The night is heavy.
The dirge of crickets
saws through the dry grasses,
joins the scraping, scraping, scraping
The bullfrog’s “ga-rump”
protests the pond’s receding waterline.
Honey locust leaves, tattered black lace
in the moonlight, hang motionless,
ignoring the teasing of thin ribbons of breeze
threading through the branches.
A screech owl’s cry pierces the night.
My thoughts are impaled on the tree’s thorns,
remembering Spring nights
we listened together,
friends with the night sounds,
our companionship mocking the dove’s call.
Now the breeze ribbons become my own bonds,
the scream of the owl my own voice
tearing at the droning pattern of life
Bouquet To The Fallen
Three black-barred feathers mingle in a vase
of summer relics: grass plumes, soft and sere;
brown pods whose seeds will never swell in earth.
Mute symbols rest in doubtful glory till
a whim impelled by holidays or spring
reduces grass and pods and feathers all
to ignominy with apple peels,
the bone of Tuesday’s roast, and empty cans.
Three feathers, strangely out of place and yet
half-hidden now, as in an August day
their browness sheltered in the tall-grassed slough
from predators the bird whose tail they graced.
How futile to suggest a kiln-glazed jar
might catch the spirit of a pheasant hen.
I hope the winged one, sans three feathers, flew
to where some grass still rooted in the ground
awaits another spring and nests and young
that it may offer cover. I would not
adorn my hearth with one whose flight is done,
whose black bars count my own aborted flights.
Bring Hither The Pleasant Harp
The harp notes shower me like April rain,
slim, silver needles probing virgin sod.
The strings reverberate a golden strain,
like messages the angels bring from God.
The melody surrounds and surges through me,
pours out a panacea for my soul.
A minor chord, though never dark and gloomy,
a measure’s sadness for an unreached goal.
I float along on music-conjured dreaming,
reluctant to return when song is done,
lest commonness destroy my pleasant scheming;
and castles tumble ‘ere they are begun.
Although the concertmaster’s bows are finished
the harp’s song in my heart is undiminished.
“From the summit, the view is much clearer;
The sky and the clouds will be nearer.”
But the egotist knew
The best possible view
Was the one that he got from his mirror.
A hem of hope, she called it,
as her nimble fingers made the tiny stitches,
needle flashing in the lamplight.
In bienniel routine, the three-inch hem
she turned up now on the blue calico dress
would be “let down” for the next school year,
pressed with a flatiron “hot as love”
Aunt Emma said, though it never quite erased
the telltale crease.
After awhile, I didn’t mind
the band of brighter fabric
that had escaped clothesline fading:
it became my badge of growth.
Now, standing in heavy silence under August sun,
I glance sideways at women with folded hands,
men with hats removed,
and listen to the drone of Rev.Blake’s prayer.
My mind escapes
to ponder what Aunt Emma had hoped for --
she who had lost three babies
before any reached the age of five,
and buried a husband beside them
in his thirtieth winter,
then mothered a frail sister’s two kids.
Looking down, I miss that brighter strip
below the somber colors of my skirt,
a skirt too short now against my adolescent legs.
Suddenly, I know
some things, like sorrow, are not outgrown.
From Hawkeye Lyrics, 2000
A publication of the Alpha Chapter Poetry Society of Des Moines