Weeping Cherry

Words burn. Wounded words
Smolder from the day before.
Scorched, we mourn in the stench of scorn.

I sit at my computer screen.
You stare out the door
At your weeping cherry trees.
Bereft, we gather what is left.

An unknown bird, brilliant yellow,
Lands in a weeping cherry tree.
Offering his bell-like song,
He cocks his smart red head.

I freeze. You tiptoe toward your camera.
A joint mission takes the place
Of bitter and bewildered thoughts
And leads us where we both belong,
Dizzy in the healing heights
Of chasing God’s own creature’s song.

Lens Poet

He traces with light,
Sets the scene right.

Aperture set,
Assignment met.

With one shutter click,
He cuts to the quick.

Frozen in time,
A moment so fine,

A girl and her pup
Didn’t have to look up.

No need to pose,
That’s how it goes

Lens poet so fine,
Memories of mine

Draw a tear.
Hold us near.

Image courtesy of John Gregory Evans

Come to Terms Quickly

“Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
Matthew 5:25-26

I don’t think in a straight line.
My thoughts lead to places unexpected,
That make no sense to the casual observer.
Tell me to put two and two together
And you may regret it, or at least walk away
Shaking your head, bewildered and frustrated.

In fact, my thoughts will do that for you —
Walk away shaking their heads, that is.
A brilliant idea will feel ill at ease, unwelcome and unwanted.

The Savior says, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser.”
This morning, original thoughts, feeling broken and betrayed,
Stare at me from the mirror, attempting reconciliation.

“Your accuser will hand you over to the judge,” the Savior continues,
I glance at that lonely original thought, whose accusing eyes brim over,
And my stony heart melts.

“Come to terms quickly with your accuser,” Jesus continues,
“Or you will be thrown into prison.”
By now, I’ve opened a notebook
And write the beginnings of a story
That may or may not make sense to every reader.

“You will never get out until you have paid the last penny,”
My Lord says.

By now, the words are tumbling onto the page,
Singing and skipping and keeping up perfectly well
With my zigzagging logic.
The fine is erased from the books
And the prison door is flung open,
Unable to hold back the colors, sounds and smells
Of free thinking.

Planting in Pandemic Times

Planting a vegetable garden seems urgent this year.
I suppose it always has been.
But after weeks of walking lockstep with death, social distancing,
And pandemic statistics,
We think it wise to plant more than we did last year.

My favorite store’s garden display
Sits in the parking lot, where the early afternoon sun
Highlights the multitude of greens, pinks and blues
That pop up in rows of peat pots.

Lockstep indeed.
I forget how it feels to just be myself.
Until I see myself as one of many gardeners,
Roaming through the rows of potted herbs and vegetables.
Still maintaining a safe distance,
Face masks come off in the safety of outdoors.

I settle on basil and dill plants
And an assortment of vegetable seeds, for now.
In our backyard, amid half barrels and raised beds,
The trowel plunges into the soil.
It could be any spring, any year.
Our shih tzu watches with contagious joy,

Lockstep indeed.
My husband had read the news this morning:
The pandemic could last at least two years.

My thoughts return to the peat pots of basil.
Our dog has wandered to a sunnier spot.
I momentarily believe the smile in his eyes,
And put my faith in roots, shoots, soil microbes,
The giant walnut tree in the neighbors’ yard,
And the age-old hope of planting a vegetable garden.

Evening’s Poem

Evening’s hush permeates the house.
April’s premature thunderstorm has settled down.
I’m the last one awake; even the dog has worn himself out.
Scribbled notes, stacked on my husband’s desk, look forward to becoming free verse, villanelles or sonnets.

A solitary robin sings as if thinking out loud, reviewing the day, exhaling as her little ones sleep.

I sit in my recliner, iPad in lap, ready to write.
A Google search turns up poetry prompts.
I type random words until a poem clears its throat and taps me on the shoulder.
“This way,” it whispers.
I follow meandering paths of meter, line breaks and alliteration.
We delight in clever phrases and poignant memories, that poem and I.

Where did it come from?
If only I knew!

The solitary robin falls silent, asleep until dawn.
Our refrigerator crackles and pops its way through automatic defrost.
The last glimmer of sunlight slips between the living room shutters.

I put the poem to bed, wondering why anyone would want to read a poem
About a poet writing a poem.

Rhubarb Red

I thank God that the pandemic is in the spring —
As opposed to the winter, that is, in all its bleakness.
Winter just sulks in its grayness.
But spring is polite enough to give the illusion
Of new beginnings.

Take our rhubarb patch, for example —
An April harvest when it’s too early to plant!
Bright red stalks of sour goodness
Lift up wrinkly, oversized green leaves.

You can pull up the stalks as easy as pie,
Or cobbler, or chutney.
“Watch out for the leaves,” we warn little kids
Who’ve never seen rhubarb grow.
“They’re poisonous.”

Rhubarb red just may be my favorite color.
My first taste of the sour stalk took place in sixth grade,
When my friend Janine brought some to school.
Expecting something like celery,
I nearly cried at the first hair-raising bite,
But proudly hid my horror and chewed loudly.

Rhubarb red dyes the cutting board as I chop today’s harvest.
I place the pieces in freezer bags,
And take pictures for social media.

Relieved to have a harvest again,
I forget about daily reports
Of confirmed positive virus cases,
And remember what it was like
To buy sugar without wearing a mask.

Resting and Ready

November’s cold-hearted shadow falls over the backyard.
“Too bad,” our guests shook their heads,
Glancing up at the bare, gray branches of the towering black walnut.
“Too bad we missed the tree in the summer.”
“It must have been beautiful.”
“Now it’s just drab.”
A faint chill, hinting at approaching winter,
Sent the remaining dry, clinging leaves into a sigh.

Later that evening, after the guests went home,
I visited my tree (only the tree and I know that we belong to each other).
In July, her deep green shade had protected me
From high desert afternoons,
As I watched our Shih Tzu play.
“Look up,” said my tree in July, as she offered her sturdy branches, heavy with green walnuts,
To squirrels and sunlight.

Now, in November, I brace myself for shorter daylight hours
And wonder what my tree will do for the next several months.
“Look down,” she whispers, not bothered at all
When people say “too bad.”
“Go down deep,” she says, “go where the roots do their secret work after it snows.”

My tree shares her grandmother spirit
With those who know she is more than enough,
Even when the work is unseen.
Even in the quiescence of winter, as her roots
Lie between resting and ready.
Even as her sapwood slowly dies,
To become the heartwood core she’ll need for the journey ahead.

When We Had First Begun

I wondered if I’d pass this way again.
Stained glass shimmers in the morning sun;
Worship service ends at half past ten.

“I miss them,” was my thinking now and then;
My soul’s rest in God had just begun.
I wondered if I’d pass this way again.

Bible studies met an idle pen
And contemplation formed a church of one.
Worship service ends at half past ten.

This morning, though, I remembered when
They welcomed me in late October’s sun.
I wondered if I’d pass this way again.

Emerging from the womb of my den,
I join old friends to praise the risen Son.
Worship service ends at half past ten.

Voices soar in praise and sweetly blend,
Recalling days “when we had first begun.”
Grateful that I’ve passed this way again;
Worship need not end at half past ten.

Bud Break

Bud break raises hope amid the freeze,
But early spring betrays the tender shoot
As March winds carry dry leaves where they please.

Sailing home from winter’s distant seas,
Dandelions rise from robust roots.
Bud break raises hope amid the freeze.

We fold our arms in much-too-short sleeves
And scour branches for their springtime loot,
As March winds carry dry leaves where they please.

Daylight hours cure our dark disease.
April beckons with her far-off flute,
And bud break raises hope amid the freeze.

Braver still, the sunlight begs to please
As dust collects on long forgotten boots
And March winds carry dry leaves where they please.

Too late! Not now! We sigh as flurries fly.
So sure we were that spring was drawing nigh!
Bud break raises hope amid the freeze,
But March winds carry dry leaves where they please.

Outpatient

Heavy steps through the clinic door.
Scores of faces, waiting room eyes
Follow my feet to the check-in desk.
Finally, a space for my face near the water cooler.

18 minutes of freedom, wishing our dog were here.
I dream, screaming silently till I hear my name.

Dead down the hall: sterile chairs, swabs, lidocaine,
Blood draw, raw nerves, tsk tsk near the back of my head.
Are you in pain? As if I were deaf.
No space for my face any more.

Meanwhile, it’s snowing.
Will this freeze cease?

Ease my arms through warm fleece sleeves.
Thoughts race, raw,
Pause as our reserved ride pulls up.
Better late than never.

I hear my name.
Going home? A smile for me.

Snowflakes breeze by blurred trees.
I bet our dog is deep asleep.

I look out the car window.
Somewhere between I-84 and our front yard,
My face becomes my own again.