Fall Sounding

Fall Sounding

A chain saw rips the morning jagged and raw

as the smell of tannin released from hidden oaken boles,

their rings of years displayed wanton to the sun’s brilliant gaze.

Playful breezes toss confetti leaves



earthly brown ,

and the brazen blue sky sports scarves of daring summer whites.

A cardinal lifts a desperate song as if there may yet be time,

a chance for one more nesting

on this too-warm, too-bright November day.

All of nature waits, knowing

that this cannot, will not last but still the bees

hum among the rotting drops

beneath the apple tree,

and burrow into the sweetness of decayed flesh.

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November at Dusk

There’s an unsettled quiet in the air this evening.

The clouds are boiling up but there is no rain in the forecast,

and I cannot hear the distant sound

of traffic, always an indicator of rain on the way.


The air is still, not a breath

stirring. The birds flit

uneasily from tree to tree; deep in the woods

I hear the raucous call of a crow, but even he seems

subdued. A tinge of red

lined the clouds briefly, a promise for tomorrow.

Perhaps it is just

November, bringing with it

the long twilight, the sudden darkness

that we are not yet expecting. It is too warm for a fire,

but this dismal evening makes me want

the bright cheeriness of the fireplace.

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Morning Shots

Two shots, quick cracks that ricocheted from the dewy hills

soft with morning’s first light

a murmur of voices from the neighbor’s house

beyond the treeline, beyond the road, beyond hearing

except for a musical rise and fall almost drowned out

by the purring cat on my lap.

I sip my tea and consider: was it a marauding possum

raiding trash cans in search of breakfast?

Or a copperhead, coiled on warm concrete steps,

surprising Rick who perhaps stepped outside with his coffee

to view the day’s dawning?

A coyote is doubtful at this time of day, preferring the cover of night

for his dirty deeds.

The voices quiet; the cat continues to purr.

My cup is empty;

the sun sends tentative beams

through trees beginning to show a tinge of autumn.

I go inside to begin my work, the

morning’s mystery buried in the rush of another country day.

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So he talked about grass, about mowing with a push mower

and how hard it is to mow under apple trees with their overhanging branches

and the bees, the yellow jackets of July

and how hot the weather had been and if it had rained enough

to keep the gardens growing.

His hat twisting in his hands, feet shifting in black leather work shoes,

his gray shirt and neat green workingman’s pants neatly pressed,

He talked on and on, our coffee getting cold, his food on the diner’s counter

and then we said goodbye and finished our meal. He left before us but came back,

flustered and red, to pay his bill. This man,

our age or older, still uncomfortable in conversation, not knowing

how or if to end it, not knowing what to talk about and so

he spoke of weather and grass and gardens while I remember

his father with his soft felt hat, his bib overalls and sports jacket,

dancing with fast-moving feet, buck-dancing to the bands

at the Fourth of July on the courthouse lawn

just across the street from where our coffee sits cold on the counter

and he forgot to pay for his food.

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Sometimes I Know Why I Live in the Country

Night-driving, late May

a two-lane country road,

the windows down:

blinded by fireflies’ staccato flashes,

breathing honeysuckle sweetness,

the dark so close I can touch it,

your arm warm against mine.

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Green Revolution

The struggle for domination has been joined again:

I, the gardener, wrest the weeds out of flower beds,

piling them in green heaps to be taken to the compost pile

or to the chickens who will scratch and tear at them until

all that remains will be long, thin tendrils that once were hearty

gill-over-the-ground, or stiff stalks of thwarted goldenrod.

It is thus every spring. Determined to be victor, if only temporarily,

I pull, twist, cut and dig the unwanteds from my beds. Every year,

the plants return, their enthusiastic tendrils wrapping iris, weaving

through lily-of-the-valley, hiding beneath the daylilies. I swear

they grow stronger for the challenge, dig their roots in deeper

but I refuse to cede the field to their predations.

And yet I know that when I am no longer able

to fight this fight, the weeds will triumph and in the end

Nature will take back her own. It has always been so,

and I bow my head to the inevitability

while yet casting my eyes sideways

and reaching down to grasp

just one more strand of wild sweet potato vine

and twist it from the soil. For this moment at least

I am winning, or perhaps the only one fooled

is this old gardener, trying to contain what has always been wild

and will always be so, beneath the groomed cover

of blossoming borders.

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Those Who Went Before

The soil is dry, dusty, tan silt that parts easily at the insistence of my hoe.

With each stroke I carve a straight-line row, two inches deep,

that will receive the bean and corn seeds I sow. I am looking,

searching, for something else in this garden, something older

than these seeds, than me, than the trees that cast a thin Spring shade.

Once, thirty years ago, my hoe unearthed an arrowhead here,

black Kanawha flint I later learned, and perfectly formed.

It was not the first to come to the light in this place I call home,

this acreage that once was pasture for sheep, and before that grew wheat

and corn that our neighbors hoed when they were young boys. Now

those men are old, some of them passed on to the promised garden

and I am here with my hoe, digging in this same earth and looking,

as they did, for signs of those who went before.

A piece of sandstone heaves from the soil, a sign, I was told,

that once this land was on fire, scorched by flames so hot

the very stones were seared. Whether this be truth or not

I cannot tell, but I picture the fire and the smoking rocks

as my hoe digs again into the dirt.

I finish, wiping sweat from my face even though

this day is too cool for mid-May and tonight there may be frost

in low-lying regions. Here,

on this hill where only one family before me

was known to have a dwelling, there will be no frost tonight.

We will light a fire on the patio and gaze into its red heart,

and we will feel the eyes, hear the hard-soled feet in soft moccassins

slip by us in the gloaming, and the call of the owl will echo

against hills that remember the song

of those who went before.

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