Category Archives: Contemplation

A Time to Prune

Erda, Utah

Fall reminds me of climbing high into apples trees to join my church congregation in picking and selling large red delicious apples as part of our annual church fundraiser.  How I loved my perches high in the trees, munching on sweet apples that had not seen a refrigerator.  As a boy, this was the height of happiness.  We returned later, when the leaves had fallen and air had grown quite cold, to prune.  Seeing a tree, I feel a compulsive desire to prune, to improve its shape, its health, its fruit-bearing potential.  And, at pruning time, I contemplate whether, during the previous year, I adequately pruned myself, to improve my shape, my health, my fruit-bearing potential.

A TIME TO PRUNE

Mid-Winter
is the time to prune apple trees,
with sheers and saws and snippers.
All upward-pointing twigs must go:
leave the balance to bud and to bloom,
to offer hanging fruit
to the groping hands of Fall that fill
brown paper sacks and assorted used boxes
with flaps folded in.

Top it flat,
declutter it within,
to admit Summer’s ripening sun,
with no suckers upward pointing,
stealing the sap of Spring
from the blossoms, from the fruit.

Send the children scurrying high
to pluck sun-red apples,
to crunch sweet freshness,
to gaze across orchard top to ocean’s horizon.

Sell the bulging bags and boxes
by the roadside,
at the church bazaar.

Oil and sharpen the shears.

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.

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See My Wings

On my recent cycling and hiking forays into the local canyons, I have been graced with the presence of hundreds of gorgeous, enormous Tiger Swallowtail butterflies.  Such amazing creatures!  Utterly vulnerable, yet mighty and magnificent in their beauty and flight.  I reached into the memory of my butterfly collecting days (God forgive me) and my first experience of seeing a butterfly wing under a microscope.  That these stunning creatures can fly on flimsy wings astonishes me.  They embody such a rare combination: beauty and strength and humility.  With no worry for their future, with no thought of the impossibility of them against the world, they fly and fly, in spite of the skeptic.  This poem grasps at the metaphor of a butterfly’s flight to contemplate the concepts of beauty, introspection, the flight of the human soul, and the finding of hope, faith, and trust in this life.  I hope you enjoy it.

SEE MY WINGS

Look closely
at my wings,
carefully,
do not touch,
scrutinize
up close
with the microscope of your brain
and see,
see scale upon scale
in row upon row,
the most exquisite tapestry
known:
orange and blue
spots and whorls
blending
into one another;
yellow and black
fields and stripes,
veined,
coursing
under Sun’s heat
and tiny flutterings
that flash beauty unabashed and unaware,
that lift on wing
into apparent invisibility
of air and sky,
of breath and life,
of trust
implausible and true.

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.

A Day to Rejoice!

I sat in my home recently, contemplating my blessings.  I could see quickly that they abound.  I felt to rejoice on that day and wrote this poem.  I thought it fitting to post the poem on Fathers Day.  I hope that you all find reasons to rejoice today and everyday.

A DAY TO REJOICE!

Today
is a day
to rejoice:
A Rejoicing Day!

Do you see
there
on that wall
those photographs
of young people who
consider
you their friend, who
trust
you with their hearts, who
love
you despite your imperfections, who
call after
you, papa, dada, pops,
smiling from their place
on that wall, who
forgive
you
today:
A Rejoicing Day!

What do you think of these
bratwurst,
tell me:
stadium brats,
beer brats,
smoked brats,
sweet Italians—grilled
on that Father’s Day grill
under flames leaping after dripping juice—
which do you like
best?
You like them all?
A Celebration Day!

No booby-trapped doors.
No roadside IEDs just waiting to rip off your limbs.
No bullets through your windows on a Sunday afternoon.
You can walk
to your church,
you can pray and sing
and lift your hallelujah hands to the heavens
and not get beheaded for it;
you can hold your grandbaby,
almost smiling,
and have
a reasonable hope
in her
prosperity and peace—
a reasonable hope.
Yes,
I declare it:
A Rejoicing Day!
A Rejoicing Day!!

Then
there
is
you:
your wrap-around hugs, tight,
your battalions of butterfly kisses, soft,
your letting go and letting God,
your dogged determination
to forgive
me.
I am permitted to dream,
am I not?
A Jubilation Day!

The sun shines.
The rain falls.
The garden grows its fruits.
The church steeple rises
toward the sun in heaven,
rises,
with your heart, in
a reasonable hope
that the world,
for all its cracks and chasms,
is a home worth living in
on this
Rejoicing Day!

 

(Note: parts of this poem are autobiographical; other parts are aspirational.)

Frames

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Sitting at my desk, staring at the framed pictures on the windowsill, I began to contemplate the nature of frames: frames around pictures; frames around windows and doors; frames around issues.  Squares; circles; rectangles.  My brain beats against the frame of my skull, my heart in its rib cage.  I thought about the relationship between frames and things framed.  Do frames imprison, complement, constrain, guide?  Here is my poem exploring the idea of frames.

FRAMES

Frames around windows—
windows and doors.
Frames around paintings
and pictures of smiling children
missing their baby teeth.
Frames around issues of law
in a reply memorandum.

Squares and rectangles,
borders and limitations.

Frames around the innocent
without alibi.
Frames around political cartoons
and Sunday morning comics.
Frames around Christmas cards,
posters and book titles,
product labels and lists
of edible ingredients, tri-fold
advertisements and dollar bills.

Circles and hedges,
boxes and constraints.

Forever

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Ice Crystals on Wood

I believe in an afterlife.  I believe that human beings are eternal beings.  We always existed in some form, and will live forever, always improving and growing, with the objective of achieving our full potential.  I sometimes consider what I will not be able to do during my lifetime that I would like to do in the hereafter.  So much!  This poem touches upon that wish.  In the meantime, I had best be making the most of this life, this time!  This is our time to choose, to learn, to love, and to forgive.

FOREVER

In Heaven
(if allowed)
I shall revel in eternity.

I will first master music:
a century for the cello;
a century for the oboe;
a decade or two for each other;
a millennium to compose for them all.

After music will come languages,
a decade each, longer for
dazzling Thai, Bushman, and Navajo.

I shall then conquer the science
of deoxyribonucleic acid
and genomic switches—
ten millennia might do.

I will take three centuries
to tackle cosmology:
quasars, black holes, star-birth;
encounters subatomic to intergalactic.

Then, I will study systems:
water and air and heat;
flora and fauna;
soil and seeds;
the interdependency and synergy
of all things.

Lastly, perhaps, will come
my study of the human mind:
the joys, the hurts;
the addictions and dysfunctions;
the condition of perfection.
A million millennia
will make a good beginning.

For the remainder of forever
I shall endeavor to learn
kindness, humility, patience,
generosity, and forgiveness:
the true arts of eternity.

Grail

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How does one put into words the fragility, beauty, and precious nature of life?  The more words we use, maybe, the closer we get–adjective upon adjective.  Or, perhaps, only a poem, with the fewest words, but bursting with meaning and imagery, can do the job.  Even then, words might not be capable at all, and we must yield to an embrace, a kiss, a memory, a lullaby.  My poem Grail is an attempt to encapsulate life, or at least a bit of it.  I hope you enjoy.

GRAIL

Even
a cracked and empty eggshell
evokes awe for new life.

The infant, you cradle,
as if a spark,
ephemeral,
of something infinite,
or divine.

Hold her, tight
and careful,
while she is yours
to hold.
She will bury you,
someday,
with roses and tears,
and tell your story:
you will inspire,
still, from the crypt.

First cry, first tear.
First laugh and first kiss.
Sips from the holy grail.

Finding Sleep

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I went to bed early one evening, overcome by fatigue, stress, over-stimulation, and worry.  But I could not sleep for all the ambient sounds that my ears so perfectly picked out.  Instead of sleeping, I scrawled out this poem.  Was it really sleep that I needed?  Or did I need the ability in the moment to find joy and wonder in all that surrounded me?  Did the ear plugs help or hinder my state of being?  Let me know what you think.

FINDING SLEEP

Bulbous beetle sees
my nightstand light
and bounces his exoskeleton
against the vertical trampoline
of the window screen,
bounces three times,
his lace wings rasping like
sheets of stiff cellophane;
he can’t enter into my room
to reach the light he longs for,
and we both are the better for it.

Incorporeal sounds sail through—
a filly whinnying over his weaning,
a puppy straining and yapping
at her collar and leash,
our cat defending her kittens
against the neighbor’s surly tom,
children screaming delightedly
as they run at night in the grass,
only to bicker over turns
on the round trampoline—
they all drift in
to settle upon me
like a New England Bible
on a dying man’s chest.

Orange plugs twisted into my ears
dull it all, stop even
the crooning of the crickets
and the breeze’s inviting whisper.