Category Archives: Memoir

Africatown

Near Mobile, Alabama, sits Africatown, founded by the last group of West African slaves, in 1860, aboard the Clotilda, brought to America.  National Public Radio recently spoke to town residents, historians, and leaders about the town today, its economic, demographic, and environmental challenges, the fight for the town’s survival and identity in spite of 150 years of prejudiced politics, institutions, policies, and people, and the continuing struggles of the founders’ descendants to heal from the scars of enslavement and abuse.  Hearing the story, I ached with the heavy weight of the pains of generations.  I can only hope, and pray, and act for healing, and write.

AFRICATOWN

If you tell me
I will hear
your stories,
your stories of molestation
your stories of starvation
your stories of enslavement.
Tell me of your injustices
tell me of your griefs
tell me of your pinnacles of joy and your chasms of struggle and loss and longing.
For I will sit with them
all
here
and I will press them into my eyes
and I will strap them round my chest
and I will load them upon my back:
I will weep with your weeping.
Then what shall I do?
What shall we do
together
with your stories
all
told
with your pains
all
exposed?
How shall we sit
together
with this history,
how shall we use it and mold something new,
how shall we heal, and mend
now that you have told me,
and I have heard?

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.

The Barrowman

 

Feeling introspective at the start of a new year, my mind is drawn to an allegorical poem I wrote some years ago.  Picture a kindly, good-natured man pushing his produce down a country road in a wheelbarrow with a lopsided wheel.  Reading through to the end, the allegorical meaning will be made clear.  I hope the poem succeeds on its own merits and as a metaphor.  Wishing you all well.

BARROWMAN AND WHEEL

His wooden wheel
turned cracked and worn
flat in two places;
it clunked around
over macadam and cobblestone,
through clutching mud.
But cabbages did not mind,
nor carrots, nor kale, nor turnips,
nor eggs, even, bouncing
cushioned on straw.
Furrowers, weeders, hoers all
wondered
that Barrowman long-suffered such
an imperfection: “Why
endure that clunker?
Carve a new one.
Ease your own way.
Do you have fresh cheese?”
Barrowman nodded a greeting—
good day, and many thanks—
collected his coin,
and pushed on,
arms jerking at the clunking,
remembering the weeks when
he had cut and joined,
rasped and sanded,
mounted his wheel on
axel, wood-pinned,
had pushed on down the path
with his cart and his necessary wares.
He thought he might
rasp the flat to round,
dowel-pin new curves,
or rim the whole with costly iron,
someday.
Barrowman grinned at his lopsided wheel,
turning and turning,
clunk-clunk,
clunk-clunk,
bearing nonetheless the load,
as he pushed on.

The clunky, deformed, imperfect wheel represents me with my imperfections, weaknesses, and defects, in addition to the wear and tear of life.  The Barrowman is my divine, who allows me to participate in his cosmic work, despite my defects, and who even finds joy in my willing serviceability.  As we go down the road together, he will fix me and strengthen me sufficiently to carry on.  We are, in a real sense, a team, for though I am unwieldy, still the barrow needs a wheel.  But don’t push the allegory too far, for it does not represent a literal correspondence but a loose, metaphorical one.  For my part, I am just pleased to be part of a benevolent cosmic plan of growth, fulfillment, and happiness.

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.

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.

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.

Wood Lamps

My children and I worked for months (and in the case of the featured lamps, years) to be ready for the Tooele Arts Festival, a gathering of more dozens of artists and crafters from around the American west, held June 14-16.  I purchased a booth space to sell the family wares.  This post highlights several wood lamps I made with my sons John, Caleb, and Hyrum.  Displaying our art for three days was an intense and rewarding social experience as we interacted with many hundreds of people, not pushing for sales, but just being personable.  We sold three lamps, five rag rugs crocheted by my mother, eight wood bird-beak back scratchers carved by Caleb, and two dozen papier mache floral jars made with my daughter Hannah and my sons, along with 40 copies of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  Making these lamps with my sons has been a meaningful father-son experience for me, and hopefully gave them a sense of creativity, beauty, and business.  You can see our other lamps on the Woodcraft page of this blog.

Burl wood in Sedona red, by Caleb.

Burl wood in Provincial brown, by Caleb.  (Sold $49.)

Cottonwood with larval etchings, by Hyrum.

Root stump, by Hyrum.

Forked branch, by Hyrum.

Slender branch, by Hyrum.

“Anchor” by Hyrum.  (Sold $49.)

“Little Guy” by John.

Hyrum’s first lamp from 2014.

“Old Timer” by Dad (me).  This one is on my night stand.  (Made in 1993,)

“Stone” by Hyrum.

“Ripples” by Hyrum.  (Sold $29.)

Rabbit Lane Preserved

My local newspaper, the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin was so kind to publish a feature article about my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The writer, Gwen Bristol, captured perfectly my purposes in writing the book, as well as what the road and the book have meant to me for 20 years.  Thank you Gwen.  You can read the article by clicking on the link below.

The article follows on the County Commission’s recent Resolution to close Rabbit Lane to motorized traffic and to preserve the road as part of the County’s pedestrian trail system.  Thank you County Commission.

I look forward to the Tooele Arts Festival June 14-16, where I will have a booth featuring several handmade crafts as well as copies of my book.

A walk down Rabbit Lane-Tooele Transcript Bulletin (06-07-18)

Please tell me…

Sitting at my desk, blinds dropped against the too-bright afternoon sun, books on bookshelves to my left, paintings on the wall to my right, surrounded by objects of meaning and story, with not a sound in the house but my breathing, I ask myself, as I have asked a million times, looking deep and hard inside, what is love?

PLEASE TELL ME…

alone as I am
these several years
I ask
again
like I asked
before
and after
and so often
along the long way,
what is love
?

is love sitting side by side
in the shade
as the sun softly sets
and the breeze tickles our faces
and the katydids hum
?

is love calling you
on the phone
when her fever is 103
and you are frightened
and feeling frantic
?

is love slipping a little note
into your suitcase
as you leave
for wherever
for a week and a day
?

is love saying
Love you!!
after every conversation
after every orgasm
after every text
after every meal
?

is love thinking
you are beautiful and charming and smart
?

what is love?
I ask
again again again

is love making love
giving and receiving
pleasure
sensual, sexual pleasure
?

is love leaving you
alone
when you are so very very tired
?

is love daydreaming:
you coming home
kissing you
feeling you
chatting about nothing in particular
looking hard into your eyes
?

is love washing greasy dishes and changing soiled stinking diapers and wiping up vomit and plunging toilets and wanting to wretch myself but holding it down just barely
?

is love wanting you
your company
your touch
your whisper
your presence
so badly
because I am lonely
?

is love giving
only giving
not needing or expecting or demanding or even wanting
reciprocity
but knowing still I need and want
and knowing you will do your best to reciprocate
anyway
?

is love overtly avoiding hurt
merely abstaining from harm
simply wishing, sincerely, for the best
for you
?

is love
a) all of the above,
b) some of the above,
c) none of the above, or
d) a quality so much grander than anything I have ever managed to conceive
?

So I ask you
reader of poetry blogs
liver of life
dreamer, lover, scolder, laborer
body and mind
head to toe
all the way:
what is love
?

Times and Seasons

Name your hardship, your challenge, your agony.  That is what this poem is about.  Is it divorce? abuse? death? disability?  That is what this poem is about.  Caution: if you do what this poem explores, do not do it for too long.  Sooner than later, we need to get out of our fox holes, leave the old battlefields, and make new peace.  We can.  We can.  That is what this poem is about.

TIMES AND SEASONS

A time to retrench,
to dig the fox hole deeper,
though the enemy’s tanks have gone,
the rumble and the smoke and the clatter, gone;
deep ruts angling off in the mud.

A time to hunker down,
to close my eyes and let
the war rage on in
some other field.

My battle is done.
In my trench I hide,
safely.

The House

The Erda house was the house of our dreams, the house we built together, the house in which we reared our children, the house in which we intended to grow old together, to which we would welcome our children and grandchildren for decades to come. But it was not to be. After 17 years in that house, that beautiful house, she asked me to leave, and the dream ended. And that house, she tells me, will soon be for sale, on the market. I wrote this poem to express my old hopes, my dreams, my memories, the agonies of human disappointment—as well as new hopes and dreams for a new future.

THE HOUSE

This is the house:
where
children scampered
through rough-ploughed soil,
pickup up stones and sticks
in advance
of the grumbling John Deere,
disking;
just two, he was,
in broad arcs running
around the house,
barefoot in Spring turf
with untroubled joy, screaming
“Whoopie Ti Yi Yo!”;
where
in that room, up there,
after church, we withdrew—
“Your mom and I need to talk.
Alone,” I announced,
and we talked a little
as we kissed and grabbed
and our eyes rolled back,
and the littlest sat,
her back to the door,
coloring, waiting
for the door knob to turn;
where
lightning sought
out the chimney
through the squall,
blackened outlets,
knocked out the phones;
her three-year-old voice
chuckled all callers:
“We’re not home . . . or
we can’t find the phone . . .
please leave
a message.”

This is the house:
where
our goats died,
our kittens died,
our dogs died,
the skunks and raccoons died,
and we buried them all
in the garden,
sprinkled with rose petals,
sprinkled with children’s tears,
tucked in with old sheets,
topped with stick crosses
that fell over,
covered over
with wild grass
and fast-spreading peppermint
and morning glory vines,
clinging and clambering,
obscuring the low mounds,
next the empty arbor
where the grapes would not grow,
where the rotting birdhouses perched,
houses for angry yellow jackets.

This is the house:
where
smoke oozing
from the chimney
meant a welcome fire
in the stove,
lighted by children
who sometimes forgot
to open the flue
with the sliding lever,
handled with a spring-like bulb
that burned its print
on your hand
at the base,
a welcome, hot, orange, roaring fire,
air hissing through
intake vents,
children lolling on the floor,
on the rag rug I wove
on a handmade loom
from thrift store wool skirts
cut in repurposed strips,
children staring, hypnotized
to happy stupor, waking
enough to ask
“should I put in another log?”
logs cut with Mathew’s
Husqvarna, borrowed
still after his heart quit,
lots cut from the ancient cottonwood tree
where the Bald Eagle once stood,
surveying, glaring
at my mere humanity
far below.

This is the house:
where
we built our chicken coop,
gathered warm pastel eggs,
clucked to the hens,
cut the head off
the devil rooster;
where
we planted our garden,
holding our breath for weeks
until corn blades
shot up, improbably,
pulling weeds, interminably,
sweltering under mid-Saturday sun
for more weeks until
we did not care anymore;
we knew tomatoes
by the red spots
in the green morass.

This is the house:
where
we sang campfire songs—
“Swing Low Sweet Chariot”
“White Wings”
“Springtime in the Rockies”—
roasted wieners, roasted apples,
threw the baseball,
chased the bolted goldendoodle pup,
freed the Black-chinned Hummingbird
from garage incarceration;
where
we cried and screamed and sang and laughed,
chased the goats
that jumped their fence,
found the neighbors’
black angus bull
in the back yard,
heard the Ring-necked Pheasant’s
“Er! Er!” in the man-tall grass,
heard the Mourning Dove’s
muffled wail;
where
we walked on cool evenings,
a family,
on the dirt farm road
named Rabbit Lane.

This is the house
that was mine
until you told me to leave,
told me to leave,
that was mine,
then was yours,
till you sold,
till you sold.
This
was
The House.

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.

The Trick

Living alone changes a person.  I have lived alone nearly three years now, after 27 years of marriage.  The longer I live alone, the more difficult it is for me to be around people.  I become anxious as they use my towels, dirty my dishes, watch my TV, sleep in my spare beds (not making them the next morning), and occupy my space.  I feel compelled to put everything back in its place when they leave.  When I began this new phase of my life, I could foresee the danger of drawing into myself with time as I lived alone.  I wrote this poem one week into the experience.  I fear I have fulfilled my own poetic prophecy of misanthropy.  I need to work that much harder to be social with people in their space and in my space.  If I am not careful, I will become the hermit I feared.  (I am not feeling sorry for myself, just noticing subtleties of change in a human spirit.)

THE TRICK

This will be the trick:
to not slip into idiosyncrasy,
peculiarity, even
queerness,
needing everything to be
just so, or nothing
to be just so;
to not harden to stone or ice, but
to not melt entirely away.

(I took the above photo of a sunrise moon from my apartment balcony a few days ago.)

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.

Little Girl

I experienced today, in church, a moment of purity, of innocence, of love, not due to any sermon or ritual or hymn, but as a gift from a small child.

LITTLE GIRL

I chanced to glance
at a little girl of three
sitting nearby
in the pew:
she looked up at me,
an old man,
not comely to warrant,
and smiled a smile
bright as the spring sun
full on my face.
I could not refrain
reciprocation
and twisted a grin
in return, and found
ice melting,
stone warming,
stiff boughs bending.
Another glance
revealed
colored pencils scratching
intently
between the lines.

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.

Anchors in Wind

Wind blows hard from the south in Summer, the north in Winter, catching the sheet metal at its corners, pulling, ripping, and flapping until it tears off and flies away.  So many nights I laid in bed, listening to the grinding and rapping, unable to sleep, powerless to stop it, and dreading the repair job.  Still, I was proud of my makeshift coop in Erda, Utah, and my chickens and their eggs, and the dusty, sweet smell of dry straw.  This is poem is about needing to anchor the roof down against the wind, a metaphor for anchoring our lives to sound principles against the storms of life.

ANCHORS IN WIND

Wind blows noisily through the leaves,
snaps the brittle branches,
penetrates the pores in my window
screen, sibilating angrily,
seeking for bottles and knick-knacks
to knock off the sills
to break and spill upon the floor,
slams my door on its whooshing way out,
where I have neglected to place a stopping cushion.
The old steel on the chicken coop roof
has come unscrewed on its southern windward sides
to creek and groan and complain and moan
until I climb the stepladder with
a new box of screws
to really, this time,
anchor it down.

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.

Empty Arbor

I worked for years to convince grape vines to grow up my arbor.  I imagined an arbor crisscrossed with verdant vines, heavy clusters of green and red grapes hanging down, and me sitting in a chair underneath, in grape-shade, pleasantly paralyzed by grape and wild flower and spice garden perfume.  But the vines never grew more than a few feet high before turning brown and dying.  Too much water?  Not enough iron or acid to compensate for the alkaline soil?  It no longer matters.  The grape arbor became my bird arbor, hosting many pretty species year-round.

EMPTY ARBOR

Bird feeders swing empty from nails pounded in the arbor.
After years of compost, fertilizer, water, and iron,
the vines still grow sickly and yellow, vines that grow no grapes.
I once dreamed of the arbor covered in a dense green,
with plump, hanging clusters of white and purple grapes.

Bird houses nailed to the arbor sit vacant,
the entrance holes too large or two small, too high or too low,
or too exposed to climbing cats,
vacant but for teaming yellow jackets that relish dark nooks.

The finches prefer the spiny blue spruce nearby.
Who knows where the sparrows and blackbirds live?
But they visit by the hundred, chirping and chasing, cracking at shells.

I must fill the swinging feeders
for the little birds that descend to my empty arbor.

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.

Travelers

Oh Pioneers!  Song of the Open Road.  I have enjoyed reading these and other poems from Walt Whitman’s anthology Leaves of Grass.  Whitman shows such ebullience and enthusiasm for life, such hope for the progress of humanity.  After reading these more than once, I thought to write my own poem about this journey of life, after my own heart and style, inspired by Whitman.

TRAVELERS

Ho!
Fellow traveler!
Share the road
with a vagabond?
May I walk with you
to wherever?
I’ll be glad
of your company,
to be sure!
Such a dusty, lonely road
it has been.
Look at these shoes!
The holes in the soles!
Now, they have seen
a pretty mile or two,
and have a story or two
to tell! Aye!
Hey—them is prodigious
holes of your own!
Wary that stone, now,
friend,
for tis but the tip
of a larger,
and would break your kicking toe!
Whence hail you,
if you do not mind?
It be a long way?
Aye, that be a distance!
You seek
a situation, then, employ?
Or, may I be bold,
my new friend,
flee you a broken heart?
I understand you, aye,
only too well.
Though you walk and walk,
the break follows,
and the sorrow.
You search for solace:
tis natural.
And death—
you know it?
That we all flee,
yet it follows, too close,
stalking,
at times, too close,
from us taking,
left and right,
the ones we love
most. Aye. Aye.
I know it, too,
my brother….
But, my dear fellow!
Look!
See!
The sun sets behind.
Always behind!
And on the morrow?
A New Sun rises!
To be sure.
To be sure!
Let not us part
the way we walk
together,
for we will find
companionship in company,
in the step step step
of our direction,
in the clop clop clop
of our resolve.
The morrow
we will command!
The Heavens will send manna,
coveys of quail,
and waters
from the dry stone!
You shall see!
You shall certainly see!

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.

Birdsong Scratchers

My son Caleb loves to wood carve.  And paint.  And draw.  Creations of all kinds.  Caleb carved these charming bird-beak back scratchers out of tough Russian Olive wood collected near Rabbit Lane.  He has created an Etsy account where you can see each of these awesome artistic bird-beak-scratchers highlighted individually.  Pay a visit; take a look.  Way to go Caleb!

(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.)

Wilderness

Are we not all wanderers, searchers, seekers?  No matter the strength or persuasion of our faith, no matter our accumulation of years and wisdom, still we trudge through time and space.  Sometimes we dance, tip-toe.  Often we wallow and slog.  Mists of darkness move in to shroud our discernment, obscure our way.  Such clouds are a thing of this world only, for the sun always shines, always burns at millions of degrees and sends light and warmth over millions of miles, to us.  I offer this poem to the good people of earth who care about doing good and right, who sometimes lose their way, and who keep on walking the path.

WILDERNESS

“I am in a wilderness,”
you said to me. Still,
the cross rests round
your neck. Delicate silver.
Waves crash against pier and rock:
I can hear through your open door.
“It grows bigger,
my wilderness, the expanse
wider.”
Crashing waves; cars
throttling away; voices
through the wall;
the cat slinks by;
a movie plays
in the next room.
You bake muffins, chocolate chip,
in the tin, wondering,
silver resting on skin.
You sit high on a stool
at the table, sipping coffee,
sipping brandy,
thinking Help me, Jesus
with a chill:
you have to go
out once again, out
to make your way, somehow.
I am
in my
wilderness.

Play Me a Song

I closed my eyes as my son eased into a Bach cello suite during his recent lesson.  I drifted quickly into serenity and dream.  Keep playing this song, I thought.  Never stop.  And the words began to appear, first describing what I heard, what I felt, then what I saw, and finally what I became.

PLAY ME A SONG

Play me a song
on that big string cello,
low and slow,
to swell in my chest
and tighten my throat
and get me to crying soft.
Play me that song
again. I want to hear it.
I want to hear
as the walls fall away
and the roof flies off
and trees and flowers
grow up through the decomposing floor,
around me, close,
aromatic, shading
as the song goes on,
low and slow,
till my cocoon is complete
and I wait until Spring
to emerge, your song
still sweet in my ears.

Anniversary of Rabbit Lane

Today is a happy day for me: it marks the 1st anniversary of the print publication of my book 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.  Thanks to the nearly 200 of you who purchased and read the book in its inaugural year.  Thanks to those in my community who are working to raise awareness for the preservation of Rabbit Lane as a pathway for walkers, joggers, and cyclists.  Thanks to those in your communities who are finding and saving Rabbit Lanes everywhere.  These are special places that deserve to be preserved as a legacy for generations.  I hope we have the vision and persistence to preserve our respective Rabbit Lanes as special historical, cultural, social, and environmental icons.

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road is available in print and full-color Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

That Man

Grand Teton from Table Mountain, by Caleb Baker

Sitting in church I noticed a rough-looking man handling his three little boys with patience and kindness and gentleness.  He inspired me, and I felt filled with gratitude for the method of this man.  Those boys will know they are loved, that they matter.  Those boys will learn that kindness is the way of true manhood as they marry and raise their own children in turn.  My wish and prayer is for kindness to find ever more-frequent expression in this world.

THAT MAN

that man
over there
who ruffles one boy’s strawberry hair
and pats the older gently on the back
and kisses the littlest on top the head and whispers in his ear and smiles,
that man
will raise prophets
and kings
with his kindness

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.

On Hangars

Baker Boys

I have seven children.  Yes, seven.  Four boys and three girls.  I am proud of them and love them.  Sitting at my writing desk tonight, I remembered them when were younger, and chuckled at their antics, one of which was the boys shedding their Sunday go-to-meetin’ clothes after church for more comfortable clothing in which to play Legos and ping-pong and do their sword-fighting, “ching! ching!”.  After one such Sunday, I wrote this little poem.

ON HANGARS

Day’s end of a Sabbath,
and their clothes lie on my bed,
black slacks and black socks,
white shirts inside-out with the sleeves
still rolled and the ties
still under buttoned collar flaps,
left by young ones so eager to play,
while I right each shirt,
loose each button,
extract the slip-knot ties, and
drape three shirts and slacks
on hangars in the closet,
between the dresses and the suits,
where they wait
for the next Sabbath day.

Fall

Fall’s Maple leaves are so beautiful in Settlement Canyon, I cannot resist sharing one of my Fall poems and some photographs of my favorite local haunt.

 

 

 

 

FALL

Fall has become
in my advancing years
a sweet season
sending forth
a settling sense
of things slowing down
preparing to rest
under white blankets
that warm and moisten
against year’s end.
Nights are cool
and days are sunny and cool.
Rows of dry corn
sheaves rasp each other
in the evening air.
Geese wave
a noisy farewell
overhead on their way away.
Greens melt
to candy yellows and reds
smelling earthy sweet
drifting down to become
the richness in the soil
where sleeping segos and tapertips
wait for Spring.

Naiad

Walking tonight, stream-side, I could not help but notice how playful was the water, and I imagined the water spirits having all sorts of fun, with one wary eye on me.

NAIAD

Easy the stream
to think the fairy-
a hundred fairies-
somersaulting over rocks,
pirouetting in pools,
relaxing prone, with smiles,
in the calm places,
passing me, on the bank,
with a wink.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of a 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.

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.

An Evening

We poets seek often to write about things grand: the deepest emotions; the most sublime sunsets; beauty and love. Yet, ponder the potential power of a still life, a self-portrait, a mere sketch. Often, the most mundane of images, visual or verbal, conveys the greatest sense of humanity. I know I am not a great poet, but I think, I feel, I observe, I experience.  And I write. This short poem is a self-portrait-still-life from a year ago, which, I hope, captures a bit of the essence of the human experience.

AN EVENING

A fish fillet simmers
in basil and salted lemon juice.
The baked potato steams
with butter and sour cream gobs.
Three cobs of corn.
Absence of conversation.

Fingers fumble with chords,
picking awkward patterns.
Crooning “Looking for a Lady.”
Absence of applause.

On the big bed,
looking at paintings
on the walls.

 

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.

The Worth of a Man

Harvey Russell

I closely watched Harvey and his family as they celebrated his 80th birthday.  They spoke warmly of memories and sang his praises.  How nice, I thought, that they, at least, recognize his worth.  Harvey, though elderly and arguably past his prime, embodies an enormous wealth of tradition, strength, virtue, memory, and love.  Though a quiet obscurity to many, he is a hero to me, as recounted in my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  So many in western culture write off and even ridicule the elderly, seeing only weakness and faded glory. This fact I sorely lament.  We would do well to remember their strength, their sacrifice, their accomplishments, their contributions, their legacy, and their love.  Rather than relegated to the “old” category, implying uselessness, they should be lifted up as timeless mentors to be followed, learned from, cared for, and revered.  As you read this poem, ponder for yourself, What is the worth of an aged man and woman?  I hope your answer is bounteous.  Consider sharing your thoughts in a comment.

THE WORTH OF A MAN

What is the worth of a man
when his ears refuse to hear
and shrouds eclipse his sight,
when his back bends low
and his hands quiver,
when he forgets things large and small
and the young lose their scant patience
with his remembrances and his gait?

He has made whatever difference, whatever contribution,
he is going make.
If he hasn’t said it by now, it won’t be said.

So much counsel.
So much love.
So much poetry.
Unspoken.

He is a mere memory,
and fading at that.

That is what you think.
That is what so many think.

Remember when
he taught you to tame a fox and skin a weasel and splint a songbird’s wing?
Remember when
he bought you a thrift store bike and taught you to fix a flat?
Remember when
he slogged in from the smelter each day after dark, slimed with sweat and soot?
Remember when
you took turns tossing the ball to the family mutt?
Remember when
he told you how to treat a woman, with fidelity, with respect, with tenderness?
Remember when
he called you a numbskull for smoking behind the barn, and stomped the butt out?
Remember when
he carried you, and even sang, and even cried, when your body burned from fever?

But you do not remember.
You spurn the soul what made you.
You rush break-neck from your cradle to your own aged obsolescence.
Tomorrow, as you shuffle and stoop,
they will glance at you and ask,
What is the worth of a man?

Judah’s Shoes

From July 12-31, 2017, I helped lead a troop of 34 boy scouts to the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree, featuring ten days of camping and high adventure activities at the BSA Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.  As part of the jamboree experience, we took the boys to New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C. for eight days before the camp.  On the itinerary was a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  I had read so many books about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and seen so many films, that I dreaded going, or rather, dreaded the grief and pain I knew I would feel upon experiencing the museum.  Still, the boys needed to know and appreciate this awful period of history.  Our youth are those who will see that such things never happen again.  I held myself together as I studied the various exhibits.  But then I came to the room of shoes.  Real.  Tangible.  Worn by the departed dead murdered in the death camps, in the gas chambers.  So many.  Outside the museum, my son and nephew put their arms around me as I collapsed into convulsing sobs.  We must never forget.  This must never happen again.  We must never forget.

JUDAH’S SHOES

This room is
filled
with shoes,
worn brown leather
crumpled and twisted and squashed:

shoes of the stripped and the shamed

they lie upon
one another,
laces yanked,
the pile deep,
crooked and disjointed and mangled:

shoes of children and working men and working women
shoes of rabbis and butchers and violin players

toes point all directions,
searching,
forlorn,
never finding,
their mates lost:

shoes of the gassed and the dead
shoes of the forgotten
shoes of the remembered

 

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.

Psalm

This poem expresses my hope in humanity and in the universal Forces that lift and edify us as we experience life, making us better and better souls.  I believe in a Power that heals, that instructs, and that loves.  I believe that human beings, by exercising the power of choice and by learning principles of goodness, can become noble and powerful and good.  This poem, entitled “Psalm,” is both a prayer and a song, a reaching upward of the human mind to touch the Divine and invoke its powers on our behalf.  Whatever your religious, spiritual, or philosophical inclinations, I hope you will enjoy this poem and the hope to which it aspires.

PSALM

Let thy stiff knees bend
at the hem of that gracious garment,
and touch.
Let thy weary head bow
beneath the benevolent hands
that lift
your face to his.
Let thine eyes permit
his omniscient eyes
to seek out the heights and depths
of your willing and wounded heart,
to close your cracks,
knit together your tears and broken bones,
anoint your bruises with balm.
Let the Mystery fill you,
lift you
above demons and fiends,
over faithless perpetrators,
who possess the power of worms
twisting under the sun.
Sway with the breeze, with the trees.
Soar with the clouds and the high-flying birds.
Dive with the falcons and the raindrops.
Crash and roar with the ocean waves.
Float with the green damselfly, a dandelion seed.
Breathe the winds and swallow the sun.
Arise a new creation, whole,
complete: You:
the glory of God,
His child,
His masterpiece.

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.

Look Around

Finding myself suddenly with completely new surroundings after 20 years, I wrote this poem to describe my momentary impressions of the neighborhood, its houses and people, the scenic backdrop, and of my own emotional reaction to it all. Moving one’s life from here to there can be an overwhelming experience for even the strongest.  There is no substitute for time when acclimating to a new atmosphere. And wherever we go we can find beauty and positivity. But it took me awhile.

LOOK AROUND

Look over the world.
Look to the west where
the sun has fallen behind
the mountains.
Look to the north where
the lake blends
with the sky,
blue on blue.
Look around:
that shirtless man
in the field throwing
a ball to his happy mutt—
this sulking kid carrying
sacs of garbage to the dumpster—
kingbirds surveying
from gable tops, darting
off to snatch flying bugs—
a small pony-tailed girl inching
her bicycle along, training
wheels rattling, a pink helmet
strapped on—
garage doors opened and closed down
the street, an assortment
of deteriorating cars, and a crammed collection
of the detritus of living—
the stop sign standing red, standing.
All is in order:
look around:
everything as it always
is, as it should be,
I suppose.
Now shuffle
back inside,
look around,
turn off the light
again.

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.)

Wood Lamp: Hope

“Hope”

My friend and business associate Randy S. commissioned this lamp, affectionately named Hope, as a companion to our beautiful wood lamp Waves.  Randy selected the wood for Hope from several photographs I sent him in October 2015, seen here from three different views.

Hyrum (15) and I worked slowly over the next year and a half to transform this rough piece of wood into the beautiful lamp featured above.  The first step was, as always, to clean and smooth the wood.  Next we drilled the small surface that would support the bulb socket, stained the wood with several coats of dark Provincial stain, and inserted the nipple pipe and socket.

Preparing the table-top base came next.

We mounted the lamp wood onto the base with wood glue and several three-inch screws, wired the lamp, varnished the base and lamp with gloss polyurethane, and caulked around the lamp base.  We routed the base bottom to house the lamp chord.

The final step was to suspend the lamp upside down between two padded chairs and attach black felt to the bottom of the base.

Randy took the lamp to his home office to join Waves after nearly two years.  He said it was worth the wait.

(Purchase Price: $500.)

Baker Brothers Lamps was founded to help my sons earn money for the 2013 and 2017 National Boy Scout Jamborees and to pay for their high school athletic activities and university studies.  It has been so fun for me to work on this hobby with my sons, transforming rough wood into beautiful lamps.

Red Rock Trail

Living in Utah, I have come to love what we call “red rock country.”  Bizarre twisted shapes dominate canyon landscapes, in every hue of red and orange, remnants of ancient tectonic upheavals and eons of erosion.  On the trails winding through these hills I have found inspiration and wonderment, pondering the forces of creation and nature.  I have held my young children’s hands as we scrambled over boulders and up screes.  We have marveled at the prickly-pear’s crimson bloom and the aromatic sagebrush.  We have laughed at the lizards and cottontails scurrying for cover beneath black brush and Mormon tea.  All, the stuff of awe and sweet memory.  In this poem I look back at an early red-rock-country explorer on horseback.  Enjoy the trail.

RED ROCK TRAIL

shod hoofs
stumble on stones,
leave glintings
behind, sparks,
scramble to rise
to the high red butte;
desert varnish trickles
below, springs
sprout cottonwoods,
beaver chewed,
beaver felled,
feeding, damming
all but flashing
floods from distant rains
beyond, where
snows melt
under desert sun
on the high red butte

Snow Canyon, Utah

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.

Impressions of Erda and Enterprise

I visited recently with my good friends Harvey and Mary Russell at their home in Enterprise, Utah.  I had not seen them for years.  Harvey, my humble hero, is a leading figure in my nonfiction book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  Named “Many Feathers” by American Indians, Harv helped me build my chicken coop and lead me through an Indian sweat ceremony in Erda, Utah.  My impressions during the visit were poignant and bitter-sweet, demanding expression in this impressionistic poem.

IMPRESSIONS OF ERDA AND ENTERPRISE

Car window down:
“Is this Harvey’s place?”
A wave to drive in, and smiles:
three mechanics, brown
where I should have seen white:
lost their teeth to the chew.

Engine block rocks
from its rolling crane.
“You’re the one that wrote the book?”
“And you write poems, too?”
“Yea,” I said, “but
I don’t know a spark plug
from a distributor cap,
like you!”

That storm broke branches off
Harv’s old elm. “Shall I cut them
small for the stove, or long
for the truck bed to the dump?”
“Oh, it’s not your mess—
long for the dump.” I cut them
short for next winter’s warming.

Neighbors burning winter’s detritus,
wind-lopped limbs, old stumps.
Pleasant smell of woody smoke.
The whole family shovels
manure over the garden plot;
rich, dry, composted;
like I used to do, before.

Perfect pens for homers,
robust cocks chortling in one,
slighter hens in the other.
At 79, he still races.

“When he finally left,
he took everything, even
the lightbulbs and toilet seat.”

Worn brown leather boots
on the workbench
by the big rusty drill press,
under dust.

“Will you keep an eye on my place Harv?”
“pow pow pow!”
Ducks falling from the sky,
poached from his neighbor’s pond.

“pow pow pow!”
Geese poached from the sky.
“But I called this time;
they think they own all the birds
in the whole country.”

Old Ekins took
their guns, their geese.
One protested: “Too late:
the goose is in the oven.
Sunday dinner!”
Said Old Jim: “Not too late:
take the Sunday goose out!”

Eight hens scratch in the grass,
keep him in eggs.
Two roosters corral and crow.
Ducks waddle where they will.

The garden tool shed:
a secret privy, with shovel and hoe.
“Toss in a cup of wood stove ash.”
(The neighbors, they don’t know.)

Lilac bushes, just leafing,
a long arcing row
next the dirt drive;
promising purple perfume.

Flapjacks browned on cast iron;
butter; blueberries; pure maple syrup;
my first goat milk, creamy and sweet.

Crazy Cliff dragged a trailer house
up a Skull Valley mountain
with a rickety track hoe; by some miracle
the belcher didn’t topple over backwards.

A lightning bolt split:
two fires funneling down
to that trailer. A bomber dropped
red retardant dust,
panicked mustangs plunging through.

Mother made Mary
give away her baby;
only 15. She married
the man at 16, and met
her first-born son 49 years late.

Brussels and yams
roasted soft
in olive oil and herbs;
fresh bread and pot roast.

Third and fourth marriages
for both: married twice
to each other: “We just drifted
apart, until God brought us
back together.”

“Living with someone is just
hard, rubbing and bumping
against each other.”

“He kissed me
tenderly
on the cheek.”

Harvey, Mary, and Roger

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.

You Showed Me

My assistant city attorneys and I have prosecuted domestic violence perpetrators for 24 years.  I have come to loathe the mentality that allows a perpetrator to use violence to maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.  The very person the perpetrator should love with tenderness he beats into submission.  A cherished friend recently confided in me that her estranged husband had clobbered her in the face with a work boot he was holding, breaking her nose.  As painful as was the injury to her face, the deeper injury was to her spirit and her mind.  That strike caused her eyes to swell and blacken, but at the same time opened her eyes wide to who and what he was, and to what a future with him would bring.  I wrote this poem to honor my friend’s courage to see the truth and to seek a place of safety for herself and her children.  I dedicate this poem to all victims of domestic violence, those who survive and thrive, and those who have not yet broken free.  God bless.

YOU SHOWED ME

You bashed my face
with your boot,
steel-toed,
to show me
who you are:
tough, in control,
powerful.

You broke my nose
with your heel.

Our lambs watched, and
wept.

I am bleeding now,
swollen, my face
red and sore.

Yes, you showed me
the man you are.

But I say
to your face:
You missed!

Bereft I may be, but
I am not destroyed!
Because
you beat me,
you bruised me,
you cut me,
but you missed
my heart
my mind
my dreams
my soul
my will.

Yes,
you showed me.

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.

Times and Seasons

Just because the skirmish is over does not mean we feel safe to come out of hiding.  Though the day may be sunny and calm, we may yet believe the safest place is underground, in our hole, in our cave.  Eventually, we dare to poke our heads out into the light, eyes squinting, hoping for peace, the memory of battle still fresh, wounds still stinging.  We cannot stay in our dark caves forever, can we?  For life happens outside, in the sun and the breeze, under the trees, with the sound in our ears of waves rolling onto the sand.

TIMES AND SEASONS

A time to retrench,
to dig the fox hole deeper,
though the enemy’s tanks have gone,
the rumble and the smoke and the clatter, gone;
deep ruts angling off in the mud.

A time to hunker down,
to close my eyes and let
the war rage on in
some other field.

My battle is done.
In my trench I hide,
safely.

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.

Farmer

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I have often second-guessed my career as a lawyer, wondering if I would have been better suited as an ornithologist, a cosmologist, an English teacher, or a writer.  It doesn’t matter anymore, really: I’ve been a lawyer for 25 years.  And I will be the best municipal lawyer I can be until I retire, and happy to do it.  Throughout my career, I have found opportunities to be both the intellectual and the romantic, the lawyer and the poet, the analyst and the naturalist. In my poem “Farmer” I explore the concept of being who we really are in the midst of circumstances that, we think, may not suit us but in which we find ourselves.  And, maybe we are right where we need to be: learning, stretching, becoming.

FARMER

Now,
looking back thirty years,
I would to have sidestepped
a torturous jurisprudence.
I would, rather, to have studied
the sturdy soil,
the art of growing things.
Still, today,
from my desk,
I till and I plant;
I nurture and hoe out the choking weeds,
looking to the harvest.
Resolutions are my cash crop,
statutes and prosecutions.
Policies and proclamations
yield forthcoming fruits.
The pen is my plough,
reams of paper
my fertile, furrowed fields,
poems my flower garden,
where butterflies condescend
to radiate.

Hold My Hand

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While many toss it aside as a casual gesture, holding hands is actually quite an intimate, meaningful act.  One that I miss.  The touching of the skin covering another divine soul.  Out of respect for this intimacy, I will dispense with the usual vignette and say only that my poem “Hold My Hand” attempts to describe how holding hands can be, how it should be, and how I hope it to be again.

HOLD MY HAND

circle round
each knuckle
steal down the length
of each shivering finger
press my palm
as I move
to wrap
your slender wrist
blanket me
with a free hand
skin-soft
blood-warm
pulses a-patter

Upcoming Review by Rose Gluck

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On her WordPress blog “Words and Pictures” writer and reviewer Rose Gluck announces her forthcoming review of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  I appreciate her selecting my book to review, but also her mission to explore the stories of everyday lives: an important cultural, historical, and literary endeavor.  See her original blog post below, and stay tuned for her review.


Rose Gluck of Words and Pictures: It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here on Words and Pictures. I’ve been pretty busy on several projects but am finally back here on my blog to share stories of everyday lives. I am in the final stretch of my dissertation so I’ve been very focused on that. My work -as you might . . . [click on this link to see the whole post: Been Out of Touch – Upcoming Projects here on Words and Pictures — Words and Pictures]

Between

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I rarely write poems about poetry.  While the challenging art of writing a good poem is as meritorious a subject as a stunning sunset or a broken heart. writing about writing can become trite and shallow if one is not careful.  My nephew Trevor called me tonight and asked me how I began to write poetry.  “I wasn’t content,” I told him, “to say simply, ‘How pretty.’  I wanted to dig deeper, to really get at the essence of beauty and my experience with it.  So I began to study and write poetry.”  Despite frequent arid periods, I have never stopped.  At the risk of writing a trite poem about writing poetry, I did just that in “Between.”  I hope it meets with your approval.

BETWEEN

Poems come from places in between:
between sleep and wakefulness;
between light and darkness;
between divine habitation
and this rough carnal plane;
between intellect and pathos;
belonging at once to neither
and to both: creations
of paradox and reconciliation.

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.

Apartment for Rent

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For a time I lived rent free in a construction zone, an apartment that the evicted renters had destroyed.  Not one interior door hung from its hinges.  Every room had holes beaten in the walls.  The carpets and walls were disgustingly soiled.  My benefactor slowly began to clean and rebuild.  He filled and repaired the holes, hung new doors, painted walls and ceilings, stretched new carpet, scoured the tub and toilet, laid new tile, and replaced windows.  I helped here and there as my schedule allowed.  From my bedroll in the only decent room, which my friend had prepared for me, I contemplated the state of the place, and wrote this poem.

APARTMENT FOR RENT

That soft spot near the tub
where the tile is cracked
and the water has dripped through
and soaked and rotted the subfloor and joist.

These banged up walls with
holes from hammers,
holes from fists and boots,
holes from hurled kitsch,
holes from staples and nails
for draping blankets over doorways
after ragings destroyed their doors.

These windows, their cracks
and missing shards taped over
with clear packing tape and brown masking tape
to keep the furnace from pumping wasted warmth
throughout the length of cold nights.

The renters don’t give a damn.
Their food smears the walls.
Dog feces ground into carpets,
dry but still rank, evoke dry heaves.

The owner is kind,
and he’s tired,
and he’s broke.

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