On Kebler Pass

dust the ferns with my ashes —
there, among the aspen
trembling gold against the sky.
Let them settle, sighing,
on the still warm earth of autumn
where the next peak calls your name.

Snow will come. The wind will show me
paths the doe and vixen know. The moon
will call me with her crescent mouth
and share stories of the embered stars.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poppy Road Review
for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo Source

Indian Summer

I hike the ridge on the last warm, tousled day,
speckled as a partridge egg,
sun already stilting 
shadows in early afternoon.
The leaves 
are October butterflies, crimson, gold.
I want to stop earth’s tilt-a-whirl right here,
hold this moment that feels so much like love
before the winter’s swordsmith hones his blade.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poppy Road Review
Photo by Greg A. Hartford
For Poets United Mid-week motif:  Autumn

Augury

I stopped for groceries after work.
Jeff will be late again tonight.
“Don’t wait up,” he always says.

I hate these country roads at night –
twisting, full of ruts. I woke
this morning choking back a scream,
but the dream escaped
with the trembling.

I round a bend, see movement
in the willows.  Slow, I tell myself.
It’s probably nothing.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Black Poppy Review
For Real Toads prompt “chaos theory
Also for Poetry Pantry
Photo: Shutterstock

 

Swallow Child

I had no mother,
no tribe. Swallows
heard me crying.

They gave me flight,
to feel the wind,
to find my spirit.

They gave me a mate
to birth our young
in ancient cliffs.

They gave me companions
for warmth
in winter’s cold.

Someday I will rise to the sun.
My feathers will gleam iridescent.
My home will be in cloud cliffs.
I will look down on Earth’s chaos
where my mother disappeared.
I will no longer miss her.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Ekphrastic Review
Based on a painting by Benjamin Chee Chee,
a Native American artist
For Poets United theme “Rising Up”

Requital

For fifty years mother’s face reflected
a marriage she endured,
a man she didn’t love.

But when he was blind and frail
in hospice,
she visited him often,

and when he reached out, groping
for her hand,
she would smile and move it
(again and again)

just out of reach.

– Sarah Russell
For Real Toads prompt “power
and for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Drawing by Greuze

Reunion

For fifty years
she wrote to Yolanda
in foreign prose,
sharing secrets as she once did
walking home from school –
Argentina and girlhood
a lifetime ago.
Reality: three kids, then grandkids,
a troubled husband, an aging mother,
an Arkansas farm.
Yet every letter promised
that someday she’d return.

Now they are on the tarmac
in Mendoza,
stooped, with the uncertain step of age.
Words catch in their throats
as their hands caress the other’s cheeks,
wipe away the other’s tears,
and their eyes see only
the girls they were –
their secrets safe.

– Sarah Russell
For Poets United prompt “reunions
  Photo by Grace Robertson

Note:  In 1993, my husband and I took his mother to Argentina where she had spent her childhood.  This was perhaps my favorite memory of our trip.

Migrating Geese

Keening in a bruised sky,
ragged chevrons
follow the coastline south –
imperfect V’s, left wanting
on one side or the other –
testament, perhaps, to those taken
by foxes, hunger, double barrels,
their skeins unraveling autumn.

– Sarah Russell

First published in The Houseboat
Republished in Poems in the Waiting Room
Photo:  Sunsetphotosgallery.com

Posted for dVerse Open Link

September

Black-eyed Susans gossip in the gullies
between the road and corn
past harvest,
clouds in feather boas waltz
through pale silk skies, and cows head home
for milking, while
the hawk holds vigil on a fence post.

– Sarah Russell

 First published in The Houseboat
 Republished in Your Daily Poem
 Submitted for Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo source

The Cottage

“the smell of earth turned by a trowel…”

I’ve grown quiet here. My mind
has opened to woodsong
and the smell of earth turned
by a trowel.

I enjoy solitude, even when regrets
or the throb of an old lover happen by.
Sometimes I invite them in, make
a ritual of teacups on starched linen,
a silver server for the scones.
We reminisce ’til shadows trace
across the floor, call them away.

Afterwards, I tidy up, wipe away
drops spilled in the pouring. I save
the leftovers though they’re getting stale.
I may crumble them on the porch rail
tomorrow for sparrows
before I garden.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poetry Breakfast
For Real Toads Tuesday Platform
Photo courtesy of Daisy Fields on Pinterest

Dorothy’s Grave

“They haven’t dug the grave yet.”

Mom insisted on coming to the cemetery
after her best friend Dorothy’s viewing.
“The funeral’s not ’til 2 tomorrow,” I said.
“They’ll dig it in the morning.”

“They should have it dug,” she fussed.

Mom is a farm woman, used to death.
She turned ninety in the fall,
and Dorothy was her last good friend
in the tiny delta town where children leave
for jobs or school or just to escape the soy
and cotton. Her church has only twenty members
now — old women who show off corsages
on Mother’s Day and sometimes cajole their men
to come in overalls and slicked-back hair.

Dorothy and Mom taught Bible study, went to Eastern Star
and bingo, traded recipes and gossip.
Mom killed a rabid skunk in Dorothy’s yard
with the double barrel she keeps under the bed,
and Dorothy came to quilt on Wednesdays –
just the two of them since the other three passed on.

“Why’s it important to see the empty grave?” I asked.

“I need to know she’ll be comfortable,” Mom said.
“I know she’d do the same for me.”

– Sarah Russell
First published in On the Veranda
For Poetry Pantry on Poets United
Photo courtesy of Paul Marshuk