Long-Ago Memory By Steven Withrow Near the cranberry bog Where we walked our dog Morning and evening, Even in snow, Where we came to look out At bog-berries growing All tinges of red, My grandmother said, “Keep this in mind: Look long enough, You’re sure to go blind To such red-as-can-be. It’s much better to see Just a hint of the view Or you’ll find out that you Can’t tell crimson from white.” And I knew she was right. Then she walked on ahead By an ocean of red, Rubied waves to a shore, And we said nothing more.
I love Robert Francis’s poems, and his gorgeous “The Sound I Listened For” (click the link to read it) is an unrhymed hexameter sonnet with six-beat lines, a very challenging measure to have sound natural when pentameter (lines with five strong stresses) is so ubiquitous in English. Here’s my attempt at the form, a memory from the years I commuted to Boston:
Young girls or geometric punks drew hopscotch squares
Across this stretch of pavement where I walk to work
Most mornings from the train. It must have been at dawn,
Or maybe overnight, before the early joggers
Scattered the chalk and scuffed away the double cross.
They left no names, forgot to scribble numbers in
Each block, so something might have interrupted them.
I keep on using plurals, but the they could be
A she, a he, a street artiste outside alone
Kneeling and making perfect squares in purple chalk
By flashlight as a code, or as a dare to us:
A bottle cap, a rock, is all you need to play.
I toss a dime and jump five spaces to retrieve it,
Then leave it there so someone else can take a turn.
P.S. Here's a link to a radio recording of the late Robert Francis, America's "best neglected poet," as Robert Frost had it, reading poems. I admire poet Henry Lyman for producing these broadcasts for more than two decades in Amherst, Massachusetts.
This short lyric is a mix of memory and imagination. It is also an homage to Robert Frost, whose work I've been reading closely. Thought it out for two weeks, wrote it in two hours. Hope you enjoy.
Beach Road Fox
An ocean fog brings foxes out by day, And, driving home, I scare one on its way To meet a rabbit for an early meal, A splotch of rust the light’s too dim to name True red, its tail a curl of orange peel Or the guttering appendage of a flame.
For spotting one, it’s not as if I owe
More than a look, but nearer now I slow The car to watch it disappear among Beach rose bushes there along the road (A fox’s only debt is to its young) In loping imitation of a toad.
I don't think I'd want a bear's life, but I do empathize with them. We'll be seeing more and more large predators in places we don't expect, and I hope that doesn't result in their numbers dwindling to a time when we never see them at all.
Trespasser at Qwik-Mart Black bear climbed the fence behind the store
And lumbered toward the garbage bin.
Mother of two,
She’d had to let her hunger win
Against the cautious hollow at her core. Night clerk, out for a smoke, had tossed a box
Of sausage pizza—a tiny sliver,
But it would do
Till morning when they reached the river,
So she tried to thunder softly as a fox. Tranq dart struck her cleanly in the leg.