Vacancy

The mailbox hangs rusting on the ironwood post

cut with a bow saw and tamped into a hole dug by hand

at the side of the gravel road.

The name is almost legible, rust on rust and the flag is up

as if the box still held important letters to mail.

Close by the road stands the store building, its porch floor thin and fragile

from too many years and too many feet passing over its planks.

There are grooves in the boards from the rockers that once were there,

and a brown-stained ring recalls a spittoon and men in overalls

with bags of Mail Pouch tucked into bibs.

Windows with vacant eyes and faded stickers look out at the road

where wagons once passed, making their way along the turnpike

to the tollgate just ahead.

To the left and set back from the road is a house

that surely must have been the storekeeper’s home.

Its wire fence is recalled only by metal fragments hanging on posts,

and a gate, open to daffodils lining a rutted path.

A small barn with a hitching post and an upside-down horseshoe

is empty, no horses or hay or stacks of feed within. Cobwebs

blow in the rafters; there is a smell of mice and old dung.

I pull off the road, get out of my car and listen. There is nothing

but the music of a small stream beside the barn, the whisper of wind

through the barn’s loft, and birds singing territorial carols.

I strain my ears for faint traces of voices and my eyes

sweep from house to barn to daffodils,  seeking the story

of who lived here, and why they left.

The place keeps its secrets from me,

and I slowly drive away, looking

in my rearview mirror as if it held the magic

to see an invisible past.

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Fickle Spring

Spring is a fickle friend who flirts behind her April fan,

her sunny eyes full of promise and fragile warmth;

beneath her flowing dress a white-frost petticoat

trails icy lace around the edge of new-bloomed flowers.

Do not trust her pretty fingers or soft green hands;

with them she beckons winter’s last chilling touch

and leaves frozen our hopes of summer fruit.

 

 

 

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Old Flames

Fire burns deep

in the eyes of dogs

far past memory

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Heart Broken

There is no sound, though it seems the very earth

should scream and rattle with the pain,

the heavens pour rivers of tears,

the winds howl with the stricken sorrow of it,

and even the birds to sing tragic dirges.

But there is no sound, no whisper or whimper.

Why can I not hear the ripping,

the tearing of muscle,

the shattering

grief?

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The Gift

I rise before the sun, no phoenix

only this ordinary woman in bathrobe and slippers

greeting the day with teacup in hand.

Green wreaths the woodland, sprinkled with drops

of violets, redbud and shy bluet.

The air is fresh-washed from yesterday’s rain,

scented with lilac and strew with sweet birdsong.

I taste the nectar of this gift, this spring morning,

and wait for the gold to wrap me in warmth.

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The Storyteller

Gray heads and bright eyes face me, waiting,

expecting…what? It is ever this unknown that sends a chill

shivering through my blood.

I face them and begin.

Will it be what they want, what they need

at this moment of their/our lives, this split second of all the time

that has and will pass before they/we close our ears to the last sounds

we will hear in this vale of laughter and tears?

Will I know that this was right, this was enough,

or will I walk away still with the chill in my veins?

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Visitors

“I need to know about baby chickens. And mollymoochers.”

Blonde hair pulled tight into a ponytail, blue eyes bright with questions,

she is eighteen, a soldier already

and yet here she is on my porch with her friend,

both rocking gently as rain drips cadence.

I talk, explaining chick starter and water and a lamp for heat

and then my husband takes the girls into the woods

to search for the elusive morel in the darkness

of leaf mold and a cloudy afternoon.

When they return, I dip mushrooms in milk, roll them in flour

and drop them into a cast iron skillet. Oil sizzles and splatters,

a golden aroma drenches the room as we pull up our chairs and sit,

a small circle around a worn porcelain-topped kitchen table.

The mushrooms taste sweet as the moment, as this rare time

spent with a granddaughter who drove out our lonely road

to hunt for mushrooms and learn about chickens.

 

(photo of yellow morels is from Wikipedia)

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