Category Archives: Memoir

Pals

My son Hyrum and I recently visited with one of my life’s heroes, Harvey Russell.  Harvey has been a mink rancher, tanner, mountain man, handyman, and friend to American Indians.  He helped me build my chicken coop and brought me to a four-hour sweat ceremony led by Sun-Chiefs.  His Indian name is Many Feathers.  Arriving at Harvey’s place, Hyrum and set to work helping Harvey with his chores and projects, during which he told stories of the “old days” and we laughed and enjoyed just being together.  The happy juxtaposition of these two men, one 16 and the other 81, struck me.  They got along marvelously together, each respecting and enjoying the other.  Kindred spirits, perhaps.  Those ruminations led to this little poem.

PALS

Two men
work together
one 16
the other 81
one coming up
the other moving on
little alike, perhaps,
yet
both keen
to learn
to fashion with sinewy fingers
to be busy in doing
to stand back, dusty and bruised,
admiring their handiwork:
two men
sitting, grinning, laughing
together
each helping the other up and on

Here are more pictures of our visit.

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.

Beyond

Is it cliche to say that the life of every individual is filled with many disappointments?  Perhaps.  But one’s experience of disappointment, and the grief that goes with it, is never cliche, but is very personal and real.  This poem is about not giving up when life gets hard, about accepting divine assistance that can feel like diving deprivation, and about keeping going, however weak we feel we have become.

BEYOND

My crude raft swirled,
slow and rudderless,
and I, Emaciated,
trembling with hunger-
lust, I clutched
a suddenly-appearing bowl,
steaming gruel, to devour.
Refrain, chided the white
cloud, crimson-laced,
kindly:
Your feast awaits beyond;
beyond the mountains.
“Ahhii-aii!” was my wail, choked.
“But I am . . . so . . . hungry!”
I collapsed with convulsions,
upsetting my salvation, spilling
all through the cracks
to salt water.
“It is finished,” I death-groaned,
as the sky echoed Beyond,
and a breeze picked up,
with a current
I could not see,
toward the mountains.

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.

Looking Up

The night’s newly-fallen snow coaxed me into the canyon for a solitary hike.  As I trudged along, often sinking up to my knees, I tried to focus upward on the beauty around me.  But I have noticed how often I focus downward on the trail and miss seeing that beauty.  This poem is about perspective, about looking up to see and to have our soul enriched and uplifted.

LOOKING UP

Hiking
this precarious trail
I am guilty
of looking always down
at the rocks and roots
that would send me sprawling,
tumbling, bleeding

I am missing it:
streaks of Tanager and Goldfinch
leaves green upon green
Oregon grape blossoms: yellow cream
orange-lichened branches arching over
blue sky above

this Black-capped Chickadee
sings to me
demanding I stop
insisting I look up
to see her
to see the world
and I invite her to come into me
and to fly around freely in my soul

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.

Hello, Harrold Lewis

A friend of mine told me today about how, whenever she visits a cemetery to pay her respects to her departed loved ones, she always seeks out the tombstone of a random stranger, with whom she stands and converses for a moment, honoring his or her memory and life, though she does not know them.  How sweet of her, I thought.  How noble and kind and good.  As I considered whether a poem might be hiding in that scene, the name Harrold Lewis appeared in my thoughts (I do not know a Harrold Lewis), followed by the images and sounds of a fictional cemetery encounter between an old British seafarer and a deceased whaling colleague (the motif thanks to my currently reading Melville’s Moby Dick).  Story, memory, friendship–such powerful, enduring themes living inside us all.

HELLO, HARROLD LEWIS

Hello, Harrold Lewis.
How fare ye this day?
Does the climate suit ye?
No scabies or scurvies?
The cook makes a good biscuit?
I see your stone has tipped a bit
more since last I came.
I cannae fix that,
but I’ll clip the vines and grass away,
and I’ll scrub the soot from your face.
Born 1776? July 4?
That be a good year, matie, a good year.
Thar be many a notice the day o’ your comin’,
to be sure. Quite a celebrity,
ye were! Harrold Lewis,
where do ye go from here?
How shall ye sail?
Gone sailin’ to a distant shore!
be more than words ‘graven o’ your grave.
Methinks ye be standin’ o’ the cross trees,
leanin’ o’er the wide blue,
sweet breath o’ the world in your hair,
searchin’, searchin’, a’crying’
“Thar she blows!”

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

On my last several jaunts into the snowy canyon near my home, I have carefully selected bits of nature that to me were beautiful, emblematic, and expressive of the mystery of life.  As I stepped through deep snow, my pockets and my mind full, I seemed to connect with the lichen-covered trees, with the blue sky, with the generations.  Scattered words began to coalesce into coherent expression, and a new poem came into being.

MEDICINE

Juniper berries:
purple and cream:
diminutive.
Box Elder seed.
Mountain Maple whirligig.
Acorns from the Gambel Oak.
Aromatic Sagebrush sprig,
powdery purple green.
Gifts from the Mother:
Earth – Universe – Divine:
connecting
nourishing
invisibly:
Medicine:
tokens, artifacts, charms, talismans,
DNA,
bits of living stuff:
still and unpretentious
in the shallow of tight weave:
Indian basket.

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.

Living

My youngest children came to visit me tonight, to share a meal, to talk about the day, to learn and to play: to be a family.  As they left with a wave and a “Love you, Dad,” I pondered the nature of life and relationships, and wrote this poem.

LIVING

They wave
a backward glance
Love you, Dad
are gone down
the road under
occasional street lamps
a white glaring gibbous;
just yesterday:
dull, dark, red.
They have blessed me
for an evening, as children
are wont, with stories
of their adventures,
kisses on craggy cheeks,
back-patting hugs:
mere youthful presence.
Some distance down
the road their own children will come
on an evening,
find them glad, and lonely:
grateful. I travel now
and again to my parents,
to ponder the passing of time
and story, the transfer
of character and contribution,
on loss and life:
loneliness. I have built
my crooked, creaking house
on robust stones. Flowers
will bloom above
my grave.

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.

Silver Cross

Truly special gifts come but rarely in one’s lifetime, and expected even less.  What was my surprise, then, to receive in the mail, from another continent, across an ocean, the gift of a small silver cross.  It hung for years from my friend’s neck where, she said, it would always stay.  And now it sat in the palm of my hand.  A precious heirloom, and a friend I will never met: the stuff of poetry.

SILVER CROSS

You wore the little silver cross,
not one inch tall,
on a silver chain
against the swell of your breast.
Where you got it
I never knew.
You wore it,
you told me,
for those you have loved, and have lost,
for those you wished to protect:
you wore it for me.
I never take it off,
you declared.

That same cross,
small and silver,
you have sent, now,
to me–
an ocean away, a continent away, a universe away–
to wear,
cool on my chest,
for those I have loved, and have lost,
for those I wish to see protected,
To give you a precious thing of mine,
you offered,
and, perhaps, to say
good-bye.
I wear the cross
for you.

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.