Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Mattoon Kline
On the Edge
And what is meant by the edge,
you may well ask.
For some of us –
those considered insiders or outsiders –
the edge is a wall.
Insiders see the edge
as a boundary-less membrane:
triggering a surge
of adrenalin, of aspiration,
of joy, in one’s body.
“She was always
pushing the edge,”
they would say:
to leave things be.”
For those outside the edge,
it is an opaque wall,
the magic curtain
that can make someone almost invisible.
Watch an outsider
skirt around a group of people,
his gaze focused straight ahead.
Everyone overlooks his presence,
rarely paying attention,
so he is free to do
whatever strikes his solitary fancy
and he escapes, gleefully,
This winter solstice second night –
eleven o’clock –
last dog-walk up the road,
flitting across the dark hilltop
back-lit by streetlights
like wall shadows
from flickering fireplace flames.
On our way home to bed –
now, motionless silhouettes
alert heads, pricked ears.
We stop, they run, I count
eight deer heading west.
Christmas Eve Day last year – four o’clock –
two months after your death,
half-awake from my long nap.
Bright hazy sunset
blinding sleep-dazed eyes,
clouds creating a sundog.
Seeing you in your armchair
backlit by sunset glare, vertical rainbow,
your body as full silhouette –
baseball cap brim jutting out,
as real as eight deer.
Eighteen Days in October
On my birthday last year –
after everyone had agreed
you needed to stay in the hospital –
my present was a double rainbow
arching high in the late afternoon sky.
I thought it was your gift to me.
Eighteen days later, we said farewell
to life as you and I had known it.
In between, there was a fall
with brilliant blue skies
and vibrant sharp colors.
In between, there was a fall
with broken hip bones
and the return of pneumonia.
Each day I watched the blazing sugar maple
outside your southeast window,
as the inside fall consumed you.
Now, October is here again.
The time for my birthday has come.
After every thunderstorm,
I look to the sky for arches of color.
Having had the gift of our life together,
a rainbow is the only present I want.
Eloise Jensen Trail (1908-2009)
Oh, lovely woman, wrapped in grace.
We send you off to the other shore
and remember forever your sweet, sweet face.
You played the game, stayed the race.
You were there for us, to your core –
our wonderful mother, wrapped in grace.
We’ll gather together in hallowed space
to talk of flowers and family lore,
remembering gardens and your sweet face,
and the home you created – your special space.
We all could see your spirit soar,
oh, blue-eyed friend, wrapped in grace.
Be in the light. Feel our embrace.
You’re in our hearts forever more.
Oh, lovely woman, wrapped in grace –
We remember forever your sweet, sweet face.
Get to the Point
Consider the importance of the dot.
That’s dot as in the punctuation mark
ending the string of words above
(or this sentence, for that matter).
It takes a little dot to give a line –
curved or straight – its reason for being.
Without a dot, how would we recognize
a question mark or an exclamation mark?
A dot transforms a comma into a semi-colon.
One dot above another becomes a colon:
so useful for indicating conclusions.
Or, for argument’s sake,
how would the internet fare without a dot?
Dot is so easy to say and convenient to type.
Imagine being required to specify
each internet address, for example,
as google question mark com:
that’s two more syllables to negotiate
and the need to use the shift key.
So, get to the point.
Consider the elegance of the dot:
human nature’s concise and efficient method for
establishing clarity and creating focus.
Hot, Hot, Hot
Life’s lessons start early:
work to earn money, work to live.
For an eight-year-old,
a girl on a farm
three miles out of town,
neighbors more than half-a-mile distant,
the chances to make money are few.
Mid-summer is the time. June, when it’s hot.
Wild strawberries are the means.
Tiny wild berries,
sweet and small . . . very small.
The splint quart basket is larger,
very large by comparison.
Start at nine as the heat starts to rise,
finish at eleven – surely the hottest part of the day.
Bend over, kneel down, sit at the edge of the patch.
No shade: berries will spoil if they’re wet.
Sales are arranged by phone.
My mother – the teacher – takes orders.
Her Women’s Club friends happily do her the favor
which they can well afford.
My father – the driver – handles deliveries
and collects my pay.
The rate is as small as the berries.
25 cents per quart, 50 cents for two hours of work.
At eight years old – hot, sweaty, cross . . . very cross,
I take the heat, wait for germination
of next year’s crop.
Late Afternoon Blues
In a late afternoon walk on Horsebarn Hill,
I spy glimpses of blue everywhere.
My marching jeaned legs are never still.
A blue-shirted jogger runs without care.
Farm workers in denim come to feed the cows,
who rush the fence and get their grain.
The blue truck moves on toward some sows;
pigs grunt and squeal as though in pain.
August’s sky opens up like morning glories,
and flocks of swallows are slate-blue darts.
The fence’s blue shadows tell fall stories
of ripening fruit, long nights, hay carts.
In time, such sights will make me sad.
Now, I smile at late-day blues and am glad.
Prudence Island Transport
Travel by boat is the way to go.
Start by leaving the land.
Once launched, go back in time
and become surrounded by the sea.
The elements take over
to give refuge from the other life.
Feel transported into a different life.
The need to come and go
or say that the day is over
is controlled less by the land
than by the sea.
For us, that means endless time.
Sun and moon also control time
for people and for wildlife.
Evening meals are gleaned from the sea.
Low tide determines when to go
clamming; incoming tide, when gulls land
to pick seaweed over and over.
Everything must be carried over
by boat. Ferry departure time
causes a surge from the mainland.
Arrival on Prudence brings new life
to the dock as islanders go
inspect their bounty from the sea.
The island keeps its sea
heritage, while conservators exert control over
acres of forest, meadow, and beach. Go
twelve miles north in real time
to view the contrast of Providence’s urban life –
many people squeezed onto very little land.
Travel for miles on island land
and find fewer people than boats on the sea.
Islanders seem to live an old-fashioned life
where everyone waves, and cars move over
to share the road. Neighbors take the time
to say “hello” and to watch you go.
Start from land and feel the sky take over.
Abandon yourself to sea changes; lose all track of time.
Find new life in old places as tides come and go.
Stopping by Pete’s Pond
on a Summer Morning
At nine, the air is hot and still.
The perch and doves are feeding well
on bugs and seeds, to get their fill
before the fall and first snow’s knell.
White lilies grow at water’s edge;
the shallow depths are what they like.
Birds fly to safety from the ledge;
two snappers lurk near, by the dike.
The world goes on for folks and frogs.
Town trucks beep-beep on distant roads.
Neighbors come to walk their dogs,
who splash about and bark their codes.
I rest and write while peace seeps in,
life’s gift to me from wing and fin.