Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fallen Men

Fallen Men 

wakes the hungry hallowed ground,
and in its wake
a crack of fractured black
devours this mass of grave-grown men,
brazen sandals and all.
The wounded lips of earth close on a dirge of
dust to dust.

Then fire falls upon the
censored censers of the unruly host.
Holy smoke!
The curse rehearsed again,
and again and again…
ashes to ashes.

                                                   ~ Nib of Nib's End ~

     The seeds for this poem dropped into my lap late last night as I was reading a fantasy novel by Jeffery Overstreet. I had no paper handy and had to scribble my inspiration onto the back of my husband’s business cards. Then, lo and behold, the story of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16 made a cameo appearance in this morning’s sermon. Go figure. Perhaps this poem was Meant To Be.

The Death of Korah, Dathan and Abiram by Gustave Dore

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Handful of Trees

     A dear friend from across the country came to lunch a couple of weeks ago and gave me a book. Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols is the first in a trilogy of books about the renovation of Mr. Nichols’ run-down Georgian manor and derelict five-acre estate in a small village near London in the late 1940’s. The whimsical characters, who either work in the garden or drift through it from time to time, are as varied as the vegetation. It is a delightful book but the acerbic tone that periodically invades the author’s prose caused me to hold him at arm’s length for a few chapters. Then, one fall day, he sowed a handful of cypress seeds into an old wooden box, and discovered them sprouting like grass in the spring.

     “The shock was so great that I almost dropped the box. You see, I had forgotten all about them. It had been a momentary autumnal folly, which had been swept out of my mind by all the other follies that had succeeded it. But now I saw that it was no folly at all.

     “For in my hands I held a forest.

     “Of all the thrills of my gardening life I do not think that any exceeded the thrill of that moment.

     “Every one of those pale threads of green was a potential giant. Each of them might one day grow higher than the house, and take in its branches the songs of the wind, and thrust its muscled roots deep into the earth. On its strong shoulders the snows would press in vain, and its shade would be too deep for the summer suns to penetrate; it would be a shelter and a home and a fortress, throughout the years, for countless birds and tiny creatures who would come to it for protection.”

     Just like that Mr. Nichols and I were friends, acerbic repartee and all. I simply cannot remain aloof from anyone who is that passionate and poetical about trees.

     The author secured my goodwill with his cypress trees and then proceeded to romance me with his horticultural catalogue:

      “Of all the horticultural catalogues I have ever read—and they have always been my favourite form of literature—Perry’s Water Plants has given me the greatest measure of delight. On that first night I sat up with it till the small hours, exploring the contours of a new world, tasting the savour of an unknown element, spelling out the syllables of a new tongue…a strange language of unearthly beauty. There was a liquid music in the very names of these things; it was as though the water had washed away all dissonance and whispered to them its own sweet titles…willow-moss, water-violet, spire reed, water-mint, mermaid-weed, floating heart. There was humour too; the chaffer and the chuckle of the stream was echoed in the names of the plants that dance around it…brass buttons, elephant’s ear, hose-in-hose, umbrella grass and lizard’s tail.”

     As I have so often been seduced by the music of words myself, I am partial to those who share my appetite.

     Even though Merry Hall didn’t keep me up at night reading until the wee hours of the morning, it did inspire me to keep slogging along on my hands and knees in the garden, performing genocide on the everlasting weeds and planting more and more perennials for the rabbits to devour with the hope of eventually wresting something edenic from my own half-acre patch of clay.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Scoops and Dumps

     My grandson spent the night last night. We made Muddy Buddies together for a movie-time snack. As we began to measure out the Rice Chex, butter, peanut butter, chocolate chips and vanilla he said to me: “Grandma, can you write down all the scoops and dumps on a piece of paper for me to take home?”

     I so enjoy the expressions of poetry in the language of children.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Birch Tree

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree...

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

                                                                 ~ Joyce Kilmer ~

     Two mature silver maples and four evergreens of ours were destroyed in last summer’s storm. It left our back garden looking naked. Lawn was torn up by utility vehicles restoring power. Flowers and shrubbery burned and then withered in the sudden assault of sunlight. The green break was flattened by falling trees, and we could see into our neighbor’s windows at night. We went from a woodland landscape spilling with shade to complete exposure. A wreck. A ruin. A graveyard of buried hopes...

     But in the grand scheme of things, merely a hiccup in the vicissitudes of life.  

     The birch left standing in the front yard has been my comfort. And now, one year later, we have a new, fluttering young tree in the back. So many trees to choose from, and I couldn't resist another multi-stemmed river birch. These trees take some effort. The catkins go to seed and sprout thousands of birchlings in the garden in the spring. During the heat and drought of summer they require extra watering unless they have been planted beside a river. The leaves cover the yard and clog the gutters in the fall, and at every breath of wind, there are the twigs, twigs, twigs and branchlets that must be gathered up before mowing the lawn. I have even begun giving our birches liters of Coke to drink, because a man at the nursery recommended it. 

     Yet, I am hopelessly drawn to birches. The way the wind threshes their branches into fits on a stormy day, or caresses the trembling leaf-locks like a lover on a calm one. The way the hot, bright light of the westering sun is winnowed into shifting shadows on the walls and wooden floors of my sitting room. The delicate flowering of the catkins on the branch tips. The rough, exotic texture of the peeling bark. 

     It will be a pleasure to look out my kitchen window and watch this one grow as the years go by. Isn't it lovely?