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

these days

It’s a strange kind of lethargy
this quarantine creates,
a Ground Hog Day repeat
of rhythm and routine
until we get it right.

And yet, it is cosy here inside
the cottage looking across the river
at the island treeline’s mound
of green rising like a turtle
from the water.

Through shimmering heat
sparks of light like daytime fireflies
flicker and fade, mirroring
the ebb and flow of tide
and my own energy.

The tranquility of this place
masks the turmoil beyond, where
‘news’ zooms and boomerangs
off nerves already shredded
by too much, and not enough.

If only I could bottle this air,
this peaceful solitude, and mix it
into the world’s morning porridge,
with a prayer to pay attention
to what really matters

we could find our collective way
out of this stand-off, this barrage
of bad, the sense of scarcity driving
a hungry few to overindulge, leaving
the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

swb

at the crossroads

hecate-1

‘Hecate’ by Claudia Olivos, olivosartstudio.com

For the past six weeks, I participated in an on-line course with Mary Pierce Brosmer about making meaning of our post-election world. Accordingly, I suspended my plan for a multi-part ‘divided we fall’ series here. Instead, I have spent the intervening weeks reading a wide range of texts including but not limited to John McCain’s February 17th remarks at the Munich Security Conference; selections from Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser’s A Clear and Present Danger, Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, and Ken Wilber’s Trump and a Post-Truth World, among others.

We spent six weeks reading, sharing remarkably relevant poems written long since, writing and sharing our words, discussing, questioning, opening our hearts to difference and our minds to ‘what next.’ During this same six weeks, I traveled twice to southwestern PA to be with my sister in her final days; welcomed my third grandchild into a family filled with February birthdays; and sat with several of ‘my’ prison writers through unimaginable trauma and personal tragedy.

Clearly, this has been a time rich with change on so many levels, transformations both anticipated and not. Above all, it has been a time to open up, expand information sources, broaden opinions and challenge my role in the larger world. While a continuing work in progress, I did not want to remain silent any longer on this page. As a result, I share here my final writing for that life-questioning course of words and ideas – and intentions for going forward. Next time I will return to ‘divided we fall – 2.’

Thank you for reading. And as always, I welcome – no, encourage! – your thoughtful responses to what you read here.

AT the CROSSROADS
That November crossroads stemmed from the tangle of tarnished truths
but I was slow to go there, lost as I was in the thicket of win-lose
when the multi-faceted is what I believe. Now we are offered
loyalty or disdain, history or ignorance, hope or despair.

How can this be our only choice? We have arrived at a crossroads
of morality. And though multiply manifest, it is the voice
of truth that must prevail, the voice of compassion
for us all – earth, sea, sky, collective spirit and soul.

I knew the night birth and death converged that we are in
for deep transformation, needing not to ‘get over’ or past
but to spell truth – yours, mine, ours. A time to speak out
past the divide and into the void, to speak without ceasing.

Thus am I pulled to provide all that I can – insight
and light to help guide the lost from personal hells,
reunite torn-apart mothers with daughters, guarding
ground and reason until mutual respect shall

in deed reign, parting the darkness of derision and disgust.
We must persevere until light seeps through every crack,
shattering false divisions to reveal the common bedrock
of our shared humanity.
swb (c) 2017

divided we fall – I

constitutionbanner-unitedwestandllcI pen this post with compassion and concern for the emotionally triggering rhetoric swirling about us like so many tops. My intention is to seek shared understanding from which to move forward.

The news – fake, real, and alternative –seems designed to and interpreted as creating divisions, assigning blame, obfuscating truth. We are all in this turbulent mix. Whether we identify as Republican or Democrat, pro-life or pro-environment; whether we are more concerned about our basic humanity or our next paycheck, how our food is produced or how it will make it to our tables; we are all Americans with a mix of legitimate concerns which defy the neat categorizations of the past.

And I believe messaging is what is dividing us, far more than substance. Because the messages create an either/or extreme of acquiescence or defiance, admitting neither debate nor inclusion of difference. This is not how democracy works.

I understand why it seems refreshing, after eight years of stalemate in Congress, to witness a flurry of action in such a short time. I was as frustrated as the next person at the hobbling of the last administration. But the answer is not wanton destruction of what we stand for as a people, as a nation.

Can we not advocate with BOTH passion AND civility? Can we not embrace difference for what it teaches us with honest debate? Can we not possess BOTH a moral compass AND respect for facts?

We cannot allow ourselves to be led into unbridgeable polarization. Blind opposition to one another’s humanity can only lead to dehumanization and violence. In that, we all lose. Let us instead seek out opportunities for respectful communication and discourse.united-we-fall