At a Reading by Grace Paley, Gardiner Public Library, Gardiner, Maine

The child touching the mother’s hair
watching the touching I sit behind them
watching the touching, wishing the touching
would never stop.

When did you start to write stories?
the child asks the poet.
Not until I was in my 30’s
but I was writing poems when I was a child
like you.


Squirrel slides off our roof

A Poem by Jane Costlow

Squirrel slides off our roof
into the barrel of pollen-scummed rain, into
the big black trash can beside the beach rose.

A lid might have saved him.

On sunny summer days it waters the garden.

The morning’s post-storm stillness interrupted
by this floating corpse. One more.
Beneath our blooms and clover
it’s a graveyard out there: beloved felines, disemboweled
possum, the bird that hit the window.

Sleek stiff hair, already smelly,
it slides off the shovel and into the back-fence hole
beside the compost. Dust to dust.
Air, water, earth.
The fire of sun
steams off the heavy dew.
All our bodies fall into what comes next.
Et in arcadia the heat of life slips
quickly down to cold, once the course is run.

Morning light skids down the shingles.
Peas and basil lift with the warming air.
My stomach turns inside me.
I’m the only one
in this joint who knows the end.


Giving thanks …

…for the life and work of Seamus Heaney
for the Muse who drew him through himself
then out of himself to translate the world

to us in tongues not easy to understand
but in allowing the power of language
to hold us, meaning flows, and in reverie

we know who he is: Bard in the wilder-
ness who did not abandon his native land
of human touch. He left a path of words

to follow, crumbs he had dropped
on his way out to the poems.

A Chip Off the Old Rock

A granite chip, Heaney writes
is “jaggy, salty, punitive
and exacting. Come to me, it says
all of you who labor and are
burdened, I will not refresh you.
And, You can take me or leave me.

These words of Heaney’s have entered in.
I know them true. What do I do with them
is the question. The “how” hard upon me,
I need to respond to the invitation
not knowing finally what
that response might mean.