Thanksgiving Fisher

all around the great dead oak
as darkness falls

a fisher dances
hunting white-footed mice

a dark sine curve
against the snow

that is also somehow able
to freeze for long minutes

crouching pouncing
coming up empty

it is only i sitting across
the frozen pond

who leaves feeling
fuller than before

filled i suppose with seasonally
appropriate gratitude

for this beautiful small beast
with its wild blood-lust

for my encounter with it
once in a new moon

for the freedom it still enjoys
to disappear

Reflection

burning some old barn
beams for fuel

the 19th-century knots
pop like pistols

and my train of thought
goes off the rails

forlornly blowing
its figurative whistle

into a night bright
with fallen snow

we’re all fugitives
from the present moment

in our distracted states
of america

no wonder it takes gunshots
to wake us up

i hear footsteps
in the kitchen

and find myself
in the bathroom mirror

happy to dwell
in this icy stillness

it’s the future
i’d like to escape

a choose-your-own-
doom story

we picture as a shining city
on a hill which once

might have been more
like a mountain

Summer Postmortem

summer is dead
i found her green leaf body

at the foot of an oak
in the first snow

blanketing the valley
the smell of diesel

100 feet downridge
there’s a fallen nest

woven from strips of wild
gravevine bark

the trees are becoming
more and more vacant

though they shriek
and moan in the wind

i remember what jesus
said about new wine

and old wine skins
like this katydid lasting

long enough to be filled
with the unknown

like this spruce weeping
white beards of sap

from dozens of rows
of sapsucker-drilled wells

and all those wounds
somehow still open

summer is dead
they crucified her

two deer bound past
without seeing me

pursued as they are
by one with antlers

holding them high
almost shining

his rack as the hunters call it
his naked tree

Horizontal

it’s easy to stop seeing
what’s on the horizon

people in the valley
don’t really believe in it

what summer makes seem
no less than a mountain

winter shows as it is
no more than a hill

from my front porch
a sudden influx of sky

after the leaves fall
look it’s snowing

the flakes come to settle
in their multitudes

well into the evening
lightness piling up

between the trees
no more omnivorous earth

but a colony of the clouds
pale and puritanical

against which the individual
trunks stand out

an absent crowd
dreaming

together
underground

and after my own sleep
i rise and look again

on the underside
of a snowy limb

a gray squirrel is walking
upside-down

First snow

My camera took this photo today and I absolutely love it. I don’t know, it just feels like my digital equivalent of a Rothko or something.

I think it may have been a close-up of one of these blackberry leaves:

Yes, it was our first snowfall of the year. We got three more inches around dusk. Sleep-deprived as I was, it was wonderful to amble around the mountain watching winter lay down its first blank page.

One thing to be said for all that blankness: my photo files are smaller! Fewer leaves mean less data—in more ways than one, of course.

Winter days are strange in how quickly the magic can come and go. You have to be ready. The power went out midday when I was a mile and a half from the houses, watching the first flakes sift down through bare branches. Power cuts are common but there’s only one first snow of the season so I took my time getting back. Just as I was about to hook up jumper cables to Mom’s ailing generator, she hollered that the lights were on.

So back out I went, after making some hot chocolate and putting it in a thermos to have up in the memorial grove. Delightful to watch it snow from under the spruces. It was Dad who taught me how to make cocoa—one of his few culinary specialties apart from blueberry buckwheat buttermilk pancakes and soft-boiled eggs.

And then another slow wander through another portion of the forest. I justified part of it as walking the property line, a good thing to do during deer season. I only saw one set of deer prints, but that’s to be expected. They’re laying up. What kind of idiot goes out in a snowstorm?

Into the Open

an empty space is still data
my phone reminds me

no space is truly empty
a falling leaf reminds me

the time of long shadows
has come ‘round again

cedar waxwings whistle
through bare branches

the low sun catches on wings
in lieu of leaves

rests in a red oak
undressing in the wind

and flickers like an angel
resisting temptation

to follow the leaves down
spinning spiralling

or rocking back and forth
like a cradle

if only i could sleep
and leaf out when i wake

clinging to hope makes us
as empty as the future

let the earth take
its own sweet time

let this glory
be enough

Grace

buzzing on the autumn mountain
an amber alert

a child gone missing
in the middle of my daydream

railroad workers 400 feet below
pause and look at their phones

every morning now
it’s a different landscape

i go home and cut my hair
the missing girl is found

two notes from a wren
get lodged in my inner ear

***

Photo and poem from one week ago.

Forestry

morning of soft sun
and old gold

with the distant yelping
of trucks going backwards

the sound of limestone
being ground down

and a silent jay
going from oak to oak

throat pouch filled with acorns
it flies off east

i follow animal paths
into the afternoon

*

a gray squirrel buries an acorn
under a laurel bush

sees me watching
and digs it up again

silk threads scintillate
wherever i look toward the sun

each lowbush blueberry
bound to the next

as if the whole forest
lay under a spell

a chipmunk rushes past
i change hats

*

low sun in the tops
of the Norway spruces

where golden-crowned kinglets
whistle while they glean

a raven’s hoarse
ark ark ark

and me pondering questions
of macroeconomics

puffball ragged as
a faceless old doll’s head

what fertile words of smoke
would you have me spread

*

when the leaves fall
there’s always some disillusionment

how much lower
all the ridgelines

how much farther
the shell of a moon

but i’ve been tallying
the mountain’s sugar maples

pale as columns of breath
moss-lipped

ringed by drifts
of glowing jetsam

Outage

in a house without power
the sound of the wind

appliances have stopped humming
chargers no longer glow

the masks on my walls stare
steadfastly into the darkness

i offer myself again
on the altar of sleep

Goldenrod Time

the meadow at dawn
gives birth to ghosts:

slow dancers of fog
beneath a crescent moon

that’s just been deserted
by its entourage of stars

the goldenrod’s dark gold
mellows to yellow

a whole 30-acre bowl of it
between wooded ridges

where the sun comes
as a parishioner

among the monarchs
and the green darners

and later the lopper
with its steel grin

as i clearcut black locusts
infiltrating the goldenrod

enjoying their shade
even as i destroy it

there’s a cool breeze
from the heart of the sky

now that night and day
are nearly equal

happiness appears in the form
of small clouds

suspended just
out of reach