To Bury Or Burn

My newly published third collection of poems, To Bury or Burn, sweeps
across the spectrum of life, leaving in its wake moments of joy and
grief, childhood and motherhood, poets and their poems, and the
company and loss of cats, all of it against the backdrop of the
natural world.

The book is available from Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=to+bury+or+burn+judith+robbins&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

from the publisher, North Country Press
https://www.northcountrypress.com/to-bury-or-burn.html

from Barnes & Noble
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-bury-or-burn-judith-robbins/1135167314?ean=9781943424535

and from most bookstores.

To Bury or Burn

Judith Robbins’ latest collection of poems, To Bury or Burn, sweeps
across the spectrum of life, leaving in its wake moments of joy and
grief, childhood and motherhood, poets and their poems, and the
company and loss of cats, all of it against the backdrop of the
natural world.

The book is available from Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=to+bury+or+burn+judith+robbins&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

from the publisher, North Country Press
https://www.northcountrypress.com/to-bury-or-burn.html

from Barnes & Noble
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-bury-or-burn-judith-robbins/1135167314?ean=9781943424535

and from most bookstores.

Dying and Rising in the Kalevala*

While reading in the Kalevala about the swan
of Tuonela, and Lemminkainen’s mother
and what she did, a shout went out from me
toward what or whom I cannot say.

Hacked into pieces by the son of Tuoni,
who threw the eight parts of Lemminkainen
into the river, here came his mother, carrying
a rake of iron forged by Ilmarainen. With it

she raked the reaches of Tuonela’s river until
she recovered all the fragments of her slain son.
Bones fitted, she chanted a magical song
for weaving of veins, for stitching of sinew

and flesh. Still no breath. She sent the prophetic
bee to gather salve from Jumala’s** pots. Rubbed
on his body, it would raise her son from dreams
of evil to life and speech. A mother defying

the story as told by someone else, she would
save her son from powers that bade him ill.
Her name Lempi, her action her identity as
Lemminkainen’s mother whose love prevailed.

* Finnish epic
** God

September 17th

Is there any reason on your birthday
to believe that you have not been reclaimed
from the worm of sickness that struck you down?

In August tomato worms abounded
but the physic of the gardener’s attention
plucked them and ended their tomato
dominion. Did the physic of death

end your suffering just so? Now, like tomato
plants of September, do you bear new fruit
as a sign of time well spent in struggle
to be free of the worm at last?

Listen …

Drawing near on the horizon, a host
of those who have gone before. I see
them walking atop the waves as if
on a country road on a fall day.
In a murmur of voices I hear my name
spoken by them who have been
my mother, father, sister, my brother
and friend after friend who hold out
their hands in greeting. As Jesus
did, so now do I walk on the water
to meet them.

Photograph of My Son in Brooklyn, 1995

This poem is reprintd today in commemoration of those who died, and those who lived and saved others on September 11, 2001.

O beautiful boy in the photo, Twin Towers looming
behind you across the East River, crowded with boats,
vehicles pressing their way over Brooklyn Bridge
busy, busy, while the viewer’s eye can’t help looking
up with awful knowledge of what will happen six years
hence, when what was beautiful once comes crumbling
down, and there’s no hope of reconstruction of those
tumbled towers with their personal cargo burned
and crushed to a lethal powder that stings the lungs
of workers, who in their hurry to save whom they can
among the broken, inhale the death of countless others
desiccated, seeking to be borne away from calamity,
from catastrophe, from the end of life as they’d known it.

And you, my son, what of you embodying life
on the other side of the river, seated innocent
above the fray, a trick of the camera having you
eye those distant towers as if you were Gulliver,
and they a Lilliputian pair affixed to your right
shoulder. It’s all illusion except for the deaths
to come and the look of the young man you were
seated on a parapet above the river, eyeing
the future and what you thought it could be.

 

For the Mixed-up Gardener

You mix Miracle-Gro with insecticide
a peculiar pairing for the vegetable garden
where you are enemy of potato bug, scourge
of flea beetle, and crusher of tomato worm
that takes its nourishment from a nightshade
plant, deadly for others but food to grow
from worm to ultimate flight as moth, leaving
us to hope for time for a second leafing, all
the while admiring the jewel of camouflage
that is its green and luminous stock-in-trade.