I thought you exclaimed, Oh, my dear,
and quickly my mind bent toward trouble.
But trouble had nothing to do with you
when the spelling of “dear” became deer––
Five of them in a pretty line, crossing
the field to the other side of the road
from whence they disappeared
into the stand of pines.
All is a-melt, including my soul
bound tight these months
by cords of cold that release it
gently, so as not to shock
with the feverish heat of change.
You chew the apple like a little beaver
turning it rapidly in your corn-cob fingers.
“It gone,” you hand the core to me
and seal the memory of you at the river
in your baseball hat, fishing from the bank
where beavers have chewed the birch I balance
on watching you, my son, my beaver boy
consuming the day with white and perfect teeth.
I came upon a well in the woods,
a cattle well you covered over years
ago to protect raccoons and people too
who might be exploring this thicketed part
this branchy path where also walk
the ghosts of farmers
who kept these woods as fields before
they’d grown to brush, then pine
and hemlock trees five stories high.
Do they keep an eye on the old well?
Is it they who have moved the wooden
cover, making a way for unwary people
or pets to stub a toe or paw on stones
that open a way down to the cool
temptation of life everlasting that water
is? Well water, that is, with its placid
face that draws us in. Kith or kin
are we to them who have gone before
ever we were born? Who maintained
the spirit of the 100 acres given to crops
and animal grazing and once-on-a-time
wells where a beast could drink?
stewardship of the land we bought
when we were barely old enough
to grasp the meaning of being stewards
of what we had been given.
With age comes understanding.
With age comes sense of responsibility
to history held in the rings of the oak
in the whorls of pine crowned with cones
and even deeper in glacial stones
raked across this land in a distant time,
all of it passing through our hands
like water, as do the passing years …
And what we choose, our actions now
are the future for stewards who follow.
I would sweep the world clean with my yellow broom
but all I am asked to do is sweep my own
room, which is my world in this latter hour
when the sun sets early and naught flowers,
when all sinks deeper with each passing day
into the freezing ground that calls to sleep.
Fly-specked and dusty and perfectly mine
is this space for poetry out of time
where worry troubles not the moted air.
Once over the threshold nary a care
can raise its fleecy bothersome head
demanding attention I’ve already shed
when doffing my coat and winter hat
and lighting a fire, spit-spat.
Done, I assume the writer’s seat
pick up the pen and relish the heat.
Ink on paper, word on tongue …
a chant that can be daily sung
to invoke the Muse in all its glory
and contribute one note to the human story.