Life With Horace

poetry & essays


Five minutes

Back in the woods
up the road past
the old town reservoir
where chain links
protect unused water
and brilliant leaves
in the way of
swamp maples
Farther in
the pace of fall slows
to less flashy spots
of orange and red
dropped deep into
reluctant green
Empty spaces
once the home
of many trees
have begun to fill in
Mindful of the light
dipping toward hunters hour
we turn for home
the cinnamon ferns
wear beige now
feather tips point along
the angle of fall sun


Shoals

Riding the river of goodbye
nights alone
taking songs to bed
instead of you
Heart resigned
to half the life we had
until we dance again
arms yes arms
wrapped soft and tight
I see you there downriver
waiting for my dreams
to float the river shoals
Less of forever to go
around each bend
And we will hear
our voices say hello
and dance outside
the time of sleep


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Things I didn’t know I loved

I didn’t know I loved the spirit in soil
deep under reed marshes
connected to it through my bones
a vision of roiling life

I didn’t know I loved to sing
that song could make me cry
joy a quick moment on the backs of notes
voices together light to dark

I didn’t know that I loved sense of place
color memories until they were gone
layered goodbyes in dim sunlight
dusty motes on gray air

I didn’t know I still loved touch
thought it dried and done but not forgotten
only to find a fire so ready lit my blood sang
even as I would cry aloud

I didn’t know that I loved words
that they would fill every empty place
pull me with them words from my eyes
words from unheard thought

I didn’t know how much I loved my life
sweet along with sharp and hard
rushing in over tidal flats escaping just as fast
that I could cherish it not just live it

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This list poem came out of a short poetry workshop taught in 2015 by the poet Doug Anderson. We read Things I Didn’t Know I Loved by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, and were prompted to write our own list poem by the same title. This is the revised version.


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Upright words

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” said Charles Dickens. Actually he only wrote it. Dirk Bogarde, my favorite Sidney Carton, said it with eyes shining in the dark. Words reduced to threads at the edge of a frayed cliche. Being able to hold thoughts in my hand for a while as they dribble down the length of my fingers, to land drip sandcastle upright as words on paper. It took forever to learn, but I have no regrets. If only words could cure the world as easily as pull the wool over our eyes. If widdershins could disperse oil spills or brillig or gyre could hoist a lance to run neatly through the heart of hate. That kind of thing. Words for the worst of times.