Woman River is in the tradition of Staggerford and Winesburg Ohio. It interweaves themes of belief, doubt, and commitment to values in traditional and unconventional ways. A young farmer separates from his family as he and his lover come to terms with an out of wedlock pregnancy. The owners of a tavern and grocery store face life without each other. A priest and his housekeeper are challenged by their mutual attraction. A police chief and town drunk face down wartime traumas and a gentle, simple man dies suspiciously.
We listen with an imperfect ear, revelation arrives in silence in the middle of the night. There the void — empty and full, the hollowed self hears the songs of the universe. Listen and pass it on, the writer’s blessing.
16 fibres torn from a dress
worn by grandma, now part of her quilt,
lays on the floor,
next to the door,
by the nightstand where a wild rose rests.
16 fibres wrapped round a dazzled bloom,
caught the eye of a toddler with chestnut hair
who called out “Nana,” with a cheeky stare,
when she ran through mist-brushed meadows.
16 silk fibres gild an elegant neck
tied in a knot on a windswept deck
Where an irate woman
wears a gray fedora that shouts, “Dare me!”
16 fibres woven once tight,
unravel now shapeless in the middle of the night,
Where dreams tax a heart with peace gone missing.
16 fibres in a cold blue dawn,
filaments coiled in twisted clouds drawn,
Where yesterday’s prayers fail.
16 fibres left in a book,
tie childhood to wrinkles when friends no longer look.
Departed and frayed with time stretched thin.
16 fibres in Paul’s dusty cloak,
worn in Damascus, a sacred yoke.
His message comes in a brimstone storm, sulfur the companion.
16 fibres this horseman carried,
speaks no resentment with bitter words parried.
Patience, everyman’s grace, grants no time to turbulent fate.
The Englishmen, in the learned Sonnet,
strokes 16 fibres across a sallow face,
and pushes hard in a losing race,
making war with time,
line after line
rushing verse to vellum for life’s repair.
A fence next to a dirt road,
weary, grey cedar rails sagging and broken.
An old man walks the fence line, dressed in bibs camouflaged with faded oil stains.
On his head, a tattered straw hat with pink band,
hair long and thick dances in the breeze,
captured in a ponytail tied with twine,
wispy strands escape and dance in the breeze.
He stops, stares at the rails,
lifts the hat off his head – a bald spot shines in the midday sun.
Scratching the bare pate, he stares at the grey, jumbled disarray,
shakes his head and limps down the rail’s jagged course.
He unpins a gate and steps through to the pasture exploding with Canada thistle and milkweed.
In the middle a rock pile,
thrown down in his youth from a hay rack drawn by Billy and Jo.
Sitting on a warm stone in the noonday sun,
he sweeps his head with a blue bandana,
and surveys the air full of life: blue birds, orioles, finches, dragonflies and bees.
Holsteins roamed here – bellowing in complaint about god knows what,
thirsty after the windmill fell, when water stopped its rise to the gray stock tank.
He fidgets with a pocket watch – no gold here – a poor man’s timepiece, engraved,
“John – 1889”.
It remains closed.
He knows the time.
Grasses sway in a green chorus,
and pass on the meandering zephyr to the aspen grove at the field’s edge,
where leaves rattle in the sun.
The bugs give up flight control and drift with the wind, as he does.
He stands – disappears.
Lavender spread dawn
Sunrise brush golden accents
Alewive Osprey feast
Shiny bubbles surf roiled sea.
Pelicans skim ridge.
Time in woods binds no man.
Breath unlocks a taut heart drawn down the trail.
The forest’s spirit a violin, playing one note. It’s strings sing true.
They pierce and leave a song heard nowhere else,
captured in a veiled day when the slated sky offers one complexion.
The cathedral aisle of a meandering watercourse slides between doting cedar and pine,
spouting vapors skyward in pirouetting mists that fold and bend as they climb,
scattering in tattered tree tops. Abandoned there they wither and waste away.
In this season no technicolor, just an achromatic gift,
conferred by partners in wood high on a hill,
birch, shadowed spruce and gray aspen rise over blue snow on the crest.
The time for silence has gone, everywhere men tread.
And if they are not in sight, the forest sighs in pine boughs
and groans as widow-makers lean against sturdier partners who give solace in the wind.
Sluggish breath overcomes a stumbling core, confined by chemistry’s requirement,
and presses through a restrained heart finding rhythm when exertion teeters near exhaustion,
the line between hounded, bends, exhilaration the harvest.
The track tuned and supple under the cold, white carpet
makes no judgements and draws no conclusions.
It invites kick and glide.