Copyright © 2019 by Betsy M. Hughes
A sensor in the postlamp signals On
as if this day could switch to night so fast,
as if diurnal acts abruptly gone
would turn to black inertness that will last.
But just before the darkness can descend
I sense a hush, a pause for vesper time.
I put away my business and suspend
my anxious disbeliefs, while calmly I’m
preparing for the mood of evensong.
I hunger for the holy, yearn to learn
the prayer which fills the thinning air, and long
to solve the mystery of my return.
The dimming light is dying now and yet
my gratitude for life exceeds regret.
(“spear-thrower” in Aztec)
Just thirteen yards away the graceful deer
was eating leaves which dangled from a tree.
The Huntress of Missouri threw the spear
which whooshed so fast through air he could not flee
before six feet of sharpened bamboo dart
with metal tip had penetrated, stung.
It did not find the perfect place, his heart,
but surely it connected, punctured lung.
How proud she is of her barbaric skill,
her brutal tool, her power, thrusting throw —
first woman of our day to make the kill
like men eleven thousand years ago.
What fitting symbol for this modern age
when primitive behavior’s all the rage.
Now stand beneath this canopy of trees,
surrender will, hold still. Now close your eyes
and listen as the rustling of the leaves
and lapping breeze-blown waters tranquilize.
Inhaling deeply, you can breathe the smell
of dew-damp soil, the scent of pungent pine,
organic emanations. All is well,
you’re in the zone in nature’s forest shrine.
Permit your eyes to open and you see
the beauty of extraordinary things:
moss-covered rocks in shades of verdigris,
the damselfly’s extended filmy wings.
Immerse yourself in all your senses, feel
the peace of this retreat restore and heal.
In the Forests of Michoacan State
Monarchs by the millions migrate here.
From Canada to Mexico they fly
to reach the same location every year
for winter hibernation. Do-or-die,
returning north the butterflies must breed
so that their offspring can complete the quest.
They lay their eggs on milkweed, where they feed.
But here and now they sun, drink nectar, rest,
survive on sanctuary rocks and cling
to fir tree branches, where they flutter-dance.
Bold lines of black on every orange wing
define the lepidopteran romance.
This is a delicate kaleidoscope
of shifting colors on the wings of hope.
The birders measure your enormous span
of wings: a five-foot spreading they declare.
They marvel how a migratory plan
can guide an owl through miles and miles of air.
All memory of lemmings, Arctic prey,
has vanished in these far Ohio fields
where, fearless, hunting openly by day,
you locate other predatory yields.
I know your stolid stance upon the pole
will change within an instant when your eyes
unlid their yellows to detect a vole;
then you will pounce and take it by surprise.
I keep my distance, stunned by snowy white.
You keep your wary watch in winter light.
Under the Shadow of the Moon
One August afternoon, raccoons appeared.
I saw them, furtive, under bushes slink,
conduct their masked nocturnal prowling — weird
behavior. Time seemed truly out of sync.
The birds were settling down as if for night,
their early roosting unexpected, strange;
to them, descending dusk with dimming light
was subtle cue to make a vocal change.
My dog, disoriented, gave a bark
of protest. Suddenly the air felt cool.
My body weight was lighter in this dark
while gravity let go a little pull.
There was a difference on this earthly sphere;
I sensed it while I waited watching here.
The sun slid slowly underneath the moon —
a crescent, slender sliver, aureole.
I knew that it would reappear quite soon,
its brilliant ball completely round and whole.
My fascinated joy at the eclipse
is all about control: how long it lasts,
how long the darkness holds me in its grips,
is certain science in the weathercasts.
But most of life’s dark shadows do not warn.
Instead they pounce, persist. The sun will burn,
the earth will turn, but lunar orbits borne
without alignment would compel concern.
With temporary darkness we can cope,
we shadowed creatures confidently hope.
“A gin martini on the rocks,” she’d say,
“Please with a twist of lemon,” she’d explain.
Her age was ninety but her mood was gay;
she readied for her cocktail once again.
Essential element, the dry vermouth,
injected herbal taste. Her favorite drink
then linked her to her history’s own truth —
residing in hotels where glasses clink.
When ravages of time removed romance
and life itself (like her old movies’ end),
we lovingly took liberty, a chance
to make artistic legacy intend:
Commissioned sculpture of a stylish urn
martini glass now holds her ash eterne.
The reason why I pocketed this stone:
It beckoned from the bottom of a pool,
a shallows in the lake. It was alone,
my own. I felt it round and smooth and cool.
Another day I found a driftwood piece,
an ugly form which waves rejected, beached.
This long proboscis was a strange caprice;
exposed to sun, the nose was pocked and bleached.
My favorite souvenir might be this shell
upon whose enigmatic face an eye
stares up at me inscrutably. Its spell
has fateful powers known to signify.
Inspired, I worship texture, shape, design.
Inscribed are notes of nature’s underline.