Dedicated to the friend who requested a poem written by one “breathing the air of Vermont.”


In the night snow fell in the meadow, silently

as a snowy owl on the hunt. It left its little ices

on grass and deck, and stirred the seed heads of cone flowers

with cold droplets. By the time the wood stove fire

began to give heat, sunlight transformed ice

to healing waters as we watched. This is where

we pray, over fire and ice; where hope lifts us

to a holy place of night snow, meltwater, snowy owl.


Ice has locked a door on the world

above the River Road. The way down

glazed over from a downpour of frozen

rain, then tightened with the plunge

of temperatures to the teens.

A driver must be an expert

to guide a car down or up

without a skid along this smooth

curving band. In here we fret,

prisoners of ice,

even with the warm wood stove

and dinner in the oven. Outside

under ice-blue skies, dark-eyed juncos flirt

with huddled trees, and we wait

for Jared’s truck to glide up to the house

with our key to the world below: sand,

beautiful gritty sand.

Sometimes on a summer night,

when we are on the sill of sleep,

we will hear a barred owl calling,

high in a nearby tree. If we stay

still, the owl will call again,

and another, in the distance, will reply,

mates for life. With its soulful

eyes the owl sees

where other hunters can’t, divines

a way home through trees over the dark

sacred river. This place belongs to Owl,

as we do; and like those spoken for,

we keep our stories long

and round as the living earth.

Overhead along with Owl,

Red-Tailed Hawk and Eagle soar.

Listen: for us they will tell

their wild and perfect stories;

and we will sleep in heavenly peace.


On a day when foliage was its most brilliant,

a day when a quiet sun could not damp the color,

they came north to our annual gathering of friends.

Added to the palette with their stories,

new to us, easy laughter, and their gifts of pie, spice cake,

biscotti, dips and salads to share at the common table,

and their uncommon regard for us and one another.

They spread out on the porch, the long covered deck,

even to the rocking chairs, disused since August,

under the maple’s red canopy. Arrayed

seated or standing, stayed until dusk

began to deepen the colors below the high ridge.

Their presence keeps us forever young,

restores all that has been lost since the last time

they came. We feel beloved and grateful,

believe that such a day as this will abide

forever, unchanged, even when the last

red leaf has blown away.

Five crows lounge

around the bar of the broken tree,

taunting the swallow brood

like tinhorn dictators perfectly in charge

of their world and all that is in it.

The swallow parents eye them

warily, sometimes shooting toward them

like tiny jet planes, then returning to feed

their young in the nest box.


Yet on the day the young swallows fledge,

no crows threaten. The fledglings bolt

in flashes of midnight blue

into the porous sky,

acrobats born to soar and dive,

fierce on unpracticed wings.

Choruses of air chant as they fly;

grace prevails in the holy July light.

My friend Tom Hazelwood posted a poetic challenge recently–make a poem of five childhood memories.

Here is my response.


I remember…

the twenty-five cent bus ride

along Keystone Avenue into town,

hoping to meet boys;


Sandy and I in our father’s shirts at the pool

hoping to meet boys;


church camp at Skylandia with Jane Ohl

hoping to meet boys from another town;


Mount Rose and Slide Mountain in the ski season,

hoping to get through the day without a broken bone;


the day I learned my true dreams:

college, job, family, faith, the unknown—

and maybe even a boy or two.


I remember….

Image courtesy of radnatt,

At the home place I memorized everything beloved:

Ida Susan Sanger’s silver and bone mirror and comb,

precious on the parlor highboy. An iron-hued field out back,

high swells of wheat in May. Smooth glass jars

massed in the earthen cellar, packed with peaches and beans

against the certainty of storm.


She was my grandmother, my first mystery. So thin,

so spare in her words, her prayer cap always near.

When I was nine she allowed me to comb her hair.

She would unpin the bun frayed from her night’s sleep.

I’d smooth the center part and count out fifty strokes.

The long strands that barely cleared the top of the tall stool

she twisted around her hand until the bun again

rested on the nape of her neck, caught with long hairpins

and two special combs above her ears.


The year the home place burned, I returned

a last time. Only the wind now, silence of bones in tombs.

The rolling wheat, the storm cave, the comb,

all of memory, no Sangers there now, Ida Susan

and her Charlie safe below ground.

It is my turn to hope for as many years as she endured,

spanning nearly a century. She saved her breath,

left it to the daughters to tell all her stories.

She is as unknown now as then.

Yet I meet her face, her hair, in my mirror,

her silvery yellow hair.

From your curtained roomid-100472702

we hear the soft clock

of intensive care: Alarms sound.

IV dispensers click.

Pressure cuffs inflate

every ten minutes with a low hum,

and an aide in a narrow cell

peers at banks of monitors to cull among

arrhythmias and breaths, to pick

the one that signals a turn for better or for worse.

Soon even these murmurs rest.


Then a guitar player strums

a few notes, old folk tunes and blues,

rhythmically humming or singing

to a man with no hair. Motionless,

we harmonize such little music

as we can, feeling lucky for your change of heart.

Your daughter calls. The guitar player pulls

his leather coat over red shirt and vest,

releases us from the ICU as he steps away;

while outside an autumn sun slowly falls

behind the golden ridge to twilight.

(Photo Credit: “Solo Guitar, Guitar Player,” image by Tongrajantaduang, courtesy of

The summer I troubled my parents,ID-10082832

my mother and I played canasta.

Neither of us had paying jobs.

She had an old hand-cranked

card shuffler for the two decks.

We unfurled fans of 15 cards,

sorted by rank and suit,

and the dealer turned a card for the pile.

We would each meld our best runs,

took and discarded and laid cards down

in neat columns until eventually

one of us won—usually her.

Late in August she took leave for Indiana

to nurse her dying sister, my Aunt Io.

I like to think she recalled those hours

around the card table as more than duty

toward an irksome younger daughter,

but with something like grace or even joy,

as she traced the breath of my aunt

to its last solemn sigh. The hearse departed,

and, her act of mercy passed, my mother boarded

the first train she could book for home.


Image courtesy keattikorn,

A cloud of butterflies and bees feedIMG_0627

at the prairie blazing star’s purple spires

as blooms fade to brownish pink.

There is room for all that want a share.


The garden is in its late summer swoon,

and bees crowd into forest hives in a sugar haze

to shed their payloads of nectar and pollen,

and guide the others to the treasure.


In winter, when the hives are quiet,

and the blazing star is trimmed away for its long sleep,

I will open a jar of honey to sweeten a cup of tea.

I will praise the taste of summer;

bless the prairie blazing star;

mind the lives of bees.