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May 13 · 106
First Poems
Don Bouchard May 13
"Write two poems," I said.

My students left the room.

Some frittered the week away,
No idea how to start,
What to say....

Others found a way to play,
Rolling phrases
Making hay,
Coding words in lines
Testing assonance,
A door, a pen, and clouds...
Always clouds.

"Write one that rhymes," I'd said,
And so the rhymers vied,
Stretched morphemes until dead,
Finding words I thought had died,
Bruised themselves with rhythm,
Metered anapests and dactyls,
Resorted to trochees and iambs
And smiled as if inventing fractals,
My little lambs.

"Write free verse; break all rules!" I said,
And though they tried,
No ee cummings Jesus resurrected,
No William Carlos Williams rose
To eat plums beside white chickens,
And no apologies.

Still, when all was finished,
Notes came in,
A treasured, precious few
Wrote to say they'd found
Appreciation for words
Arranged intentionally,
For power of images,
For realization of the value
Found in working with words.
Concluding 16 years' teaching Writing & Literature & College Composition. Finals, last papers, and student comments....
May 7 · 513
Roundabout Roustabout
Don Bouchard May 7
Who is he,
The man in the sweaty tee-shirt,
Standing in the center
While cars **** round
The roundabout?

He holds a digging tool,
Remains of weeds clinging.
He waves at a city parks truck
Rounding on its way
To the main building.

I know him.
We taught together once.
His doctorate in ministry:
Servant lives and how to lead them;
Mine in words and letters,
And how to read them.

I wonder as I drive away:
The tenuous lives we lead;
No predicting whether next year
I'll be learning with students
Or pulling weeds on a highway.

Vicissitudes of Life...
May 5 · 72
Gloves and Socks
Don Bouchard May 5
A week or so
After the funeral,
The interment of ashes,
The settling of accounts,
The realization of continuing sighs,
We helped Mom empty
Things you left behind.

Shirts and pants,
Jackets, shoes,
The quiet, worn things
Left by a man who
Said little,
Worked hard,
Saved earnings,
Lived generously.

At the bottom of your dresser drawer,
Lay wool socks, leather gloves
We kids had given you
Father's days, Christmases,
(Never birthdays),
You'd put away for some other day....

I remember your telling me,
"I don't need anything!"
And maybe you didn't....
But we did.
You gave us everything,
Including your life
In the end.

Our feeble gifts
Lie waiting
For feet and hands
That that have gone away.
Thoughts about my Dad, now eight years gone....
May 5 · 102
North Woods Outhouse
Don Bouchard May 5
First hunting trip in years
Wondering if I have the stamina,
The fortitude to stay in a cabin,
To hunt in the cold,
To find my way in unknown woods...
To use an outhouse.

I have grown accustomed to amenities:
A steady furnace, heated water,
Television, books, phone,
Internet, WiFi, Cable,
A garage,

For a weekend
I decided to try myself,
To test resolve,
To see if there might still remain
A little hardiness.

The long drive took us out of range
Of television,
Most radio,
Cell coverage,
Running tap water,
Toilets with flush handles,
My bidet.

Gas light, wood fire
Illuminated and warmed
Dimly, slowly.
My bed frosted until midnight.

At 1:00 my bladder sent the signal;
I arose, donned boots and coat,
Forayed to the shack outback.

Wind rushing in the tall trees,
Snow crunching beneath me,
Ice on the door,
Dark of night,
Dread without,

In minutes, business done.
Outside, breeze soughing,
Sighing in tree tops.

Singing ice stopped me
Beneath the stars:
Siren song of resonating ice,
Ice-glazed lake's expansive song
Filling me with wonder.

Cold, I could not linger,
Walked back
To hunker in blankets,
Old and wool,
As the ice-song lingered.
singing ice, cold, survival, beauty, nature, north woods
Don Bouchard Apr 30
Some would burn the home
To end the vipers lurking in the walls;
Take no care for ruining their shelter,
Panicking and distraught, destroying helter-skelter.

Some would attempt to live in peace
While the lurker steals their sleep.
Thinking vipers are just natural things,
Allowing them to rule their lives like kings.

Some would study the serpents to know
Where they hide; where they go...
Then **** them when they leave their lair,
And plug the villains' holes.
Trouble shooting a little today. How to rid ourselves of COVID-19?
Apr 30 · 28
Trying Times
Don Bouchard Apr 30
These are the days that try our souls.
There have been others similar,
Time out of minds ago.

Take heart.
Lift up your heads.
The One who saved the multitudes is there
To take our dread.

Take courage.
Lift up your arms.
The One is with us through all harm.

Take peace.
Rest in the thought that life
Or death in Him will please.

Take comfort now, for later.
In life, in death,
He is our Savior.
Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death.... Psalm 23
Apr 30 · 204
Don Bouchard Apr 30
David felt the emptiness
Of his bowl,
The House,
His kitchen sink,
Felt the weary settling in.

On the table
After the dish and fork,
His Bible, worn,
Lay open:
"I will never leave you,
Nor forsake you."
The pages, marked and stained,
Seemed dry
In the after-dinner hour.

Echoes in the house tonight:
His bare feet skiffering the floor,
The water running in the sink,
The creaking bed and rustling sheets,
The refrigerator sighing below,
Echoing into the bedroom
Through the empty hall.

Her side,
His side,
The old rules of halves:
Empty now
Either side his.
Yet shuffling to the far side
By the window,
He let himself in,
Slid his tired weight
Between sheets.

Once in,
Let his leg,
His foot reach over
to the emptiness
Of cold sheets
And a flatness
Lonely for her indentation.

Arising sleepless
He wandered out,
First to the toilet and sink,
Then to the kitchen for a drink,
Then to the window,
Then the door,
And out into the yard.

The lowland bog alive:
Spring peepers chorusing,
A nighthawk veering air,
Crickets cheering to stay warm,
Beside, before, and all around,
The night was filled with sound.

"Where have you taken her?"
His eyes searched the stars,
Silent in their astral lofts.
"Where have you gone?"

Chill of night - Mid-eastern spring,
Night air pungent - earth and rain
His woman gone - this lonely man
Hopes for rest - perhaps a dream:
Of them together - balmy weather.
Thinking of long-time family friends, David and Esther Scoville. This is his third night alone. Woke at 2:30 AM thinking about those first nights alone, after the going, before the funeral, and the journey onward....
Apr 24 · 41
Five Rivers
Don Bouchard Apr 24
Five rivers, horror-full
Through Hades flow:
Acheron, full of sorrow, endless woe,
Cocytus, howls as lamentation and regret,
Phlegethon - smoke and molten fire, ever hot,
Lethe - black waters of oblivion,
Styx - bitterest of all, flows full of hate.

The boatman Kharon,
Psychopomp, deliverer of souls,
Navigates Acheron and Styx,
Plucking his coins
From passengers' eyes
(No one is alive),
Then lets them find
Their appointed ways
To bliss or dread.

Odysseus alone
Braved Phlegethon
To speak with wise Tiresius;
Tossed his sacrificial goat
Into the flowing fire,
Heard the Ancient's voice,
Then fled in terror.
Greek mythologies still fascinate me.
Apr 24 · 28
The River Lethe
Don Bouchard Apr 24
Old men stumbling,
Old women wading,
Descending into waters black.

River's force draws
Once steady Time
Into Lethe's murky flow.

Cares fall away,
Worry holds no more...
All swept from sensate shore.

Ever pulling,
Relentless River Lethe
Drowns even sweet relief.
One river in Hades
Don Bouchard Apr 22
Nana tells stories;
Papa reads books;
Mommy cooks me dinner;
Daddy makes me toast,
And we all joy together!

She made this up while swinging at the park, which is finally open again in our little town.
Apr 16 · 86
And then
Don Bouchard Apr 16
We become old men
And old women, and

We look back wistfully, and
We look forward hopefully, and

We wonder....
Apr 16 · 134
External Standard
Don Bouchard Apr 16
The station master arrived a little after five,
Set about his morning schedule,
Turned on the lights,
Put the coffee on,
Checked the restrooms,
Picked up the paper at the curb,
Waited for the old town clock
To chime six bells
From the tower carillon.
He set his pocket watch with care,
Then stepped outside to check the station clock
Standing on the red brick apron of the station.

The 6:10 arrived a little early,
Offloaded mail and Billy Johnson,
Home from college and heading to the farm.
He looked tired from two days' travel
Coming on the rails.

At 6:14, the train pulled out,
On the station master's wave.

A few seconds early,
But not so much
As to bring concern
Until a man rode up to ask
Where was the train?

"It's come and gone at 6:14,"
The station master said,
"You've arrived too late."

"That cannot be," the stranger said,
"My time piece says it's only 6:11."

The station master scratched his head,
"I set my clock according to the bell
That rings at 6:00 each morning in the town.
It's accuracy is beyond compare."

The traveler's face began to crack
Into a crooked smile.
"I think I have an inkling
Of the problem here," he said.

"My uncle's the town mayor.
Just yesterday he said
He sets the bells by the station's clock.
I set my pocket watch three days ago
Back in the city where I live,
And it's three minutes slow
Compared to yours."

'Tis time for contemplation;
Painful humor in the situation,
The 6:14 in early locomotion,
Three minutes bought for meditation
On the need for calibration.
We need external standards. Our own ideas of right and wrong become localized and erratic. Thinking....
Apr 9 · 159
Haying Done
Don Bouchard Apr 9
Have you ever done enjoyable work,
But toward supper time,  
After a long, long day,
A satisfaction sets in,
Almost a fullness,
A readiness to stop for the day...

I know this feeling.
I understand Robert Frost's poem,
"After Apple Picking."

I loved haying on the ranch,
But after 14 hours' roaring up and down
Long alfalfa fields,
I was content,
Ready to shut down for the day,
Ready to climb down from the old John Deere,
Ready to walk, dusty, to the old truck
Waiting in growing darkness.

I recall listening for sounds of night coming on:
Crickets rasping against the cooling day,
Nighthawks' screeching, veering for insects,
Soul-mourning cries of coyotes,
All teamed against the ghosts of day:
Tractor's roaring echo in my ears,
Thumping memory of lurching over clods,
Dust clogging my itching eyes and throat....

The old tractor, too, was content
Sitting silently,
Cooling in the twilight.
Contentment, Cooling, Farming
Mar 5 · 65
This is the way
Don Bouchard Mar 5
of temptation.
We are enticed,
Seduced, and

The Going In
Is easy,
While Going Out
Is difficult.

The farther  
We slide,
Less likely
Our retreat.
Thoughts on "Where Are You Going; Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates.... Arnold Friend is An Old Fiend.
Feb 14 · 236
Good to Remember
Don Bouchard Feb 14
When a thing
Is "Free,"
The product
Is "Thee."
no such thing as a free lunch....
Feb 13 · 778
Why I write...
Don Bouchard Feb 13
To Remember...
To Forget...
Feb 11 · 123
Deaf Benefits
Don Bouchard Feb 11
"You can't hear me!" she whispered,
And I just turned my head.
Sometimes it's better not to hear....
Depends on what's been said.

I know I irritate her;
(I irritate myself).
Hearing aids are waiting
On some hearing doctor's shelf.

While we go on debating,
Because I'm in no hurry,
I sit here contemplating....
Sometimes it's better not to worry.

At the things I heard that peeved me,
Before I tune the wide world out;
Honey, if you really want to catch me,
You're gonna have to shout.
Aging has its issues. Hearing loss seems to be one of mine.
Feb 11 · 198
Two Avenues
Don Bouchard Feb 11
To Death:
Feb 10 · 194
Frost and 3 Below
Don Bouchard Feb 10
Left the house this morning before six;
Stopped to photograph the hoarfrost
Beneath the street lights glowing thick...
White, silver, black before it all was lost.

The headlights caught a snow-like fall,
Frost slanting north before a southern breeze,
And I was all alone in wonderland to see it all;
I turned inside a splendor-dome of trees.

The camera tried to focus, battling light and dark;
No sun to give some depth against the night.
I felt my fingers growing numb and left the park,
Hoping at least one snapshot would look right.

The morning breeze then stirred, "Enough!"
Revealing golden warmth, arrived the sun;
Shivering trees their silver jackets sloughed,
And I, to work because the day'd begun.
Jan 30 · 389
Young Goodman Brown
Don Bouchard Jan 30
Kissed Faith good-bye,
Stepped into the night,
Met a man on his way
To the Forest.

Faith behind him,
Uncertainty before,
Wavering on his way,
Brown faltered on.

Such a cloud of witnesses
As to keep him from this path!
But then they met him,
One by one,
Catechist and Minister,
Deacon and Elder,
Murmuring and gibbering;
Wise fools wending their way
To meet him
In a clearing, deep.

Pink ribbons falling,
Snake-head pointing
Feet now stumbling,
Then running before
In a wind of curses.

Firelight red,
Congregants cowled, silent,
Save the voice of Faith,
The near-initiate.

"Faith, Faith!
Look to Heaven!"
Resist the wicked one."

Woods silent;
Devil, fiends, fire ... gone.
Only Goodman Brown
To stagger home.

Ironic morning sight:
Smiling faces of Salem town,
'Gainst downward gazing
Goodman Brown.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic allegory.... What a story!
Jan 27 · 172
Kobe & Burkina
Don Bouchard Jan 27
While the world
And I
Mourn Kobe's passing,
On nearly the same day
Jihadists invaded villages...
West Africa,
Burkina Faso,

Villagers ordered out
Into the open areas
Gunned down,

An attendance question opens,
"What happened in the world?'

Kobe Bryant is gone.
Private helicopter crashed.
The world is on its head.

We hang our heads
In mourning.

Jacque's turn:
"My village was
Attacked Saturday.
Forty people killed.
My wife and children...
The people are fleeing
To the capitol,

[Awkward, this revelation.
How will I ever justify
A week of Edgar Allan Poe?]

We bow to pray.
The life of the classroom. God help us.
Jan 16 · 101
Haiku Winter
Don Bouchard Jan 16
Frost thickens at dawn,
Rumbling salt truck rattles by
Before snow's assault.

Skin turns numb plastic
Five minutes exposed to air
Fifty degree wind chill

No bird chirps nor flies;
Young ash borers freeze and die;
Cold saves old ash trees.

Beneath frozen mud
Spring peepers sleep winter's death
Waiting the spring thaw.

Eskimo, my wife,
Dressed in down, coiffed now in fur,
Radiant in snow.

When a boy, I knew
No greater love than the hunt
Through deep snow for hares.

North winds fierce bring cold,
Drive me gasping to shelter.

No one sleeps outside
With impunity for long;
It's January.

Her fantasy now?
The "polar plunge" with her friends...
And our friendship ends.
-11 Fahrenheit this morning with wind chills of -25. Fresh air indeed if we can stay alive.
Don Bouchard Sep 2019
Cataclysm of cataclysms,
The End of ends,
The death of Death,
To hell with Hell.

The Devil and his minions,
The Dead outside the Fold,
Subsumed in Fire,
Truth consuming liars.

Outside the flames,
The Great Relief,
Absence of Pain,
Forgotten Grief.

Cosmos free of all that's fey,
Night consumed by glorious day.
Revelation Chapter 20
Aug 2019 · 1.0k
Dealings with the Devil
Don Bouchard Aug 2019
The Holy Spirit took Him to the wind and sand,
Left Him alone in dry air
To meet the Devil.
Forty days He fasted,
Must have prayed,

The Devil knew just where to find Him,
Rolled up in a whirlwind,
Did he?
Or slithered he up,
Wind in his face,
The Serpent, from behind?

The conversation followed,
Enough to raise my hair,
"I've been given total dominion
Of earth and sky down here.
The glory is all mine."

"Unlimited my power
Within the earthly plane,
And all of it you'll have,
If you but praise my name."

The Devil said his piece,
Then waited,
Plotting Jesus' pain
For invading his dominion
For bringing Glory down.
He proffered ease of life
And Earth's opinion,
The greatest things he owned
To tempt the Chosen One:
A monstrous devil's game...
Risk every earthly thing
For the Knee of the Almighty.

Jesus spoke:
"Satan, get behind.
Worship only God, your Lord,
Serve no one but Him."

So Satan took the two of them
To the top of the temple spire,
"Fall free from here,
Let angels catch;
Subsume human desire!"

Jesus answered quickly,
"You shall not tempt your Lord."

And so the Devil left Him,
The Tempter's power, blown.

And so began
The Savior's journey
Toward a humble Cross,
The Gateway to our Home.
Luke 4:1-14
Aug 2019 · 713
Were I to go to the woods
Don Bouchard Aug 2019
For a year or possibly more,
Decompression begins:
Purging electricity, electronics.
Fall away, Internet, Oh!
No more cellular,
**** the television set,
Except, perhaps, a radio,
Lest I totally forget....

Hello, paper,
Hello, books,
Come off the shelves;
Lose those ***** looks,
Warm again before my eyes,
Feel the press of my writing stick.

Thoreau, the fakir,
Left the social order
Just a year,
Though just how far
He really went
Remains foggily unclear,
And the fact that he returned
Suggests that Nature
Left him feeling burned.

So, like a diver,
Rising from the deep,
I'd take a while to meditate,
To let the busyness-es go
And put electric dreams to sleep.
I was asked what I'd do if I were to find myself a year in solitude. Aside from the needfulness or learning and re-learning survival methods, this is what I came up with....
Aug 2019 · 333
Better Read than Dead
Don Bouchard Aug 2019
Hello Poetry!
I have decided to keep
My poems here.
Rather a few be read
Than keep the lot
Penned up waiting in a sales ring
With no buyers,
Starvation coming....
At least we're reading each others' poems.... Better read than dead....
Jul 2019 · 364
Don Bouchard Jul 2019
Children, fresh as bib lettuce,
Green and tender,
Stand before me in my rocking chair,
Pearled new teeth,
Wisping hair, golden, brown,
Embarking up a stair way
That I am going down.

"Papa, can we go out to play?"
I look out the window
To see the kind of day
Before I say,
"Would you like to take a walk?"
Jul 2019 · 653
Norwegian Pride
Don Bouchard Jul 2019
As she emerged from years of abuse,
Became aware of the ******* he'd placed,
She knew it was time to go,
Filed the papers,
Moved in with a friend,
Tried to see another end.

Love does not die easily;
Her heart yearned
Some better way,
But ends must come
When there's nothing left to say.

She left everything to him;
He'd forced his will in choosing every piece:
Furniture, fixings, knife and fork,
Appliances, decor, automobiles....
She wanted none of it anymore.

Love does find a way
To die, though the dying may be slow.

"It's good we didn't have any children,"
His mother said. "We didn't muddy up
Our pure Norwegian blood line."

Love finds a way to die.
Jul 2019 · 527
Through a humid, smoky fog
Don Bouchard Jul 2019
We trudge the fetid jungle,
Thinking our green way
Must be an overgrown trail.

Dampness pervades our clothing,
Soddens our shoes,
Drips from leafy branches,
Fails to cool us in the tropic heat.

We ascend gingerly,
Hoping for cooler air,
Realizing the immensity of time,
Of memory moving on ahead.

Shrieking birds unseen
Foretell dooms imagined:
Snake and lizard fangs,
Feral creatures' claws and teeth,
Unseen traps waiting to inflict
Sudden deaths or slow.

Silence arrests us,
As we stumble to a cliff,
Gasping for air,
Longing for coolness,
Stopped in our breath as we see....

Climbing the ranges ahead of us,
Above, and arching up and down,
The great dragon's crenelated back
Undulating over the mountain ridges,
Disappearing into the past.
My recollection of seeing the Great Wall of China just outside of Beijing
Jun 2019 · 968
Trampling Bull
Don Bouchard Jun 2019
This, the generation
Of the Trampling Bull,
The trodding of the Crop,
The headlong raging run,
With never any stop.

Having pulled the stakes,
Dragging tethers;
Pawing unchecked,
Throwing clods above his withers;

Fence posts falling,
The corners cave.

Town boys chase him
With sticks,
Unable to check or to drive
His rampant run,
O'er suffering fields.

Where are the men
Who'll come to force him,
Back into civility?

Where are the men?
Make of it what you will. I woke at 2:00 with this vivid dream....
May 2019 · 574
Rain today,
Don Bouchard May 2019
A good day
For worm travel...
And bird feasting.

I am dressed gray,
Walking in clouds.

Vapors cool
Fog my vision,
Slow my journey
Through moods of contemplation.

Yet, there's Life here,
If I can slow
My splashing rush
To let the dampness sprout.
Rain, blue-moods, fatigue
Apr 2019 · 262
I met a girl
Don Bouchard Apr 2019
I met a girl named Winter,
Skin as white as snow,
Heart as sharp as splinters
Iced and cold.

I met a girl named Autumn
Suffering on the brink;
Dying embers made her glum,
and made my passion sink.

Summer was a girl I met
Just a little after spring
And though we danced,
Twas just a little fling.

When e'er I think of Spring,
Her fitful temper flares....
She promised everything,
Then flitted off somewhere....

"I'm done with seasons,"
Then I said, "Elsewhere will I look."
And so I sought a little song
And found one in a book.

Her looks so fair; her words so sweet -
Our voices found full harmony;
My happiness has been complete;
My heart has found its Melody.
Apr 2019 · 913
Don Bouchard Apr 2019
Rolling power:
      Churning waves
      Grinding shells,
      Prolific evidence of life & death
      Rising from salt depths,
Epic revelations from below.

Evidence of end games:
     Shells, drilled, scarred, scored
     By beaks of tendrilled monsters;
     Occupants devoured,
****** through ravaged carapaces.

Fecund progeny:
    Tiny messages, these shells...
    Evidencing life,
    Echoing death,
Generations grinding down and down.

My tanned bare feet,
    Track tide-lined shells,
     Seek forensic evidence and beauty,
     Follow ribbons of shells
Cast empty from the pounding sea.
Grim thoughts of a new sheller....
Mar 2019 · 592
Don Bouchard Mar 2019
I remember 35
Like it was 25 years ago.

I had hair then.
Was in my eighth year of teaching.
Had four children at home,
A dog.
A cat.

Unbounded energy,

Stress fed my bones,
Canceled my fears,
"Work harder
Before the night falls!"

Night is falling.
Sixty is nearly here.
I am nearly gone,
And yet you linger,
A soul standing in periphery.

What is the point of living
If the past cannot be left,
And the present stand still
To let us dress each other's wounds,
Forgive our others' sins,
Let us, limping as we are,
Move toward the center,
Again to begin?
Seven years upon us....
Feb 2019 · 285
Tucker, Sheared
Don Bouchard Feb 2019
The groomed dog lies
Clean upon my sofa,
His reward.

Resisted he
The urge to flee
Or bite the handler
While the groomer
Plied over the sopping ****,
Clipped the carpet-ripping nails,
Coiffed and primped him
Head to tail.

He nuzzles me
With a brown-eyed stare,
Sidling close to my old brown chair.

This canine friend,
Just a dog in mien,
Communicates his needs,
Comforts me in loneliness,
Amuses me with dog-face grin,
Reads and responds
To the state that I'm in.
Dogs, if not human, are in many ways better than humans.
Feb 2019 · 354
Don Bouchard Feb 2019
Received a letter via
Our snow-covered mail box
Just a hundred steps from my front door.

Rather than the quick work of electrons,
My mother's friend
Had carefully penned
Her thoughts.

Two tight pages
In black ink:
Questions about life,
The kids and grand kids,
Whether we were getting rest,
And how was the snow?

Paper and ink
Envelope tucked,
Cancelled stamp,
Delivered after a thousand mile ride,
Lies on my desk,
Proof of my mother's love.

Mainly, she was concerned
That we were finding time to live,

And were we still thinking about her?
Write your Mother.
Feb 2019 · 2.8k
Stopping in at dinner time
Don Bouchard Feb 2019
It's June, 1967.
Nature, still lying through
Parsley green teeth,
Breathes the last of spring,
Hints early summer warmth,
Pre-July's cicada whine,
August's heat and wind.

Crops, still tender green
Quiver beneath a humid sky,
Under a glowing sun.

Bicycles amuse our early lust
To soar untraveled ground,
Entering lazy summer's ennui,
We scan a hawk riding drafts
On the edge of our hill.

Dust, drifting up the graveled road,
Five miles below us,
Piques our interest,
Causes the dog to raise his head.
He ***** an ear
Toward a sound we cannot hear.

We hear gravel slapping rocker panels
Before the traveler's roof rises into view,
Catch our breath as the engine slows,
Start running for the house.

A stranger's arrived,
A traveling salesman,
Better than an aunt
Only stopping in for tea
And woman talk.

Dad keeps his welding helmet down,
Repairing broken things.
The hired man inhales his cigarette,
Acts disinterested.

My memories linger on the past....

Salesmen brought the latest farming gadgets:
Additives for fuel and oil,
Battery life extenders,
Grain elevators and fencing tools,
Produce and livestock products,
Lightning rods and roofing,
Chrome-edged cultivator shovels,
Insurance for everything:
Fire, water, wind, hail.

Pitches came without exception:

"Top o' the morning! Looks like you're busy.
Don't want to take your time."

"Looks like you could use some welding rod,
And I have something new for you to try."

"Have you used chromium additive in you livestock salt?
Guaranteed to put on weight and protect from bovine

"Say, have you heard about the effectiveness of a new
Insecticide called DDT? I've got a sample gallon here
For you to try. Works better than Malathion!"

Dad, eventually intrigued, began the slow dance
Of dickering, haggling over this thing or that.
Most salesmen, closing in for a ****,
Hadn't grappled with my father.

At noon, deals still in the air,
My mother called the men,
And we all trudged in to wash,
Waiting in line at the tub,
Scrubbing with powdered Tide
To remove the grime and grease,
Drying on the darkening towel,
Finding a seat at the table.

The salesmen expected the meal
As though it were their right,
A standing invitation:
Stop in at noon,
Make your pitch,
Sit at table,
Close the deal after.

We boys sat and listened
To man talk.
Eyes wide, we marveled
At gadgets,
Wondered at Dad's parleying,
Winced at the deals he drove,
Commiserated with squirming salesmen
Surely made destitute by Dad's hard bargaining.

In retrospect,
I know the game was played
On two sides,
That the battery additives
Bought for five dollars a packet,
Even with the two Dad finagled free,
Cost about five dollars for everything,
Returned forty-five and change
To the smirking, full-bellied salesman
Who left a cloud of dust on his way
To supper a few miles down the road.
We don't see traveling salesmen anymore at the ranches in Montana. I guess internet sales did them in.
Dec 2018 · 218
Sturm und Drang
Don Bouchard Dec 2018
I came exhausted
Out of the blistering gray,
Lungs choking dust,
Tongue parched,
Body swollen with heat.

Your cool gardens saved me.
Basked I in the tender greens of spring;
Nurtured, I lingered in the shade all summer;
Warmed, I stayed near your embers in autumn.
I would not leave the blazing logs in winter.

Dry and desperate my early plight.
Parched and stumbling,
Clogged by dust,
I found your water;
Drank and bathed,
Found solace in body and mind,
Found time to rest, to heal.

I wonder at the restlessness
Howling outside your gates.
SturmundDrang, Struggle, Angst, Sin, Salvation, Pain, Peace, Lost, Found
Dec 2018 · 125
Three Canyons
Don Bouchard Dec 2018
Bryce impressed me with its "hoodoos,"
And we stood on a trail in the heated air,
Wondering how far
To venture into the depths below.

Zion's slotted canyon walls towered over us,
Cooled us in their shade,
Marveled us with seeping rocks,
Clinging lichens, plants in flower,
Tendrils hanging on the wet stone.
We left before a storm.

"Grand" is too quiet, too sparse, too short.
I stood on the precipice,
Miles and miles and miles in view,
Reds and tans and whites,
Clouds hanging virga.
My tears signaled gasping awe.
Dec 2018 · 313
Standing Alone
Don Bouchard Dec 2018
A woman dressed in black,
Deep woods at her back....

I caught her image
In the yellow headlights
Just for an instant.

My wheels rolled by
While my imagination
Slid to a stop with her.

Why was she there
On a lonely road
In freezing rain and cold?

A mile up the road I slowed,
Turned around to answer
Nagging questions.

At the point where she had stood
Remained a half burned stump
Five feet tall, a broken scar face-high.

I smiled at my imagination...
Nearly stumbled on a shoe:
Black, high heel sunk to the hilt.
Nov 2018 · 367
Don Bouchard Nov 2018
A thousand miles west of me
She lies in a nursing home bed,
Oxygen and medications
Prolonging the end of a well-lived life.

This night, the weariness settles around me,
A grim comfort promising sleep,
If only I may close my eyes in surrender....
As if my staying awake somehow sustains her.

Eldest of her sons,
Sometimes wise,
Sometimes wiseacre,
Sometimes a visioning prophet,
Sometimes a fumbler in the dark,
I am empty of words tonight.

What wisdom have I now
When wisdom's called for?
Decisions to be made, and naught to say:
I'd give my kingdom for the wisest way.

Oh, I have prayed,
Have pleaded with the skies....
I suffer in the silent darkness.
Knowing Mother's youth and strength are spent;
Time's inexorable turning pulls her in,
Body nearly gone, reason razor thin
Tell me her fight's a battle Time will win.

But now, while the hovering remains,
The wretched anguish overhangs my soul,
And memories of Mother, young and strong,
Tireless and loving, industrious, filled with song,
Make poignant my pre-mourning hours.
The endless days of waiting. At 91, she won't be 31 again....
Oct 2018 · 2.3k
Casting your nets
Don Bouchard Oct 2018
Same old drudgery,
Papers fresh for grading;
Topics, seldom new,
If honestly presented,
At least encourage worth
In form, in format, in tradition.

Plagiarism creeps up,
Always shocking,
The unauthorized changing
Of voice, of tone, of diction,
Not unlike the sting of a ruthless needle,
The drip of a hollowed, poisoned fang,
The bite of frost, burning a tender cheek...
Sadly familiar, this strident pang.

All hope is lost.

Anger sets in,
Trust wilts,
Hope fades gray.

In plagiarism, the fool's truth lies;
To belie one's honor is to watch it die.
Proverbs 1:17 Surely in vain the nets are cast under the watching eyes of the birds...
Oct 2018 · 866
Wind Chime Zen
Don Bouchard Oct 2018
Fifteen years
These chimes have hung
Silent or clanging
To tell me the breeze
Is here or gone.

The bell tubes
Ring their mindless cheer.
Peacefully they bring
Me to the calm of emptiness.

The mindful other-where-ness,
I sense a kind of zen
But can't quite ken.

Making peace in the presence
Of a restless uncertainty,
Wind chimes ring.
Don Bouchard Oct 2018
Were I invincible or perfect or omnipotent.

But, I am none of these.

Chill wind, shivering frost, cruel sleet

Drive autumn changes in the breeze.

Tilting Earth announces endings,

Announces beginnings at her antipodes.

Death proves itself beneath the sleeping trees...

Feuille-morte beauty of the fallen leaves.
Shorter days and cooling nights here in Minnesota. Oh, I hate to see old summer go....
Aug 2018 · 4.6k
Deep Summer Now
Don Bouchard Aug 2018
Cicadas whine metallically
In trees along the sweltered streets;
Wasps and hornets arc angrily
Enough to cause me fear.
Late summer’s not my favorite time of year.

Flowers nearly done;
The tulips, irises, and poppies
Long since seeded out;
They’ve had their fun.
Bedraggled day lilies remain,
This is the beginning of the mums.
Bees seek latent nectars
Or tap into their golden stores
To supplement their bumbling runs.

Lawns foist a burnt but stubborn edge
While only thistles still refuse
To bow to August's incessant heat;
Their spikes sprout poisonous defiance.
The dog’s left yellowed pools of dying grass;
I admit the neighbors’ lawns surpass.  
I suppose the time to gather
Drying excrement’s returned, alas....

Keeping up appearances is hard at summer's end.
Ennui of season full and just past ripe  
Leaves tired old men like me
A chiding cause to gripe.
Morning thoughts August 17, 2018
Aug 2018 · 171
Human Nature
Don Bouchard Aug 2018
Cause for despair, this...
Dr. Heidegger's experiment gave new life to old bones.
Elixir re-infusing lust and ******
Once the liquid hit the blood,
All bets on again for nothing good.
Nathaniel Hawthorne's
"Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"'s%20Experiment.pdf
Aug 2018 · 311
Picking Agates
Don Bouchard Aug 2018
I grew up working the land,
Out under the sun,
In the wind,
Squinting in the semi-arid dust
Of our farm.

My sister lived inside,
Learning to cook,
To clean,
To live the farm wife's life.

We both live now in cities
A thousand miles from that old farm,
Visiting a week or two....
Never long.

Our recollections vary.
I suppose they must.
So when we walk a country road
We see things differently.

She sees flowers and rolling hills,
Grasses bowing gracefully in the breeze,
Dusty agates hiding patterns.

I see dust upon the flowers and grass,
I curse the way days pass
In wind and heat and cold
Turning living creatures old.

Hard the stones,
Sharp the thistles,
Bent the curling flowers,
Wind-rutted the hills
By wind and water powers.

I am tempered in my sister's pondering,
Pause in my cynicism.

She holds an agate to the light,
Turning it angle to angle
Seeing Beauty glow inside.
Sometimes I need to take a breath and remember the open heart I once had. Thanks, Kathy, for your reminder that beauty is everywhere.
Aug 2018 · 3.5k
Coffin Building
Don Bouchard Aug 2018
Dad didn't want a coffin.
"Cremate my last remains,"
And so we did.
Cool and dry,
His ashes, urned,
Lie beneath the sod
And prairie sky
Waiting some clarion call,
Some trill of hope,
Bright, re-constitutional,

Mother's wishes rise before us:
No crematory,
No embalmer.
Just her blanket,
Just a hole
Dug beside our Dad.

The law would let her wish be true,
But her children won't.
We're searching coffin plans.
Reverently grim,
Lovingly deferential,
Dutifully rebellious,
Solemn this journey be.

Pine boards to honor her thrift
But smooth and tight,
Rope handles, fitted lid,
Perhaps a little trim,
Perhaps a sheaf of wheat carved
For the old farmer she was.

We'll bury her,
Wrapped in her blanket,
Tucked securely in pine
Beside my father's ashes.

Like a grain of wheat she'll lie
Silent in her final say
Inside our final say
Waiting Resurrection Day.
Life moves forward, a conveyor belt that moves so slow, so fast, as to be indiscernible. The time is upon us.
May 2018 · 173
Don Bouchard May 2018
Here today and gone tomorrow,
True of love and joy and sorrow.
Frost said gold lasts but a day...
So does work, and so does play.
Here today and gone tomorrow,
True of anger, pain and horror.
Savor golden days whene'er they come;
Remember them when they are gone.
Apr 2018 · 1.2k
I saw you again last night,
Don Bouchard Apr 2018
And the snow was melting from the hills;
Green was glowing down in the north pasture;
Crocuses were bucking a hard west wind;
Calving was swinging on, and spring barns to muck,
And you were yelling about some thing or other,
The way you always do, or the way you always did,
Back in the day when you were here,
And I was just a lazy kid.

Dad, you remain somehow this giant in my mind,
Sleeping or waking,
I see you still,
Hear your voice,
Watch you running
One job to the next,
Passionate about everything,
Restless and without rest,
Some nameless demon chasing you,
Pulling the rest of us in your wake.

So the last three nights I've seen you,
Sat at table across from you
To discuss my leaving the farm:
You concerned I was a fool to go,
And I convinced I could not stay.

I wish I knew the hold you have on me
Six years gone with you away, and me,
Two states removed and a career nearly done,
Still finding myself waking from dreams
That linger vivid on.
Dad, I still miss you. I guess this grieving never ends.
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