a perfect day

I love fall. Every day something new. Wind stirring leaves across the deck or whirling them in random waves from their branches. Gold, rust, scarlet, fading greens of all hues. Fallen leaves forming ever-shifting patterns on the ground. Quiet days and howling nights. Sun, rain, unpredictable temperatures. All of it morphing summer’s landscapes both interior and beyond. The hint of cold to come; the nostalgia of warmth leaving. The snap of first frost with its promises of warming fires and soups. The changing light. Sudden silence following the incessant honking of traveling vee’s of south-winging geese. The quieting of songbirds. Cold-nosed nights under cosy comforters. Turning inward to reflect, hold, contemplate.

It turns out my new pup loves fall, as well. We take long walks along beach, through forest, in open fields. Each scent an announcement of some new joy or mystery for her to solve. Each clump of grass an excuse to explore. Each canine encounter cause for celebratory play. Each basin of water an invitation to splash and leap. The sheer exuberance of it all is heart-expanding, energizing. The season renews and invigorates even as it winds down to quiet and stillness. And then there’s the experience of a single, perfect day.

A Perfect Day
9.28.21

Daybreak. Orange fluttering atop pink
milkweed, six or more pairs a token
of past years’ orange clouds covering fields 
to refuel en route south for winter. 

A yoga hour of stretch, rise, bend, 
reach, the dog beside me on the mat, 
her bone firm between paw and jaw.
The two of us savoring the calm. 

Ahead, gathering and dispersing weed,
broken branch; checking for ripe 
eggplant, tomato; plucking the last
golden raspberries from their canes.

Later, a dark gray ribbon snaking the horizon 
vowing thunder and pelting rain to follow. 
The dog reveling in the rise and fall 
of foam-edged tide; and I, 

in four decades of this same walk
my children growing up and I, old. Shoreline
receding with memories of each summer 
spent, each reunion and visit shared. 

Evening sun sliding down its softened hues. 
Peace rising between and around us.

swb

another marathon behind me

For the fourth year – the last three, consecutive – I have enjoyed the challenge of writing 12 poems in 12 hours. I was surprisingly relaxed this time around, even to the point of considering pushing myself to do the full 24. But my new puppy had other ideas about my availability. So in addition to providing her own prompt, she has challenged me/us to be ready to tackle the longer marathon by next year. In addition to offering a wide variety of prompts (and this year, each hour’s prompt included at least two options – one verbal, the other visual – which I sometimes combined in my response), the marathon offers an immediate community of like-minded poets writing, reading, commenting on and most of all, encouraging one another on a private Facebook page during the process and in the days following. It is in the days following that the reading/feedback starts in earnest. Some connections made during this intense period of time continue over the months until the next year’s marathon. Others exist in the bubble of this single week in June. Some are utterly transient, the chance comment seen or responded to when someone is hurting, frustrated, jubilant.

No matter what, the challenge leaves participants with 12 -24 new writings to ponder, revise, scrap, repurpose. It’s all good. Raw material, yes. But more, it awakens something inside. In particular, after this pandemic year of isolation and inner-dependency, those 12 hours opened up possibility and connection. I was reminded of how much shared interest and curiosity there is in the international writing world. At some point I’ll get the statistics – how many participated from how many countries. For now, I am basking in the microcosm of lives shared on my tiny computer screen, spanning the globe, time zones, ages and every/anything else you can name. We shared favorite snacks, music selections, memes, tears, side stories, background stories, what was working and what was not, photos of our space or view or first draft … All of this, plus all the original poetry. No matter what, the challenge leaves participants with a lot more than they started with.

Huge gratitude to the annual organizers, Jacob Jans and Caitlin Jans, for their tireless devotion to furthering creativity around the world, And for their transparency in sharing their own limitations, enlisting the support of others to continue this fine tradition of poem-making and sharing.

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