Ice Storm, 2003

Today’s storm, that started with frozen rain yesterday, reminded me of the terrible ice storm of 2003, when hundreds of trees literally burst apart and there were limbs and trunks littering the woods, fields and roads. It was an unforgettable experience, which I have tried to capture with these few words.

Blue moonlight, eerie,
glittering on ice-crusted trees,
the quiet as deep as the snow until
With a shock that sounds like shotgun blasts
trees explode, even the mighty oaks
splitting, cracking, crashing to the ground.

Silence returns,
broken only by the crystal tinkle
of shattered, scattering ice.

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Sometimes all I need is a fire,
Two dogs snoring by my chair,
A good book and a glass of red wine.

In fact, I should leave out the sometimes.

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Autumn Reverie

dead leaves in garden corners,
one red rose petal
startles brown wren into song

sepia light on yellow
drifts on forest floor,
barn owl’s mournful voice lingers

dark swatches in woodland quilt,
hemlocks stretch skyward,
sentinels of Holly King

gold piles against gray stone walls,
maple, beech, poplar,
somewhere lone coyote cries

strong oaks rain acorns for squirrels
hoarding against cold,
provide shelter for Green Man

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I want to know

why the stars swing above China, why waterfalls

hide in caves and secret forests,

why the moon, rough as sea-washed pebbles

flies above mountains in a silver arch,

I want to know all things and nothing,

Everything, and never in this lifetime

will I understand even a little,

or the most important thing of all,

why you loved me.

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Six weeks before due date
is too early for a little one
to break from mother’s womb,
encounter the cold reality

of a hospital, strangers, metal,
bright lights that shine into eyes
used only to dark, skin used only
to warm liquid, fragility used only
to soft security. Somehow,

new humans survive,
overcome the terror of birth,
suckle without being told how,
sleep deeply even though
surrounded by a world too big,
too hard, too unknown.

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He wasn’t buried when he was supposed to be,

dead and in the ground, with the dirt thrown over

and the job done. It was a week later

that the gravediggers arrived, big gray truck,

concrete vault, yellow backhoe, the dark hole covered

with a bright blue tarp, bright as the sun,

maybe as bright as his eyes, if his eyes were blue,

but how could we  know?

The next day they buried him.

Who they were we never knew; maybe some neighbor

knows his name, where he was from, why

he took a week longer than expected to arrive.

Or is arrive really the right word for a corpse?

It’s a strange thought.

Only one withered bouquet marks

the top of the red clay mound, and  a small metal plaque

turned from the road so no one

can read his name in passing.

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His voice is what drew me. On the radio,

saying that he tore down old buildings, removed

trees and brush, just call this number.

So I called.

I had no buildings to tear down,

no trees or brush to remove,

but I wondered. “Do you ever

have old doors or windows to sell?”

Yes, Carl said, he did. So we arranged

to meet at the place he was currently

taking down, an old outbuilding

with a cistern pump I had seen in passing

many times, and coveted.

I bought the pump, old bottles,

license plates, I don’t know what all,

and there it began.

Carl would call, with windows, doors,

lumber, dishes and I would buy it all.

Then one day, it was a hog.

“Listen,” he said. “I’ve got two pigs.

I’ll raise them and sell you one for $100.00.”

“Deal,” I said.

Carl kept his word. The hog was raised, butchered,

and put in our freezer.

Another year passed. “Hey,” said Carl,

“I’ve got another pig. You want to do it

Same way as last year?” Sure, why not.

Months past, with no pig. One day

I saw Carl selling some things on the side of the road.

“Hey Carl, where’s my pig?” He tried to hide

behind his truck but I followed him,

because sometimes a woman needs an answer.

Especially when it’s a $100.00 question.

“Well,” he said, “I had to sell that pig. I was hard up for money,

had to pay a fine you know.”

We made a deal. He’d pay me back my $100.00, somehow.

Months later, I heard Carl on the radio.

Selling firewood this time.

I called, using my husband’s phone

because Carl knew my number

And would not have answered.

He agreed to bring a load of wood,

and he did. His wife was with him.

I didn’t know he was married, but

“We’re not,” she said. “I divorced him

because he drinks too much.

He’s had too many DUIs.

I can’t be responsible for his problems,

or his fines. So we’re divorced.”

I haven’t seen Carl since then.

I miss him though. A man sometimes has demons

out of his control.

Carl works hard. He’s honest as he can be.

I’ll never see that $100.00 but that’s okay with me.

I never had to deal with what his life is;

I will never know that kind of trouble.

All I know is Carl is a good man, with problems,

and I am still glad I got to know him.

He’s worth a lot more than $100.00.

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These Times

Like a mother with a wayward child,

the world wrings its hands and laments daily

through the voices of the media,

people we’ve never met but know in that way

of knowing what you’ve never seen.

I listen for a while, then turn the radio off

and the CD player on, listening instead

to Alice Wylde, singing, playing banjo.

Old-time Appalachian music

fills my kitchen as I make pickles and cherry pie,

wonder what to do with a five-gallon bucket of squash.

There is plenty here; for that I am grateful,

and for the isolation of this old place nestled in hills,

surrounded by green and gardens. I pick herbs,

rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, cut up onions

and garlic, get a turkey breast frozen last fall

and put herbs, onions, garlic and turkey

in the crockpot to roast. The smell is heavenly

and earthy at the same time. Should I

turn on the radio again, listen to dire warnings

of Delta variant, maskless people, danger lurking?

Instead I take my tea out to the porch,

find my book, watch the hummingbirds play.

The sprinklers are on—it’s been a dry month—

and a sparrow bathes in a puddle, unconcerned,

not wondering where the water came from.

There’s a lesson here.

 There are days I want to cry out at the injustice

but know I suffer little, really.

It is a time to take each day on its merits,

find joy in the new calendula bloom,

the ripening tomatoes, the scent of apples,

my granddaughter’s new puppy.

The world will go on wringing its hands

while I water zinnias, pick cucumbers,

feed the new little chicks in the henhouse.

It’s not much in the larger scheme of things.

But this much I can do, so I will try

to do it well.

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Little baby with your pretty bare feet
pattering on the wooden floor,
would you care to dance with me?
With your little baby hands
and chubby baby legs,
can we dance?

Can we dance?
Around and around the room we’ll go,
around and around til the sun goes down,
little baby, little baby, little child of mine,
shall we dance?

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On Inis Mor

So quickly my tracks disappear, erased,

the endless waves sighing over them. The Irish coast

will not remember I was here, timeless years from now.

I lick my lips, taste salt, and magic;

 the foam washes upon the strand, shape-shifting grays and greens.

Seals watch, their great eyes knowing I am but a stranger

who longs to dive to their castle beneath the sea,

don my mermaid fins, lay on the shore and brush my seaweed hair,

my mirror calling my own true love who does not know

me, here in this place of green and blue, sky

blending with water until there is no knowing where

One ends and One begins.

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