June 17: “New Hampshire”

1
When the loons cry,
The night seems blacker,
The water deeper.

Across the shore:
An eyelash-charcoal
Fringe of pine trees.

2
The lake reflects
Indefinite pewter,

And intermittent thunder
Lets us know

The gods are arriving,
One valley over.

3
After the long
Melancholy of the fall,
One longs for the crisp
Brass shout of winter—

The blaze of firewood,
The window’s spill
Of parlor lamplight
Across the snow.

4
Flaring like a match
Dropped in a dry patch,
One sunset tells
The spectrum’s story.

See the last hunter’s
Flashlight dim
As he hurries home
To his lighted window.

— Howard Moss

June 9: “Learning to Swim”

after Bob Hicok & Aracelis Girmay

Now forty-five, having outlasted some of
myself, I must reflect: what if I hadn’t been held
by my mom in the YWCA basement
pool, her white hands slick under

my almost-toddler armpits, her thumbs
and fingers firm around my ribs (which
is to say lungs), held gently as a liverwurst
sandwich and pulled, kindly, under?

What if I hadn’t been taught to trust
water might safely erase me those years
I longed to erase or at least abandon care of
my disoriented, disdained body? I might have

drowned instead of just ebbed, never slid
from given embankments into this other
course.
Drift and abundance in what
she offered. The wider, indifferent ocean
of trade and dark passage not yet

mine to reckon. And so now, sharp tang
of other waters known, I am afloat, skin-
chilled, core-warm, aware of what lurks
and grateful to trust and delight
in our improbable buoyancy.

— Elizabeth Bradfield

March 15: “California Coast”

Not in small painted towns whose color rips
The solitude of shores kelp-strung and gray,
Not in La Jolla, Carmel, Monterey,
Your beauty lies — minxes with rouge-smeared lips;
Not along wharf lines where a city dips
Its dirty fingers in the pile-split spray —
San Pedro, Newport, San Francisco Bay —
Scumming your waters with the bilge of ships:

Yours is a torn and wistful beauty, born
On lonely beaches when the tide is low —
Fog tangled in the marsh-grass… a forlorn
Blue heron wading in the afterglow…
Dull silver lapping on a wet sand-bar…
And lost wings circling near a ghost-white star.

— Doris Caldwell

March 6: “Landscape Survey”

And what about this boulder,
knocked off the mountaintop and
tumbled down a thousand years ago

to lodge against the streambank,
does it waste itself with worry
about how things are going

to turn out? Does the current
slicing around it stop itself mid-
stream because it can’t get past

all it’s left behind back at
the source or up in the clouds
where its waters first fell

to earth? And these trees,
would they double over and
clutch themselves or lash out

furiously if they were to discover
what the other trees really
thought of them? Would the wind

reascend into the sky forever,
like an in-drawn breath,
if it knew it was fated simply

to sweep the earth of windlessness,
to touch everything and keep
nothing and be beheld by no one?

— John Brehm

February 24: “Of What Surrounds Me”

Whatever it is I am saying, I always
need a leaf or a flower, if not an
entire field. As for sky, I am wildly
in love with each day’s inventions, cool blue
or cat gray or full
of the ships of clouds, I simply can’t
say whatever it is I am saying without
at least one skyful. That leaves water, a
creek or a well, river or ocean, it has to be
there. For the heart to be there. For the pen
to be poised. For the idea to come.

— Mary Oliver

February 23: “Late February”

The first warm day,
and by mid-afternoon
the snow is no more
than a washing
strewn over the yards,
the bedding rolled in knots
and leaking water,
the white shirts lying
under the evergreens.
Through the heaviest drifts
rise autumn’s fallen
bicycles, small carnivals
of paint and chrome,
the Octopus
and Tilt-A-Whirl
beginning to turn
in the sun. Now children,
stiffened by winter
and dressed, somehow,
like old men, mutter
and bend to the work
of building dams.
But such a spring is brief;
by five o’clock
the chill of sundown,
darkness, the blue TVs
flashing like storms
in the picture windows,
the yards gone gray,
the wet dogs barking
at nothing. Far off
across the cornfields
staked for streets and sewers,
the body of a farmer
missing since fall
will show up
in his garden tomorrow,
as unexpected
as a tulip.

— Ted Kooser