The day I went to meet a man with chickens
I put my bra on backwards:
easy to do, since it was a sports model.
It took me an hour to figure out
why I felt so weird,
but by then I was on my way
to meet the man with chickens.

Language is interesting:
did the man have chickens,
or did I? Let’s try using commas–
I went to meet a man, with chickens–
and rearrangements:
With chickens, I went to meet a man.
I went, with chickens, to meet a man.
I went to meet, with chickens, a man.
I went to, with chickens, meet a man.
But all those sentences don’t apply.
He had the chickens.
I went to meet a with-chickens-man.
He had dead chickens.
I was going to buy them.
Little did the man know he was meeting
a woman in a backwards bra.


I wrote this piece of drivel a couple of years ago, and post it today because I’m going to meet the same man, who will sell me several of his free-range, organic chickens.




With thanks to Sylvia Chapin, who was there.


It rained and rained.
They were wringing out their tails,
they were wringing out their ears.
The Pumpkin Princess in the float next to the Mayor
looked like a Drowned Rat, smiling.
Those with wings had to take them off
in order to fit into raincoats.

Will it be like this?
The final gathering of the Saints
beyond the river of fire?
Will we all stand dripping
and shining in the fading dark,
blinking as the light comes close
and the great laughter draws us in?

Published in Sojourners, Sept-Oct 1998



Down, down below leaf and blade
blade and twig, water, stone
stone and mantle in the dark
dark so dark  light turns alone
light that turns the strength of suns
through your body be the light
stuff from stars, quickening slowed
word and love make light and fire
daughter and son of earth and stone
blade and twig, water and star
and air, the breath, the wind, the word
stuff of stars shine through your skin
your hair the sun, the stars your bone
moon your daughter pulling water
life of fire, blood of stone


I wrote this for a friend on her Crone Birthday.

CARELESSNESS–a found poem

Playing with matches.
Building fires in improper places.
Playing with guns.
Getting off cars before they stop.
Throwing things like banana peels in the street.
Being too interested to watch for open manholes.
Reckless roller skating in the street.
Teasing dogs, or trying to catch strange ones.
Leaving scalding water where a child may fall into it.
Leaving rags or linoleum with upturned edges.
Leaving objects on stairs and in hallways.
Trying the “medicines” in the closet.
Playing with electric wires or lights.
Playing around railroad tracks and bridges.

Other examples will occur to you.

Found in The Girl Scout Handbook, 1931




Across the ditch, under the trees,
a new chainlink fence, broken stones repaired.
The legible epitaphs:
Franklin S., onley son of Daniel and Atlanta Chipman
died March 2, 1831 AE 2 years and 2 months,
and yours, Atlanta, wife of Daniel Chipman,
died Oct. 27, 1842, age 33 years.
No trees when you walked
this mountain’s stony side:
the forest gone to timber and graze.
You walked among stone and scrub,
the thin green grass.

Vulture, coyote, had not come north,
wolf and rattlesnake had gone.
But raven and hawk searched your pastures;
diptheria, smallpox, scarlet fever, tetanus,
the summer milk sickness, winter hunger hunted you.
October when you died
you saw the sun rise as I see it now:
silver through silver across the valley,
Lincoln Mountain through her silver veils.
And at night, brighter than I will ever see,
the stars, thin coin silver moon.

But no orange maple,
brown oak, yellow popple,
deep green white pine.
Not yet along this old town road
old sheep fence grown deep
into these old, old trees.


You always made me tea.
The love and sorrow of your life
tangible in your kitchen
as sunlight through the windows:
your husband dead, your son,
barn crumbled, pastures overgrown.

You carried the tray yourself.
Slow, but I always get there.
At the table you poured Earl Grey
from the green pot into thin cups,
gave me homemade cake, a linen napkin.

Outside, daffodils and appletrees,
irises, roses, blew wild in tangled beds.
What’s the worst thing that can happen to me,
here, alone in this house?  I’ll die?
Your elegant French gesture of dismissal,
the amusement in your eyes.

One day I said had no time for tea
but you would not let me go:
Nonsense! No time!
We stood by the sink,
nibbled date cookies from a tin.
More; they’re so good.
I’ve been saving them for you.
Have more.

The first stroke carried you back
to the house by the lake
where you spent seventy summers.
You laughed from the hospital bed,
your eyes open to the sky.
Waves shimmered through your ceiling.
Can you smell the water?
Can you hear the gulls?

When that last boat came to carry you away
you shrugged and smiled again.
Home or abroad, it doesn’t really matter.
There’s goodness everywhere I go.

The day you died, I was picking apples,
snapping them easy off the trees.
Above the orchard, two ravens
and a red-tailed hawk spiraled
in a kettle of rising air
and I heard your voice.
Acceptance, you said, remember.
Remember, to every thing a season.

When the harvest was over
I drove to your house alone.
Someone had raked the leaves from your garden,
piled pumpkins on the wide stone step.
Under the rippled clouds
a ragged scatter of snow geese
so high I could barely hear their call.

You’d had a sheepdog years ago
who woke you one November night.
Your husband got up to open the door,
saw the heavy falling snow.
That dog went up the hill to find the sheep.
We didn’t even know it was snowing.
She put them all in the barn,
came in, lay down like nothing had happened
Why can’t people be like that?
Pay attention to things?

I don’t leave my friends,
I told you, but I did.
Somehow, with all the miles between,
I could not find a time.

We sat one afternoon
in your cooky-scented kitchen,
looked out at the snow falling on your garden.
You began Frost’s poem about the crow
and the hemlock, and I joined in.
We laughted to know
we loved it best.

I would like one more cup of tea with you,
just one more.

I wrote this about a woman I called on for several years.  She was quite remarkable.  The poem won the RALPH NADING HILL PRIZE and was published in VERMONT LIFE  in 2004.



~for Meg


Have we ever done anything else?
Mouse nest in the cooler:
you lifted the mother by her tail
with her babies clinging–
never mind the traps we always set–
and carried her safe to the long grass.

Boxes sorted, stacked on the wagon.
Our usual jokes:  how many times?
Don’t count, you’ll be sorry.
Once more, the tractor smell.

Then apples again:  Akane, HoneyCrisp,
Keepsake, Jonagold.  No MacIntosh now.
No Empire, Cortland.  Nothing common.
Those trees with their first bad crop
of scab:  unpruned, unmowed,
their last year with roots, with leaves.

The backside of the orchard,
where the house will be.
The old ache across the shoulders,
tall ladder clanging every time
you lift it, every time you change.
Burst of goldfinches, first snowgeese,
sunlight on the raven’s wing.


I wrote this in 2004, the last year I worked at the orchard.