Ohio Fields After Rain by David Baker

licensed dean neitman

Ohio Fields After Rain
by David Baker

The slow humped backs of ice ceased
to shadow the savannahs of Ohio millennia
ago, right where we’ve sailed to a stop.
The shaken woman leaves open her car door
and familiar as relatives we touch hands
in the middle of the wet black road.
To the north new corn enriches by the hour.

South of us—really, just over a fence—
heavy boulders rolled thousands of miles
quit the migration and grew down,
huddled, cropped, scarred by the journey.
“I couldn’t,” she says, “stop skidding,”
and I know what she means, having
felt the weight of my car planing scant

millimeters over the highway glaze. Calmly
she slid to one shoulder, I to the other,
and the earth spun onward without us.
What a place we have come to, scooped
hollow of hillsides, cut valleys, drumlins
and plains. And where the rain settles,
the gray beasts growing tame on the shore.

PHOTO: Farm near Springfield, Ohio, by Dean Neitman, used by permission. 

The Late Wisconsin Spring by John Koethe

wisconsin licensed ken wolter

The Late Wisconsin Spring
 by John Koethe

Snow melts into the earth and a gentle breeze
Loosens the damp gum wrappers, the stale leaves
Left over from autumn, and the dead brown grass.
The sky shakes itself out. And the invisible birds
Winter put away somewhere return, the air relaxes,
People start to circulate again in twos and threes.
The dominant feelings are the blue sky, and the year.
—Memories of other seasons and the billowing wind;
The light gradually altering from difficult to clear
As a page melts and a photograph develops in the backyard.
When some men came to tear down the garage across the way
The light was still clear, but the salt intoxication
Was already dissipating into the atmosphere of constant day
April brings, between the isolation and the flowers.
Now the clouds are lighter, the branches are frosted green,
And suddenly the season that had seemed so tentative before
Becomes immediate, so clear the heart breaks and the vibrant
Air is laced with crystal wires leading back from hell.
Only the distraction, and the exaggerated sense of care
Here at the heart of spring—all year long these feelings
Alternately wither and bloom, while a dense abstraction
Hides them. But now the mental dance of solitude resumes,
And life seems smaller, placed against the background
Of this story with the empty, moral quality of an expansive
Gesture made up out of trees and clouds and air.

The loneliness comes and goes, but the blue holds,
Permeating the early leaves that flutter in the sunlight
As the air dances up and down the street. Some kids yell.
A white dog rolls over on the grass and barks once. And
Although the incidents vary and the principal figures change,
Once established, the essential tone and character of a season
Stays inwardly the same day after day, like a person’s.
The clouds are frantic. Shadows sweep across the lawn
And up the side of the house. A dappled sky, a mild blue
Watercolor light that floats the tense particulars away
As the distraction starts. Spring here is at first so wary,
And then so spare that even the birds act like strangers,
Trying out the strange air with a hesitant chirp or two,
And then subsiding. But the season intensifies by degrees,
Imperceptibly, while the colors deepen out of memory,
The flowers bloom and the thick leaves gleam in the sunlight
Of another city, in a past which has almost faded into heaven.
And even though memory always gives back so much more of
What was there than the mind initially thought it could hold,
Where will the separation and the ache between the isolated
Moments go when summer comes and turns this all into a garden?
Spring here is too subdued: the air is clear with anticipation,
But its real strength lies in the quiet tension of isolation
And living patiently, without atonement or regret,
In the eternity of the plain moments, the nest of care
—Until suddenly, all alone, the mind is lifted upward into
Light and air and the nothingness of the sky,
Held there in that vacant, circumstantial blue until,
In the vehemence of a landscape where all the colors disappear,
The quiet absolution of the spirit quickens into fact,
And then, into death. But the wind is cool.
The buds are starting to open on the trees.
Somewhere up in the sky an airplane drones.

PHOTO: Kinnickinnic River in downtown River Falls, Wisconsin, in late spring by Ken Wolter, used by permission. 

When in Wisconsin Where I Once Had Time by John Engels

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When in Wisconsin Where I Once Had Time
by John Engels

When in Wisconsin where I once had time
the flyway swans came whistling
to the rotten Green Bay ice and stayed,
not feeding, four days, maybe five, I shouted

and threw stones to see them fly.
Blue herons followed, or came first.
I shot a bittern’s wing off with my gun.
For that my wife could cry.

My neighbor’s wife mistook the spawning frogs
for wood ducks nesting the white pines
up on Bean Hill: I straightway
set her right. Each April, on the first

rainy night I lantern-hunt for salamanders
where they hide, toewalking the bottom
mucks and muds. I shudder
at the scored skin of their sides, the deep

flesh tucks. In hand, they dry. I walk
in frogspawn jellies on my lawns. One time I hoped
the great white birds might brake
for the frog ditch and alight,

but all the addled past falls in on itself,
splash rings close inward on the rising stone,
my gun sucks fire, the bone becomes
whole bone, light narrows back

on point and filament, the forest turns to sand,
and only season lacking source rolls round
and round, till I in my turns fall forever back
clutching my stone, my gun, my light.

When in Wisconsin where I once had time
and spring beasts gorged my marrows and my tongue,
I was not blind: the red eft clambered
in my eye.

PHOTO: Wisconsin wetlands by David Mark, used by permission. 

Rune of the Finland Woman by Marilyn Hacker

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Rune of the Finland Woman
by Marilyn Hacker
     For Sára Karig

      “You are so wise,” the reindeer said, “you can bind the winds of the world in a single strand.” H. C. Andersen, “The Snow Queen”

She could bind the world’s winds in a single strand.
She could find the world’s words in a singing wind.
She could lend a weird will to a mottled hand.
She could wind a willed word from a muddled mind.

She could wend the wild woods on a saddled hind.
She could sound a wellspring with a rowan wand.
She could bind the wolf’s wounds in a swaddling band.
She could bind a banned book in a silken skin.

She could spend a world war on invaded land.
She could pound the dry roots to a kind of bread.
She could feed a road gang on invented food.
She could find the spare parts of the severed dead.

She could find the stone limbs in a waste of sand.
She could stand the pit cold with a withered lung.
She could handle bad puns in the slang she learned.
She could dandle foundlings in their mother tongue.

She could plait a child’s hair with a fishbone comb.
She could tend a coal fire in the Arctic wind.
She could mend an engine with a sewing pin.
She could warm the dark feet of a dying man.

She could drink the stone soup from a doubtful well.
She could breathe the green stink of a trench latrine.
She could drink a queen’s share of important wine.
She could think a few things she would never tell.

She could learn the hand code of the deaf and blind.
She could earn the iron keys of the frozen queen.
She could wander uphill with a drunken friend.
She could bind the world’s winds in a single strand.

ILLUSTRATION:  A woman in traditional Sami dress with a view of Rovaniemi, Finland, the capital of Lapland, in the background. (Courtesy of the United States Library of Congress.) Read more about Rovaniemi, Finland, at cnn.com.

[London, my beautiful] by F.S. Flint

licensed vitaliy pozdeev

[London, my beautiful]
by F.S. Flint

London, my beautiful,
it is not the sunset
nor the pale green sky
shimmering through the curtain
of the silver birch,
nor the quietness;
it is not the hopping
of birds
upon the lawn,
nor the darkness
stealing over all things
that moves me.

But as the moon creeps slowly
over the treetops
among the stars,
I think of her
and the glow her passing
sheds on the men.

London, my beautiful,
I will climb
into the branches
to the moonlit treetops,
that my blood may be cooled
by the wind.

PHOTO: St. James Park Lake, London, England, by Vitaliy Pozdeev, used by permission.

California Hills in August by Dana Gioia

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California Hills in August
by Dana Gioia

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

PHOTO: Joshua Tree National Park, California, by nightowl, used by permission.

Driving in Oklahoma by Carter Revard

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Driving in Oklahoma
by Carter Revard

On humming rubber along this white concrete,
lighthearted between the gravities
of source and destination like a man
halfway to the moon
in this bubble of tuneless whistling
at seventy miles an hour from the windvents,
over prairie swells rising
and falling, over the quick offramp
that drops to its underpass and the truck
thundering beneath as I cross
with the country music twanging out my windows,
I’m grooving down this highway feeling
technology is freedom’s other name when
—a meadowlark
comes sailing across my windshield
with breast shining yellow
and five notes pierce
the windroar like a flash
of nectar on mind,
gone as the country music swells up and drops
                          me wheeling down
                 my notch of cement-bottomed sky
                          between home and away
and wanting
to move again through country that a bird
has defined wholly with song,
and maybe next time see how
                          he flies so easy, when he sings.

PHOTO: “Singing meadowlark” by Daniel Roberts, used by permission.

Arizona Desert by Charles Tomlinson

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Arizona Desert
by Charles Tomlinson

Eye
drinks the dry orange ground,
the cowskull
bound to it by shade:
sun-warped, the layers
of flaked and broken bone
unclench into petals,
into eyelids of limestone:

Blind glitter
that sees
spaces and steppes expand
of the purgatories possible
to us and
impossible.

Upended trees
in the Hopi’s desert orchard
betoken
unceasing unspoken war,
return
the leveling light,
imageless arbiter.

A dead snake
pulsates again
as, hidden, the beetles’ hunger
mines through the tunnel of its drying skin.

Here, to be,
is to sound
patience deviously
and follow
like the irregular corn
the water underground.

Villages
from mud and stone
parch back
to the dust they humanize
and mean
marriage, a loving lease
on sand, sun, rock and
Hopi
means peace.

PHOTO: Arizona desert by Robert Murray on Unsplash

Psalm Above Santa Fe by John Judson

licensed sean pavone

Psalm Above Santa Fe
                        16 March 1987
by John Judson

What is it we
          come to
                    between mountains,

long crests tipped white,
          dusted on their flanks, while
                    light spreads out

before us,
          pouring in our laps,
                    soft as iris tongues,

and
          the lungs finally
                    filled with a freshness

unwilled
          because unlooked for:
                    sparse grass,

rocks
          announcing in a weathered language
                    something eyes

seem to have known
          before they came to the way
                    called sight.

Even the animals at dusk,
          could we see them stare at us,
                    have such souls.

PHOTO: Sante Fe, New Mexico, at sunset by Sean Pavone, used by permission.

Mexico Seen from the Moving Car by Michael McClure

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Mexico Seen from the Moving Car
by Michael McClure

THERE ARE HILLS LIKE SHARKFINS
                             and clods of mud.
The mind drifts through
in the shape of a museum,
in the guise of a museum
dreaming dead friends:
Jim, Tom, Emmet, Bill.
—Like billboards their huge faces droop
and stretch on the walls,
on the walls of the cliffs out there,
where trees with white trunks
          make plumes on rock ridges.

My mind is fingers holding a pen.

Trees with white trunks
          make plumes on rock ridges.
Rivers of sand are memories.
Memories make movies
          on the dust of the desert.
Hawks with pale bellies
          perch on the cactus,
their bodies are portholes
          to other dimensions.

This might go on forever.

I am a snake and a tiptoe feather
at opposite ends of the scales
as they balance themselves
against each other.
This might go on forever.

PHOTO: Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, by David Liceaga on Unsplash