WINTER / SPRING 2008
P. 111 - 115
Anne Johnson Mullin
A spruce, you say
above the chain-saw racket when I ask
about the tree, dead since last year and felled
minutes ago right where you planned.
Now you strip the branches, cut
the trunk into lengths to split later,
while I drag the brush into piles.
Early September sun
warms the resin to pungency. We move
as if in retrospect: we’ve done this
so many times before surely
it should be done forever, but
all around are more spruce bearing
witch’s-broom, sign of infirmity.
We don’t talk.
Crickets fill spaces between saw bursts
and jays screaming. We know by heart
the old adage: cutting wood warms you twice.
And when the saw binds a bit,
scorches the wood for a second or two,
we smell the heat of what is dying.
I’m Waving to You
I’m waving to you through
a train window, you
standing on the platform
as near to me as glass allows.
I marvel at the
immense pressure time exerts.
One day, when we’re
released from its grip
there will be no parting
at this station
A fog has rolled in on the old dog’s eyes.
The narrowing of her periphery
has made it so deer can graze
ten feet to the left or right of her
depending on her ear wax and the breeze.
In the morning, when I leave her
tethered to the long lead, I imagine
I have baited her like a black bear
in Elizabethan times, coyotes free
to bare their fangs and circle here till four.
When I come up the dirt drive after work
sometimes picture Argus languishing
for twenty years in kingless Ithaca,
dying with a tail wag when he recognized
his master’s essence under beggar’s rags.
And here it is not half a day
since I departed, and my dog stares
blankly as if I have sailed in
after decades, bearded, grayed,
a shadow of my former self.
Popielaski, Two Poems
The six-word conversations that I used to have
With Freddy in the village market
Never shed much natural light
On what the two of us were really like,
And they were not intended to.
In passing once, I heard the teenage girl
Who worked the second register complain
That Freddy hadn’t shown that day.
The girl who worked the first one snapped
Her gum and rolled her eyes: “What else is new?”
They would have saddened had they known
About the grim varieties of protest
People had to choose from when they grew
Exhausted or despondent or enraged
Enough to stare down their existence.
When I learned how Freddy died I was
Reminded of the war-weary monk sitting
Lotus-style in a Saigon intersection,
Stubbornly refusing to stop, drop, and roll
As I was taught by a fireman in grade school.
Ashes In The Eyes Of The Trout
Allowed my allotted time,
I’m not yet too old to plant a brace of maples
with the promise of resting beneath their shade,
or bereft of the hope that I might
urge my grandchildren higher,
on a swing hung from a stout branch,
or that in my quiet years,
I might enjoy the chatter of chickadees
among their russet, frost-tinged leaves.
But granted my four score and ten
I would not choose to be buried,
beneath their crowned canopies,
interred among knots of veiny roots,
awaiting their intrusion into
the folds of my moldering cerements,
preferring a committal to the river’s rush,
a final cast with no retrieve,
ashes in the eyes of the trout.