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Garden Mysteries


Foundlings, wrapped in cotton,
cradled in a plastic shell,
left on a doorstep without a clue:
no names, no note, nothing at all.

“I can’t raise these,”
my sister said.
“You take them.”

Mystery seedlings.
I recognized tomatoes,
guessed at peppers,
planted them in my garden,
hoping for the best or, at least,
for something. .

Watered, caged, watched tomatoes grow,
setting on big fruits,
some round, some lobed, tripartite,
bright green shading darker through July,
a soft, hazy red creeping up from the bottom.

Most potted pepper plants produce jalapeños,
first green and growing, then red,
then poppers stuffed with goodness.
sweet hot from the oven.

A single pepper plant produces nothing
but branches and bushes through July,
finally flowering in August.

My foundling tomatoes hang heavy on their vines,
still green and red, not changing color any longer.
Brown scars mark where they have almost split.
I lift a big tomato gently, bounce it in my hand:
soft and heavy. Maybe
this is ripe?

Taking a chance, I cut it from the vine,
wash it, cut the lobes apart, remove the stem, and taste:
so sweet!
Essence of tomato, in
a nameless, orphan heirloom.


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Ode to a White Cat


Strong, supple muscles wrapped in soft white fur,
leaping, landing, stretching, settling in,
demanding petting, responding with purr.
Contesting with sleep, this cat scores a win:
Of course, he says, you need me here, shushing
birds and books and dreams. Creating bliss is
easy. Stroke my fur in thanks and go on. Continue reading

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Trees believe

IMG_0653.JPGTrees feel death’s chill as
winter freezes down hard
but they remember.

Trees believe in spring
hope for new life even as
sap freezes
snow blows
ice coats and clacks their branches.

All through the hardest winter
trees remember spring,
believe it into coming again.

Trees remember and believe.
Sap rises.
Hope buds.

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Spring Coming, 2018

two geese.png

Half a dozen gray-and-black-and-white
Canada geese swim
in a small corner of water melted
under a bright afternoon sun:
above, all incandescent blue,
below, all gray and white and black.

A pheasant skitters across the still-frozen pond,
long-tailed, ring-necked bright spot against snow.

Two swans stand
white against a plowed black field, wondering
which way to a lake?

Water burbles into city sewers,
puddles on sidewalks,
during the day,
freezes glassy overnight.

Spring sun shines,
birds return,
sap rises,
snow melts,
rivers flood,

a cataract of voters in Pennsylvania,
a flood of firings in Washington,
a trickle of resignations-on-principle,
a torrent of protest,
youth rising
unstoppable as spring.

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The Dreaded Darwin Road

First miles leaving home,
last miles coming back,
once gravel, now paved,
ices quicker,
drifts deeper, clears slower,
than any other road,
runs seven miles through beauty.

Spring greening,
teal and mallards waddling,
turkeys strutting,
red-winged blackbirds singing from reeds,
plowed fields and ponds alive with promise.

Summer growing,
an eagle soars and
a red-tailed hawk perched on a road sign
watches the hearse go by.
Corn grows
knee high by the Fourth of July,
higher yet, until
a person could get lost in the fields,

Autumn glowing,
geese honk high,
rooster pheasants parade roadside,
seagulls follow the plow.
Trees turn gold,
fields to sere stalks, then stubble.

Winter freezing,
crows complain,
deer ghost through fields at dusk.
Frost, snow, silver
trees, fields, ponds, roads.

Call ahead:
is it icy? drifted? plowed yet?
that dreaded Darwin road
to home.


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wild grapes by alan levine

Wild grapes photo by Alan Levine, public domain


Bird Woman, brave woman,
sixteen years old and
explorer of unknown frontiers.
Baby on your back.
mother-wit finding
food, medicine, plants, berries,
paths through mountains to the big water.


Helen Ann, dreaming of adventures,
rides a fat pony
around the yard and into the woods.
Branches grab her braids, and
brother hears her cries,
rescues, laughs,
names her Sacagawea because
she loves the woods and wilds.


90 degrees in the shade,
Aunty takes us wading,
digging river clams,
picking gooseberries in the bushes,
chokecherries from scrubby trees.
Showing us the way—college, career, even
Blazing new trails as surely as
Bird Woman did.


Together, we forage fall fencelines,
tramp the forty,
pick wild grapes,
bake Christmas cookies.
Who knew this would be the last time?


Sacagawea silver dollar in my wallet
to remember you both forever.


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Driving Vermont – October 8, 2017

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People in Vermont kept apologizing to us: the host at Red Barn Loft, the man behind the counter at the Maple Museum gift shop, the coffee shop owner – just about anyone who found out we were tourists.

“Sorry about the foliage,” they’d say. “It’s just been too hot, too late this year. The leaves aren’t what they should be. Sorry.” As if it were their fault. And as if it were true. Continue reading

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