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

 

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

The Secret

When I told Truth to go away,
we were both girls –
blossom-cheeked,
skipping rope with life.

“I can’t be your friend,” I told her.
“You know my secret.”
Truth shrugged. “OK.
I’ll be here if you need me.”
She waved goodbye, and went
to live high in the hills
with hummingbirds and foxes.

I stayed behind, secure in my choice,
though joy was hard to find, I never
trusted love, and I reacted oddly
to the seemingly mundane –
lilies made me nauseous, Black Beauty
gave me nightmares, a breeze against my neck
could make me cry.

After fifty years, I looked for Truth again.
She hadn’t changed – still young,
sweet, smiling, glad to see me.
But I’d become Wilde’s portrait in the attic –
haggard, bitter, burden-stooped.
I asked what would have happened
if I’d let her have her way.
“You’d have suffered,” she said. “People
would have shamed you. They’d say
you made it up.
But you’d be free.”

– Sarah Russell
First published in the anthology Secrets and Lies 
For Real Toads quote by Dickinson
Painting:  “Two Little Girls” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

A Gospel of Birds

“They mate for life, she’d say.”

 

My thanks to Dayna Patterson and the crew at Psaltery and Lyre for publishing my poem this morning.  Check out their beautiful website.

She wasn’t sure about heaven,
but she believed in birds.
On walks she’d stop to watch
a skein of geese, wondered
where they came from,
where they were heading.
They mate for life, she’d say.
Crows do too. And swans
and storks. She must have said that
a hundred times, with a kind of wonder
at the impossibility.

She kept five feeders on the deck,
had a book of backyard birds
to identify newcomers at the feast.
She cried when a neighbor’s cat
killed a mourning dove. They mate
for life too, she said. Listen,
her mate is sad. That’s just their call,
I told her. No, it’s different, she said.
You can tell when birds are sad.

She died a month ago.
I keep the feeders filled.

– Sarah Russell
Picture courtesy of The Spruce

 

Nesting

The finches are courting
outside our window, a warbled
discussion of real estate and love.
Like last year and the year before,
they want to lease the flower wreath
on our front door. It’s always a dilemma:
discourage their rapture or detour
through the garage?

The finches always win. So
for a month we’ll wake to overtures
at dawn – so cheerful, so loud –
show pictures of pin-feathered babies
to friends, recall demands
and pleasures of our own brood,
the bittersweet fledging.

– Sarah Russell
First published by Your Daily Poem
The photo is of their nest last year.

Thought this was apropos since Mr. and Mrs. Finch are back and are quite excited about our new wreath this year.  They were both tucked into a niche behind the blossoms, discussing the furnishings when I opened the door this morning.  The nest was almost complete this afternoon.  Can’t deny true love.