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Members' Writing

Earth Writing by Poet Elders

 

LEAF DANCE, LIFE DANCE

Joe Paddock

Oak leaves, walnut, willow and ash ....
I rake and haul, heave barrel after barrel
onto the fenced-in compost heap, till full
for the tenth time, and I toss my beagle over
the fence, climb the little ladder and leap after,
and we dance the pile down.

This is what we live for.
We stomp and leap and roll,
and Ring's sometimes almost altogether
gone, as he sounds after something which stinks
(dead sparrow or tire-smashed squirrel),
just the whipping white tip of his tail
which I sometimes grip till he flounders
to the surface, his eyes filled
with immense light. "Down there!
Down there!" Every writhing nuance
of his body speaks: "Down there!"

So much life must love death,
its smell and promise. Up and down!
Up and down! We leap and roll and dance,
smashing dead
leaves down tighter and tighter in the pile.

And even now
a new dance begins which will flame
high in spring,
when I mix in manure and the sun
leans near, and insects, worms
and forty billion bacteria to some incredible power
swarm in this ton of leaves. Up and down!
Up and down! Leap and dance! Snarl and eat!
Die in again
for sheer joy!

Oak leaves, walnut, willow and ash ....
I rake and haul, heave barrel after barrel
onto the fenced-in compost heap, till full
for the tenth time, and I toss my beagle over
the fence, climb the little ladder and leap after,
and we dance the pile down.

This is what we live for.
We stomp and leap and roll,
and Ring's sometimes almost altogether
gone, as he sounds after something which stinks
(dead sparrow or tire-smashed squirrel),
just the whipping white tip of his tail
which I sometimes grip till he flounders
to the surface, his eyes filled
with immense light. "Down there!
Down there!" Every writhing nuance
of his body speaks: "Down there!"

So much life must love death,
its smell and promise. Up and down!
Up and down! We leap and roll and dance,
smashing dead
leaves down tighter and tighter in the pile.

And even now
a new dance begins which will flame
high in spring,
when I mix in manure and the sun
leans near, and insects, worms
and forty billion bacteria to some incredible power
swarm in this ton of leaves. Up and down!
Up and down! Leap and dance! Snarl and eat!
Die in again
For sheer joy!


THE WAVES

Florence Dacey

You noticed the waves are never still.

The waves change just as your hands do, as needed,
as a task arises.

Today, in this world we have made,
all the waves must carry us, keep us
from drowning in ourselves
even as they bring us back to ourselves,
without illusions.

We’re going to scatter, we’re going to evaporate.
We’re going to not continue as we are,
as we imagine we are.

Do you think waves imagine anything?
No, you might say, but they haven’t needed to,
so far.

But now that we are killing water, perhaps they do?
Perhaps they have dreams of a world without us
without nets and poison and calculator brains.

How much do you love the waves?
Would you say, it would be fine if they washed
us all away, this moment?
Would you drop everything to work
to clean the waters?

But here is something we could actually do.
Lie down by the sea
or river or lake or stream
until the water in us
begins a small conversation
with the waves
who are waiting.

 

UPLAND SANDPIPER

Florence Dacey

Sitting on the earth, studying
prairie smoke, its soft purple plumed
tresses grasped between my fingers,

I noticed she’d come up
from the reclaimed ditch, her wide-eyed look
like a child’s, startled from her dream.

Her body gleamed like a woods
mottled and laced, with barred browns and whites
and sighs of wind under feather.

I wanted to hear her mournful whistle.
I wanted to defend her pinkish buff eggs.
Did she carry deep in that delicate brain

perched on her long neck
the memory of harm from my kind?
Was my face a known alarm?

She looked at me straight on
making her head a slim demarcation. Her neck
pressed forward, back, forward, back

until I, too, had to move,
bringing us both to that moment when
the wild one understands,

flees.

 

 

COTTONWOOD

Florence Dacey

Fountain of moonlight,
spry upstart among the sprawling
cedars, the flushed wind sends
you swaying into fall.

Like tears
your fluttering heart
shaped leaves turn gold.

Inside you pour
tunnels of rough stars.

You want to climb up to the lowering sky,
pull your feet from out this dry hillside.

We see your sisters along the river
throwing light off
as young girls do water after
dips or a naked dash in rain,
growing fast and soft
to break,
to die that much sooner.

........................................................................................................................

 

EYES FOR EACH OTHER

John Calvin Rezmerski


The light of heaven glowing from mushrooms growing on rotting stumps
is suggested by the museum’s tank of luminescent jellyfish swaying.

Each kind of firefly flickers at its own rate, its own hour, to its own kind only,
and we may guess the function of the message, but not what it deeply means.

Campfire sparks, a small plane cruising with navigation lights, a sliver of moon,
northern lights, fireworks on the horizon. A low candle fluttering in the tent.

In the dreams of poor children in deteriorating schools (some people say
children who won’t amount to much) blinks a light that spells out words.

Members of a family changing by necessity into animals keep human masks
behind which shimmers the energy of tigers or birds, or the light of bulls’ eyes.

Fluorescence, incandescence, lambency, scintillation, crepuscularity, reflection,
noctilucence, foxfire, nimbus, aura, translucence—good night, good night.

The brick-red krill that pave the surface of parts of the antarctic sea
shed an eerie sexual light at night, providing a background for reflected stars.

Lost in her own sweet pleasure, she opened her eyes to absorb the sight of his,
in a mutual daze of wonder and holding on, till intimate light blazed and dimmed.


THE TALLEST RED PINE IN MINNESOTA
Itasca State Park, October 2004
In Memoriam: Susan Sykes, 1959-2005

 

Edith Rylander

The red pine, as illustrated in tree guides,
Arrows straight to the sky.
But this tree,
Tallest and likely oldest in the state,
Has one major trunk bend
And several less obvious kinks.

It has fought through injury, illness, several fires.
It has reached for light among higher trees
Till it overtopped them all.
Greenly triumphant in its healed wounds,
It is still very alive, still reaching up, still growing.

My son and the striking woman he's brought home
To introduce to woods, swamps, tiny towns,
And midnight campfires,
Stand looking up, the two of them, admiring
The Tallest Red Pine in Minnesota.

They exchange low-voiced comments.
Her bright hair flips back from her face
As she laughs.  And they kiss,
A quick, light kiss that says,
"No hurry, there will be plenty of time for more."
They clasp hands.  They match stride for stride
As they walk toward the car.

Behind them, the tallest red pine in Minnesota
Sways in the wind and whispers its long green message.

 

TONGUE OF FIRE

Edith Rylander

The names of things I used to grow
Come back to me in near sleep.

Martha Washington, Mandan Bride, Jacob’s Cattle, Tongue of Fire.

Our garden now
Is much better ordered.
No more rows half-strangled with weeds,
No frantic, sweaty, too late
Attempts at rescue.
Time teaches us
The limits of our energy.

Still, names of abandoned vegetables
Blend for me anymore
With names of places
To which I will never travel,

Shangri La, Ultima Thule, Barsoom.

Then with a little jolt of joy I remember
What once I attempted, with seed and hoe and watering can,
In a craziness of spring ambition.

Martha Washington, Mandan Bride, Jacob’s Cattle, Tongue of Fire.

In near sleep I remember
Their smells, their growth habit,

Colors of their foliage, their tastes on my tongue.