Twelve wild turkeys on their barnyard tour lumber from the woods
a haphazard file of sumptuous brown bodies pulled by naked heads and red chins
across the farmhouse lawn to the spot where chicken feed lies scattered every morning
they begin determined digging
Five black-and-white spotted cows and a brown sprawl on the thick hay pile that rises
from the snow and two more sleep standing with early spring sun heating their backs
one lying at the edge wakes and chews turning her large white-patched eye
to watch the foot traffic
Four horses stand under thick red blankets munching hay
heads bent to the ground and tails rarely twitching as it is still too cool
for bugs but even in the safety of the yard their lead mare lifts her brown head
and flares her nose watching long minutes for threats from across the field
Two black furry puppies with floppy ears and strong short legs
bark and run fast and free of any fear almost tripping
down the hill to waggle their muscular bodies in a yipping welcome
of a friend climbing the path
One cinnamon Labrador falls to the battered wooden floor of the old milk house
rhythmically thumping her tail on the boards and baring her belly for a long rub
she lifts her head for a close and steady gaze
licking the wrist of the hand that pats her
Two young huskies lie behind their fence breathing the cold air after their second
morning walk and five horses in the next field look up at the sound of footsteps on the road
at a passing shadow a chipmunk darts into the stone fence while the red squirrel
chats a warning from high in the bare maple
In the house a ladybug clinging at the water line sips from the cats’ bowl
bread cooling on the counter fills the air with its light baked yeasty smell
the eggs are washed and gleaming in their soft shades of brown and green
the world proceeds with its small rituals
Late-winter evening, a light snow,
6:30 on the first day
after the clocks spring ahead
standing on the road below my house
surrounded by fields, woods
and a profound quiet
my ears throb with stillness and a faint ring
from the city traffic I’ve left behind
for minutes no other sound comes by
I listen beneath soft flakes
in a luminous glow
of muted afternoon sun on snow
then solitary barking carries over far fields
brief squawking rises from the trees
down the long trail of the road
around the bends
an engine slowly draws near
and yet I hear
Horse wet from the rain
stands nostril to nostril in the barn with me
the dampness of her face
rising softly on the breath between us
When he was a little boy
in his mother’s ear
(Do you remember?)
Standing close, beside her chair,
so no one could hear.
“Tell them yourself!”
his mom would urge,
when he’d whisper
in her ear.
But he’d just shake
his auburn curls,
so no one could hear.
Now he is a grown up boy,
standing tall and speaking loud.
He does interesting things
that get him noticed in a crowd!
Teaching tiny kids to ski,
sometimes he has to speak up loud.
And it’s not just anybody
who can play keyboard
for a Blues Fest crowd!
He’s a nice lad to be around,
standing tall and speaking loud.
And when his parents look at him
you can tell
they are so proud.
we do miss that little boy,
speaking so no one can hear.
We like to think
he’s in there still,
in his big boy’s ear.
To hear this poem read aloud, play the Evernote audio file
The year has turned
to the round month,
the orange one,
month of steam and droning bees,
time when we first remember
the end is tumbling near.
Green and yellow hang in the air
and we bask in the sun’s fullness
like sweet, plump raisins
curving toward a scarcer heat,
the crust of summer
sun-buttered and baked to a crisp sheen.
Some mornings, mist hangs so heavy
a solitary heron blends with the water’s edge,
This afternoon, thunder strikes a pose,
proves itself rain’s herald
and swallows the sun. Rain pours heavy
along the river. Later, in the opening air,
thick with humidity and a soft
leaves drip with relief and a deeper green
moves from the centre of things
to hover at the edge
of the trees’ dark spaces. Silence
moves aside for the first bird.
“August Rain” first published in Economies of Gratitude by Ellen Symons. Penumbra Press 2007
dream / light / shadow
mattress body blanket
the fragments strewn
by night across the landscape
of my bed pulling
thread by thread
For my dear friend
And now, sadness,
I instruct you
to be still.
Let these bones rest. Marrow
pale and depleted by memory
they are weary and cannot stand your shaking.
Let the exhausted heart
encased in this bombarded cage beneath my skin
jarred by your gnashing and clamouring
float in the buoyancy of you forgetting
for a moment
to squeeze it dry.
Do not bewilder
me with your wailing.
Now I tell you:
Let me be.
This poem is one I wrote maybe a decade ago, but it still expresses something important to me about the beauty, peace, and comfort of this time of year.
After a bright afternoon’s quickening light
To be cradled by dusk,
Its slowly sit-down darkening
To contemplate the softening outline of the old cat
Curled warm on your grey-trousered lap
To watch the women and men with briefcases and backpacks
Walk from the bus toward darkened houses
To see a glow appear here or there and know
The tired homecomings have begun
To unravel the mysteries of your heart
That can only be glimpsed when the busy sun
Pulls up its thick shadows
And the arms of the evening encompass all
All night the wind filled with snow howls against our walls.
What happens to the animals,
or people still outside
I do not know.
Small ship on a vast ocean our house sails alone through the gale.
Carries us fretting to the borders of morning,
the furnace and the radio