Sustenance

When glacial bogs blush with berries
it’ll be a hard winter, folks say.

He is cutting down the dead pine near the cabin,
beetle-killed by drought last summer.
His chainsaw knows the hearth’s width
without measuring.

I went to the orchard on Route 5,
bought peaches for canning.
The kitchen smells of sweetness —
furry skins sloughed off with blanching,
floor juice-sticky.

He comes in for lunch,
fills the room with flannel and sawdust.
“A lot of work,” he says.
“Yes,” I answer.
We eat warmed over stew.
He cleans his plate with bread crust and pushes back his chair.
“Back at it,” he mutters and opens the door.

A cold wind makes gooseflesh on my arms
as I set the pint jars of preserves
in steaming water to make them sterile.

 

– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Reprinted in WAVES: A Confluence of Women’s Voices
For Poets United
Photo source

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Poems are in The Soil – A Poem by Rebecca Villineau

Such fine words on the excavation of poetry.

Poetry Breakfast

The Poems are in The Soil

Beneath the rocks and broken brick
Below the fossils of cat bones
They are there
Fertilizing the ground
Adding phosphorus and calcium
Mulching through the earthworms

I am full of distractions
So I must dig
First loosening the crab grass
Twisting to the fine thick earth

To where there is the possibility of rare stones
Where my anscesters have lost their keys and rings
To where the dirt tells stories

Of children, like myself
Filling buckets from the garden hose
Adding grass, stone and soil
To the imaginary soup

We all know that God is in the details
Not the rock and brick
But the particles
And the invisible stuff

The way it feels when
The words are unearthed
First startling with their brown scaled skin
How they camouflage
at the base of a boxwood

Sometimes they are found
From just wandering the garden

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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