Deborah Murphy, Poetry

Mast Year

for Louise

by Deborah Murphy

Acorns fall from branches, tattoo the driveway and yard,
a mosaic of caps and stems and hard knots,
too many even for the squirrels and chipmunks
that dart across the lawn, race into trees.

When I was young, you gathered handfuls of stray buttons,
stored them in a quilted box. Brass and wood
for sweaters, small stars for my first grade dress.
Now the box sits unopened beside my bed.

This winter the squirrels will live on what they’ve buried,
an abundance that won’t outlast need.
And I will count you in seed pearls and tortoiseshells
pressed against my palm.

 

 

Jodi C. Williams, Poetry

Silent Words

by Jodi C. Williams

Satin in creamy waves falls downward,
hovers just above the floor, hiding wheels and
the collapsible stand the walnut coffin is laid on.

I feign aloofness, lean like collapsed cardboard
against the wall, snippets of words from
quiet conversations flit like fireflies appearing,
then fading into the background. A laugh
snorting out of my Aunt Shirley is a belch against
the moment, the death that brings us together.

But I’m not here. I’m remembering your arm
hanging over a Farmall Super A on a hot Summer day,
a Schaefer rocking slightly on the seat as you push
your weight on its rusty frame to stand. You
tolerate my curiosity about carburetors, belts,
and bolts for the tractor. You said I bugged you
with more questions than “an ear of corn has kernels.”
Acknowledged by only silence, no muttered
hellos, just a nod or a glance, I never had your
words, only moments a child folds into her mind;
helping you pull a dead calf with a come-a-long
from its bellowing mother, discarding its
limp body in a corner for burying later.

Only once I heard you say my name, and I lay
awake all night overcome by the sound of it in your
voice, as if when you breathed it, I finally existed.

Resuscitated by the smell of my aunt’s perfume
I look at you from a distance, still, silent,
surrounded by the creamy silk of the coffin
and then follow my aunt to stand beside you.
I hover looking at your Farmer’s face and exhale the
the word Grampa with a slight nod as if saying your
name out loud could breathe you back into existence.

 

Poetry, Rodger Martin

New Hampshire Scallion

by Rodger Martin

Up here, for once, humans keep silent
like parents gone for the weekend
leaving a house of spaces a child must fill.
It is April—before the garden and still cold.
The early sun tries to warm all it touches,
but the breeze steals what heat it can.

In most of this northern, temperate half
of the wobbling globe it is spring.
But out here, only onions have deep pockets,
show they believe the promise of spring.
Even the river lies, pretends to be not cold,
rolls quickly, numb beneath all that glitter.

Around here, one can trust the onion
or the sputtering drum of the grouse
coughing to life like some distant, old
one-lung Ford. Both root like oak
and will stay through April snow
and the late ice. How the scallion promises:
sweet, succulent. Sniff me now, it says.
Taste quickly my green pipe of life.

 

Old Swanzey Road
Photograph by Karen Hope

 

 

 

Ann B. Day, Poetry

Road To Tinmouth

by Ann B. Day

On the back road through Danby Four Corners
I was shrouded in fog and damp muggies.
Leaves and grass were limp in the humid air.
Light rain spotted the windshield,
I didn’t close the windows.

I drove up the hill toward a farm:
white, paint-peeling house on right,
gray-boarded, tin-roofed barn on left.
I slowed as a tan, black-legged Jersey
sauntered across the blacktop.
I stopped, turned off the motor and waited.
She stopped—gazed—and waited,
in the middle of the road.

In a moment the rest of the resident herd
erupted from a dark opening
under the rusted, over-hanging roof.
Black, white, red-spotted, manure-rumped bovines
wandered down the road past my parked car,
their empty udders swinging with their lazy pace.

A wet, pink-pimpled muzzle
was thrust into my open window.
Another cow inspected the left rear tire;
others just stared,
until the rubber-booted farmer
quietly moved his herd down the road,
his face wrinkled with a perpetual smile.

Rain splatted on the pavement
as I began to roll up my window.
He looked my way and waved.
“Nice day,” he said.

 

 

Lori Douglas Clark, Poetry

Lake Hymn

by Lori Douglas Clark

Clouds painted in wisps and puffs
hang motionless over the lake.
Languid blue sky day
when time stretches luxuriously,
like a cat in love with the arch of its spine.

A day when time loops back on itself,
this moment becoming past moments
filled to the brim with water and sky,
solemn trees canopied overhead,
witnesses to something sacred.

This day a gift:
Lake still and glassy at sunrise,
rising breeze ruffling the surface,
sunlight reflected underwater
in hexagons of golden light.

My arms slice the water,
finding the familiar rhythm of the crawl.
Trail of bubbles with each exhale.

Sunlight dancing on the lake bottom
brings me back to my past,
long string of summers swimming in this lake,
time once again looping and darting
like the little fish in the shallows,
water joining past and present
filling me with all the beauty I’ll ever need.

 

Ann B. Day, Poetry

Remembering Mary

by Ann B. Day

Every day I drive by her barn-red farmhouse
where she had lived since the turn of the century.
No electricity; at night an oil lamp
glowed in her kitchen window.
Against the wall of her linoleum-floored kitchen
her water, piped from a spring,
ran a steady stream into an iron sink,
a friendly sound.

When I visited her,
I drew in the smell of wood smoke
from her Home Comfort cook stove,
steam from the iron kettle.
The back door opened to the woodshed
with its well-grooved chopping block
and the privy.

From her afghan-backed rocker
by the kitchen window,
Mary watched for neighbors
and the mailman who’d stop in
on his daily route to bring her
a letter or the weekly IGA flyer.
She greeted them all with an ever-present smile.

She didn’t go out often, but never missed
town meeting on the first Tuesday in March.
On her ninetieth birthday we drove her
to Warren’s Fourth of July parade
in our horse-pulled buggy.

Mary died the following year.

Today I notice an air conditioner in the window
where the oil lamp used to be.

 

Mary McLaughlin in Fayston,
Vermont (early 1980s)
Photograph by Ann B. Day

 

 

Poetry, Stephanie Minteer

Late Fall—Keene, New Hampshire

by Stephanie Minteer

We did not get the early season snowstorm,
so was it national news or overtime envy
that pushed Public Works to be out
in their front-end loaders and dump trucks
to pick up leaves, piles and piles of them—
oak, maple, elm, and ash—along the boulevards,
heavy equipment at the ready
to round them up, hoist them high,
fill twenty-five ton 18-wheelers to the brim,
haul them off into bigger piles somewhere secret,
to wait for a big wind to gather them up again,
blow them back home.