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November 10

spray of small black birds
upward
imagining themselves
wind blown leaves—
or is it the leaves
imitating
the swift movement of birds?

Pippin at the lake

The air is filled with skittery autumn leaves, wind-driven across the wooden dock which could use a coat of paint before snow sets in again.
Again, the snow.
Again, the paint yet to be painted onto the weather-roughened bare wood.

No one comes to the lake now. One reason to love it so—the quiet. Plus, this late autumn beauty, maples flaring and sending their colors into the wind—a million tiny bright flags.

Pippin is the other reason to love the lake. Pippin, whose name even sounds like a party.

Pippin lives across the water on the other side of the lake, the festival side. Any time of year that’s a crowded jostling place full of people who spend their free time and all their spare money chasing prettiness and noise and decorative accents. Fairy lights decorate the trees and docks over there all year.

Last month was the Foliage Fair, as if those workers at marinas and gift shops, restaurants and paddle boat rental stands had invented the season or could take some personal credit for it.

Next month begins their Wonderland of Winter season. Some years the weather doesn’t cooperate and they truck in snow or make their own like ski resorts do, all to provide a picture perfect setting for—well, for perfect pictures.

Late October to late November is the quietest time on the festival side of the lake—After the leaves fall. Before the snow falls, or arrives by truck.

It makes Pippin edgy and odd, all this quiet. But I adore it and it is one of the only seasons when I willingly row across to his side of the lake and settle in for a while. The rest of the year, he comes to me. And though he doesn’t say so, during those busy noisy times over yonder I think he savors the quiet on my side of the lake. Because of course he knows it doesn’t have to last. Knows he can paddle home to music and loud laughs any time he pleases.
And so he stays because he knows he doesn’t have to.
Aren’t we all odd ducks?

belated happy anniversary

According to brides.com, traditional tenth anniversary gifts are tin or aluminum. The modern alternative is diamonds, which seems an awfully big step up. The photo paired with this revelation is of scrubby-looking wildflowers in (I swear) an old tin can.

Whatever the appropriate gift,
though this is not a marriage
between two people,
there was a ten year anniversary
between me and writing these poems.

I wrote it on the kitchen calendar.

However,
it was squeezed in the margin,
beyond the square edge of the day,
between work and board meeting and flu shot
and
I missed it.

Now,
two weeks late,
I do appreciate the message
of that small
square
calendar date—
too written on,
too full of words
for poetry

skein

at the lake
daylight till dark
we tell each other
news of our far-flung lives
laughing and crying
watching geese take flight.
They fly in formation
so they can see each other,
see the whole group–
Each takes a turn in front
till they tire, fall back, rest
in the eased wind resistance
of the flock which is sometimes called
(spectacular fact)
a skein, word which falls into formation
behind the geese, you with my messy,
tangled skein of orange yarn,
unknotting it slowly over hours of talk
until you transform it into a neat ball
that takes its place in formation
and becomes the orange moon.
Remember? We called you to come and see
the moon rise—no longer whole,
diminished but not gone
beautiful still
as it rose
over the lake
and we kept talking

October dusk

light all the lamps
as dark descends
to guide us home
or cheer the traveling

Supplies for Winter

Cold months ahead.
Stack wood, sweaters, books
to prepare.

The deciduous among us,
those chatterboxes—
as they say goodbye,
keep reminding us—
add paint and colored pencils
to those winter stacks.
We’ll need to make our own color
once they leave

what there’s time for

This morning I wanted to write a poem about gratitude
But
early slipped away to this—
candles lit on a rainy morning
a cozy old sweater
hands full of this mug of good coffee
lap full of this too-big excellent dog
a busy day of good work ahead
then dinner with smart, funny friends
at my favorite restaurant
So
I ran out of time to write it
but lucky enough, I get the time
to live it, and notice

party of robins

party of robins
staccato conversation
listening for worms

The ranks of small town dead

Ranks of our small town dead spread out like ships at sea, room enough for all. The oldest graves are closest to the winding path. No flowers adorn them, neither plastic nor live. They have been dead for a long time —their people too. Some of the stones are lichen crusted, moss coated. These are the dead who have no people left here to tend them. These are the ones dead so long that maybe they have no people left anywhere. A gone tribe.

Further from the path the rows of newer graves are moss-free and festooned with mum-filled urns. Early in the day, you can’t cross the grass to these graves without getting your feet wet. Later the sun climbs high enough to dry the dew.

Beyond it all, the row of shade trees. Beyond that the almost empty morning park. It’s too early for playground children, the wrong season for little league or pee-wee football to crowd the fields beyond the swings and teeter-totters. Early mornings, it’s only the drug deal makers working to fill the field beyond the newest graves. It would be simpler to stretch out now, you high boys. Lay down there, on the park side of the grass, so near to the rows of stones we’re all headed for—though you’re headed there quickest.

Lay down, boys. Let the dew cool your back as you contemplate your next move.

end of summer

on the front porch steps
woman, dog, moon—this postcard
sent from the season

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I came to where you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.--John Ashberry, "The New Higher"

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