Category Archives: Beauty

Arco-Iris

On a recent evening, the image of a piece of thick chalk popped into my mind, perhaps from an old photo of my daughter’s driveway chalk drawings, perhaps from an web ad for a sidewalk chalk contest.  I decided to see what I could make of it.  The Portuguese word “arco-iris” is one of my favorites, meaning “rainbow.”  For this poem, I imagined my daughter making long, curving sweeps with her pastel chalks, to make a rainbow.  I hope you enjoy it.

ARCO-ÍRIS

make me an arco-íris
a pretty one
take this piece of chalk
here: scrape a long arc
on rough-brushed concrete
a yellow arc
a nice, thick arc
the chalk on its side
take this piece of chalk
here: grind out the green
the blue, nice long injured
arcs
now here the pink, and red
put the purple above
or beneath, either way
just make me an arc
an arc
before
rain


Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.

Skyward

In our struggles to get it all done, to get ahead in the world, do we stop often enough to observe nature’s beauty, to smell gorgeous blooms, to listen to bird song, and to feel the warmth of the sun on our upturned face?  This poem is about slowing down and noticing the miracles of nature all around us.

SKYWARD

Do not look directly
at the Sun; instead,
look upon all
the Sun touches;
see the tall trees
wave in the wind;
draw in the aromas:
the many-petalled rose,
pink peonies,
bunches of lilac blooms;
tingle in the ice-melt
bouncing over boulders,
brushing over moss;
sink your toes
into the sandy surf,
white sails and gulls
highlighting the horizon;
contemplate the warmth
across eight billion miles
on your skin,
the glow through
closed lids turned
skyward.

Commandments

In our lives, in this world, so much of what we hear screams at us; so much of what we see strains the eye; so much stimulus overwhelms our senses.  So how do we sense the sublime? How do we discern the quintessential?  Beauty and ugliness both surround us.  To see beauty despite what is ugly requires both a choice to see, and a belief that beauty is there to be seen. For a moment, put aside religion, God, spirituality, and morality–and trust that intrinsic beauty and goodness are real.  That is when you will see.  My poem “Commandments” points at the difficulty of having faith in goodness, of sensing the sublime, of believing in beauty, touches on the straining effort faith requires, but affirms the reality and virtue of light, goodness, beauty, and sublimity, and their power to eclipse evil.

COMMANDMENTS

Of you
I require
to hear Wren’s peep
through the hurricane’s howl,
to stare at the sun
yet see Luna fly,
to feel the breeze on your skin
as you’re quartered and drawn.
I demand your peaceability
despite warmongerings and deceits,
against abominations and lying hearts.
Your peaceable walk
I adjure.
Discern the beauty
of the muddy speck,
the song
in the screech and cry.

Fly

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A butterfly, though battered, does not cease to fly.  It pays no mind to the sloughed scales that leave it cracked and drab.  Though not as graceful, perhaps, as in younger days, the butterfly yet lilts from flower to flower, following scents of sweetness.  So must I not give up because I am cracked and broken, weary, and showing my age.  The world is beautiful still, sweet still, ripe and available still, for me, for you.

FLY

Today you limp
on air:
wings faded,
edges serrated,
tails broken off.
Still, flowers
beckon
you to push awkwardly on,
to cling with three barbed feet.
Uncurl your coil
to taste the sweetness
of the flowers
today.

To the Mountain

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This life’s journey can seem hard.  No–it IS hard!  In some ways life is meant to be hard (but not cruel or brutal) because it is through struggle and effort that we learn and grow, that we become better selves.  So often I have resisted the upward climb in my life.  My legs ache.  My lungs burn.  I feel fatigued.  I just want to rest.  And it’s ok to rest when needed, so long as we keep an upward direction.  Learning new skills.  Solving tough problems.  Choosing to forgive. These expand our minds and hearts.  These ennoble and redeem.  So, focus on that beautiful mountain top, and climb!

TO THE MOUNTAIN

The wind blows cold upon this mountain:
you reach out frigid fingers
to winch me up, to the summit,
but I refuse and split my stupid shin
on an unforgiving stumbling stone.

The air rests thin upon this mountain:
I suck and gasp with each heavy foot fall,
glancing away from your easy smile;
shin blood congeals;
the mucous freezes in my nose.

A smell sits rank upon this mountain,
from so many pissing travelers
and their perennial flotsam of tumbling toilet paper,
jagged aluminum cans, jolly rancher wrappers,
plastic bottles that will last a millennium.

Blue lupine, firecracker penstemon, Indian paintbrush, golden columbine, fireweed, asters,
daisies, monkeyflower, beard tongue, shooting star:
you redeem this mountain,
remind and rebuke;
you sing the beautiful song
to the beat of sheep hoofs
and the chirps of pikas and marmots.
You sing the beautiful song.

(Photo of Mt. Timponogos, Utah, in July, by the author.)

Yes

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Driving alone toward Zion National Park in southern Utah one night, the full moon appeared above the redrock cliffs, shining large and bright and white.  I found myself suddenly flooded with tender emotions, wanting desperately to hold and be held.  I wrote this poem to help me remember the image of the immaculate moon, and my emotions upon spying her.  Please do me the honor of understanding that this is not a sex poem.  Rather, this is a poem about the powerful and wonderful feelings that can accompany intimate romantic love, even across great geographic distance.

YES

I want to make love to the moon.

I want to caress her creamy, naked curves.

I want to whisper grateful sobs for withholding nothing but judgment.

Would she deign, I would make gentle, generous love to the moon.

Susquehanna

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This scene from 2013 is in the town of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, is the most idyllic I have ever seen.  “I want to live here,” I whispered to myself again and again as I looked over the tall corn toward the farmhouse and barn.  “This is where I want to be.”  Have you had this experience of seeing your dream home, your dream town, and sighing loudly but forlornly with love and satisfaction? Boy did I fall hard for this place.  I didn’t want to leave.  But my wife and children were in Utah; my parents and several siblings were in Utah; my job (and my income) was in Utah.  So I went back to Utah, not unhappily, but leaving a part of me behind in Amish country.  My poem Susquehanna braids a dialogue between intimate partners with a description of place.  Do you sympathize with or relate to one person over the other?  Or are they both unrealistic, even extreme?  Do you have the courage to pursue your dreams in spite of opposing voices?  (I hope I do, but I’m not sure.)

SUSQUEHANNA

I could live here,

he dreamed,
gazing
from a ridge-top
road

And what would you do
Mr. Lawyer? It would
ruin the place—and you—to dive
into their divorces

at the far-off
river meandering
in graceful curves

and mangled hands
and rat poisoned livestock.

Still, I could
live here: right there:
on that farm:
see
the red barn, tilting?

where the feet
of mountains meet,
a reflecting ribbon,
shining silver
beneath a bright
sky,

I could right it,
help it stand straight
again.

You and whose budget?
Not yours, surely,
and not mine!
And what would you do
with a farm, anyway?

flanked in leafy
darkening green

You couldn’t fix
a door knob
let alone
a bailing wagon.

transforming
to iridescent gold
under the alchemy

You don’t know your rye
from your barley or oats
or triticale wheat.
You,
a farmer!

of the slowly setting
sun.

I could live here:
me: right here.