August has tipped into September and the goldenrod is in full bloom in these northern woods. Nights are cooler now and the maples leaves are showing a hint of scarlet. In this in-between time, I am savoring the warm days and the hikes by the lake and am reflecting back on these past few months with a sense of gratitude for a rich and fully-lived summer. Here are three poems that I wrote in U.P. poet laureate Marty Achatz’ monthly Joy Center poetry workshops:
Saturdays in July
It is Market Day and our larder is full.
Bunches of spinach and braising greens,
pea shoots and kales leaves, stalks of chard,
all these greens stuffed
into the fridge, and round red radishes the size of limes
and tiny peppers, paper bags of oyster mushrooms, shitakes,
the scallions, the shallots, the garlic scapes,
fresh strawberries in cardboard containers, sweet tiny beets —
There is so much to love on Saturdays!
After the market,
the afternoon hike, a dip in the lake,
we chop together,
the garlic, the scallions, the chard,
and we heat the stove,
boil the water as the summer breeze wafts in
and we find our rhythm
the two of us.
He splashes the mushrooms with olive oil.
I sprinkle on the sea salt.
He grills; I saute.
The pasta boils itself
and we toss it all together,
add fresh parsley, some parmesan,
a dash of cayenne.
We are not young anymore
but what we cook up
is peppery and succulent
and it pleases us every time.
A Summer Miracle
Tomorrow we will fly east
to the land
of my beginnings,
my husband and I,
and this time
we have a tag-along,
our six-year-old grandson,
and I will show him things.
As we circle Portland Harbor,
I will point out the plane window —
the white caps, the lobster boats,
the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse.
I will feel it fresh within me,
how Maine is my Hawaii,
my sweet-spot place.
I will say to him
as we step out of the airport,
“Breathe it in —
it is the the ocean you smell,
the fishy salt-tanged sea”
and I will sing to him a sea-shanty song
and he will let me sing, I think,
as I drive us north on 295
through Falmouth and Yarmouth
and I will tell him
that I used to drive to Maine
with his dad, too,
when his dad was a little boy,
how sometimes in Yarmouth
we would be stuck in traffic
for a very long time
during the Clam Festival Parade
and I will ask my grandson,
“Do you know that clams live in the muddy sand
and when the tide is low
they breathe their bubbles up to the surface
and we can dig for them?”
I will not be able to stop myself;
I will keep on chattering
pointing to things
like the giant wooden Indian
that lives in front of the general store
on the outskirts of Freeport,
and then we will enter Bath,
my birth town,
and I will show him the giant crane
the ships being built,
the wide tidal river
and I will say,
“This is where your Grandma lived
in this sea captain’s home.
That was my bedroom over in the corner.”
But I won’t stop, not yet–
I will drive on
because we’re not quite there.
We will cross the Winnegance Bridge,
follow the banks of the Kennebec
toward the sea
and I will roll down the window
and it is the balsam he will smell
and the mudflats and the fish
and the waves thrashing the shore
and a huge dose
of his Grandma’s happiness.
I want to write about Big Foot
and moths, giant moths,
maybe a cecropia,
about the Milky Way in July,
a meteor shower in August.
I want to write about the quiet
of a humid night,
how sometimes I sweat and stink.
I want to write about smooth granite
and prickly pine needles
and dirty feet,
about heat soaking into balsam and pine,
into skin and bones.
I want to write about a tangle of root
around rock, and, yes, there is the lake too
in front of me
but I don’t want to write about it —
because what could I possibly say?
I will keep on walking the rocky rooty path,
pine needles prickling my feet,
keep walking in Big Foot’s steps,
content with my sweat, my stink,
with the stars
and the moths,
the big ones,
I will keep walking along the shore
without saying a word
about the mightiest, the greatest of lakes.