Categories
Poems

A Night-Time Stroll

While marveling at the starry sky
Where silver clouds scud and milky moon beams
In a firmament swathed in navy blue—

While exhausted folk slumber and dream,
Of fear or flight or of falling through space—

While the air smells of autumn, of trees, of smoke
And sounds of crickets, cicadas, and bold toads
Who sing in their want with chirps and hoarse croaks—

While descending the hill through low grasses
That run to the feet of an oak tree stand
Whose spectral aspect shadows the foot path,
There comes a turn and vista of the land:
There lies the distant village and spired church
The quiet houses and earthy, quaint lanes
Surrounded by arable pastures of wheat,
Rolling hills topped with rippling grains—

While on a solitary night-time stroll
Through rustling grass and the brisk, biting breeze,
In view of an old, wild, gleaming river,
There comes a worn, welcome feeling of ease.

Categories
Poems

Bees

When spring comes, the huddled bees clamber forth
From their cold, vulnerable colonies,
To feel the parting nip of late winter,
Savor the freshness of the vernal breeze,
And stretch their wings after the snowy cloister.
It is a time for scouts to find new hives,
A time for wild, swarming reproduction,
For rearing young bees to replace old lives.

A long-dead tree, standing in a vale’s hollow
With a deep cavity in its gnarled trunk—
A tree surrounded by rich broadleaf forest
That’s populated by boar, elk, and skunk—
Makes a worthy home for the nesting bee
Whose queen’s needs she must mindfully mark,
Whose summer combs will ooze melliferous,
And whose life is forfeit to the hive’s arc.

To make her claim, the bee must make her dance:
A robust and energetic gyration
That tells of her proud stake in the wooded chamber
And coaxes others to its location.
With zealous effort she wins the vote
Of the hive’s fascinated queen and drones,
Then, in glory, she leads a swarm of thousands,
Through pale glens to her queen’s modest throne.

There the settling bees establish their hive.
There is much to do, and no time to wait. 
Waxy, hexagonal combs must be built
For the larvae and honey they’ll create.
A resinous mix of saliva and wax
(Used as a sealant and called “propolis”)
Is applied to the cracks and crevices
Of the bees’ growing metropolis.

And of course, the virgin must be mated,
For she shall be the mother of all bees:
Those to be born in the coming days,
And who’ll be the life of the colony.
Like in a dream, the queen’s mated in flight
(Best on warm, sunny days with a blue sky)
By drones who won’t gather pollen, or nurse,
Or build, or anything—save mate, and die.

From these singular males, in but one flight,
The newly mated queen keeps in her belly
Fertile stores to last the rest of her life,
Which consists of eating royal jelly
And the vital task of reproduction:
Egg-laying, fertilizing, sex control,
For it’s the queen that manages the lists
Of sexes that the working hive enrolls.

Summer comes and goes.  The female workers
Build, gather, nurse, clean, and make sweet honey.
The male drones laze far from the busy hive
On days that are hot, languid, and sunny.
The world revolves.  Trees start to lose leaves.
Autumn’s chill winds come with a rustling sigh.
In fall, the gluttonous, idle male drones
Are expelled from the hive and left to die.

The hive’ll be a buzzing sphere of females
When, once more, winter comes with ice and snow,
And at that sphere’s center the queen shall rest:
Heated by trembling bees in her hollow.
In fallow days the bees live on their stores
On honey that to their cells they did bring,
As they shiver throughout the cold winter
And keenly await the coming of spring.

Categories
Poems

Summer Grasslands

Bison graze the tall, golden grass.
A sparrowhawk rests on an oak.
A herd of wild horses, paints, pass.
Like the sun, they’ve never been broke.

It is summer.  The wind is hot.
The river’s just a silty stream.
By it, a fox settles in for thought,
Then he curls himself up to dream.

At night the fireflies come out.
The flies twinkle like earthly stars.
Owls hoot.  Wolves howl.  Trees creak in drought.
Planets can be seen: Venus, Mars.

The wind rustles the big bluestem
And shakes the leaves on the willow.
Silver clouds scud.  The moon is dim
And lights the plains with its grey glow.

Categories
Poems

Winter Portrait

On oak branches hang frosted leaves–
Brittle, icy, and walnut brown–
Among stones, wolves, owls, swans, and geese,
Where flakes of snow fall thickly down.
Fragrant pines and gnarled cedars stand
In a gorge by the frozen stream
Where fog lies in a milky band,
And the sun makes the clear ice gleam.

Through this cold, all solitary,
Walks a man most melancholy.
All he owns is all he carries:
His bread, water, hopes, and follies.
He recalls a girl from his past.
He dreads the long, poor road ahead
For darkness here is most unkind.
He has no place to lay his head.

He treks across the snowy plains
Past the scrub oak, the pines, and streams,
His mind is hard, his body pained.
His clothing is worn at the seams.
The moon rises, new and dark.
Stars are woven like fishing nets.
The land lies daunting, grim, and stark.

Categories
Poems

What Are Islands

“What Are Islands” is a poem that warns of the dangers that accompany the continued destruction of the environment.

The_Triumph_of_Death_by_Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder
Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Triumph of Death, c. 1562

What are islands
but the very branches of the earth
rising up to break the waves?
And what are pits
But little scalloped holes
Where bats may live,
as they do in darkened caves?
What are these features, high and low,
But the merest bumps
Upon a sphere so smooth
That but a small ways up
From its brilliant atmosphere
These ridges and declines
Vanish into a sleek and satiny luster?
I’ll tell you now.
These islands and these pits
They are our home:
The verdant forest,
The yellow plain,
The milky fog
The chilling rain.
They are our home.
We have no other
On which to roam,
We have no other
To explore
From mountaintop
To ocean floor.
And if we throttle
This pretty planet
If its cerulean face turns grey
Still the sun
Will descend at dusk
And still the sun
Will rise at day
But all those things
That make life happen
The birds, the bees
The air, the trees
Will be killed by cement
Or disease.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

NUL14127
Jakob Bogdani – Scarlet Macaw in a Landscape

A Sea of Trees
There once was a fabulous sea
Whose waves looked like summery trees
There were breakers like ash
Whose foamy leaves fell with a crash
Amid a forest that ebbed and flowed mistily

The Scarlet Macaw
There once was a scarlet macaw
Who had but a single real flaw
It became the happiest bird
When it would shout a curse word
And leave the polite people in awe.

The Lazy Artist
There once was an artist from Chartres
Who loved but one thing more than fine art
And that was to be as lazy as hell
And for that he slept long and well
So his magnum opus he never did start.

Categories
Poems

Coming Home

A rancher is lost in the Wyoming mountains.  One evening, as his wife is looking through the windows, she spies him coming down the mountains.  She hurries out and meets him beneath a lodgepole pine.

The poem is written in blank verse.

Albert Bierstadt
Albert Bierstadt – Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point Trail; c. 1873.

She is a woman, auburn haired,
With eyes of green and careful mind.
She looks through windows onto snow,
To mountain ranges, crisp and clear.
She’s as tough as stone, as rough as cordage,
Supple as a rope or birch.
And in that cold Wyoming evening
Where the mountains meet the sky,
The clouds are forming, an airy meadow,
Like fields of mushrooms or beds of scallops
That grow up and white in course of time.

And coming down from that mountain,
With broken shoulder and riding slow,
Is a tall man of her age
One she’s bound herself to love.
And like Penelope she’s been watching
That rocky chine for hopeful sign,
And now at last her man’s come riding
Down the slope, back into life
To make again the old ranch whole.

So the woman, standing slowly,
Slips out through the cabin door
Into the air that’s crisp with autumn,
Chill and fair, suggesting snow.
She saddles up and rides to meet him;
She finds him ’neath a lodgepole pine,
And there the two dismount and embrace
Relieved to learn their hearts will mend.
For above the firs the birds are flying
Vultures, condors: the carrion pair,
And how they’d love a crippled cowpoke
Lost amidst the mountains there.
Now she and he are hugging fiercely
As the sun sinks behind the stone
And though Death is hungry
And impatient it must find another time
For tonight these two are coming home.

Categories
Poems

Slumberjack

For those people who still lie awake after counting sheep, a visit from the make-believe slumberjack may put you to sleep.

Harry Hoffman - James
Harry Hoffman – James

Counting trees is like counting sheep:
Each will make you fall asleep.
One-by-one as you count the sheep
You wait and wait till you drift to sleep.
But if by chance you cannot sleep
You must forbear from counting sheep.
Bring in your mind the felling of trees
By a man with a saw like the buzzing of bees.
He dwells deep in a forest of spruce trees and snow
For the taiga’s the biome where dreams like to go.
He is a slumberjack, and with every tree that he fells
Down you shall go down sleep’s bottomless wells.
Falling and falling you’ll have no bird’s wings,
Deeper and deeper you’ll sink in your dreams.
Drop and drop into the black
In the dark frosty forest of the sleep slumberjack.

Categories
Poems

Ray’s Home is Overgrown with Flowers

Diego_Garcia_Mixed_Species_Marsh
Diego Garcia – Mixed Species Marsh, Wikipedia Commons

One day Ray woke to discover that plants had overgrown his home.
A tree rose through the chimney, the carpet was covered with brome,
Ivy crawled up the bricks and wound over grout,
And when Ray squeezed his toothpaste tube, roses came out!
He had to brush his teeth with a paste made of petals,
So his evergreen breath smelled of needles and nettles.
While on the bookcase, where the photographs of his parents had lain,
Were garlands of daisies, tied in tender knots in a bright daisy chain,
And in the picture frame which’d featured a Eurasian magpie,
There was now a photograph of a desert landscape full of succulents and cacti.
In the kitchen bowl where there’d been garlic and chilies,
There was now water, and, in it, red and white Santa Cruz lilies!
When Ray opened the refrigerator door,
He discovered its chamber was abundant with bright slipperwort.
And when Ray walked into his once plainly furnished living room,
He found it overflowing with fungi, a forest of mushrooms!
All throughout his home, wherever he went, wherever he stood,
Ray was surrounded by orchids, azaleas, wisteria and wormwood!
But the most peculiar thing of all, was that Ray felt something in his foot,
And, looking down, he noticed that it had grown a root!
And from his fingers, there were growths of shoots and leaves
And the woody drapes that a liana weaves…
Ray suddenly felt thirsty for water, though his urge to pursue it was scant,
And with a final green look at the verdurous world, Ray turned into a plant!