, and launch wide

wakes down the waves’ wild tails, staunch pilots
holding true
to the helms, gazing always

afar off.

Painting “Another View of Venice” by Michael Eberhardt.

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.