One Grand Dog
Who thumps against me in the dark
And rings the jingles by the door
To let me know he has to pee a little after four,
Then barks at neighbors passing by
To let them know a guard is nigh?
Who chews my phone and my remote
And tears the pillow stuffings out,
Then wags his tail with sheepish smiles
And makes me laugh when I should pout?
Whose breath defeats my appetite
And slobber covers everything in sight
And pounces on our comfy bed at night
When I have snuggled in just right?
Tucker Freitas is his human name,
A wooly Labradoodle with no shame,
(We call the "grand-dog" to his face
But other things when in disgrace).
So would I have him any other way,
Say in a kennel or a fricassee,
Or stuffed and lying on a frame?
No, I will love him in his puppied self
Content to know he loves me as myself.
The company he gives is pure as gold,
His eager joy at seeing me is never old;
He's healthy and excited each time he hits my door,
Tongue hanging out and slobber flying,
Four feet sliding on the polished floor,
Remembering treats and wanting more.
We have known our share of grief,
Known love realized and unrequited,
Months cluttered into years,
Mused beyond the longing dreams.
I have known our sighing prayers,
Held your mom and gazed the mirrors
To see the man who wears my face
Change beneath time's weight,
Wondered at the lack of hair
(The little left now turning gray),
Contemplated whatever you might say
About our aging ways.
We are unable back to move
Those hands a perfect time to hold,
Are damaged goods ourselves,
Thankful for the good of healing grace,
Longing every hour of every day
To hold you close, to see your face.
Black lace shawl,
Red cherry violin,
Black frets and strings,
Black bow, white mane or tail,
To move along the strings
In dances sensuously slow,
To vibrations sublime,
Singing listeners to sway
Eyes closed, adrift, in
Other movements quick and sharp,
Impossible for any heavy-wielded harp,
Dancing pirouettes of sound,
Jetting needles sharp,
Then reeling tremulous...
These caterwaulings of a horse's tail
Held tautly on a stick.
A deaf man here beside me,
Only seeing, reads about
The music that I hearing, feel...
Somehow feels the Muse,
Sways to the dancing bow.
The girls had just come in from gathering fuel,
Laid the frozen cow pats in the box
Beside the stove,
Went in to wash for supper.
The old house creaked beneath a towering wind
Gray-full of promise that driving snow was on the way,
But though it shook, the shingles stayed;
The smoldering fire warmed and cheered
The children as they stamped their feet to chase the cold away,
Hands outstretched to catch the radiant heat.
A distant cloud of war in Europe loomed,
Sinister, though far, the children vaguely knew,
By catching whispered grown up conversations....
Though not yet reality for German-Russian Mennonites
Now Montana farmers on the eastern plains
To which they'd run to find a peaceful space
To settle far from persecution.
Before the supper washing and the setting of the plates,
Grandmother moved to catch the evening news,
Turned a dial to set the tubes aglow
And warm the wireless magic in the radio.
Crackling to life, a man's voice said, "Achtung!"
Early winter, 1938 on Montana's wind-blown plains,
The evening news presented Hitler's venomed speech
Declaring war and warnings and impending dooms.
Mesmerized, my German grandma stood,
Suddenly cold inside the warm kitchen,
Staring out the window toward the barn,
Tears running down her cheeks,
Her children gathered round.
"Mama! Mama! What is the matter?"
My mother begged to know,
tugged upon her mother's apron,
Wondered at the power of words
To make her mother cry.
"That man has terrible power!"
Was all my grandma said, trying to be calm,
Then turning back to ready table
Before the men came in for supper.
Seventy-five years later,
Sitting at the kitchen table on the farm,
My mother's voice trails off...
Hitler, and her mother...
How many millions gone?
Powerful within the room,
The memory rests.
Outside, the same wind blows;
Only absent snow-gray clouds
Beneath the ice-blue skies.
Waking and sleeping our way
Past our losings of you,
Thinking you forgotten,
Ourselves we fool.
Proof lies in dreams now common:
Your brother sees you in one house and then another...
Happy times as though you've never left,
Your mother sees returned embraces,
Powerful reunions, tearful faces,
Embraces flee morning alarms....
Who knows the dreams to come?
My convolutions mix beyond my ken;
I have no will to stop them, else I lose all memory
Of your face, your happy laugh, or rebel yell;
Losing sight of children, a father's constant hell.
Weary days and dream-filled nights
Toss us as we pine,
A daughter and a sister lost,
An aunt that we can't find.
The past seems never far away
What can be done, we do...and pray.
The Autumn missal has arrived,
A fall reminder of the coming cold,
Strange slanting light to shift the maple
Greens to furious red and gold.
High above the myriad travelers chant adieu,
As on their wing-road paths they beat
A chorus glorious to southern waters blue
Where winter waters serve a warm retreat.
A liturgy of highest order drives the world
Beyond the ken of time-old cycles round;
Hibernal instinct now in feral life unfurls:
Flogs squirrels outward on their oak-corn bounds,
Plushes wealth of wolves' warm winter fur,
Hardens bone and antler, deepens feathered down,
Adds harvest fat to beast and fish and fowl,
Drives sap below old Frost's attempt to burrow down.
Unspoken paen unheard by almost all,
A careless shivering passerby may dread
This ritual changing of the Fall,
But never mind, the liturgy is read,
And Nature safely tucks herself into her wintery bed.
Of the four girls whose parents
Be the Year, Autumn spends
Her quarter round in changing clothes
And riots life even as she slows.
Protesting greens that fade and run,
She riots best against the sun
In reds and oranges and yellows;
In slanting light her dancing slows.
Weeks before her dance is done,
She pays her homage to the sun;
Her stepping slow; she dresses down
For waltzes sad in somber brown.
At curtain call, her early temper loses sway;
Refined before the end, she dresses for ballet
And pirouettes in faded brown
A shadow now in dying light.
She pirouettes in faded brown,
Beside a sister white.
We didn't have the pleasure of first meeting:
The get-to-know you touch of tiny hands,
The careful cradling,
The inhalation of all scents new,
The wonder of a being so tiny,
To see if we could find ourselves in you.
Never knew your sleepy sigh,
Your first smile,
The different infant cries:
Hunger, anger, fear,
Or the fidget-whimpering need for words.
Your Mother knew and told your Dad....
They held each other while you grew,
Gathering and stretching,
A silent wonder in her womb,
A sweet surprise, and wanted,
If still a little early...
Too early yet...
Better to wait and make sure....
But always you were awaited
With hopeful joy.
And then one morning,
As though you'd found a better place,
You took your leave in silence,
Left without a face or name
For us to see and know you
When we finally meet.
You need to know we mourn you,
Or perhaps we need you to know...
Regret your passing.
Strange longing this,
For a loved one we have yet to meet,
To add someone to the growing list
Of those we miss and long to see
At Jesus' feet.
But Jesus said, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
How was it there in Isengard,
Former haven of the proud,
Whose hollowed valley hid the rot
Beneath its treeless hills,
Ancient machinations tunneled far below
The smooth, impervious tower of Saruman,
The Iridescent Dazzler,
Whose quiet words slipped Sauron's thoughts
Inside our weaker minds?
Venom running hot...then changing cold
Within old Saruman on Gandalf's salutation:
"Saruman the White,"
Changing Truth for truths,
Something totally desired.
"I prefer Saruman the White!"
I think old Gandalf said
While he was still "The Gray,"
(Just before his lofty spire stay).
But evil magic has its ends,
Tendrils turn upon themselves,
Vines tangling slow or fast,
Returning to the evil doer's door
While Good climbs steadily to new beginnings
Rooted in the Old and True,
Reaching for the sun.
Old Ents in righteous anger
Broke dams, diverted streams to flood
The war machines of Isengard,
Drove Orcs and Wargs and Trolls to doom,
Drowned the furnaces...
Then, mourning tree-limbed kin,
Greeted Gandalf on his way to greater things,
And pledged themselves to holy war.
Saruman the Proud,
The sooty iridescent,
The abject coward,
Stripped of power,
Into the mists of Middle Earth
While Sauron's eye glared
West and East,
When I heard the words that I had never hoped to hear,
"I'm on a path that you did not imagine,"
I trembled in the darkness growing near;
A green and deathly sickness grew within.
I can sense the Sirens' call to prayers unholy:
"Come dance the daring dances;
Sing the songs the sinners sing,
Defy the order of the stars to fling your flings,
And shake your horny fists in pent-up rages,
Deny the structures of eternal ages;
Pervert the holy orders present at the birthing of the universe."
Does saying what is real is not or what is not is real
Change anything beyond the choice of action?
(Some would argue that the proof is in the consequence.)
Can mass opinion or the way a person feels
Change laws immutable: gravity's pull or magnetic attraction?
(Even theologians teeter now upon a wobbly fence).
If mass opinion moral laws can change
(Some critical percent of all believers
Taken in a poll believe the cannibals were right;
Please pass John's head there on that platter),
Then nothing stable really can exist.
When data-driven compasses redefine the laws,
When best practice comes from mass opinions,
We lose abilities to know ourselves as climbing up
Or scuttling down the ladders of Existence,
Confuse the benefits or dooms of consequential Ends.
Who faithfully waters flowers
In the too-small pot upon the stoop,
Blossoms smiling at morning sun,
No fear of nooning heat
Her ministrations prove that love
Transcends the tightness of their tiny space,
And so they bloom and glow.
Here's to the Man whose only Love
Anticipates his steps before sun-fall...
His only thoughts of coming home to her;
She is his haven 'gainst a solemn world;
This little house with flowers on the step
A place where love and blossoms grow.
(Alone, I wanted love, both to be and to do...
Creation is a dangerous fling when love is on the line.)
Wood carvers' magic lies
In the carving of their steel knives;
Sticks of wood and cotton strings
Give hardwood imitative lives.
Always, though, a thing is needed,
Or the living and the dead move only
In a dance surreal's reflection;
The dead must imitate the living.
Somehow string life is never quite enough;
True love must choose to stay...
To dance a half step slow or quarter fast,
To jive against a jink and twirl an unexpected twirl.
And so I cried each night and prayed
For genuine, not wooden love,
And life arose in wooden hands;
Pinnochio was born, and stood
Wobbling on wooden feet, but living.
The joy I felt was full to see my son,
My own creation, moving on his own.
Then he, like any living boy, began to run.
Some say a loss is better if love comes first;
Some say it's better yet, to be alone.
I have seen both and can't determine which is best...
Pinnochio, Pinnochio, my wandering son,
Remember me, your father, and come home.
A farm screen door latch
Should slam with the urgent drumming
Of a man or woman going off
On urgent business:
To see the cattle fed,
To till the fields,
To clang the dinner bell...
Should sing relentless songs,
Not stand and wait for days...
Sagging as the hinges sag,
Lonely in waiting ones who've left,
Forgetting to come back.
A door is meant
For entering and departing,
Handles on both sides.
A house that sees
no leavings nor returnings
Is kindred to coffins,
No longer home....
Secrets To My Brother's Farm
"Before you run off to the chores,
I have a secret you must learn,"
And so the messages are passed
On how to operate this tractor or that truck,
Which I, the visitor, must discern.
"This tractor's clutch will soon go out,
Unless you heed these words,
Keep rpm just high enough, but not too much...
Idle her down before you slip the clutch."
"The key won't work in the old pickup,
Just pull the knob there on the dash,
Then give the coat hanger wire a pull
until the engine fires...oh...did you check the tires?"
"Oh, while we're at it, see that old truck?
It doesn't like to start on the first try
So turn it over a couple times for luck
And then she'll start and never die."
"The air compressor switch is gone,
so plug it in to make it go, but first
Be sure to drain the tank, or it won't run,
The motor's tired and and has to have an easy start."
"The tires on the trailer need more air,
Especially the left one in the back,
Slow leak is all it is, but if it goes,
A newer tube's up on the rack."
"The loader's got a special wire
That you must clip to start the alternator charging,
(And if you ever do forget, the ire
You'll feel when the wires start burning.")
"This cow's alright, but don't forget,
To feed her last in her own bunk;
She likes to fight, and we'll need the vet,
If others crowd her to a funk."
"Don't lean on that, or you'll get hurt;
I've meant all spring to nail it."
"The handle broke, so you have to get out
By rolling down the window."
"Watch out! The guard is off that thing;
It'll take your arm just quick!"
"Be sure to shut the gas valve off,
Or it'll drain out on the ground."
"No brakes, so drive her carefully.
Keep it in a lower gear,
But if need be,
Hit something cheap."
"Two scoops only is the limit
You'll make her sick with more."
"Be sure to double-wire the gate;
The cattle will get out."
"We save the egg shells for the garden;
We never throw away what we could use."
So many secrets to remember,
I sure could use a list.
What do I get when I suggest?
A look equivalent to a hiss.
When Technology died,
some of us merely shrugged and
Tried to go back to before...
Only it wasn't the same...
So many hard-wirings gone,
So many places where we used to go,
So many thoughts we used to know,
Forgotten in an ethereal swirl...
Internetted and forgotten.
Power plants done, and no more juice
To feed along the sagging wires.
Once the Internet went down,
(Without so much as a diminishing blip
Of dying light (cathodes were gone)),
Ah, Lord, we missed the ethereal glow...
Screens now dead and flat,
Unable even to reminisce
The comfort-glow of former irritants,
The fuzziness 0f electronic snow....
And telephones! My Lord!
To think of how we used to talk!
Electronic prayers, each other we implored...
So much connected,
We forgot the depths of face to face,
Now cellular paperweights lie dormant,
Longing for at least a little life,
Reminding us those days are gone.
We pass our little news
Word of mouth now,
Word of mouth to ear,
Only if the ones
We want to know are near.
Before the sun
With his bright face
Puts angles on the shade,
Before old darkness slinks into his place,
I leave the house...
This morning off to work,
But slowing in my run,
I lean to see....
East and high above, a shypoke pair
Take leisure in their flight,
Wings creaking prehistoric,
Feet streaming back on boney stalks,
A trailing nuisance in the air,
Yet perfect for deep water walks.
The chilly air is still;
Dew hovers on the edge
Of giving up on hesitating summer.
Winter is not yet so far away
That crystal forms
Have been forgotten.
Dogwood, leafless yet, and bleeding red,
Begins to glow along the path
The joggers take before the morning sun.
The early light is best
To seek perspective on the world
Before the morning paper,
Before the morning cup;
The early light is best,
As long as we are up.
I should be outside...
Trees are thinking steady now
Of pushing leaves through
I should be outside...
Geese are guarding eggs...
Golden yolks inside the round
Arrays of speckled grey.
I should be outside...
Foolish grasses wave tender flags
To call my snorting lawnmower
From its winter shed.
(El Toro is its name).
I should be outside...
I am crunching numbers,
Statistics' slave to keys
Whose metallic smells
Recite the probabilities
Existent in Fra Dante's hells...
Shall I abandon hope if I press "enter"?
Statistic hell is found at data's center.
I should be outside....
The sun is going down;
Night birds are trading calls...
The greebing screech of night hawks'
Wing-air brakes now haw and swoop
Their practicing 'til bugs arrive....
I should be outside...
Forget this chore.
I'm going out.
Tomorrow is another day.
I'm going out to play
Two Christmases ago,
Morning cold hovers in electrons.
Frost covers the Chevrolet
Backed by whiteness
Under zero degree sunlight
The old farm place sees morning
Bright and calm....
The ancient barn,
hoar frosted roof agleam,
Stands downhill to the north,
Below a curving tractor trail
Cut in the snow...
At the other end of those tracks,
Eighty-one and counting,
You are crawling down
the tractor steps,
Pulling battered buckets
from the ancient fodder shack,
Hobbling to the cattle troughs...
Doing what you love to do...
Have done for fifty years....
I am taking pictures at the house,
Amazed at the cold and frost;
An onlooker now,
Somehow aware that I can not
Follow you...or won't,
Wistful still for attentions
you always freely gave
To kine instead of kin.
Could I go back,
Would I go down
To trough the feed?
I tell myself I would,
Or I would not.
The image burns coldly,
Electrically before me,
And only vaguely I'm aware
That you have slipped away.
at the oddest moments
just at the brink of ennui
glimmers of eternity
ephemeral dancing joys
just out of sight
to the desiring ear...
to the attentive eye...
patter pit of little feet
contented laying of jowls
in a dabble of sunlight
carpet warm stretchings
closing of contented eyes
soft dog snores
laconic life in the moment
this Sunday afternoon....
When ranchers decide to do a thing,
Sometimes they just go through it.
What follows is a little fling
A neighbor did...don't do it.
The clearing of the land requires a little fortitude
Some ingenuity, and luck, and not a little courage.
So A.D. Volbrecht's story, though a little crude,
Is only strange to those who eat milk toast and porridge.
Rather than tear an old house down to clear a farming space,
A.D. enlisted help from his oldest son to haul the thing away.
Together then, the two grown men took on a moving race
To see if they could jack the house and move it in one day.
The morning saw a Donahue, low slung and meant to haul,
Waiting as the house was raised, (unsteady on new legs)
Then slowly lowered down again. T'would make a feller bawl
To see the old home place prepare to pack its bags.
Son Zane began a steady pull to move the old house home,
And A.D. took his place in front, flashers and flags to warn.
Slow going was their pace, and traffic stopped up some;
The actual move was tougher than the plan they'd formed.
So seven miles became a half a day, and challenges arose
How ever would they move the thing through town?
The power lines and traffic cops were obstacles; who knows
What kinds of tickets they'd be writing down?
Up ahead the airport gleamed, the tarmac shimmered black.
"Aha!" old A.D. cried, "I've found the way around!"
Hard left he turned on a county road, and cut the fence in back
And guided Zane and the old home shack to airport ground.
Western Airways flight was due sometime that afternoon;
Old AD rattled on up Runway One, old pickup running fast,
To find a gate to let the old house through, (and none too soon);
The tractor and its load sputtered through the parking lot at last.
In June a few years back, a farmer and his son pulled off a heist.
Stole some runway time and cut their journey short...
No harm done, though they'd never do it twice
Without winding up defenseless in the county court.