Poems

MAPLE RAIN

An isolated shower
beneath the old maple.

A hint of wind
and frosted leaves let go.
They fall through branches
past sap-sucker holes
through the belly of life.
A few leaves nick a limb and spin,
one last dance before landing.

They gather at the tree’s base
creating a brilliant shadow,
a rough circle filled
with the fiery glow of fall.

I stand amid those leaves
close my eyes and hear
the drops of maple rain.

 

HOMESTEAD

Your house is sinking, Grandpa,
and trees have stepped over fences
into your fields—no fear, anymore;
nobody keeps the ax sharp.

Each November I return, and walk
your eighty acres to watch it change.
Trees reclaimed the ditch
you used for a dump,
and turkeys, wild ones, came back.

Ed Grady’s son sold out
for good, he says,
and Wally quit the dairy business
to raise elk for Martha’s Supper Club.

Deer still favor the south edge
of Hunecke’s Orchard,
and red-tailed hawks still slide
over the oak ridge at dusk.

The hatchet you couldn’t find
that last Christmas Eve
pushed up from the dirt
on the chicken coop floor.

The ravine where you tossed
dead Christmas trees
is home now to rabbits
with wet, black eyes.

At night I remember
that deer season
was the only time
you really sat down.

Before sunrise I climb
Hoot Owl Draw
to the ridge
you always hunted.

Some deer still look
toward your stand.
And those, Grandpa,
I let go.

 

CATCH & RELEASE

There are no colors under this January moon.
All is gray, even this school of sunfish
scattered here on the gravel road.
Frozen, dry eyes expecting coyotes or crows,
scales breaded with township dust.

These are ice fish,
someone’s catch from earlier tonight.
Tire tracks drive into the ditch
then bounce back to the road,
where the fish bucket
slid out the gateless bed.

I pick them up,
load them in my coat pockets,
leave the bucket
and walk home.

Kitchen sink half-full
I wash the fish—
a baptism in tap water,
last rites to thaw frozen souls.

Then I walk to the garage,
find the tackle box
and the old fillet knife.
I return to a midnight revival.

Water on gills has triggered
muscle memory. Tails twitch.
Fins wiggle. They swim
like tiny halibut, one side up,
heads bumping each other,
mouths kissing these porcelain walls.

I watch ruby spots
the size of thumb prints
return to their cheeks.

At sunrise I will cut a hole in the ice.