life lines reboot

Two years following its initial publication, “LifeLines: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out” – our second collection of writings from Vermont’s incarcerated women – is getting a second printing and renewed publicity. This week my author’s note appeared in MomEggReview.

While the note covers the usual content of a book review – focussing on intent as well as content – it goes further to describe the process involved in bringing the book to print. It is our hope to re-introduce this important piece of work to a wide audience to include academic departments of criminal and social justice studies; social activist organizations; community organizations working toward restorative justice; and the general reader moved by these from-the-heart accounts of women, many of them young mothers separated from families and imprisoned for addiction and mental health issues far better treated in facilities designed for that purpose.

“LifeLines: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out” remains available from both Amazon and Ingram. It is a moving read in its own right; but as a discussion vehicle for involvement and change fulfills its true mission.

spring birdsong

Spring Birdsong

I have been seeking words
for birdsong pouring full-throttled
from small feathered throats
pulsating strands of layered tone
neither drifting nor wafting
but tumbling, lifting, braiding
rhythmic clarity that spring
is not arriving but here
anticipating
unencumbered walks
into coatless sun.

Emerged from winter’s dark
over-long cold, I unwrap the fur pelt,
stretch heart to warming sun grateful
for the open sky of birdsong returning
after long silence, rising free
on nature’s urgent rhythms.

swb

in memoriam

For a dozen years, she walked, ran, leapt by my side, her constant vigilance a comfort, source of joy and inspiration. Last Monday afternoon, my beloved dog slipped quickly away, leaving one more gap in a life with ever more departures. But she well knew how to bridge each chasm. Her gifts were many, her demands few. I carry her arcing leaps across the neighbor field as I walk; her frenzied plunges into pools after ball or stick; her soulful eyes that held mine as long as I asked in our daily pre-food ritual of ‘Loki, look!’ In those moments, we were one intention, one spirit. She is missed and yet present in every aspect of my life. I am truly blessed.

Evensong
for Loki 7/13/08 – 3/29/21

No moonrise tonight
in the dark starry sky.

No great orange orb
peering over the rim
of the bay like dawn’s

eager brown eyes rising
at bed’s edge bearing
bright morning cheer.

***

Last night I lit the fire
not against cold but to feel
us curled snug together.

Today, against your disinterest
I offered my hand with some kibble.
You carefully lifted each

one crunchy morsel
at a time as to savor
every last bite.

***

Not three days since we walked
both beach and meadow
of a dozen years’ rambles.

And holding you now
I cradle your soft length,
hands stroking your chest,

drawing your velvet ears
through and through my fingers
again, once more, again.

***

Had I known that night –
this morning – would be your last,
I would have done the same.

In lieu of goodbye, let me honor
and bless all the years of you –
steadfast devotion

not even this darkness
can obscure.

swb

three spring poems

image by Jim Marshall

As promised, three poems of mine about spring appeared among nearly 200 pages of both poetry and prose in “Capsule Stories Spring 2021 Edition; In Bloom” (pp. 152- 161). Capsule Stories is a print literary magazine published once each March 1. Copies of this year’s issue are available here.

The journal is set up in an unusual and visually appealing layout, which is sadly not transferrable to this page. The title and author are uniformly provided on the lefthand page, writ large, with the work starting on the right. When the piece spills over to a second page, this is indicated by a >>. And when the piece ends on the lefthand page, the right is blank but for a brief line or two from the piece just concluded, providing a kind of whispered echo of its content. I have included these ‘after words’ for each of the two entries below, because I found it a moving and pleasing presentation in the journal itself.

I hope you enjoy my offering at the turn of this year’s Vernal Equinox. I am reproducing just two of the three poem, as the third appeared in my prior post. And as always, I invite your comments and responses below, perhaps to these questions:
What abundance in your own life are you celebrating this spring?
Where are you finding renewal; or comfort in the familiar?
What is bringing you hope?

Morning Rituals
Sarah W. Bartlett

Each morning, the same standoff
between dog and bunny frozen
watching the other in mutual curiosity,
or dare. My impatience to move along
breaks it up. Each morning
the same.

Each morning, the same peering
into thorned branches of red and amber
raspberries, thumb pressing confirmation
of ripeness; the blues likewise tested
and plucked, too-soon pink or pale green turning
deep purple-blue with time whether on or off
the branch. To the mouth, it’s the same.

Each morning, the same need to release the dogs
to the yard, feed, then run them in the fields—
a pack of fur and feet that fetch what we toss,
return, repeat, swim like otters, roll in the grass;
each morning the white egret standing watch
in the next pond until we pass, tired,
and he returns to his peace. Each morning,
the same needs for action
and stillness.

Each morning, the same pull to the page, words
spilling and rearranging themselves in stanzas,
feelings nudging thoughts eager to find
their shape across the screen.
Each morning, the same.

Each morning, the same waking
to sun-washed sky, eager breeze—
caresses of rest and time conspiring
to create appetite for more.
Each morning, blessedly
the same.

caresses of rest and time conspiring
to create appetite for more

Hope Abundant|
Sarah W. Bartlett

I.
It is our custom to leave the last bouquet
of late summer hydrangea on the table, fading
mauve globe beneath a wave of golden grass s
peaking of passage. Come spring, a green sprig
leafed from withered stalk, nourished
by what water remained within.

II.
In this drawn-out time of drought,
the hydrangea, by day’s end having endured
hot air and rising temperatures, wilts
defeated by the effort to stand tall;
by morning, clusters revived
to face what may come.

III.
The ancient clematis at the deck
was slashed at its husk-like stalk
mistaken by the passing mower
for dead; but adversity only slows
and redirects new growth outward f
rom her withered vines.

IV.
The newly installed clematis
already clings to its trellis, turning
to view its new surrounds, a pile
of seed shells gathered and placed there
by the three-year-old hands of my grandson,
unwitting steward of the future.

V.
At Mimi’s memorial I speak
of the necessity to plant gardens
wherever we live, her lesson embedded
beneath my nails, abundance blossoming
from her life to mine,
and far beyond.

abundance blossoming
from her life to mine

three spring poems

 

Just released today, ‘Morning Rituals,’ ‘Hope Abundant’ and ‘Early Spring,’ in Capsule Stories Spring 2021: In Bloom, March, 2021, pages 152, 153 and 158.

 


‘Early Spring’

In this too-early spring,
greens thrusting upward full bore
as if to outwit the snow that may come,

hearts open to sun without
pondering the pleasure

of feet too-early planted
bare in dirt warming leaves
from their cocooned caves of cold,

concerns for the moment melted
in this burst of becoming.

swb