Winter Prompt #19: Forget Matilda


Winter Prompt #19

No problem. I never, ever

remember her. Waking at 4 a.m.,

that old fear clutching—I am not

remembering Matilda. Walking

by the sea, filling my pocket

with white pebbles, admiring

the pair of osprey hovering

beyond the tide-line, I do not

think of Matilda. Stretching

my ice-cleats over my boots,

clipping the leash on the dogs’ collar,

following the ways of rabbits

through the snow—no Matilda.

Singing lonesome madrigals,

buying onions and soap,

drinking coffee with my husband,

feeding the cats,

reading to our grandson—

Matilda never enters my mind.

I have long list of sorrows,

but the one thing I do not regret —

I never remember Matilda.



What is this life if busy as hell

We have no time to sit and smell?

No time to sit beside the bogs

And smell as long as cats or dogs,

No time to scent when fields we pass

Where some one stopped to drag his ass,

No time to find, as though alone,

Where someone chucked a chicken bone,

No time to ponder every track

Of each deer passing onward, back,

To use your nose to best avail

To search the neighbor’s garbage pail,

No time to sit and contemplate

What each and every neighbor ate.

A poor life this, if busy as hell

We have no time to sit and smell.



I wrote this somewhat iffy poem ages ago—a parody of one of my favorite old poems, “Leisure,” by William Henry Davies— when we had an airedale. We have another dog now, and it still applies.

April Prompt #11

April Prompt #11


David’s #3

Every thing taught to me to do.

There are adjectives for people who don’t:

shiftless, selfish, irresponsible.

In my circle, too,

despite Martha’s sister, unChristian.



A friend to all and a sister

to every other Girl Scout.

I tried.


*  *  *  *  *


These days, I say No.

Reach in.

I walk alone for miles,

sit in my house with a book,

or in the meadow with nothing

but thoughts and birds,

or in this café

with my notebook and pen.


How introverted.

How lazy.

How unlike Mother

and the people

she so admired.

How unVermontish.

How useless.

April Prompt #20


David’s #2:  A Sea Chantey

How wise we are!

Though the sky be dark and the voyage be long,

Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,

While round in our Sieve we spin!

  ~Edward Lear, “The Jumblies”


That’s what it is, isn’t it?

A-sea in a sieve, spinning around

under a dark sky. Who knows where

we’re going. No compass, no wheel,

no sail. Will we pass Easter on the back

of a whale? Will we reach the Isle of the Blessed?


Or is that where we’ve been all along?

Morning came again, and spring.

Does it matter where?

How wise we are!


Walking this morning, in the rain,

I watched an old man in the wrong lane

on the crest of a hill, driving steady, heading south.

I called the Sheriff. What else could I do? I’m not ready

for anything, even the black-haired baby who sailed in on

Thursday, at dawn, as oarless as his Nan.

April Prompts: Number One

I am one of the Spring St. Poets. We decided this year that each of us would try to write a poem every day during April–Poetry Month. Each of us came up with five prompts, for a total of 30. I’m picking one out of a little box every day, at random. I shall  post a poem every day that I manage to do this. The quality of the poems will be more uneven than usual.  Here’s the first one.



a glaring omission


I didn’t. I forgot.

How could I? you ask,

when it all depends on me.


It was easy.

I got lost in the forest–

the chickadees pipping and pairing,

ravens dancing over my head.

Popple buds are swelling. Really.

Have you noticed? Everything

is ready to open as soon as the sun

is just right The moss is shaking

off the snow. The woodpeckers

are drumming.

So I forgot.

It never even entered my mind.



Australopithecus afarensis



I sit on the bones of my pelvis

wondering if you looked into my eyes

you’d see an explanation,

a daughter you’d recognize.


You would know me by my hands adept with tools.

You’d hear me singing with my friends,

watch me bounce my baby nephew on my knee.

You could meet me on a summer morning,

help me gather arnica and goosefoot greens.


So much I want to know of you:

did you fish for termites, crack nuts, chew leaves,

pull strips of flesh from antelopes and birds?

Did you awaken stiff and scared from twitching dreams?

I would tell you that when I wake from mine,

I remember my Nana’s lullabies;

I want to know if someone sang for you.


What did you make of your life?

What did you understand?

When it came your time to die, were you afraid?

Were you surprised?



Your Great Rift Valley was a careless archivist:

in her sandstone house she stashed

scrapbooks of mysteries,

a trunk of discarded fashions.

She tossed the crumbled pages

of your story in the river, to the wind.


Some artist made a grinning baby

of that ball of bones

from Afar’s nipple-pointed hills:

knees, milk teeth, tiny toes,

one finger curled, brown skull

returning from the dust.



Through dust of volcanoes

on feet like mine your people walked.


I would like to walk

into your landscape:

the yellow grass and scrub,

the seeps and gullies of home.


In this cold land of glacial till

and blue lake bottom clay

I press my feet into ground,

footbones with their musical names:

talus, calcaneus, cuboid, navicular,

cuneiform, metatarsal, infantry of phalanges.


Across years and continents

these bones have arched their way.


Southern Ape from Afar,

where have we arrived,

our footprints everywhere?


We trail white vapor through the skies;

broken machines encircle us,

the crawling increase of our kind.

We’ve made our own volcanic air.

Our children are sorted into rooms,

our babies lie crying, all alone.


We make beautiful and deadly tools.

Our music would break your heart.

Our lives shatter, our bones come apart.



Brooding over you, I dreamed

I lost my way.  I stopped

at a café where they were butchering

a road-kill fawn.  A baby escaped

from my suitcase. I had to walk

home in the dark and I could

not find my shoes.



My journals are out of order,

unsorted letters in shoeboxes.

Unnamed ancestors smile in sepia.

In one musty drawer I keep an envelope

with two baby teeth, a cheap bracelet,

my grandmother’s amber beads.


Now that I am old,

I need a Nana most of all

to sit with in the dappled shade,

to speak of things encrypted

under layers of language,

this endless chatter in my enormous brain.



I cannot look too long

in any eyes.  Before I see

the hawk, I feel its gaze.

There is something wholesome

in the taste of green.

I lie awake when the moon is full

and when the moon is new.

I remember where the plums

and wild asparagus grow.

Even now I know by smell

when the snow will come.



How hard, to evolve,

walk down across the land,

feel the twinges of selection:

bones growing longer,

speech changing the brain.

All around the world is turning,

brown and yellow and green.

Stars change the sky.

Do you remember?

Did you know?

Out of time, you walk with me

toward an Earth

as strange and familiar

as that house I sometimes dream

where once we lived,

that house I’ve never seen.                                          .




~ for Barbara J. King 

July 5, 2007





Last winter I did not go:
no snow to guide me home,
the woods an icy swamp.

But early this year I returned–
my snowshoes catching on stubs of stick–
through hardhack and ironwood,
little hemlocks bent with snow,

eager to greet the secret oak–
her lowest branches thicker than coffins,
split trunk of porcupines and owls,
her crown of rattling leaves.

But where she had always been,
a gap in the air–

her trunk had split in two,
splintered, shattered,
all her nests and burrows broken–
a pile of limbs and sticks.

When she fell,
every small ear
must have heard.

The snow was doing its best
to cover the wreck.

Spring will return, and summer.
Bats will shelter behind the loosened bark,
beetles and worms will do their work,
woodpeckers will rip and feed.

Hurt trees die from the inside out.
Dead trees decay from the outside in.

I asked a forester how long
till she returns.  He said:
Till there’s no trace?
As long as she took to grow.