November 12: “When the Year Grows Old”

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
October—November—
How she disliked the cold!

She used to watch the swallows
Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
With a little sharp sigh.

And often when the brown leaves
Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
Made a melancholy sound,

She had a look about her
That I wish I could forget—
The look of a scared thing
Sitting in a net!

Oh, beautiful at nightfall
The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
Rubbing to and fro!

But the roaring of the fire,
And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
Were beautiful to her!

I cannot but remember
When the year grows old—
October—November—
How she disliked the cold!

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

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October 12: “Temper”

Some things are damned to erupt like wildfire,

windblown, like wild lupine, like wings, one after

another leaving the stone-hole in the greenhouse glass.

Peak bloom, a brood of blue before firebrand.

And though it is late in the season, the bathers, also,

obey. One after another, they breathe in and butterfly

the surface: mimic white, harvester, spot-celled sister,

fed by the spring, the water beneath is cold.

— Beth Bachmann

October 2: “Faithful Forest”

1.

I will wait, said wood, and it did.
Ten years, a hundred, a thousand, a million—

It did not matter.  Time was not its measure,
Not its keeper, nor its master.

Wood was trees in those first days.
And when wood sang, it was leaves,

Which took flight and became birds.
2.

It is still forest here, the forest of used-to-be.
Its trees are the trees of memory.

Their branches—so many tongues, so many hands—
They still speak a story to those who will listen.

By only looking without listening, you will not hear the trees.
You will see only hard stone and flattened landscape,

But if you’re quiet, you will hear it.
3.

The leaves liked the wind, and went with it.
The trees grew more leaves, but wind took them all.

And then the bare trees were branches, which in their frenzy
Made people think of so many ideas—

Branches were lines on the paper of sky,
Drawing shapes on the shifting clouds

Until everyone agreed that they saw horses.
4.

Wood was also the keeper of fires.
So many people lived from what wood gave them.

The cousins of wood went so many places
Until almost nobody was left—that is the way

Of so many families.  But wood was steadfast
Even though it was hard from loneliness.  Still,

I will wait, said wood, and it did.

— Alberto Rios

August 26: “The Border: A Double Sonnet”

The border is a line that birds cannot see.
The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half.
The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires.
The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe.
The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend.
The border is the blood clot in the river’s vein.
The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going.
The border is a brand, the “Double-X” of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many.
The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red.
The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished.
The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam.
The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations.
The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme.
The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest.

The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening.
The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far.
The border is two men in love with the same woman.
The border is an equation in search of an equals sign.
The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made.
The border is “NoNo” The Clown, who can’t make anyone laugh.
The border is a locked door that has been promoted.
The border is a moat but without a castle on either side.
The border has become Checkpoint Chale.
The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken.
The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier.
The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist.
The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes.
The border is a skunk with a white line down its back.

— Alberto Ríos

July 19: “Rasp”

The heat rises in distorted gold
waves around fire
but without fire,
shimmering, twisting

 

anything seen through it.
The heat rises, rasping
the air it rises through,
scuffing the surface,

 

if the air has a surface.
The tall summer
field is the keeper
of secrets. Lie down

 

and forget your body, forgive
your body its bad cradle,
its brokenness.
Lie down and listen

 

to the rasp, to heat sweep
the pale, dry grass as if
it were your own
breathing, as if the field
you’ve pressed your shape into
is a broom in reverse,
a broom being
swept by the wind.

— Maggie Smith

January 2: “The Hard Season”

Rain-glutted, the stream
splays to the base
of the retaining wall.

Good. Now you have reason
to pray. Of all the birds
watching from winter-stripped

trees, vultures
are kindest, killing
nothing. This is a true

measure of things.
Don’t hold back now, have
chocolate, throw extra

kindling on, even though
skies urge cover & hoarding.
When mice pitter in

For crumbs, compliment
their small feet and fitting
ways. When your mouth

houses a curse, swallow,
think how you once
had no words at all

yet managed
your hungers. Everything
that comes, passes.

Everything that passes
rakes its fingers through
and passes.

— Kathleen Lynch