Bittersweet vine has climbed the sky
to offer seeded fruit to birds
that search for food now low and high,
so that in time bittersweet will twine
its vines so far as wings may opt to fly
to plant seed at the behest of climbing
bittersweet that pheasants leap to try.
In the dark a fan of crystal ice raced
outward from the axis of a fallen leaf.
An array of ice lances in instants grew
when at a seeding point still water
fanned into crystal spokes of clear ice,
each a long and edgy hexagon
that raced blind through dark
but gleams and glistens in now light
to celebrate the genesis of mystery.
My finger lightly touches
a tiny frozen mushroom risen
above pine needles and moss.
Brittle, its stem breaks and falls,
spores unborn, but gills
gray-blue crinkle my eyes
with miniature perfection.
On a fallen oak, a fungus grows cups
that catch small treasures from above,
a red maple seed, a ripe acorn’s top,
a single needle from white pine.
Concentric bands of color inside
recast the shapes to funnels.
Each cup is greened by feather moss
searching out light, as I have found
in little fungal scoops on old red oak.
Note: The scoops are Trametes versicolor, a universal decomposer of wood, and lately used medically to boost the immune system and as adjuvant for several kinds of cancer.
Back in the warm we’ve quickly forgot,
a cluster of inky cap mushrooms
on their way to liquid ink, gifted
brief and glowing rims of blue
that linger in my mind’s eye
like the blue phosphorescence
of the cruiser’s wake in tropic waters
that curved bright to the horizon
from where I leaned on the fantail
rail long ago and watched the prop
excite black ocean into lively blue.
Last month I found a life that
could not bear its final birth.
It clung in death to a goldenrod stem,
fell to sand as my finger touched.
A caterpillar furred black and orange
could not release its destined flight.
This happens everywhere in life, but
our knowings must be recognized
by regret, a grief, though brief,
for what might have found its wings.
When December’s thermometer
is capricious as a drop of mercury,
water in the woodland pools
oscillates in daylight between
liquid phase and ice, melting
and refreezing into shapes
that would make Gaudi weep
with inspiration pure as ice.
As the blizzard wails the eaves
a squirrel makes it to the feeder
in a moment’s whiteout slack.
I begrudge him not a bite, for
in a blink of sidewise snow
this bedraggled being becomes
every wilding of the land.
I can only sigh…until binocs
show me that his eyelash holds
a bit of blizzard on each hair,
and in rueful kinship smile.
Fluent winds of winter
drove snow last night
to link its broken arms
into such moonscapes
as rivers sculpt in stone
light and dark, ice and flow,
ages without count.
At fifteen below, a mourning dove
fluffs every feather that she wears.
Her breast and belly down hold heat best.
The cold air is still, but the lifted shingles
of her wings look as if she’s faced away
from wind. Such frigid air needs no push
to insinuate its iced touch on every skin.
I shiver behind glass protection, aware I’m
nowhere near the natal turf of furless apes.
Below is Invite to Write #1 and ten of the submitted poems, out of more than 30. Every submission was strong. I had to arbitrarily just choose ten to feature, in no order. Thank you so much for sharing your unique
human perspective and skill. Do see the kids’ entries posted below.
Naked roots dip through
freezing water, reflected sky -
indigo pleats of ice.
I join the buckle and bend
of those limbs
as they discover and continue
with what's beneath,
and those who are asleep.
Mary McConnell, WI, US
Roots come to the water in their evening
To mingle with old leaves and spent needles
To chew over hard days for the forest
And colder times to come – and yet,
Century after endured century,
Roots come to the water in their evening
And the water brings news of Time,
Brings messages from mountains to the seas
Which give heart, on their way, to the trees.
Bert Biscoe, Cornwall, UK
Ancient gray fingers dabble in a clear pool.
Do they remember play?
Or do they desire cleansing?
Perhaps they need a final drink?
No, they seek something sacred.
This is holy water.
Amy Ouchley, LA, US
Earth’s arthritic fingers show us
Just how short the distance is from liquid to solid.
The ice, until wind-worn, will show us
Exactly where the pine needle caught,
Just where the oak leaf dropped
Before the temperature, also dropping, stopped the clock.
It may not seem friendly,
But I am thankful for ice— for the way that it does not know its future,
For the way it is powerless in the tilt of the planet,
For the way it is powerful in the snapping, the pushing up, the plowing under.
Beth Waterhouse, MN, US
Tangled and broken,
Gnarled by years of pushing and pulling,
The roots haphazardly caress both earth and water,
Warning me of decay, neglect, carelessness,
A reminder to nurture their source
For our roots are intertwined with them
On the precipice.
Jane Jackson, NJ, US
These naked, graceful, roots,
In summer times with leafy sun-soakers partnered,
Plough their own way through palimpsest dirt, amongst
other earnest beings likewise busy,
now gone, now washed away.
Exposed by low winter waters,
hardening, cluttered with flotsam, brooding,
As with us these dark days,
our inertias amassing messes, feeding our slowed flows,
Till light and warmth again return, inspiring,
Oh joy, new dancing.
Geoff Hoare, B. C. , Canada
I find similarity with nature,
perhaps not meant,
as my mature joints,
aching and bent, seem to cry
"With these twisted limbs identify."
Shirley Grantham, CA, US
reach into frozen blue.
twigs and grasses
in reflected sky.
Clarissa Cole, MN, US
Rusted red pine needles
Float water worn
Water freed roots
Promising some new
Cycle of living
Tom Bacig, MN, US
Ancient twisted roots frozen in sea of ice
These twirling seekers of life's substance
Have witnessed many of nature's tales
But the natural beauty of the ice crystals
have seen so much more
Timeless, aloof, they have seen it all
from the time of Earth’s cooling,
they appear, stay awhile, observing
only to melt away until the next chill.
There is some comfort in the knowledge
that on Earth’s final Morning
Ice will inherit this world
delicately spreading across all land and seas
beauty to the very end.
Nick Wright, Yorkshire, UK
from Tim Deyle’s 5th grade class, Roosevelt Elementary, Fargo, ND
Shaped by Abigail Grieger & Emily Schaaf
These tree roots are black magic.
They are hands reaching out to grab me.
To snatch me, to pull me under,
These roots are evil.
Darker than all the fears in the world,
Cruller than a slave-master
Worse than all the villains in a story-book,
They want to drag me down
To the deep icy cold water,
But I will wriggle out and escape.
Swim to the surface,
Climb the mountain,
Light up the world.
Enjoy my chance at happiness and survive.
By Sofia Flories
I see a flood.
It looks like the Fargo2010 flood.
It looks like the Mississippi River.
I see the branches that look like
a boa constrictor going into the river.
By Kimberly Vogt
Snow and ice and whelming dark
sink mind and heart until
long Solstice night dies again.
Even beneath snow and ice
the elder greens of moss
stay bright, knowing in each cell
that growing days will once more
beat back dark, wake spirits,
bathe each waiting green in light.
This is the season for walking in circles,
thinking in circles too.
But I thought it was just me and all the rest
of the us humans.
The season winds us up and off we go,
not sure if we’re coming or going.
I thought it was just me,
Until I found bird tracks in thin snow,
walking in circles too.
This kinship is delightful to know,
but when I think it through
I discover the bird-brain conundrum.
Am I stuck with that?
So in this season I’m walking in circles,
with blue jays bird-brained,
but comforted to know I’m not alone,
for I know I’m walking in circles
this season with You.
Flower buds of red maple swell a bit each day,
cold does not slow them, nor snow.
Embryo flowers curl in pale knots beneath
bud scales already forecasting
the red of the child petals inside.
The tree knows that its flowers will open
and make seed in their season.
It grows within the wisdom of life.
As Luna enters Earth’s umbra, she glows gray.
Many stay awake and watch her
pull shadow over her mares and her highlands
until her gray glow is lost in the night.
Her slow emergence then is exciting.
Something strange happened in dark, for
when she emerges, she is blushing all over.
A snowdrift is simple.
Sun gives it shadow,
Wind gives it shape,
Edges to rake.
Crystals give texture.
broken and caught,
Allow drift to grow.
Sun gives it shadow,
Shadows in hollows,
Sun gives it light,
Sun lets us choose,
Shadow or Bright.
Yule moss in the Olympics,
green as its Sitka spruce,
green as Christmas fir,
celebrates with snowmelt
icicles lit bright by winter sun.
Ice is secret,
Works at night
When cold rules
By morning sun,
Ice edged out
Mother Earth toys with
Nature once again.
She arranges for
a winter brook to
grow a vulture of ice,
and dress the bird
not in grim black
but in frost white
feathers angel pure.
grows a fine beard
of sprinkling flakes,
a picture perfect
winter pause for
Implicit seeds set free
to spring green in sun
with warmed snowmelt.
12.31.2010 Invite to Write #3
This is Taos Pueblo churchyard in Taos, New Mexico.
The bell tower dates back to1619, when the church of San Geromino was built by the Spanish.
Submissions are due next Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011.
Below is the picture of the old house many of you have written so well about. Again there were far too many submissions to share all. I have chosen eleven. Scroll down for two by 5th graders of Tim Deyle’s class in Fargo, ND.
Enjoy. I have.
NORTH OF SOMEWHERE,
WEST OF SOMEWHERE ELSE
Is that a bird perched there
atop a fallen upper sash,
looking into a human dwelling
gone stark but not collapsed?
This space is not all empty yet.
Out back, mostly bare trees--
the leaves that hang on
are the dull tan crisp soon-to-fall-too ones.
The house gray in the same space
as the white one it was in its old youth,
now empty--windows empty of glass,
empty walls in and out,
empty probably of beds and chairs,
almost certainly empty of
Basement empty, empty attic.
Empty even of memory of voices.
Long empty. Still empty,
lots of empty to go,
but it doesn't go, it stays.
Empty even of emptiness.
Still, there's a little green
on the plot they used to call
lawn. Cared for, cared for,
cared for, then gone to seed,
weed, and dry husks of insects.
But still a little green.
John Calvin Rezmerski, Minnesota, US
Yes, she still stands there,
in the fields of Shiloh, empty
eyes sweeping the scrub-grass,
confused by what and who did not
return—and what was the artist's
name, who dropped the shadows
slantwise? Hopper. As in grass-
hopper. There are so many gone.
She whispers a silent question
to no one in particular: was it he
who took away the chimney?
Denise du Maurier, Washington, US
The house has been abandoned to the prairie winds
that sail through its empty sockets, rattle its frame.
Summer suns have roughened and bleached the skeleton.
Winter snows have cooled it,
skinned it white, again and again,
but there will be no new life.
What calamity happened here?
Or was it a quiet failure, a long march of ordinary days,
halted by illness or drought or deep disappointment?
The questions remain. The people have gone,
taking their stories with them.
Sara DeLuca, Georgia, US
Fancy, I may not be.
Boards without paint, you say.
Windows without glass. For shame.
Doors that no longer open without a swift kick. So sad.
But, as explained to the Velveteen Rabbit,
one is ugly only to those who do not understand.
Moan all you want about my bleak and empty appearance.
Memories of screen doors slamming,
children's laughter, and the clicking tongue
of the Mrs. who smacked the imp who deposited
the live snake on the dining room table.
Caress the heart of my grey chipped self.
Linda Nagolski Florida, US
No curtains rustle in dry wind
Only the smell of untrodden earth
The warm scent of old wood
Gone the whiff of morning breakfasts in the dawns
Heavy waft of noon gravy
The new pie sitting out to cool
The sound of running children's feet
Bark of dog
Silence of sleep
All that is left stands whole a while
Then weeps down to dust
Falling board pulls old nails
to rust, in time, to nothingness
Old house, there are no words
to bid farewell.
Peggy Osborne, Montana, US
No gleam of sun on glass;
windows empty except for a curious bird.
Sadness lies heavy as I see abandonment.
But I look again -
over there the woods look ready to approach,
to enfold this fading house.
Dry stalks of last year's grass stand sentinel,
surround its foundation.
Speak future, when roots and weather
will take this house to soil,
help it to transform and rise again.
Mary McConnell, Wisconsin, US
Labor of love
If only they could talk
And tell the story of their life
Growing, reaching up, standing tall
Being Chosen Ones to fall
Sounds of axes
Roar of machines
Shaping and Shaving
Hammers and Chisels
Standing tall again, together
A community in new purpose
Chatter of children
Feet rushing up the stairs
Laughter and tender sighs
Tears. Shrieks of despair
Final Goodbyes, uttered under breath.
Long gone the days
Of being Chosen Ones
Now rests only: To Fall
A labor of love
Still not gone.
Alexandra Prinssen, The Netherlands
but hold your hand
over the private parts,
and bless the bird
who now counts sunsets,
waiting where we shared food and family.
You spanked the naughty child,
cried for your losses and dressed for new ones.
Promises and heartbeats spent,
I still loved you after you left
and hold your smell on shelves
with the dust.
Breathing through wood framed time
where you might return,
Linda Hansen, Minnesota, US
Echoes of voices long gone finds her sad and gray.
Her sight dimmed and glass eyes empty.
Her bones sore and creaking, her skin dry with age.
To whom will this old grandmother tell her stories now?
What is that sound within her peeling walls?
Little scurrying feet across the floor grab her attention.
In spite of herself she smiles,
her walls expand with new joy.
The tickling of feathered friends
in nests high in her rafters
tell of a new family come to keep her company.
Now she will tell her story to new ears, make new memories.
She is not yet finished,
not ready to give up her wood to the Mother.
Not just yet.
Not while there are tails and wings and
hooves needing refuge.
‘Tis a season of joy once again.
Linda Leary, Colorado, US
having breadcrumbed my way back
to this prairie field
to this stand-alone serene structure
familiar vernacular of slat board and wood
far from the brownstone I now call home
I take pause to honor you
open, dusty-grey palette of form and emptiness
a stone throw away in this cellared memory
…thank god for this empty house.
Ellen Liberatori, New York, US
Whispers curl about this old house
Whispers of a young man creating a stout home …
For his bride?
For his children?
For his parents?
Whispers of laughter, of tears, joy and heartbreak
Youth and age, health and unwellness, life and death.
Now just the whisper of curling winds
And the question: Who was the last to close this door
And walk away?
Niki Mason, Virginia, US
Haunted, Haunted, Haunted House
It’s so creepy there’s not even a mouse.
Creeping up the stairs could it be?
The old ghost with the old rusty key.
Windows, windows all over the house.
So that ghostly ghost figure can look out.
We hear a scream from the basement
And how there is a replacement.
From one to two ghosts to be wed,
Under that old rickety bed.
The ceiling is dripping,
They think “oh how romantic.”
In that old creaky attic,
The children are singing their sad, sad song.
They wish the ghost didn’t kill them,
So they could live long.
Kendall Falkner and Katie Witt, Fargo, North Dakota
I’ve seen an abandoned house.
It looked really spooky.
The door is open,
And most of the windows are broken.
I bet there are a lot of bugs and animals,
In the spooky house.
Hector Lugo, Fargo, North Dakota
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