Near Jack’s Cabin

     “deer… like skeletons.”
                                    —Dorothy Wordsworth

Yes. Like skeletons this winter,
stealing silage meant for cattle
though it starves them.
They look wistful at the forest’s edge.
I want to coax them to my fire
before the wind tonight and snow,
more snow.

Some will fawn in spring if they survive.
We shall shrug off matted coats,
graze among the daffodils.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Eclectica
Photo Source
For dVerse 

Fred Harris – American Small Town Barber

Last year about this time, poets from State College, PA were invited to interview residents of Juniper Village, an assisted living and memory care center and to feature them in a poem.  Here’s my poem about Mr. Fred Harris.

Fred’s blue eyes twinkle,
his lank frame curls into the chair.
He smiles, lost in reverie —
a toddler’s first big boy cut,
the mother picking up a tendril
fine as milkweed silk, to keep…
the mingled scent of Brill Cream,
lather, Bay Rum, Old Spice…
the high school football hero,
proud and sheepish at congratulations
from the men… the rhythmic sound
of straight razor against leather strop…
the businessmen in suits and ties —
just a little off the sides, they’d say,
and Fred obliged.

In the 50’s, it was crew cuts and flat tops,
in the 60’s, duck tails and pompadours.
Then the 70s, when grim-faced dads
dragged in their sons,
and shoulder-length tangles
were made presentable.
“Got another one,” he’d grin.

Fred knew the pulse of Huntingdon,
and if clients sighed a weary sigh,
Fred gave their shoulder an extra pat,
and they’d smile a little, meet his eyes
in the mirror. No music in the shop —
“It runs the batteries down,” he’d say,
but he tuned in to hear the obits read
every day in case a regular died,
so he could pay respects.

After Fred swept the floor at night,
straightened the well-thumbed Argosy’s
and Field and Stream’s, turned the sign
to “Closed” and locked the door,
he drove home to the farm, made dinner
for the kids and Cassie — Mama Cass
he called her — saw to it chores were done,
saddled up Prince for a ride at sunset.
He saw Niagara Falls once,
went to Florida for a couple days,
but that was travel enough.
He had his barber shop, his farm,
people who loved him.
He was useful. He smiles,

– Sarah Russell
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo Source



When he calls from the conference
and says he met her, after months
of email discussing their research,
I see the first whiff of smoke
rising out of the forest,
the one you have to be close to notice,
and think you could put out yourself
if the garden hose reached that far,
the first seconds of wondering
where the important papers are,
the photographs, the cat.

– Sarah Russell
First published in One Sentence Poems
For Poets United
Photo source


Cat Nap

The cat invited me to fill my lap
with heavy, lithe contentment.
We curled together on the couch,
purring pressure as she arched her neck
against my hand, languid comfort,
her body nestling into mine.
I roused, my hand still stroking lightly
in my sleep, cat vanished to other ventures,
the niche indented by her form
still vibrant with her warmth,
my fingertips caressing air
in silken touch remembrance.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Purrfect Poetry Anthology
Painting by bdelpesco
For dVerse Poets Pub


We found a stream that night
away from everywhere but us –
water voices whispering,
the honey of first times,
wind feathery on urgent skin.

Perhaps a folly, our rush
into together and tomorrow –
forever’s promissory note
before the debt of everyday.

Let’s go back
and lie beside the stream again,
listen for the water voices,
feel the wind’s breath

before we disappear.

– Sarah Russell
First published in The Houseboat
Photo Source
For Poets United


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


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