Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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Late present

The moon brought me a gift
last night, before the
solstice rain moved in.
I left the crispness
of my northern woods
to walk the dew off grass again
with you. It’s late, the
house lights dark, the night
all midsummer lushness,
bell buoys ringing softly.
We know the way by feel
across the lawns and
down the hill to home,
but cannot pass the garden
with its flat topped walls.
We sit, shoulders touching,
stone still warm, and let our
breath find a rhythm together
after days apart. Then on
our way again, to soft
lamp light on varnished
wood, and pick up where
we were before the first
mosquito bit.
This morning I still feel
your hands, your skin on mine,
and smile, not caring.

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And Peggy Sue

They called him Crane, not Ichabod
but the bird. I’d see him
Saturday nights at the tap room
where he won big money
throwing darts, bony fingers
on a different circuit
from the rest of him as he drank.
Never pretty in daylight — when
drunk, his angles seemed smoothed
out, almost vaselined. The dim lit
corners left the knife scar
on his neck alone, a dull flash
of on-off michelob blinking onto his baldness.
On this night college boys found the bar,
and while the rest of his townie pals
shunned the clueless preps, he
fought them at the dart board one by
one, with his dead aim, metal sinking
into cork almost soundless, like a perfect
dive knifes into chlorined blue. Always
left them broke, their egos bleeding out.
The drunker he got, the better he played,
groove sunk cheeks split by a grin.
He took them all, keening
Peggy Sue softly
between each throw.


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Seeing them off

Today they are still here,
and I am too, in late September.
My hummingbird pair. One darts in
to feed, the other perches
drinking deeply, tipping her head back
to let the nectar slide.
I feel that energy sweet and cool
down my throat.
Their absence looms, a large bell
with muffled clappers tolling
unopposed, reddening the trees,
exiling light, ushering in cold.
Lately the question, will they
visit me again, or will there be
someone else looking out my window
twelve months on?
Each year it is harder let them go,
as if there were a choice.


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The morning watch

He sits behind the screen,
the sun’s minute hand
remaps his curves in warmth.
With not much else to do
his morning’s work is
out there, living traffic
he will watch and note.
Force marched ants in
single file, small brown toads,
leaf rustles out of sight,
the swooping zizz
of dragonflies.
A hummingbird returns
to drink, then preen. This
makes him smile. Even they
must stop and rest.
The small world quiets, starts to
wait for shade, when high sun
moves away, raptors drafting
on its currents. He sees
and understands. Feeling
stiff he’s up to find another
patch of sun. A whoofing sigh,
then head on paws he sleeps.


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Flat light early

Some mornings present
themselves before my second
eye opens, no warmth,
flat light, featureless gray
untrimmed, not even stray
rain clouds.

Tight woven canvas
hangs edge to edge at
the top of the sky, and the
living world makes a new
plan, carrying on
oblivious.

My patient dogs
don’t care a fig
about the sun, arriving
bedside to present mouth-damp
slippers, and we go out
to open up the day.


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truth bag

being somewhat deafer now
imagined sounds dodge out of sight
bird noises, then coyote yips
creatures speaking to the moon
beavers stripping bark
soft words at night
wood thrushes as the day begins to fade
those I care about and want to hear again
a ways away, surrounding me
ear uncupped, not straining
that would be a marvel, singular gift
tears come just imagining

there is sometimes respite, when
the steeply rising road
is muffled deep in snow
no one singing in my trees
and outside silence is complete
ears freed up to hear what’s close
damned mouse scratchings in the wall
dogs nesting into warmth
wood timbers easing into sleep
unfrenzied thoughts
words emerging into verse
I call a truce until it stops
and plows cut through to rescue, me
ungrateful for release

none of this is worth a moment’s pain
but silence in the face of
evil, senseless, stupid acts
everyone can see and hear
(the instant truth of emperor sans clothes)
becomes a drawn out screaming wail
that grabs me by the nape
and shakes things loose
my voice plinking rage
words landing on the floor
about to skitter off, afraid
I snatch them up
so many jacks without a ball
and throw them in my truth bag
to pull out at will, tamed
for my answer

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a prompt from last night’s writing group with Doug Anderson: silence


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not quite endings

the music stopped, shimmering
in dust beamed space
our voices stilled
waiting for the flood of response
I fall into the silence
all energy given away
to singing’s singular joy

what I thought was love
ok it was, no holding back
died, stabbed and poked
to rubble not worth picking through
a lucky escape it turns out
in time to save my heart
and savor all that’s left

a long goodbye jumps the queue
to sudden extinction
love lives on the mountain
ashes soaking into moss
his spirit coming back
to say that 40 years were
worth it all in all
and how are things?

the chatter quieted thank god
and in its place
a single sound takes shape
one note clearly formed on endless breath
much to my delight I find
it comes from me
I had been singing all along
and never knew

_________________________________
a prompt from tonight’s writing group with Doug Anderson: endings

pond below the mountain


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a haiku for place with notes

up the dipping road
mountain arm is bear’s shoulder
my home lies below

______________________________________
multiple joys of September, cloud fingers dip into mountain creases, swamp maples step forward, my pine flags flying, one more trip around the sun complete


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intentional space

there is a place
now blank, erased
by grief and purposed
brain reset
wild pigment
bits of memory
color orts
of what had been
a heady time
inevitable yang
disguised
by yin’s rose lens
the peace I’ve earned
tells me straight
to recognize
the mis-steps
scrubbed away
yes child
snatch that pink
lensed pince-nez
from your nose
when new love appears
to see necessary truth
and only then jump
into its depths
with joy

__________________________________
sitting on my porch in early morning, bird songs on all sides.

one (recipe) for a good boy


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one for a good boy

holding in the arms test
he found them a place for stillness
I felt his trust and knew everything

journey tolerance test
he had little for road rumblings howling all the way
I laughed at his protests and sang with him

introduction to the first dog test
she terrified him huge and dark
I smiled this would pass remembering others

favorite places test
he took her shoulderings still followed bravely
I pulled him from the squelching mud more mindful after

contemplation test
he sat by her and learned to watch the world
I heard my heart swell seeing this

first misadventure test
he thought all ice trustworthy
I stood thigh deep in frozen marsh to pull him out

listening test
he found joy in learning many things
I spoke softly so that he might hear

finding his work test
he decided it was me with slippers
I accepted his gift dancing

____________________________
Day 2 prompt was a recipe. this was a tough one to get going. it would not share itself with me yesterday. once I stepped back, like a contrary child it bounded into my brain.