They call them “forget-me-nots,”
As though anyone who perceives color could
Scrub that shade of blue from retinal cones.
But here among these mountains—
Where only three or four months pass between snows—
You must catch bees’ eyes early and often.
Together with campion,
King’s crown, sky pilot, clover, stonecrop, wallflower,
They quilt tundra; fight winter’s memory.
All these lay low, clasping rock,
With moss, grass, and scrub spruce blending a backdrop,
To offset color, hold soil, nourish elk.
But like one keeping the watch,
Alpine sunflower braces against west winds
Burning bright as lightning in driving rain.
They say its blooms face the east,
To protect their golden discs from violent storms.
But why rise from the frost and crane hoary necks
Toward the rising sun if not every day
Looking for a long-awaited visit
Or coyly expecting resurrection?
Image: Alpine meadow, Rocky Mountain National Park. Larimer County, Colo., July 2022.
On the day we got the news
Of yet another shooting—
This one not too far from home—
I went for a walk at dusk
To ask God and the trees, “Why?”
The half moon peered through clouds
Strung behind a line of storms,
As fireflies synchronized
With streetlights at 9:03;
Embers in the post-rain mist.
A bat dived to swallow one,
Turning away at the last
From a bitter, poison pill.
But all the hosts of summer
Assembled here this evening
Know the steps and move as one;
Birds sing, cicadas back beat,
And the waning day cools air
Just enough to invite small
Restoration to tired lungs.
The world in all its glory
Even here on suburban streets
Speaks of dependence, rhythm,
And attention to detail.
But my country still looks down,
Away from what doesn’t fit,
Turning the dead into pawns
Moving without agency
In a dance that keeps peace
At the expense of the living.
At six-fifteen in the suburbs
Day and night shifts greet each other,
Chattering robins, cardinals, wrens
Echoed by a barred owl’s questions.
For a moment they acknowledge
The shared dominion of sound
And take turns, stopping dissonance
With great breaths between each call.
Dark and light are not comingled
With such grace in ordinary time;
Hope of light vain and vague at night,
Darkness tempting thoughts in the noon sun.
But the turntable spins time and again,
Accompanied by untroubled birds.
After Seamus Heaney
Go down from the mountains to the coastal plain
before it gets so hot that you wish
to stay indoors. On a March morning
The swamp is almost inviting. New leaves
dapple earth with just enough shade to let
the unvarnished sun raise color in your cheeks
While a north breeze cools the ground to keep
snakes torpid and ticks at rest. You can hear
the trees flecked with warblers, and wonder why
You never thought such a place could welcome.
nature is not fickle, but rather patient.
go down further still, east. The swamp becomes scrub
Straining at life in wind-scoured dunes. Cold sky and sea
blend, stitched by breaching dolphins and diving terns.
nature is this, but also a shark-bitten loon
flopping to the beach and dying as you stroke its neck.
You are not like nature, straining for interpretation
from what is content to be. Go up and come down again.
Image: Congaree National Park, Richland County, SC, March 2022.