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.

Featured Author: Roger Baker

A heartfelt thank you to Rose Gluck Reviews for reviewing my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.

Words and Pictures

Featured Author: Roger Baker
Rabbit Lane: Memoir of A Country Road

Book Review

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There are not a lot of books like Roger Baker’s Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. It is indeed musings of Rabbit Lane the rural path that runs alongside the developed highway in Erda, Utah. The road is a metaphor for the changing times. Despite it’s beauty beer cans litter the drainage ditch here and there. Old Norris farm, once a small house surrounded by grain fields is now a subdivision. Baker makes us feel the nagging pains of history lost, lives forgotten. Every now and then Roger’s reflections are invaded by the murmurs of the major road that runs parallel to Rabbit Lane, sometimes breaking through Baker’s serene contemplations on life, nature, and family. The prose is beautiful, the pacing a slow meander through Baker’s personal meaning and and appreciation for beauty. A passage about…

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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.

Footsteps to Beyond

I often contemplate the many metaphors for our voyage through this temporal life: ships crossing rough seas; trains chugging up mountains; footsteps in the sand.  What gives momentum to our life’s journey?  What guides our life’s direction?  Where did we begin, and what will our destination be?  What are the roles of God, of pain, of choice?  Whatever your travels, may they be blessed.

FOOTSTEPS TO BEYOND

Wingtips and heels
traversed that chasm
between
the last train car
step
and the train station
platform
just as the forward motion
stopped
and the locomotion
whooshed
its unnecessary steam,
as their movement along
the tracks,
over hills and through forests and farms,
became,
crossing that chasm,
footsteps
to beyond.

Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, b Roger Baker, is now available in print and for Kindle on Amazon.