Category Archives: Memoir

Sparrows

Hundreds of House Sparrows took up residence in Harvey’s chicken and pigeon coops, eating several pounds of expensive lay mash and pellets a day, squeezing easily through iconic hexagonal chicken wire.  Our project together on my recent visit to Enterprise was to sparrow-proof the coops.  We measured, cut, and stapled fine mesh screen to the coop’s frames, over the chicken wire.  “Poor spugs,” Harvey chuckled, feeling half sorry for the little birds, with Winter coming.  “Don’t worry,” I ribbed, “they’ll just get to know your neighbors better.”  And we laughed.  Stepping through a narrow coop door to tack up some screen, I felt a mystical change in the air, and knew instantly I had a poem.

SPARROWS

hexagonal holes
in the chicken wire fence
contain
the gentle hens
perhaps
the neighborhood’s shy red fox
an escaped white-pelted mink
but not the house sparrows
who land and poke through
with ease
to gorge on lay mash
yes:
chicken wire was made for sparrows

entering the coop
through the narrow coop door
taut spring twanging
I feel a change
in the air
though the air within
is the same
as the air without
passing sparrow-like through
hexagonal holes
but I sense
I have entered
that mystical zone
where tame hens lay perfect eggs
and chortle
and brood
where brown-eyed mice scurry for mash morsels
where startled sparrows swirl
in a tight and dusty vortex
darting out past the propped door
for the last time
before it closes
newly-clad
with tight-holed screen

Harvey with his wife Mary

Harvey and moi in front of the homing pigeon coop

Hexagonal chicken wire overlain with fine screen

Harvey, Mary, and me on our way to church

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.

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On the Jordan

Utah’s Jordan River meanders northward for 50 miles from Utah Lake to the Great Sale Lake.  I have enjoyed kayaking sections of the river with family recently, finding it a beautiful, peaceful, contemplative place, though a challenge to paddle upstream in spots.  I have also enjoyed riding the riverside trail on my bicycle.  I wrote this poem after my third paddle during which I grieved over the recent death of my nephew.  The glassy, calm water, the Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher, the signs of fresh beaver chew, the tree branches arching over the water, all served to sooth my mind a bit.  Water has a way of doing that.  Enjoy.

ON THE JORDAN

down here
low
on the water
so much fades away
unseen
beyond the banks
no buildings
no cars
no traffic lights;
on the water ahead
reflections of sky and trees
behind, a gentle wake
and the river stretches forth
forever, it seems
around gentle bends
all overhung by drooping tree boughs
reaching over and down
for me to paddle
under and around

Kingfisher is belted
brawny in the neck
tall-crested
offended
at my nearness
swooping low
over his reflection
with a chiding cackle;
I chase him from tree to tree
downstream
to the edge of his territory
where he turns
to brave me and my boat
and fly
upstream
excreting as he passes

Heron is indeed
great and blue
perched on a dead-fall
as I round a curve
and hold my paddles still
floating toward
silent and slow;
she grows anxious
turning her big-beaked head
quickly left and right and left and right
on her tall and slender neck
and she leaps to fly
slow-beating wings out
their full six feet;
an irritated trill
downstream

Sparrow, white-crowned
hops about
unconcernedly
on a bed of green algae
and assorted human garbage
beer cans, basketballs
soda cups, sneakers
caught in the branches
of a fallen tree

the river flows slowly
and I can paddle
upstream and down
with even strokes of equal ease
dipping left and pulling back
dipping right and pulling back
reaching forward—and pulling back
water sprinkling

thoughts glide and eddy
opaque
like the brown water
reflecting
sky and trees
thoughts stuck
in the muddy muck
like the butt of a green Russian Olive limb
chewed and planted
last night
by a beaver

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.

Blue Line North

The seminar organizers encouraged us to take public transit instead of driving to the seminar site, so I took the blue line on the TRAX train.  This poem describes my experience.  The poem is longer than I normally post, but reads quickly.  In fact, the more quickly you read the poem the better, for each line represents a fleeting impressionistic moment of my train ride.  I loved riding the train.  The images flashing by were often compelling, sometimes humorous, always thought-provoking.  The people riding with me were diverse and beautiful, each in their own way.  I hope you can glimpse the images I saw as you read.  Enjoy.

BLUE LINE NORTH

Blue line north
to Salt Lake downtown . . .

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

graffitied cinderblock painted incongruously over
Virginia creeper, vermillion in Fall, climbing chain link
brown canal flowing under overhanging elms
mustard caution panels at track pit edge
laughing demon painted on dumpster enclosure
ragged man sleeping curled on concrete under rust-framed dock door, wheelchair waiting
bull thistles eight feet tall, dead and dry
yards of rusting backhoes and bulldozers
traffic crawling below our bridge
No Train Horn signs at crossings
crumpled concertina guarding empty weedy lots
conexes stacked three high, corners rusting through old paint

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

scraggly sunflowers hanging on
scrap yards, wood yards, junk yards
blocks of new apartments, six stories high
cinderblock shell of an old factory

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

back pack, scooter, spiral notebook
blue trench coat, red hoodie, thick double-plaited dreads
tall girl in faded ox-blood jeans standing protectively over her bicycle, back to all, fingering       occasionally through pretty brown pinned-up hair

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

blue tarp carport
stacks of pallets, stacks of pipe, rolls of cable, rows of cars, stacks of blue barrels
scaffolded water tower

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

doors swooshing open to beepings and warnings and flashing red lights
I cannot hear what the voice is saying and saying
her hair so pretty in African beaded braids
transit police are real, so their badges, handcuffs, tasers, guns, and smiles

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

decrepit little houses in tight neat rows
garbage cans toppled, shopping carts flipped, their wheels in the air
shambling urban aspiration: Camelot Inn
unmade bed under bridge, crooked pillow
Available
For Sale
lives blurring by to southward
slight screech on curves, rapid rocking
Fuck Trump painted black in a red red state

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

lovers lounging in park tree shade
Cruse Oil, Inc. elicits a chuckle
red lights flashing on lowered arms
new high-rise wrapping hold-out home
faded silhouettes of removed signs

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

sleepers cuddled into hard window glass
ear buds in all ears
sit quiet:
do not talk to anyone
do not see into their eyes

clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . . clack-clack . . .

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.

Carry Me Away (In Pieces)

Through a hole between two boulders in the retaining wall that supports my home, I discovered honey bees quietly flying in and out.  The thought of these gentle creatures scouting for nectar and bringing it back to my home to make honey gave me no little pleasure.  One day, however, the creatures coming to the hole, and their energy, transitioned from gathering bees to predatory yellowjacket wasps that.  Week after week they came by the thousands to cannibalize the bees and dismantle the hive, chewing all to balls of cud they carried away and fed to their hungry larvae, hoarding the rest for their own late-summer stores.  I wanted to kill them all–two cans of wasp spray would make it an easy job.  Ultimately, I decided to let nature do what nature does.  I found in the scene a metaphor for what we might feel life does to us.  We move peacefully along, minding our own business, making our small contributions, caring for our home and kin, when malicious forces seems to lay siege, hoping to dismantle and destroy.  Our way, however, is not to give in to fatalism but to take charge of our fate with energy, enthusiasm, and hope, if we can.  I am working on it.

CARRY ME AWAY (IN PIECES)

Deep in the space between
two boulders
the honey bees forged their hive,
going gently out
and from flower to flower,
coming quietly in
with their cargos
of nectar,
until the yellowjacket wasps
discovered and attacked
in steady swarms
that killed and carried away,
in tiny cut-up pieces,
the bees,
the honey,
the hive,
coming wildly in,
going frantically out
to feed their clamoring young
the bees,
the honey,
the hive,
hurrying in the heat,
before Winter found
just an empty hole.

Mountain Song

On this fourth anniversary of beginning my Rabbit Lane blog of poetry, memoir, song, and craft, I have decided to post the very first poem I wrote, at about age 11, entitled “Mountain Song.”  In the intervening 43 years, I have written over 450 poems, contained in a massive binder on my bookshelf.  I look at that binder and think, “There, between the covers, is my soul.”  Writing poetry is not an intellectual exercise for me.  Certainly I use my best intellect to hone diction and line.  But for me each poem must arise from a compelling image, emotion, or memory.  Anything else is mere words on a page.  My rough, juvenile poem below expresses my love of nature.  I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you live looking for the hidden depths underpinning all we experience.

MOUNTAIN SONG

I am the mountain.
I stand majestic and tall.
I am the mountain.
I look over and take care of the valley.
I have a vest of trees,
of green piney trees.
I stand above all other mountains.
I stand majestic and tall.

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.

Lavender

To my darling daughter and her lucky groom.  May life’s blossoms ever bloom.

LAVENDER

My lavender has gone to seed:
soft blue blossoms
to brown scratchy scales;
perfume to dust.

You wanted
branches of blue blossoms
for your bridal bouquet.
But they won’t do,
I am sorry to say:
they simply will not do!

Trim the branches back,
you said patiently,
and we will see.
We still have a month,
and they may bloom again,
yet, blue and fragrant.

I trimmed,
I hope,
enough.

 

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.

Coming Home (1940)

How often I have wondered about my grandfather, when he came home from work to find his family gone and his house empty.  Having recently experienced divorce myself, I could not help wondering about his grief as I wallowed in my own.  He died before I was born, so I know him only through stories.  I think I would have liked him.  I knew and loved my grandmother.  I do not judge or blame either one.  I am sure they each did their best.  Now it is up to me to do mine.

COMING HOME (1940)

The man came home
from his lab at Utah oil
to find
an empty house.
The rooms stared,
bare, open-mouthed.
She had left,
taken with her
his own little tribe:
Weezy—6
Sonny—5
Wiggy—3
Gone.
The man sat
against a wall—
it does not matter which wall—
he sat and
he cursed and
he roared and
he sobbed and
he rocked and rocked and rocked and rocked
as he sat
on the floor
against a wall,
looking at the white walls,
looking at rectangular patches
on the white walls
where portraits and landscapes and mirrors had hung,
looking at white textured cobwebbed ceilings,
looking at the fixture with the bulb burnt out,
looking at the worn tan shag,
worn except where the sofa had been,
where he sat,
against a wall,
wondering how, and where, and why
everything
had vanished.

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.