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December 21, 2020 33 min

near roubaix lake

 

they've made a new stream

the early snow has filled

this footbridge barely supports

my weight above the runoff

 

ten inch PVC hastily

placed releases water

from the makeshift dam

of mud and sticks

to rot the roots

of newly flooded chokecherry shrubs

 

they will die now

and fall over next spring

or early summer

brown, leafless chokecherryless

 

we are running

you and I

into new course ways spilling

into low places killing what

once grew

 

and just maybe, with time

we will find what there is to water

that needs watering,

how to silt fertile

this strange Dakota

soil

 

further down, cattle graze

oblivious on rich grass stopping

only to drink

where otherwise

they would have gone thirsty

 

but winter is coming

in the gray clouds

the sun barely a warm spot,

the time when everything

shuts down

into soundless white

 

It would be simple

to wait it out

hope for a renewed warmth

to pry us into usefulness—

if only love were a thing

that flowed downhill

*******************************

 

White Christmas

 

They never have snow in Abilene

so four inches dropping wet

out of a wide, plains sky

on the twenty-sixth of December

is more miracle than ambiance

 

Grandpa, having slept the night

in jeans and boots in his chair

works up a smile as we pack ourselves

into the tiny hospital room

 

They've been expecting us

 

Grandma, one cheek drooping

stubborn as she forms her greeting

How are you-all?

her left hand lying soft, puffy

as dough in her lap

is dressed already for the holiday

in her red pant-suit

with the Indian-head nickel buttons

all buttoned and modest, pretending

the wheel-chair isn't there

Can you be-lieve this snow today?

 

Beyond the window a hastily-rolled snowman

is slowly lowering his twiggy arms, his face

sliding away under the sun

 

He will be gone in thirty minutes

 

My daughters, having given her the picture

of themselves and their sleds, are petting

Grandma's hand, singing softly

tracing lines to connect the brown spots

with the tips of their own tiny

fingers

smoothing her rounded shoulders

 

Grandpa watches, eyes keener than ours

to the subtle changes—her eyes sinking deeper

the three second waves of blankness

the growing weight of her frame

as he lifts, pulls her into bed

and the fading of something unnamable

something central to her dignity

her integrity

something his grandaughters feel

without knowing as they pat and stroke

her pale skin

 

Therapy time, the nurse intrudes

and Grandma tugs my sleeve

as they wheel her by Don't

work too hard

when you go back home

she slurs, enjoy

your day in the sun

 

And Grandpa follows them down the hall

to make certain, among other things

the nurses take care with Grandma's buttons

******************************

 

night music

"I am a dance—play up there"

-Walt Whitman, The Sleepers

 

a winter storm

tunes its woodwinds

and its brass

and you and I sit

by the window

 

our children dance

with no provocation

to tunes their ears alone

hear

 

they are motion

and music given

to unbridled rhythms

alive touching air

with every inch

of skin of hair

of spirit

 

you and I are silence,

ancient steps

unwinding into stasis

somewhere inside

 

 

clouds,

begin a gentle swell

among the pines

snow, spilling over eaves

in glittering moonlight

 

don't wake the children—

rouse us

with your music

 

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