Poem I: On The Ridge
Holly Brightweed spread her arms and ran
between the double hayloft doors, and yelled
“I’m riding home, Dad! See you there!” She bent
and snatched the green knit scarf her basket held,
wound her neck, then seized her prostrate bike.
“Now down this frozen track in time” she said,
“befitting Gwyneth’s steed.” Both grace and use
she had in mounting; sternly bent her head,
made instant force against the pedal. Wind!
Her face rejoiced. The road was straight and long;
Her father’s fields lay square on either side.
Halfway down she slowed. “Hush, nothing’s wrong.”
To left and right two lines of trees split fields.
To right she peered. “A fair enchantment, this,”
the girl pronounced, and stilled her mount. “Gray sky,
gray fields, dark limbs of trees, and who should kiss
a thing so dead but White Queen Winter?” (Lines
she’d learned by heart.) The flakes fell silently.
She breathed. Her father’s pick-up passed her then,
honking twice. She smiled and waved, and he
did too. His deep red hat reminded her
that Christmas-time was here when through her home
bright red would hang and drape and plop and cook.
“Evergreen dreams and gingerspice days and comb
your hair and sing his praise and presents lay
beneath the tree to Grandmother’s house we go…”
She sang a hodgepodge medley, riding on
past one more field. Their house was now below,
glowing. At the common sight entranced,
Holly stopped astride, there on the ridge.
Her dad was walking ‘cross the yard, and through
the window Holly saw before the ‘fridge
her mother pulling out a yellow bowl.
Dinner soon! Holly Brightweed shoved
her feet against the ground and sailed the last
few yards down to her home. The bike she loved
she almost tossed inside the lean-to; then
she ran. In the house her parents kissed
and Holly, washing at the kitchen sink,
sang and splashed and sudsed and sighed and swished.
Poem II: Romantic Era
O let me for one moment touch her wrist
Let me one moment to her breathing list;
And as she leaves me may she often turn
Her fair eyes looking through her locks auburne…
– John Keats at 22 years of age
Keats once prayed to touch a maiden’s wrist;
his prayer seems so ungluttonous to me,
forced to observe what gobblers men can be.
Myself, I pray against the day I’m kissed:
“I pray Thee, let there be no audience,
make him no urgent boy far too intense,
nor practiced beau who’ll grade my nerved embrace.”
I pray to be proposed to with some grace,
to have a longish garment, that first night,
and that my spouse won’t run his ship too tight.
How slowly, as my youthful years advance,
how surely have I ceased to dream romance.
But now the brisk young woman I’ve become
pauses from this modern anxious hum –
– and stops to read what Keats prayed, also young:
the maid of rustling gown awakes inside;
that goldfinch-watching Poet by his brook
sees me come, blushing, to the unplanned tryst;
greets me with startled look and lyric tongue;
pleads just to help me to the stream’s far side;
and often, leaving, I do turn and look
between my hair, on him who touched my wrist –
Poem III: There’s Nothing
Holly had an eager glance tonight.
She probed my eyes, attended to my hands,
as if she thinks I know the master’s touch
to make her pour out some unearthly song
and almost paint the air with gold and light…
It’s true she’d play for me; almost demands
that she be played. This girl’s suspense is such
as tunes my violin strings taut and long.
A shame she’ll never know my mastery.
It’s just that candor cries, but doesn’t sell.
A louder violin won’t always do;
For worthier instruments have subtlety
and when the whole world sees one’s choice! Ah, well.
There’s nothing like a girl in love with you.
Poem IV: Archaic Song
Love me, lad.
I dare not ask you,
would not task you,
yet I’m sad
not to hear you
or be near you.
Love me, lad.
Love me, lad –
yet don’t fear me;
if you’re weary
go, be glad,
I’ll live without you.
Lie about you
I won’t, lad.
is what you owe me
I’m proud to know you,
that I had
some moments with you
But if, lad,
you never thought
I would be caught
I’m mute, lad,
yet I plead
don’t let me bleed –
to Love me, lad.
Poem V: Callings
the men –
the thrill –
Poem VI: Final
…then at last It slipped my gasping grasp,
and shot down to that white abyss
where all things go that
Could Have Been,
but are not.
My hand still held that stiff clammy clasp
around the hole It left. How this –
this outcome? How? Flat
I sagged then,
hope hissed out.
Then He came. And spoke, as once before:
“Who grasps will lose. But loose to me…”
The loss done, duty
I writhed and
Groaned: not in regret – but I was sore.
Then I spread my hand. Aloof, He
as at some beauty
gazed, and sent
with His hand
A streak of something bright upward.
Heaven that I falter faint toward,
In a new star glows.
What is it?
Well. He knows.
Poem VII: Unspoken
Holly! What a white-souled, grey-faced child.
Her feet shrink in this snow,
her head hangs down beneath this heavy sky.
If only I knew why.
Richard. Not distinguished, wealthy, wild…
Not anything I know.
And yet he speaks to me with warmth to make
of me his human kin.
Stooped in bluish pools of grief-bruised skin
her eyes that once were suns
so nobly and so feebly try to shine.
Not if she were mine.
And why should I not answer one made kin,
in kindness’ kind? The nuns
will do that much for love and goodness’ sake.
I longed for paths lit longwise from above,
but one step lights the next for humble Love.
Poem VIII: On The Ridge Again
Holly Brightweed and her willing beau
unspeaking wandered on the shaggy ridge
that topped her father’s strip of land,
grown grim like tooth-torn cartilage
on a dog’s grey half-gnawed bone.
For feathered weeds, mostly dead,
were mashed and crashed through hollow and head –
all neutral, brown, or sickly green.
Holly said it was the scene
she found the saddest all year round.
“Spring was mother-mud until
a green mist rose up from the dale
and crept of a morning up this hill.
Green and golden days swung by
all the glancing, dancing summer.
In early fall we chased winged creatures
turned to flightlight, you remember –
everything glowed more to gold.
Now this.” She stopped and crushed
a withered leaf. They both stood still
to hear the land. The air was hushed,
harvest over, few birds left,
insects dead. “Winter’s near,”
she mourned. “The wide world seems to wait.”
Richard Healing thought her voice held fear.
He said, “But Winter’s fair.” Richard’s speech
was cheerful, even musical, like wind:
“Something in you loves the cold and white.”
Holly winced as though he sinned.
“Cold is fire inside-out,
it eats my shuddering hands and toes.
Snow’s a jail that keeps me locked
inside to blow my ruddy nose!
And white – it’s lovely, I suppose,
but makes me ponder emptiness –
empty house, empty sky,
empty rooms that throb inside.” “I bless,”
rejoined the man, “whatever made and kept
Holly Brightweed wintry-white in soul.
Will you wear white for me one day this yule?
In Winter’s color, take back what she stole?”
Halfway down the shaggy ridge they stood.
Holly Brightweed turned and looked at him,
and guessed the versey riddle. Down they came
against the autumn breeze – the light fell dim,
the wind picked up, the silent trudging pair
thought of hallow Winter that was near.
They glimpsed aloft a tiny shiny moon;
They stopped, clasped hands, and called each other ‘dear’.
In the house where Holly and Richard live
a yellow kitchen cheers a hall of brown,
the study gently muses green,
the parlor lamp glows red, where folks sit down.
The wind it stirs a fluted gown of white
where, in a soft-hued room, they share the night.
Poem IX: Holly Healing
I have a steady, heady lust for light.
I breathe (what time of day
the light goes gray)
sharp sheen of coming night,
drink the hard bleached brilliance
in which the late-night shoppers swim,
and chase those glows that kindle, dim,
through Juney velvet fields, their bobbing dance.
Wild for moon, I will
wait in a wintry midnight, till
strange silver spills down white
bare trees. O languid light!
And laughing light! in Summer plays
caprice upon the rocking lakes –
an early gray glints toward red;
glows moreover into gold
that gilds a wavelet’s gliding bed;
gloats on, overbold,
the shimmering love of dragonflies and drakes;
then through our bed-side window breaks;
fills the ivory cup a brown throat makes,
anoints the sleeping wealth I hold,
tangling with his bronze-curled, christly head –
Oh, now I know that I shall gaze in latter days
upon That Light from which, a torched flower,
our sun outwent:
then, at last, shall I bow down to rise again
and stand, myself enblazed, and look, how long
– and lust content –