What apparition dares walk
from this tomb, suave footsteps
echoing between faded stones
marking the passing of time
and human souls? Let the other
shoe drop in a puddle and expect
a splash, or does this spirit
have the confidence to walk barefoot
through a cemetery? Kids on the school bus
told me to never point at a graveyard
or I’d be there next but I can’t remember
if I listened or let the warning slip
through my fingers like an autumn
breeze bringing grave warnings
of winter and cold and death which
comes for us all while the bus driver
ignores us. Perhaps it was not a ghost
after all but merely the wind.
Our eyes found relief
as we reached the cliff’s edge,
the brown of weeds turning
first to blue sky
then ocean, blue
but darker, refusing translucence,
inviting us farther, even still.
Let’s stay on this hill forever,
shepherd to goats or some other
that clear the brush for
lush green grasses
to stretch skyward,
lighter as they blow away white clouds
leaving us together, even still.
Time was an afterthought
as the clouds called us to attention,
demanding we acknowledge
through misty eyes
or other fog-soaked facilities
the half-eaten candy of a pastoral dream
where rolling grasses trampled
through an otherwise quiet afternoon.
The half-hidden sun
implored us to come outside,
though we misunderstood
as he went in circles for days,
refusing to get to the point,
so we sat inside, anticipation dawning
with dew-drenched ideas of misadventures
masked by another day’s ascent.
This tree wraps the sky in its arms, a promise
of salvation buried beneath bark
as leaves peak at the surface, buoyed
by the world’s pledge of protection
softly cooing on the wind.
The breeze dissolves as all things must
into an atmosphere of unmoving refuse
where changing winds turn away
against the backdrop of cows laying still
under the too-slow warming sun.
And still this tree shivers looking ahead,
optimism scrubbing bark clean of dirt
and other residue otherwise clouding its defense, stronger in the effort while grasping
at the heavens, uncertain as they are.
The rocks mark the ground
between prospering weeds enriched
by the warmth of a sun surging overhead,
encircling those of us interred
on a planet whose
percussive heartbeat rocks me to sleep.
I sense the presence of wildflowers,
of ants scurrying together in the dirt,
of life — too bountiful to count or name —
thriving in the darkness or
at least out of sight —
I dare not note a difference in perspective.
Photos remain after we pass on
a gentle breeze that thoughtlessly turns
blacks to sepia, discoloring too many memories
otherwise cruelly lost
even though the sun shines tomorrow.
The tree stretches like a snowflake,
a white quilt whispering winter along
evergreen branches, lulling day
to sleep while cold quiet announces
the end of another year.
The tree earns another ring, thankful
for moderation in all things living
and dead. Moments of profound insight
from regular cycles leave a peaceful chill
in the air, holding me close, shivering
in the still afternoon sun.
In the end we still look to what comes
next, hushed faces in the setting sun
bracing against the cold, aware
somehow the light will return.
The flamboyant flame stands before me,
framed by garish smoke rising
to meet an aloof sky. The crackling embers —
embarrassed to be seen laying down
on the job — pop out of sight,
making way for flashier lights.
The bonfire demands to be seen, illuminating
places undiscovered, too dark to survey.
Is it possible my caustic humor burns
those who venture too close? Do I dare
take stock of myself now — already gray —
biding time ’til I pop where I lay?
Perhaps, as winds breathe smoke
unexpectedly back in our faces,
I merely shift my perspective.
There’s magic in turning sticks into wands
The snow breathed heavy that day,
a jolt of icy white confetti celebrating
winter’s return. Paralyzed by the cold,
we watched, transfixed by the beauty
and ferocity, as winter played out
its first act. Dazzled by the scene, I reached
without thinking for the cold,
the glass chilly and inhospitable
on my fingers as I tapped myself
into the performance.
A stag, startled, heard my intrusion
and stared at us, a spark of terror
in his eyes, hoofs frozen in fluffy earth.
Nothing moved as he stood
staring in a stupor as snow and tree limbs
cascaded around those antlers, majestic
and stock-still. What bravery to survive
the savagery spitting numbing flakes
on a naked face.
Just as suddenly he stirred from his bluff
and disappeared behind the stormy curtain,
forever relieving me of his second act.
And I, roused and staring only at
my own reflection in the poorly insulated
window, resolved to buy some weather strips
and better protect myself from
We walk this fall day – a few
more gray hairs than last – beneath
the leaves – rusted coppers
replacing youthful greens – clinging
to the only home they’ve ever known,
on the verge of their final voyage, that
rambling trek to what they know not.
This expedition under gray skies
takes us through the misty uncertainty
of that next great adventure, while
leaves search for courage to brave
one last tour – a change in altitude
if not attitude – of the crisp breezes
softening their descent to a new home.
Sunlight cascades through clouds,
pushing to earth, demanding to find land
no matter the season. Two trees
separated by brown grass and silence
ache for warmth or a melting touch
of companionship or at least life
to interrupt the isolation.
But still the light comes, through clouds
or night or some other wretched evil
may obscure its beauty, a veil
they’ll shirk today
or tomorrow or some other blissful day.
We need only remind ourselves
tree branches do not stay empty,
nor birds quiet, nor the world dull
and hateful. Monstrous monotony may
move us to seclusion
alone through the trees. Its end nears
History shines here, filtered
through the trees and mixing
with the sunlight that warms our
necks just as it did
years ago creating a dense fog
we’ve almost stopped
noticing. We live in its shadow
just as surely as they did,
though the shadows play longer,
and while we may chose to turn our
heads and ignore the brown leaves
come winter, we will depend
on its cover
or worse, hide in the mists,
a refuse from cold breezes
stirring up again.
As blues turn a tangerine orange,
dusk surrounds each of us with the promise
of another day, soon to peak through
the leaves of this old tree, reaching,
straining, but never able to feel blue.
How small is the tree, as the sun radiates,
warmth engulfing everything with the hope
that the vastness of existence pours through
everything with a purpose that we, reaching,
straining, are never able to understand?