Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Two New Poems

After the holidays, and after the funeral of my wife's wonderful brother, to whom I referred in my last post, my wife and I took advantage of my retirement and of her having a week's reprieve from her duties as a law professor and mediator. We headed for our remote cabin on the New Brunswick border in Maine.

The weather there was affected by the polar vortex (pace that blowhard Rush Limbaugh– wonder where he got his scientific training?). That is to say, it was downright frigid. We did manage to get outdoors every day, but not for very long. Nesting in the wood-warmed cabin, however, we were able to lick our wounds and to spend wonderful time together, so the trip was well worthwhile.

Back in Vermont, we are experiencing yet a third cold snap, and, largely house-bound, I have (I hope) completed two poems I roughed out to our north. They follow.

               Zero Farhenheit

Tugged by the notion of strong black coffee,
I get out of bed and embrace my wife.
About time. The dogs lie so tight to the stove
All three look eager to climb right inside.

She has walked them already and dished their food.
I hear the whisper of kindling cedar:
She revived the fire as well while I clove
To my quilts, a common, self-seeking behavior.

Together we study an upriver eagle,
Backlit, unmoving, on a dark arm of pine.
The stream whispers too. But for red squirrels’ scribblings,
The snow shows pluperfectly blank. Yet it shines.

The woman glows also, even the lines
Between eyebrows. Those tracings– she’s earned every one,
Having stood close beside me no matter my failings,
Having borne and instructed daughters and sons.

Yes, I know that today is all anyone owns,
None of us leaving the planet alive.
No matter, I fantasize some guarantees
Beyond logic: our eagle will pose against sky

On that pine bough forever, the three dogs will lie
By the hearth, and I’ll be able to cherish
My wife as I do, but perennially.
The woods drizzle powder. That bright white won’t perish.

                          He Risks a Walk 

Between two pock-marked beech, a strand of wire 

For cows he recalls from his childhood. The cruel barbs shine,

Small blooms of brightness. When darkness stoops, Orion

Will glow as he’s always glowed among the stars.

He’ll nock his arrow, as if he meant to stir mayhem

Below.  For now, the old man thinks of the house,

Where his wife may still feel disquieted. The weather scared them

Last night with its sideways brute rain. And then it froze.

When he comes upon a winter-kill, he wonders,

Did he read at some point of a people who buried their dead

As this poor ruffed grouse is buried, neck and head 

Alone protruding, or was that just some old torture?

The grouse’s stiffened crest is lustrous with frost.

The bird had hidden in powder. When it turned to ice,

It sealed the body in. So peculiar a sight

Has stopped the old man cold in his foolish walk.

Today’s no day for wandering under trees

That go off around him everywhere louder than guns–

The clap and crack of bursting limb and trunk.

Sunbeams garland the forest in silvery beads,

Every branch and bole, both shattered and whole,

A radiant filament.  He can’t see why

Death should be brilliant. Ice in its sightless eyes,

The head might be a flower, or maybe some jewel

Carelessly dropped by somebody roaming where

The old walker feels his way, his trail so sheer.

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