Among the Sharply Pointed Stars

Neighbor's House Concert
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
Do you remember the the other night
walking home in the dark
because we'd thought the moon would be up
so we didn't bring a flashlight

the squnch squnch of fresh snow under our boots
but still warmed by the glow of neighbors
chatting around the table of wine and munchies
discussing the weather, kids, housing travails,

and despite the inevitable dark turn to politics
the lyrics still in our ears
If there's hope in this house I'm gonna find it
If there's hope in this house get me rope
I'm gonna ride it

while in the clear night the train is sounding
all the way down the valley from the next town over;
in the moonless black you say Taurus looks more like a fox
and I point out Castor and Pollux, the twins over Orion,

and our path home is apparently due north
because there is Polaris, beckoning us on.

Listening to the Darkness (election triptych, 2016)
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
1.
I pause to take up the chickens' feed and dump their water
as we are heading out to the election night party.
It is a momentous night, and we are full of a year's worth
of waiting for this moment. But near the coop door
our two currently molting hens, lacking what looks like
half their feathers, have roosted close together.
For them this night is simply a blessedly
mild one, after the cold snap we've been having.

2.
We get home that night
in shock.
Whatever we expected
it wasn't this.
Thank God our state rep,
who strapped on a dust mask
to help clean out constituents'
flooded trailers after the hurricane
managed to win re-election
by 3 votes.
We can't grasp the enormity of the future
our nation is careening into
or comprehend how this could possibly
have happened.
Our kitten hears us enter though,
after midnight, and sends up
a piteous mewing from his crate.
So we let him out to run around and
tire himself out again.
He comes out purring, tiny tail up,
so grateful to be back with
the people he loves.

3.
Two days later my elderly cat wants
to take a longer walk than usual,
so although the dusk is deepening fast
I indulge her. I've already put
the winter siding on the coop,
and put away my tools.
So we stroll together down a wooded bank,
then up the darkened lane beneath
dimly looming trees.
Somewhere, Hispanic children are being
taunted by their classmates. Someone
is scrawling "TRUMP" across a college's
Islamic prayer room door. A black woman
is told she will be raped and sent back
to Africa. Someone signing to a deaf
friend on FaceTime is told they are
retarded, not wanted in this country
anymore.
The leaves rustle and crunch under
my sneakers, her pads. We stop
for a moment at the intersection,
just listening to the darkness.
Then we double back up the
driveway, heading for the
distant lights of home.

Forgiveness
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
There is something in the way
her head descends out of the darkness
to rest on my shoulder
after an evening full of the wrong words
and misunderstood silences
that feels like a restoration of the world,
like the rain falling steadily outside
that is bringing the dark and secret places
of the forest back to life.

Love/sick
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
How is it that I recognize this stirring
inside, when it's been gone from my life
for so many years? A flutter, like the
briefest of zephyrs stirring a curtain
in my soul. Did I only imagine it?
Is it real? Do I want it to be?
How could it be, after all this time?
The rational voice tells me I should
play it safe, of course. Not to get too
excited about what might just be
my imagination. So I stand up,
but in only a few steps I know,
know for certain the
way the heart knows
true love the way
the ear knows up
from down I know
and I rush madly
madly to the john
to bring up every
thing I've ever
held inside.

The Gift
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton


Cassie was just fine with the rain. There had been some thunder earlier as well, and that had been even better. Boom! Yes, that was the stuff. She wished she could make it thunder like that whenever she wanted. She'd see what Penny said then, oh yes.

Grumpy fairy, and how she got that way...Collapse )

The Brambles
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
"Grief is love's souvenir.
It is our proof that we once loved."
--Glennon Doyle Melton

You remember that time she got out?
she asks. Of course I do. My brother
was supposed to be taking care of our
cats while we were away for a few days
but we came home, early in January,
well after dark, to learn that somehow
the younger cat had gotten out.

The ground was already covered
in a hard crust of snow and we were
instantly petrified. She never went
outside. She wouldn't know how to
survive, she might get confused and
not know where to come to be saved.

We rushed out into the darkness,
calling, hoping, desperate. We
could not bear the thought of
losing this sweet, affectionate
kitten who had found her way into
our hearts and never grew up.
We could not bear to think of her
afraid, or in pain.

But then, there came an answer.
An anxious mewing, up the hill.
And off my wife charged, straight
through the raspberry thicket to
where the frightened little cat
crouched, shivering, crying out
for rescue.

Tonight it is we who shudder; we
who wonder where home is now.
I would run through any amount
of brambles to have her back,

she says, remembering.
I didn't even feel them.

But we were always running
through the brambles.
We just never felt them
until now. The love we
gave and got has left us
scarred, a crosshatching
on our lives, every laceration
a treasure.

Church Greeter
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
She leans in, conspiratorial. “It’s the Alzheimer’s,
you know,” she says. “It’s total crud.”
Then she brushes my cheek with her hand.
“I don’t remember your name, but I like your smile.”

Her own smile dazzles, her face crinkling into familiar,
well-used lines. “I’m Tim,” I say. “It’s good to see you.”
Suddenly she reaches up and sticks her index finger
into her mouth, pulling against the inside of her cheek

until it pops out, with the sound of a cork coming free.
I grin, and like a good primate, mimic it back to her.
She laughs. “You’re good!” she declares. I give her
a bulletin. She goes off after someone she needs to hug.

She’s a poet; was a poet, still a poet. Her poems
these days are about simple things: the sun on leaves,
the sky after the rain. They do not depend on metaphors
or subtlety; they are direct. They say how beautiful it all is.

After the service, on the porch outside, she considers
my feet. I’m wearing sandals. “Good job,” she comments.
“They’re clean.” “My toes?” She nods: yes. Then I see
her hand going up, and I anticipate her. Two corks
sound out of their bottles, simultaneous.

Visiting Aunt Gwen
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
We were having tea when something I mistook for a grayish-green pit bull blundered into the kitchen. Then I nearly overturned the cream in my double-take.

"Goodness, Gwennie, when on earth did you get a pet with two heads?"

She chuckled and broke off a bit of her pecan scone, holding it permissively below the level of her rocker's seat. The heads extended suddenly, and now I could see the necks were long, like a turtle's when stretching fully out of its shell.

"It's a baby hydra, dear," my aunt explained.

Both heads sensed the offered scone, and it trundled over like a small bear. But one head was quicker, obliging Gwen to to break off a second bit of scone for the other. She stroked it as both heads explored the floor for crumbs.

"It often seems a little confused," she admitted, "but it's actually still relatively focused, and the training's been going just fine. It's important to do a good job of that early, you know, before it grows more heads -- you can see a third budding already, between the first two. Just there... see?"

The Hemlocks
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
for kaph

I was thinking about our ramble yesterday, when we went all the way to the bottom
of the field and over the old wire sheep fence, where the great ash log had fallen
and bent it into a flattened V, and into the hemlock woods beyond where we'd
never gone. The ground was lumpy and hummocked there, between the dark trees
and the vividly mossed stumps, interspersed with spots of marshy black humus.
We agreed at once that while it had clearly been logged, long before, it was
surely never used as pasture -- it would have been trampled and eroded smooth
in no time. Probably, in the 1800s' farming boom, this had been a woodlot
for whichever farm had owned it. In any case, we followed the stream that
manifested out of the needle-carpeted earth, marveling at every tiny wonder: how
this feathery moss looked like minuscule ferns; how the roots of that yellow birch
held the stream bank together against the spring floods; how a skunk most likely,
or a bear, had scuffed the ground here, and here, and here in search of grubs.
We came at last to the creek the stream fed into, and searched until we found stones
to use for crossing without taking off our shoes and wading. Then we climbed up
the far slope, emerging from that dim, moist kingdom into a dry and sunny hillside,
crunchy with fallen beech leaves, the countless young saplings having finally shed
last year's fashions as they started to bud. We knew roughly where we were now,
and soon we found a trail you knew, that led us home by increasingly familiar steps.
But I'm still thinking about that shaded hemlock wood, its ground humped up with
secrets, and that despite how close by it was we'd never set foot in that part of it
before. Maybe no one had, for years upon years, not since the last time it was
logged, long before either of us were born. Such a small place, if you looked
at it on a map, trivial really, but still somehow vast and unknown, a no man's land,
a trackless jungle. I was marveling that such wild places still existed all around us,
where so many small lives transpire unremarked, where tree roots unfurl slowly,
slowly into the earth. How we could go back today and have a completely new
adventure. I suppose it's what they mean, in that whimsical cliche of fantasy,
when something's larger on the inside. It's how I'd like my heart to be; and
sometimes, when I'm with you in the woods, it feels like all I'd ever need.

Baking Bread
Andromeda Galaxy
bruorton
The cornmeal swirled out on the baking stone
begins to take on the appearance of a galaxy,
spiraling out its countless yellow grains.

The universe, they say, is expanding; leavened
perhaps with a particle yet undiscovered.
So why have I carried this doughy lump

of a heart so many times around the sun
simply waiting for it to rise on its own
and turn into the life that I wanted?
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