Life With Horace

poetry & essays


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the first present

there are trees here too
grown out of deep soil pockets
heads above the hardy root dug
mountain friends of home
this gathered woody host a nest
to hold a house containing
every one I love
still sleeping as the light
creeps up all cloudy
through the rain
a christmas only minds eye white
no clear skied sunrise
catching tree tops
by surprise
red bronze briefly
glistened by those gone ahead
dropstrings of love and memory
beams creak awake
almost the hour
for letting loose small bodies
counting moments since last night
behind me thumps and sighs
two sets of eyes meet mine
my patient dogs
the first gift of the day
belongs to them
and we are kitchen bound

_____________________________________
a small gift of words, a time filled with more love than things, christmas as it should be. my heart is very full.


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the tree inside

here I/we all stand
our own distillation
helixed fragments
of the gene pool
simmered shards
determined memories
all but one disembarked
insistent immigrants
spread thin
through years of passages
via quiet windblown sails
or coal smoke belching steam
origins enough
for hands and heart
and feet and voice
spit out at landing
to be absorbed
reshape and move again
never stagnant,
hardly captive flow
sometimes I glimpse
a layered, pungent silt
swept down time’s stream
to keep my forbears
dreaming thoughts alive
and pass along
another twist of bone and flesh
in lovely recombination,
and in hope
trusting what comes next
and so we grow

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NaPoWriMo 2016 day 2: the prompt was a family portrait. Sometimes you just have to go small.


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emptying a place, filling my soul

Sell a 6000 square foot house with outbuildings on 23 acres. Empty out 200 years of stuff. Add 15 cousins, stir well.

A TV series pitch? Not so much. It was my life for a while. It took about three years, but we did it, my cousin and I, with lots of family help and the sale of a painting.

There were miracles involved.

We were a typical extended family with rifts and misunderstandings. My cousin and I were trustees for the two branches (his father, my mother). We worked hard to heal the effects of the past, building a good working relationship, learning to trust each other. The rest of the family followed our lead, slowly but surely.

The potential for great drama burned off like fog. When the time came to finally empty things out, the family grew closer. There were no fights. None. Someone might get crabby for a few hours, but we all understood and helped each other through it.

Coming down to the wire the wild and wacky bartering started. Taking my name out of contention for a wooden bench, antique hay fork and french watering can produced the rug next to my bed! We all got into it. And it was never about monetary value.

So much so that when our family lawyer arrived on Monday morning to arbitrate any disputes, there were a whopping seven items waiting for him to decide about. Out of all that stuff. He said he’d never seen anything like it.

Big ticket items? Nope. The French watering can and a painting by my mother were the most hotly contested.

Even when the outcome was decided, we still made adjustments. One of my cousins (unbeknownst to me) was extremely attached to a child’s hearth chair that I got. Watching a slow tear make its way down her cheek, I simply gave her the chair. Fondness trumped by memories.

Later on her brother came up to me with a bowl he knew I really loved, but that he had chosen. He put it in my hands saying it had a small crack, and his wife had a thing about cracked bowls. I know it was because of the chair, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

Losing stuff. Regaining family.

It was that kind of day.


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today, a while ago

a while ago I had a gift
and gave one too
a lovely boy
whose soul and name
my heart reached out and held
before his birth

and then he grew
gifts seized with joy
and challenge met with grace
in one quick moment
my life’s blink
this swoosh, bright energy
old true soul, became a man
possessed of loving honesty

now two score on
a truth teller thinker
dreamer husband father
nephew cousin brother son
above all friend
his light shines bright
held always
in my soul’s arms
and in my heart

__________________________________
for my son, on his 40th birthday


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the stuffing bowl

once spied upon a dusty shelf
and brought home as a prize
the stuffing bowl sits quiet
holding memory in its curve
the sisterhood of early rising cooks
assembling the ingredients
of timeless celebrations
ingatherings of family and friends
all linked by common filament
it waits for careful hands
to lift it down and fill its heart again
with love and thankfulness

_______________________________
my sister Annie and I have always called each other on Thanksgiving morning, up early, cooking.