Cycles and Seasons

Old Oak*

April Fools


Independence Day

Turtle On Court*


Birthday Benison

Semper Fidelis*

Lakeside Haiku Cycle

Haiku at Sea


Seven Ways

the color of living



Old Oak


You and I, lightning

struck but sending out new leaves

under a stilled sky.


Around the tree stump, mushrooms build scalloped shelves

for holding up air.  It’s an original design, black moons

edged with white and supported by the energy of decay.

It seems I have been here before, when I was air, and rested

on these shelves and will come again when it is time.

Friends and enemies lie in leaves long dried. 

Limbs litter the forest floor from some tornado’s spin,

suggesting at best we are not dust to dust,

but flesh to loam, or air to wind.  Withy brambles curl

in purple circles.  Seeds blow airborne from their pods

to feed a cold sunset begging for rest.  Other broken trunks

wait to host more mushrooms building half-circle shelves

for holding up air.  We are one, the tree stumps

and I.  We count it our fortune to witness the construction

of shelves for holding up air and raising art from the dead.


April Fools


On what day do clichés amaze us?

On the day before dandelion suns and twilit violets fall to the mower.

On the day when winter harvests of cold sift away on the south wind.

On the day that aging lovers reap pleasure as the afternoon rain strokes

and nuzzles their closed curtains.





It's all sky, goldfinches sewing the air

with quick looping stitches, a scarlet

tanager flashing through treetips or

rarely, an indigo bunting. The earth

falls away from your sunward stare,

and the mind flies.



Independence Day


Past the waving flag of chicory starred with Queen Anne’s lace,

beyond the red barn trimmed with white, lives a turtle that won’t

stay put in his pond. He wanders toward the road, the pine grove,

whatever direction leads away from safety and watery supplies.

Why? I ask, but he simply pisses when I pick him up, heavy in

his 12-inch house filled with the scaly furniture of determination

to find new worlds.

Turtle On Court


S/he seemed determined

to play tennis, shell and all,

winning by a piss.




Pulvis et umbra sumus

[We are dust and shadow] - Horace, Book IV, Ode vii, line 16


When tar sticks and fields scorch and every step puffs

dust, she departs from the usual paths to stay in the shade,

a new habit of aging. Shade is to sun as water is to thirst

but more—ask others who dared depart from the usual paths

past Charon to Hades where shades wailed and berated them

ceaselessly. She feels shades of the past as half glow half gloom

when the shade of her mother slides beside her, father sadly separate,

spectral collie herding a parade of the dead. As she clings to shade,

shade clings to her, and she fades a day’s worth. Blessed is the shadow

of memory, cursed is the shadow of memory. She reaches for shadows

and shivering, casts her own.





Thistles erupt, purple as the sound of cicadas.

Prairie grass on one side, corn on the other

rear overhead, and the road between is dust

one day, mud the next. A rust-colored

butterfly flakes from the air, crab apples

rot while bindweed and mosquitoes rule.


Beware of poison ivy and snakes not yet

asleep despite the rain that broke the back

of heat. We are not beaten, claims summer

royally, but still she flees, the dogs of fall

at her heels. Her last days have been

tyrannical and yet, her death will leave

us longing for a queen.



Birthday Benison


Some long for heaven but I favor the back porch

in October with a pine skyline and wooly clouds

dodging border collie breezes, bugs buzzing me,

birds gobbling bugs, all of us richly pollenized

or sneezing. In November these stairs slick over

like ski slopes, but October’s terraced, grapeful,

thirty-one vintage days decanted into glasses of

Amarone perched precariously on a rocking chair,

back and forth without a drop spilled unless you

count the splash of hardy roses still defying frost.

Month of vermillion leaves and opal light, month

that gave me the world, intoxicating October.

Sip it, savor it—honeyed heaven can wait.

Semper Fidelis


Defying drought, white

rain lilies sprout and blossom

in our fall garden.



Our front porch allows the night, the light,

the smell of cooling rhubarb pies

to slip through tiny wire squares. 

Winter pushes the creaky swing

and then takes turns with spring,

when we move out stir-crazy potted plants

to shake off their aphids and breathe.  Tenderly

the screens ventilate our words and silences

with the sound of trees voicing their leaves.

The screens keep out flies and mosquitoes. 

The screens spritz us with bits of rainstorm

and whiffs of dampening earth.  No need

to gather the dinner dishes and run inside. 

Let the wind snuff out our guttering candles,

let the screens air us.



Lakeside Haiku Cycle


Dawn draws a dragon

across the lake mists. Mountains

breathe sun-reddened fire.


The hot rays stop time.

The still lake waits for the first

touch of intruders.


From water spiders

radiate gray rings of lake,

like lies to oneself.


Trains at certain speed

and distance sound like pine trees

mulling winds' wisdom.


Doe-tailed sunlight flicks

through the glades of afternoon.

A hungry night nears.


This evening's earth

is blue, glazed snow set in a

ring of smokestone sky.


We inch into the

snail shell of midnight, moonpearled,

to the dark's coiled core.



Haiku at Sea



Wind ships sail by, snow

billowing, but leave frozen

waters unrippled.



Waves swirl away from

the ship sides on white, tapered

toes to dance, rest, rise.




Then a fin slices the flesh

Of bloodless waters.



Gulls tear at salmon

clouds swimming against silver

currents of sunset.


The heathered island

is pearled with curling breakers

and pinned to the sea.





The hemlock that sheltered the house was as tall as it was old

200 feet, 200 years, always longing for the sky. It darkened

the house, though, so one day the new owners cut it down,

which took four hours, not long for a giant to fall.

Latecomers to the neighborhood saw a light-filled

house, but some old-timers experienced empty

space, something sacred sawn across,

the loss of nature; others

saw a mossy ghost

finally entwined

with its sky,

and felt the

nature of




Seven Ways




his branchy

hand, umber skin

and needlegreen eyes

camouflaged in a forest of arms

weaving like wind, and asked with a voice

no louder than breezes, How do you make

friends with a pine tree? Be still, she said,

get sticky with pitch, prick your fingers with cone,

catch fire, break open, root in rich ground,

and bend





                            For Margaret K. McElderry, October 2010

        I   Bedside

She is ninety-eight

and barely breathing but asks

what I’ve seen lately.

        II   Salt Marsh

On the log are five

turtles, but room for four. Now

water holds them all.

Preening, a heron

loops snake-like, then, straightening,

eyes us.  The fish leaps.

Sooty coots up-end,

flicking their white tails to find

more private dining.

Six swans own this pond.

No swimming—they say—except

for swans.  Intruder.

Warblers criss-cross twigs;

we seize the binoculars;

a bottle floats by.

Windblown grasses bend,

taller than we are, their tufts

whispering with seed.

        III   Bedside

All that’s left of my

old friend follows me into

words about a marsh.


 the color of living


blue reveals the veins loosening their hold on an old

man’s hand and the cord slithering after a newborn 

blue denies low spirits with high sky and hides

our slippage between hues of a lucent morning

and shadowed evening

blue moves from soldier’s uniform

to smoke rising over bombed ruins

blue dreams forward and muses after

but when we ship away

white light guides us toward transparency




The open window breathes a world beyond;

the light that filters through the half-closed blinds

fills with rain unfallen, common pain and sound

suspended. Storms have wained and others wait,

the moment floats, occurrences unnoticed. 

Sleep has left but rising not yet come;

perhaps it’s dawn that borders night, perhaps

twilight that trims an afternoon—there seems

no name for this.  Forgotten dreams still hover

close behind while thinking lies ahead. 

The womb encloses, death discloses, soon.



Angel of mercy, angel of death, wrapped in black

velvet, with silvery breath, comes winging in silence like

snowfall at night. And why do we fear her so soft and so

sure as she cradles a soul that can hardly endure? Our

pain is the loss to invisible realms of all that we

hold, with each life goes a world that no other will know.

Comfort, come with her, bring sorrow to close, join all realms

together for rest and repose.