Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Psalm of Gaia

Athens, Georgia
November 1, 2018

She leads me beside a vernal pool 
where swamp frogs trill the early spring. 
Her breath refreshes musty air 
and I sense the chill on mud-slick skin.

She turns me loose in a garden world 
and weaves a mid-summer feast.
Her leaf-green shadows cool the days 
and a chorus of katydids comforts the nights.

She lays me down in an autumn meadow 
bobbing with skippers and bees. 
Her gentle sunlight dries the dew
and I feel the warmth on petals and wings. 

She takes my hand on winter nights 
and guides me down a darkened path. 
A thousand stars pierce the sky 
and I sense the harsh beauty beyond.

Though the night wind stings my lungs 
and ice invades my bones, 
through pain I know that life abides, 
to kindness life ascends. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Close Encounter with an Old Field

State Botanical Garden
Athens, Georgia

Do you ever wonder what you know?
Did Moses ever think to go
back to bush to watch for fire
and hear the holy words again?

For me it was only an old field.
I have been back more than once,
perplexed at how ordinary in the light
of late afternoon, or morning,
or the glare of noon. It’s gone.
Whatever was is not now. It seems
a shame, the un-tame rush replaced
by shrug and stolen glance at time,
the slow ride home for reheated leftovers
to sustain my aging. It was fall

     when I went wandering
blazed paths through pungent hush
of hickory, beech, and white oak stands
to forest edge at right-of-way,
cut straight across the curve of hills
where I stood blinking back the light.

     By the sun-splashed shores
     of an old field grown wild
     breaking over asphalt slabs
     which once went somewhere
     beyond the post hole fence
     that vainly holds back green
     swells of sumac and thistle
     tangled in turbulence
     sparkling in the silent roar
            of a thin place
            onto an emerald sea
     in the presence of which
     I would remove my shoes
     wash my soul in sunlight
     and float the timeless warmth
            to a new heaven
            and a new earth.

But that was all, and over soon,
just slant of light and insect drone,
no still small voice that could be heard
above the buzz and background trill,
so was it somehow up to me
to say aloud what hangs in air?

     All flesh is grass, its beauty as
          the flower of the field

that dies with fall – been said by better
than one who wanted just right then
no more than now and this sweet earth
of distant laughter, lovers strolling,
stoic mother gently holding sleek
cell phone and squirming child. Right
there beneath the freshening breeze
a shadow passed inside of me:

     You hear your heart
          not that of mine.

And in the voiceless hush I heard
a hymn of weeds set in my mind:

     Take the sun and set your roots, 
          soften earth and heal the scars. 

Who’s to say where words come from,
and now I wonder what to know.
For several seasons I’ve returned
with notebook, pen, and open mind.
Perhaps I'll catch their song again
          and some day discern
what hides in the silence inside.

Monday, September 3, 2018

On the Care and Feeding of Rodents

Athens, Georgia
August 25, 2018

There’s a squirrel on my bird feeder 
scarfing a batch of sunflower seeds 
which I bought for a tufted titmouse 
and a faithful pair of chickadees. 

But hidden on the kitchen deck –
a fully loaded water cannon 
dripping from the business end.
The boy inside me smiles. 

I shoulder the Stream Machine 
Hydrobolic Water Launcher™ 
and take my righteous aim –
justice shall be served wet. 

The thief is hanging upside down, 
hind feet clutching roof-top struts, 
front paws clawing side-wire mesh.
I see she’s a mama, and freeze,

recalling one cold winter evening
in the old Oglethorpe farmhouse 
where my wife caught the kitchen 
mouse in a live trap. It was late, 

so she placed the pest in a Mason jar.
Morning saw the slick rodent nursing 
a litter of newborn pups. The fate 
of generations hung in kindly hands.

Guess who fashioned a luxury nest 
in a snug corner of an unused barn 
stocked with water and nuts. Yes, 
the bond between mamas is strong. 

Love or scruples, I lower the soaker 
and toss a handful of peanuts instead.
Mama scoots down the slippery pole, 
greased last week (to no avail). 

As she scampers away with a roasted prize, 
my inner boy sighs and scans for snakes. 
Two chickadees light on the repurposed feeder.
If ever the peaceable kingdom would come 

it could start in a corner of creation where 
songbirds and squirrels share in the bounty 
next to a kitchen deck. Do you hear the call? 
I’m off to Kroger for peanuts and seeds. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Dawn Dreams in a Glasgow Cafe

Glasgow, Scotland
July 15, 2018

Mid-July and zipped into layers, 
I huddle by the high glass walls 
of a Sauchiehall Street coffeehouse 
on a rain-soaked morning in Glasgow.

It is Sunday. Restless seagulls 
patrol the glistened streets. Pigeons 
pick manna from cracks in the sidewalk. 
Strangers roll suitcases down the damp plaza.

But I dream of the highlands – 
forests of birch and pine, 
breath of mist and fir. 
I kneel in the humus of needles and moss

and ponder the ruins of castles and clans 
wrought by the bonnie princes of war. 
A puff of wind ruffles the mirror-face 
of morning over an inland loch. 

I slip out of the chandeliered foyers 
and opulent halls of the once-important.
Sunlight cascades through cathedral trees 
and wavelets kiss the sea-aster shore.

Above villages swollen with summer –
sticky toffee, shops selling tartan –
I climb the bracken hillsides to high heather. 
Wind sweeps in from Iceland. My fingers numb

and somehow it’s August. How soon 
we haste to the land of before where dreams 
devolve to memories, cropped and cleaned, 
and hung in the hall by a wide-open door.

Here is a link to photos and video clips (cropped and cleaned) that accompany this poem. Thanks to Tracy Elder for leading our group through the Highlands and Islands.

Images from Scottish Highlands and Islands

Images from the Scottish highlands and islands. These accompany "Dawn Dreams in a Glasgow Cafe."


Clouds over Little Minch and the Outer Hebrides

Cathedral trees

Downy birch

Forest of fir

High heather

Low tide on the Firth of Clyde

Sycamore roots with moss and boulder

The mirror face of Eilean na Moine on Loch Eilt


Wavelets kiss the sea-aster shore (Firth of Clyde near the Mount Stuart House)

Loch Shiel at Glenfinnan (near the monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie):

High burn with bracken and heather:

Sound of Sleat in fog with ragwort and wind:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Stumbling Toward a Brampton Manor

Brampton, Cumbria, UK
July 12, 2018

When you exit the two-car train 
outside the village of Brampton 
and leave the lonely platform
tugging wobbly wheeled bags 
loaded with too much stuff 

the mile or two toward an old manor 
which your wife saw on the web 
and Google diverts you down a dwindling lane 
lined with loosestrife and ragwort  
where cattle crowd the mid-day shade 

and watch you weary on 
till the surface turns to gravel 
and your wife and daughter forge ahead  
while you tend bags beside the rusting gates 
of a deserted dairy farm 

composing prayers for traveling mercies 
parsing signs and portents 
as the Brampton black cat 
freezes your soul with yellow-green eyes 
and claims your suitcases 


this is when a lanky farmer named James 
ambles up, asks if you’re lost 
or Canadian 
then offers a ride in his sawdust truck 
and you choose to trust 

because this is Cumbria 
and life is good – 
your belly’s full 
and the sun held for one more day. 
Tomorrow, let it rain. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Out as an Elder in June

Athens, Georgia
June 2018

I like to take a neighborly hike 
in the guise of an old man 
grasping a crooked walking stick 
with just a hint of a gimpy hip.

I am out before the heat, 
huffing up sunlit hills, 
passed by young runners 
and mothers rolling strollers.

They nod in my general direction, 
smile past the half-seen elder.
We share the same street 
but live in different worlds.

I walk as much in memory 
as in the searing moment.
I slip through years, 
misplace whole decades.

I zig-zag through shadows 
and pause in a pool of shade. 
A warm breeze sifts the mimosa 
and I breathe its pink sweetness. 

I study the borders of ragged lawns 
telling sumac from senna,
cats-ear from dandelion, 
wild petunia from woodland phlox.

A low drone fills the distance. 
The sun is high on my back 
as I saunter home through the green 
aroma of fresh-mown grass.

On the other side of sunset, 
I watch a field full of fireflies 
tracing seductive J-shaped loops 
as signs of love in the failing light. 

In the spell of affection, I nudge 
a young copperhead with the tip 
of my stick. He coils, then flows 
off the asphalt into the night.

Walking stick


Friday, June 29, 2018

When in Late May

Athens, Georgia
late May, 2018

As surely as earth tilts toward the sun 
the long spring slumps into summer.

Today the pastel sunrise 
tints the cirrus with hints of pink.

Soon the sky will glow again
with the radiance of late May.

Now the catalpa is covered in white. 
Now the southern magnolia blooms.  

The scented air softens skin
and works its way into bones.

Wooden door frames begin to swell 
and windows stick in their tracks.

The canopy crawls with aphids 
trailing their sweet organic sheen.

As a hickory drips the sticky dew 
onto the frame of my Ford, 

I sense that spring has run its course.
Time to retreat to the edges of night –

The summer lull has just begun;
a hundred days of heat ahead.

Southern Catalpa

Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Business of High Spring

Athens, Georgia
May 3, 2018

The soulful notes of a wood thrush cease 
when coded warnings cut the air.

A hawk swoops through the understory
culling anoles and unwary mice.

Chipmunks skitter for hidden dens. 
A buzzard wheels overhead.

Shadows and silence … 
The bustle resumes. 

Beauty is a privileged vision 
in a world hard about business –

Where nervous squirrels vie for the rights 
to your bird feeder 

and goldfinches fight for the bottomless bag 
of thistle seed.

Where biting flies rise from brush 
and chiggers infest the meadows. 

They covet your blood 
for you, too, are a creature of spring. 

You are the doe and deer tick, 
the moth and the evening swallow.

You are the red-shouldered hawk 
and the unfortunate field mouse too slow to his hole.

You are the quickest chipmunk, 
the top finch on a thistle bag,

the orphaned fawn, the crippled wren,
bones and feathers pecking the dirt.

You’re the squirrel chased back to her perch 
chattering oaths and scratching fleas. 

You are the starboard hind flank flea 
and the chigger that missed her mark.

Spring is open air improv ballet. 
Its beauty is hard business.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Dream of High Spring

Athens, Georgia
April 14, 2018

When nights drift through open windows
and you wake to mornings enveloped in green,
the world is a nursery with you again

the grass-stained boy hopping rocks
by a slow creek that winds through
the idylls of childhood. Or the lithe girl

in scruffy jeans clutching rough limbs
halfway up the side yard plum
which thrives on the edge of an unruly lawn.

The aroma of onion grass spikes the air
as you weave a bouquet of dandelions
and skip to a medley of mockingbird tunes.

You wander once more through living woods
where tangles of jessamine hang in the trees
and armies of iris encircle the ponds.

And you rest again on a carpet of clover
woven with vinca and purple vetch
in the spell of a flowering dogwood.

You are the boy now covered in mud,
the girl with a jessamine necklace.
You slip through the windows of spring.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

On the First Wave of Spring

Athens, Georgia
March 28, 2018

You may sense a strange lightness
inside your bones. Unseen, life
is rising. Unheard, earth hums.

And so it comes,
the imperceptible turn
when winter tips to early spring.

First it stirs.
It seeps through roots.
It creeps on marbled salamander feet.

It emerges from burrows,
arises from mud,
ascends into shifting winds.

It slithers onto shallow rocks,
peers from gaps in mossy logs,
rustles under leaf litter.

It chitters from trees,
trills from swamps,
and peeps from vernal pools.

It shivers, and saucer magnolias bloom,
pears and cherries wear blossoms of snow,
and redbuds slip into lavender lace.

It smiles, and forsythia shine,
each bush a burst of golden stars
in a firmament of baby green leaves.

It laughs, and daffodils dance again.
They sway to the slipstreams of speeding cars
and swirl in the cleft of exit ramps.

And in the rhythms of wind and light

across the parks and small-town squares –
the breath of Earth, the dance of life.

American toads in wetland, February 16, 2018:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Myrtle Warblers

Athens, Georgia
March 8, 2018

You may call them butter butts
(they are not diminished). Perhaps
you caught an idle glimpse

looking out from the kitchen sink
as the spring wave worked north.
They go about their business

skimming insects from the surfaces
of rivers, gleaning from leaves,
stealing from spiderwebs,

warbling the northern woods in summer.
They flit through conifer stands
flashing butter yellow rump,

then flood the continent in fall
from the great blue-green spruce
down ancestral flyways.

In the dearth of winter they settle
into Southern scrub, Eastern woods,
and mountain hollows

to digest the wax from myrtle berries.
Someone must – it’s a niche,
and who’s to say a minor role?

For there is a final dignity to it all,
a calling in the cogs and cycles,
the bones and blood of Gaia.

Image by D. Gordon E. Robertson -
Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reading on my Back Deck One Balmy Winter Day

I was interrupted by a sunset
of the understated kind –
ragged layers of gray overlain
by islands of off-white sky.

I don’t remember when,
but the wind had died. Not
a breath disturbed the bare tips
and twisted limbs of winter trees

while underneath, the whole
world shone. Nothing you
could capture by camera,
nothing to inspire a song.

A gentle river washed
the world with white noise,
a still spell soon cracked
by the call of a Carolina wren.

Listen, we live only moments,
and notice so few. Will you
close the book? Would you
shut down the screen? Look,

night sweeps from the east
beyond the speed of sound.
Gray deepens a shade. Dull
lace of red maple darkens.

The cream sky turns coral.
Shadows merge. Somehow
creation holds together. Even
in darkness the world glows.

Photo by Don Hunter

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Winter Blessing

Athens, Georgia
January 17, 2018

May you grow in the soul of each new season 
as flowers unfold 
from hepatica to bloodroot, 
bittercress to buttercup, 
clover to goldenrod, thistle, and aster. 

May you find solace in the cycles of earth, 
as hard ground yields 
to moist soil and green shoots,
buds to blossoms and tender leaves, 
fruit and seeds to stubble and husk. 

May you dwell in the spirit of each new day
as moments dance 
from crystal dawn and cold light 
to gray noon and slate skies, 
from dreams to prayer and play of thought. 

In seasons, in cycles, each breath and beat, 
may your spirit sense the grace beneath.

"Hepatica" photograph by Don Hunter