STOPPING, NO WOODS

Whose woods these were, I think I know,
their House is down beneath me, though–
and yet, they see me stopping here
to watch the streets fill up with snow.

They know, and do not think it queer
I stop without a forest near
between the street and frozen lake
the darkest evening of this year.

They turn, I feel their cold bones shake;
they whisper of the old mistake;
the only other sound’s the sweep
of easy wind and downy flake.

The ground’s alive and dark and deep
and there were promises to keep
but will we learn before we sleep?
Oh, will we learn before we sleep?

 

With apologies. . .

Advertisements

REFRIGERATORS

Smudges of mustard and mayo
in the bottoms of grubby jars,
blood-stained shelves,
elderly milk, uncovered meatloaf,
fish that should have been cooked last week.
What used to be a cucumber in the drawer under a bag of
what might once have been parsnips.

Another:  tidy Tupperwear, taut plastic wrap,
each quarter cup of creamed corn or cottage cheese
ready for a casserole,
eggs and butter in their labeled boxes,
crispers of lettuce and celery
crisp and current,
all the labels facing.

More intimate than underwear,
your refrigerator’s contents
reveal who you are.
Underwear tells only your taste
in fabric, whether you are sexy
or sensible, extravagant or cheap,
but your fridge tells all.

Look here:  stuff that isn’t even food:
camera film, caulking compound–
a fur hat.  Frog bones.  Bait?
Or here:  one bottle of milk,
two cartons half-full of take-out,
a quarter of a pizza with extra cheese.

 

~a post-Thanksgiving meditation

 

SNOW GEESE IN AUTUMN

Snow geese in autumn, their white transience
across the fields of stubbled yellow corn:
below their wings, the sun’s first radiance

casts long shadows on earth’s impermanence.
Tonight the fields will fill with snow.  Skyborne
snow geese in autumn, their white transience

recalls the simplest life’s significance.
There are no angels here this chilling morn–
below their wings, the sun’s first radiance–

no gods, no demons, no omniscience–
only the white geese, black against the dawn.
Snow geese in autumn, their white transience,

their great migration one obedience
to one instinct.  Why this?  Shadows withdraw
below their wings, the sun’s first radiance.

Snow, shadows, death, or life’s ebullience–
questions, terrors, pain, beauty must be borne:
snow geese in autumn, their white transience,
below their wings, the sun’s first radiance.

 

In honor of the flock we saw a couple of days ago.

 

LOCAL PRODUCE

for Judith, Katherine, Kira, Amanda and the Gang. . .

Purple cabbage leaves edged in green.
Local onions flaking in their bags.
The last local lettuce wet dripping
down our arms.   The smell of Suzanne’s herbs.
Apples from Shoreham and Waltham:
boxes taped with names:
Jonagold, Keepsake, Honeycrisp.
Carrots  and potatoes from Golden Russett and Lewis Creek,
Eric and Julie’s Pumpkins and squashes in their piles,
and the local Japanese melons with just a little give.

Winter comes!  Remember, remember.
Gather it up, save it all away!  Resist
slatted boxes of beans from the fields of Florida–
cherry tomatoes from sterile rows as far as the eye can see,
peppers of brown river water and murky air,
apples from Africa, berries from Brazil,
oranges, oranges, oranges, oranges,
displaced papayas with their fish-eye frog-egg seeds.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I hardly noticed the shift of attention:
when women in aprons intrigued me more
than girls in white dresses.

Look at Aunt Eller, in Oklahoma,
skirt hiked over a red petticoat,
slipping a green French garter up her long leg–
all sense and grace beside calf-eyed Laurey.
And in The Music Man, Mrs. Paroo
flirted easy with Harold Hill,
shook her elegant finger at young Marion
singing simpy dreams of what love should be.
Rosie Brice, too, who taught Fanny everything,
including the difference between love and help.

High school, onstage, in my maroon Paroo dress,
I craved a twinkling stardom of my own.
All that time unconscious, senseless;
but how could I have known?

I need no stars in the sharp light of afternoon.
Now I would not exchange
this confident gaze,  experienced smile,
for fluttering eyelids, a rosebud mouth;
Any man worth the trouble knows the difference.

Sadder but wiser, that’s the key.
Now I know the Music Man
would run away with me.

 

 

In honor of High School Musical season!

PUBLIC HEALTH

Has the town you live in a free swimming pool?
Can you step out after school and have a couple of hours
on a well kept tennis court?
Is there a good golf course reasonably near,
with convenient trolley service?
Are there plenty of playgrounds,
so that children are off the streets?
If none of these things are to be found,
wouldn’t you like to have them?

It is the business of the state to see
that all public buildings have a certain amount
of light and air to the cubic foot.
It is the business of the state to see that only
a certain number of hours a day
should constitute a day’s work.
It is the business of the state
to see that food and water
can be brought into the community.
It is the business of the state to prevent
spitting in public places;
to prevent the use of common
drinking utensils, towels, etc.;
to insist on the isolation
of contagious diseases.

The state should offer free clinics
where citizens can find out
what is the matter with them.

Do you see what a wonderful power
an intelligent woman can be in the community she lives in?
Women are naturally interested in all that happens to children.
For instance, if the desks in the public schools
are not of the right height and shape,
the children are bound to suffer in their health and hygiene.

Remember that Public Health is simply good housekeeping.

 

Found in the Girl Scout Handbook, 1931

 

 

FOLKWAYS

Our tribe walks in shoes: our floors are cold, our roads are full of stones.
In winter we cut down trees  and plant them in warm bright rooms.
In spring we gather to talk about gravel and common ground.
Summer we play music, wave banners, make fountains of scintillating fire

In winter we cut down trees  and plant them in warm bright rooms.
In autumn our children throw eggs, beg like demons in the streets.
In summer we play music, wave banners, make fountains of scintillating fire
We eat corn, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, meats cooked on coals.

In autumn our children throw eggs, beg like demons in the streets.
Our young ones have customs of their own devising which we do not understand.
We eat corn, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, meats cooked on coals.
We light candles to count the years of our lives.

Our young ones have customs of their own devising which we do not understand.
We carry our babies in little chairs;  gather our children to teach them our lore.
We light candles to count the years of our lives.
We wait until the weather changes which we know it will because it always has.

We carry our babies in little chairs;  gather our children to teach them our lore.
We marry for love. We bury our dead in green fields under stones.
We wait until the weather changes which we know it will because it always has.
We do not tell strangers how we feel because there is nothing they can do.

We marry for love. We bury our dead in green fields under stones.
In spring we gather to talk about gravel and our common ground.
We do not tell strangers how we feel because there is nothing they can do.
Our floors are cold, our roads are full of stones, and so we walk in shoes.

 

I wrote this about my fellow introverted New Englanders.  It’s in the pantoum form, which is really fun to play with.