Red-Cheeked Company

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You are company, you red-cheeked spitz, or you salmon-fleshed greening!
I toy with you; press your face to mine, toss you in the air, roll you on the ground,
see you shine out where you lie amid the moss and dry leaves and sticks.
You are so alive! You glow like a ruddy flower.
You look so animated I almost expect to see you move.
How compact; how exquisitely tinted!
Stained by the sun and varnished against the rains.
An independent vegetable existence, alive and vascular as my own flesh;
capable of being wounded, bleeding, wasting away, and almost of repairing damages!

I think if I could subsist on you or the like of you,
I should never have an intemperate or ignoble thought,
never be feverish or despondent.
So far as I could absorb or transmute your quality
I should be cheerful, continent, equitable, sweet-blooded,
long-lived, and should shed warmth and contentment around.
~from John Burrough’s essay on “The Apple”

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Lo! sweetened with the summer light,
The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
Drops in a silent autumn night.
~Lord Alfred Tennyson

 

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Pursued by Poplars

Another out of sequence post — this was meant for today, Sept. 29

Barnstorming

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A row of Populus Nigra (Latin for “people of the dark”), otherwise known as Lombardy Poplars, seems to be following me.  I feel pursued by this long border of eighty-plus year old poplars on the west edge of our farm.  The trees themselves, supposedly nearing the end of a typical poplar life span, are grand massively tall specimens, their leaves and branches noisily reacting to the tiniest of breezes.  In greater winds, they bend and sway wildly, almost elastic.  The trees themselves are certainly not going anywhere in their hot pursuit of me, but beneath the ground is a remarkable stealth root system that is creeping outward, reaching inch by inch closer to the house.

That is what strikes fear in my heart.

If I leave those roots undisturbed for only a few months, they swell to arm size, lying just below the surface of the ground, busily sprouting numerous…

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The Boreal Fruit

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The moon now rises to her absolute rule,
And the husbandman and hunter
Acknowledge her for their mistress.
Asters and golden reign in the fields
And the life everlasting withers not.
The fields are reaped and shorn of their pride
But an inward verdure still crowns them;
The thistle scatters its down on the pool
And yellow leaves clothe the river—
And nought disturbs the serious life of men.
But behind the sheaves and under the sod
There lurks a ripe fruit which the reapers have not gathered,
The true harvest of the year—the boreal fruit
Which it bears forever,
With fondness annually watering and maturing it.
But man never severs the stalk
Which bears this palatable fruit.
~Henry David Thoreau
So many eyes turned skyward last night
to witness the shadowing of the moon,
its large unblinking eye turned bloodshot.
The wonder is that we are mere witness
to something beyond our reach,
trying our best to harvest, record and keep it.
This morning the moon sets,
bright and cheerful,
as it always does,
and we go about our daily lives
oblivious that it will continue to do so
long after we ourselves are harvested.
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A Living Mystery

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To be a witness
does not consist in engaging in propaganda
or even in stirring people up,
but in being a living mystery:
it means to live in such a way
that one’s life would not make sense
if God did not exist.

~ Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard of Paris

 

I’m not sure how much a mystery I am;
I feel transparent as glass most days.
But I make no sense at all,
I could not be seen or seen through
without God’s mystery
creating me and all that exists.
His mystery has lived and breathed
alongside us —
we cannot deny our witness of Him.

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Not One Blade of Grass

 

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There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.
~John Calvin

 

We are given the option to notice
or not
We are given reason to rejoice
or not
We are given a rain-bowed promise to witness
or not.
So why ever not?

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A Domestication of Daisies

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Time is a tick, a purr, a drop. The spider
on the dining-room window has fallen asleep
among complexities as I will once

the doors are bolted and the keys tested
and the switch turned up of the kitchen light
which made outside in the back garden

an electric room-a domestication
of closed daisies, an architecture
instant and improbable.
~Eavan Boland from “Nocturne”

As each day blurs so quickly into the next,
I try to lock it up, throw away the key,
preserve them on a shelf like so many jars of fruit
to sample when I’m starving to remember.

Each night suspends
as I turn out the light,
a moment of sighs and murmurs
in gratitude for another day
brief as a daisy
that fades away.

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photo by Josh Scholten

The Human Season

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I speak this poem now with grave and level voice   
In praise of autumn, of the far-horn-winding fall.
I praise the flower-barren fields, the clouds, the tall   
Unanswering branches where the wind makes sullen noise.
I praise the fall: it is the human season.
                                                                  Now
No more the foreign sun does meddle at our earth,   
Enforce the green and bring the fallow land to birth,   
Nor winter yet weigh all with silence the pine bough,
But now in autumn with the black and outcast crows   
Share we the spacious world: the whispering year is gone:   
There is more room to live now: the once secret dawn   
Comes late by daylight and the dark unguarded goes.
Between the mutinous brave burning of the leaves   
And winter’s covering of our hearts with his deep snow   
We are alone: there are no evening birds: we know   
The naked moon: the tame stars circle at our eaves.
It is the human season. On this sterile air
Do words outcarry breath: the sound goes on and on.   
I hear a dead man’s cry from autumn long since gone.
I cry to you beyond upon this bitter air.
~Archibald Macleish “Immortal Autumn”

 

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