Lost Path (#27)

Twelve hours of July heat,
The workday ended weary
Well beyond dark,
Dewy stars sparkling,

And beneath my feet,
The path I’ve followed
For twenty five years
Has suddenly vanished—

Tangled in chicory,
Queen Anne’s lace,
Knee-deep in timothy,
Knit with clover,

And I understand
Suddenly that it’s
Me who has vanished,
Star-blind, stumbling—

The reliable path, so trodden,
Only inches left or right
In the corporeal darkness, is
A mile, an ocean, a world distant.

Mud Daubers (#26)

Peace-seeking mud daubers,
Lovers of good work,
Blue-black glinting
In the morning sun—

When, at age six, I climbed
The hot cinderblocks of the
Sow shed, and one brick tumbled,
Disturbing their labor—

Swarm! So many stings!
Instant admonishment,
Bare legs blistered with welts.
Moments later, in the farmhouse

My stone-eyed uncle asked me
“Why are you crying?”
For the same reason,
I now understand,

That a forty year old man
Could ask a child
Such a caustic question:
Acute suffering.

But more mysteriously,
I knew I cried also for the
Humming haste of the wasps,
Dutifully heuristic, adults whom

I respected, and had never
Intended to disturb.
The moment I fled, they calmed,
Returning to their parging,

Plastering pipes.
Pipes? Flutes!
Cylinders stuffed with spiders,
Beetles, flies. Feasts.

Look! Their waists,
Thin as bow hair;
Susurrant wings
Softly warning. Merciful.

Metallic musicians, conducting,
Near the reeds at
The edge of the marsh
Balling wet clay,

Mandibles filled with mud,
Pragmatic silence.
Futile, to proffer pain,
When grace is your language!

Crab Apples (#25)

The trees are bursting with crab apples,
Hard and red and reticent as their namesake,
Thousands for the picking, if one enjoys eating
Sour rocks. The hardscrabble fruits of our

Ancestors: Wild persimmon, rhubarb,
Damson plum—ultra-tart until boiled, stirred,
Sweetened, canned, conjured comestible
With the alchemy of sugar, trophic and treasured.

Still, today, here’s a tree awash in fruit and,
To be sure, nothing will happen; nothing
More than noticing, that is, such outrageous
Abundance, sequestered from subsoil.

No nostalgia, the pantries of my childhood! Golden
Rims gleaming, ruby jams, carmine jellies; now,
The same fruit, round and reliable as Jupiter, is left
Hanging in the southeast sky; so bright, so unavailable.

Naked (#24)

My grandmother,
A nurse by training,
Attended my pneumonia-
Stricken grandfather
In the Winchester, Virginia
Hospital, waiting
Until he was able to
Sit upright without coughing
Before marrying him.

She was also a nudist,
A fact which—
Like for most of us—
Probably titillated
Then soon became routine
To my no-nonsense
Grandfather, up to his elbows 
In tractor grease,
Split knuckles,

The dust of the day
Nursed away
By the clothed
Equally well as the naked.
But I suspect that,
Being a farmer,
He was already privy to
That liberating insight
That razes most walls:

It wasn’t about him.
The same couldn’t be said,
However, for his four
Spinster sisters;
The marriage
Not only came with
A farm, fresh air,
And all the sunshine
In eastern West Virginia,

It also came with a live-in
A Louisa,
A Welford
And an Anne,
Each of whom
Had passed decades
T&A-free for
23.9 hours a day,

And were now
Suddenly greeted
By my grandmother’s
Naked bum, bent
At the oven,
Boobs swinging,
As she set about baking
Cakes each afternoon.
Let’s face it,

It would challenge anyone.
And while my great aunts
Grumbled and griped,
My pragmatic grandfather
Set about being proactive,
Annexing the sunny
East lawn and
Building a shotgun
Kitchen where,

Through one thin wall,
Leb, Louisa, Annie and Waddy
Cooked daily feasts of
Fried chicken,
Spoon bread,
Stewed tomatoes,
Spanish Cream,
While my grandmother,
Twelve inches away,

Crafted pound cakes,
Haloed beauties,
Almost angel food, just,
I’m sure she imagined,
As God intended—
And just
I’m sure my aunts imagined,
As God intended,