|Jul/Aug 2018 Poetry|
Image courtesy of British Library Photostream
The blue-headed vireo pokes its thread of song
in and out among red maple leaves
and erupting caterpillars of balsam.
Each hop is unpredicted, decisive,
just what's needed, stitching delicate
sun to recovering winter branches.
We hope a spruce grouse will land
on that rotting log, parade in the innocent
glory that makes it easy prey for hunters.
It never learns. Today it eludes our benign
impatience. A black-backed woodpecker
hammers, pries away at a tilting spruce.
A long creature with a dozen pairs of eyes
and polished lenses, our work is just to notice,
learn to match each warbler with its song.
Eight miles east of Island Pond—we stopped there
for coffee, walked down gravel flecked
with colored plastic, graded to the water.
A loon patrolled, alert, aloof, chick nestled
on its regal back—another summer-only visitor—
unfazed by cottages along the shore.
This is where my father started preaching
sixty years ago. He was laboring
to find a voice and—as he could—to listen.
Even then the village was collapsing
like a pumpkin in November. The forests
all cut down, the brave loggers had left town.
The trains still ran, but less often; more
and more of them just passed on through.
Stores and churches lost their confidence.
Today a band of Christians in plain clothes,
private, with a message of their own,
just for believers, runs most businesses in town.
At the rail yard western lumber, wrapped
in plastic, waits transfer to become
construction in some optimistic place.
The forest recovers like a ravaged nation,
no pulp mills left to use this spruce and fir.
Some think "backwater," some "salvation."
In the bog, pitcher plants sprout blood-red
blossoms. Sundew closes on its insects,
lip-fingers clasped as though in prayer.
In a beaver pond, dead trees stand sentinel.
A pair of woodpeckers take turns
disappearing in the farthest stem.
No-one here is prospering or seeking
righteousness, just doing what they can
the way they have since the last glacier.
White admirals are feeding in the puddles
on the road, some broken, one wing
to the ground as pickups pass. Gray jays
hoarding, raucous; moose chomp lily-pads;
lynx come back for hares; and we
come hungry from our ordinary lives.