On the first night I saw it,

the comet spilled like uncorked

champagne from the Big Dipper. 

On the second, solar winds had worked

it into sprays of well water pouring

from an unearthly cistern.

This comet breathed best

in mountains: the Cascades, the Bitterroots,

the Caucasus, even the Greens.

It unfurled two tails

over the Gobi Desert, one of blue ions. 

 

It will have a brief life here—nights, 

not years; already its tail and globe 

are faint. It will skim

interstellar space far from earth 

before it reappears in 2061, when I

will be ashes returned to the earth

like this comet, all but forgotten,

until it again ignites traces of star dust

in a frothy trail right into 

our gardens, the tops of our trees,

our snows and glaciers,

our gravestones, our tears.

Sing Happy Birthday twice through  

for lather dull as beans–

Or clean up with 20 seconds 

of some old sweet song:

You Are My Sunshine,

Tennessee Waltz, Coal Miner’s Daughter,

a verse of Halleluia.

Ave Maria, Down in the River to Pray,

I’ll Fly Away.

It’s a Wonderful World, Counting

Your Blessings, Blue Moon, Moonlight Bay.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

Amazing Grace.

The disease of uncertainty is abroad

in the land. Nighttime seems near.

But our love defies the dark—

sturdy enough to overcome

despair; profound enough 

to steady our course; generous 

enough to arc over lifetimes.

We are among the lucky ones

who can find joy 

in the clear night sky, with its choir of stars,

or here at home by a bright fire,

in the telling and retelling of our stories.

It is here, under our feet:

the valley of the shadow of death,

ground that was sanctuary now unsafe.

Illness with no cure is a sniper 

taking out the unsuspecting,

the old, the lame of heart. 

Only a matter of time

until its terrible aim reaches into this home,

or the one next door.

 

Yet the spring fogs fill up this valley,

glaze the ridge with a gray brush;

early spring snowfalls are pearls in a pearly sky. 

We hold still enough to absorb such acts of grace—

to see eight Eastern Bluebirds playing

in the meadow; to hear the wild calls

of jays as they settle their nests 

above Gale Meadow Pond,

the peepers next door; to see the spoor

of fox and rabbit.

It is well with our souls.

 

Listen and wait,

in this valley of shadow, of mists;

welcome even in death’s shadow 

something like wonder, or a prayer,

benevolent and young.

Birches unfolded last night

and now bow as we pass. Hemlocks

are bent-over sentinels. Their arms 

flag with the weight of ice. Electric wires slump.

The story of the storm

is in compressed layers of snow 

and the sliver of ice in-between,

as if a glacier crept in while we slept

and left its armor on the shed,

the load of wood there, the river below,

the car. If I fit the scraper underneath the layers

I can lift whole planks of ice and snow

from the car, the way I used to defrost the old freezer,

and throw them to the side where they lodge whole,

or break into ragged clumps. Wesley, the man who plows,

has come with a load of dark sand. The rain will wash

it away tonight, and release the trees. Even now

branches are lifting unbroken as the spent ice

disappears. Now we will all stand

a little taller, a little freer, perfectly primed 

for the next storm already forming in the western sky,

while we pine for the greens of April and May.

Snow flares in the night sky. We keep watch

from the dinner table; an outdoor flood light

illuminates each crystalline flake.

Small gusts of wind give wings to the swirl,

globes of fiery snow dancing a path to ground.

In here the wood stove toasts our feet,

and we glow with the meal we’ve just taken.

Lights are low, romantic. The little trees we’ve put up

for Christmas hold all the handmade glass ornaments

collected over thirty years, memories of Christmases past,

promises of solstice nights to come.

Snow flakes flare and dance

like fireflies seeking mates 

in the meadow below the house,

as if those early summer nights

are making a return visit off season in the ice—

early Christmas gifts of light

and dance. And we are grateful.

On Spring Hill Road this afternoon I saw

two young girls with an animal on a leash,

walking along the still country lane near

our house. A harvest of grasses poured

down the distant hills

and the August sky wore its most brilliant blue.

It’s a reddish dog, I thought, a goldie. Then, no,

more foxlike. I had to draw close to see clearly:

on the leash was a goat. A kid, with tiny proud horns

held high, its trickster personality

mischievous and wily as Pan, the allure of its magic

leading the girls on down the road, leading me home

with a horn pipe tune I could dance to.

The grinders and the rollers have taken the road

down to its bones. Bare gravel where once lay pavement,

and deep scars where back hoes displaced

earth with concrete culverts. This road is a main

artery through these parts. On some days it is a

nine-mile slough of mud slick with rain. When the wind

is up, heavy trucks raise the dusts and silts of ages.

 

The flagger near the Post Office tells me he will be

out of work in November, so there are months ahead

when we will have to find less punishing routes

to Bennington and Londonderry, live our lives making detours

on the secret country lanes we love, adding quarter hours

to every trip away from home, accepting the gift of slowed-down

travel that might reveal a deer, a bear, an Eastern Bluebird,

the still pond, pastured cows eating red windfall apples.

Credits

Concept: Jerry Krasser

Photo: Nina Golden Krasser

 

Winter mornings we stay near the woodstove.

Our coffee mugs warm our hands.

We keep the conversation quiet. Out there

the air glitters. The gray squirrel

has pressed its tiny feet into the snow bank

and a few crows make silent flights

in the crystalline air.

In here we share a laugh or two; the fire

in its many shapes beguiles us.

 

Once our friends told us of the angels in their fires—

tongues of flame at the very top of the wood,

just as the gasses rise up the flue. We always knew

this stove was of the divine. We who believe

in readiness watch the flames curl over and rise.

We glimpse a present-day advent;

wear our prayers in waiting, as fire angels

dance in the flames.

A gray squirrel lives under the screened-in porch now.

Its faint tracks in the early morning snow gave it away,

passing from the porch into the far corner

of the woodshed. Late in the day I cleared a path there.

The squirrel quietly appeared, making itself as small as possible.

As did I, while speaking softly to reassure I’m friend, not foe.

Its bright brave eyes gazed at me steadily in the fading light.

Soon it melted without a sound into a seam behind logs,

to a cache of seed or cones. I waited, but the gray squirrel

did not appear again that hour. If, as zoologists say,

squirrels are ambassadors from the forest, my Eastern Gray

has brought us offerings worthy of its role: fluency in

lightness, cunning, the holy peace of wild things.

And when it has to, the fight or the flight of its life.