The Company of the Living

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The maple leaves abscond
with summer’s green rain
on such little stems
connecting to spring’s essence,
summer twigs’ foliage,
the company of the living.
But now they shrug off
their red-gold existence
as if they’d never inhabited
the verdure of the undead,
drifting to a ground
hardened by sudden frost.
~Donna Pucciani “One Minute”
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Who is ever ready for the harsh transition
from vibrant and alive
to dropped and dead?
We’re given weeks to prepare
yet the reality of another spent season
is a slug to the gut.
Time is passing.
I’m wasting time.
There is no stopping it
without stopping me.
We dwell in the company of the living
until we fall together.
Live well, fellow leaves
and we’ll let go together:
a gentle shrug and settling drift
when the time is come.
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Stalk the Gaps

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The gaps are the thing.
The gaps are the spirit’s one home,
the altitudes and latitudes so dazzlingly spare and clean
that the spirit can discover itself like a once-blind man unbound.
The gaps are the clefts in the rock where you cower to see the back parts of God;
they are fissures between mountains and cells the wind lances through,
the icy narrowing fiords splitting the cliffs of mystery.
Go up into the gaps.
If you can find them;
they shift and vanish too.
Stalk the gaps.
Squeak into a gap in the soil,
turn, and unlock
—more than a maple—
a universe.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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A Fit of Elegy

photo by Harry Rodenberger
photo by Harry Rodenberger

 

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Except to prompt a fit of elegy
It is for us no more, or if it is,
It is a sort of music for the eye,
A rugged ground bass like the bagpipe’s drone
On which the leaf-light like a chanter plays.
~Richard Wilbur from “A Wall in the Woods”

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The Winged Keys

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The set seed and the first bulbs showing.
The silence that brings the deer.

The trees are full of handles and hinges;
you can make out keyholes, latches in the leaves.

Buds tick and crack in the sun, break open
slowly in a spur of green.

*

The small-change colours of the river bed:
these stones of copper, silver, gold.

The rock-rose in the waste-ground
finding some way to bloom. The long

spill of birdsong. Flowers, all
turned to face the hot sky. Nothing stirs.

*

That woody clack of antlers.
In yellow and red, the many griefs of autumn.

The dawn light through amber leaves
and the trees are lanterned, blown

the next day to empty stars.
Smoke in the air; the air, turning.

*

Under a sky of stone and pink
faring in from the north and promising snow:

the blackbird.
In his beak, a victory of worms.

The winged seed of the maple,
the lost keys under the ash.
~Robin Robertson “Finding the Keys”

 

If only there were verbal keys as plentiful
as those that twirl from the maple branch,
words freed, ready to unlatch life’s secrets
and push ajar the doors of heavy hearts.

May we open just enough
to listen,
unlock horns,
and receive what falls
into our empty arms.

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At Least I Can Twirl

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

All at once I saw what looked like a Martian spaceship whirling towards me in the air. It flashed borrowed light like a propeller. Its forward motion greatly outran its fall. As I watched, transfixed, it rose, just before it would have touched a thistle, and hovered pirouetting in one spot, then twirled on and finally came to rest. I found it in the grass; it was a maple key, a single winged seed from a pair. Hullo. I threw it into the wind and it flew off again, bristling with animate purpose, not like a thing dropped or windblown, pushed by the witless winds of convection currents hauling round the world’s rondure where they must, but like a creature muscled and vigorous, or a creature spread thin to that other wind, the wind of the spirit which bloweth where it listeth, lighting, and raising up, and easing down. O maple key, I thought, I must confess I thought, o welcome, cheers.

And the bell under my ribs rang a true note, a flourish as of blended horns, clarion, sweet, and making a long dim sense I will try at length to explain. Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath. That breath never ceases to kindle, exuberant, abandoned; frayed splinters spatter in every direction and burgeon into flame. And now when I sway to a fitful wind, alone and listing, I will think, maple key. When I see a photograph of earth from space, the planet so startlingly painterly and hung, I will think, maple key. When I shake your hand or meet your eyes I will think, two maple keys. If I am a maple key falling, at least I can twirl.
~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Earth 2

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten