The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Martin Dickinson


            for Laurie
We drove in my red Volkswagen
out the fish hatchery road to the "u-pick" orchard
that Friday when school let out. There we saw
patches of sky through branches heavy
with Golden Delicious and rose-colored Cortlands
and the grass filled with the fallen beauties.
Grabbing them, we bit into their crunchy skins.
Juice dripping from your lips, you asked
a seven-year-old's question: "is it stealing
to eat so many before we pay?"
I looked at the streaked Stayman I'd bitten,
my mouth full of  its sweetness,
and answered: "No, the cost gets figured in."
Driving home, bushels of the fruit crowded
our back seat. We drifted in the aroma
of apples, my hands on the wheel still sticky
with juice. It's a beautiful world, you know.
Sometimes you take beauty just as you find it
and total up the price later, or not at all.
Remember? I made a wrong turn, so
we wove our way among browned fields
where blue silos stood like giant thermoses
in the black earth of Wisconsin.  Unloading
our store onto the kitchen table, we felt
set for life, counting them over and over.

            December 27, 1938
You gaze from your cell
to the Vladivostok hills, the empty, December wind
whistling outside.
Again you are in a sledge
packed with straw lurching through Moscow streets
heaving down into black ruts of dirty snow,
or in Leningrad you warm your palms
over a fire before the brightly lit theater listening to the rustle
of the audience hurrying inside for the play,
and staring into the flames you mumble
a prayer for yourself, a prayer for Russia
into the Soviet night,
or again
in Olga's embrace you taste for a final time
her soft, salt lips.
Reverently you begin
to reconstruct, phrase by phrase, your poems
about these things.
The earth is grim, unjust.
As the knock comes at the door you know--
it is your executioner.

Red Jacobville stone of Michigan, rhyolite
of Baraboo, glacially sculpted kettle moraine
granite of Wisconsin, rock of Utah Paradox Basin.
Geologists spent lives chipping at earth's
tough corners, researchers with rock hammers.
Now I lift their work from dark crates to the light,
I, who have spent mere decades on this planet
on my night job working down through eras:
the Jurassic sandstones, the Triassic shales,
the Permian metamorphics, frigid, dark and hard.
My brushings retrace the winds of eons,
my rinsings renew the flow of vanished oceans.
Late one night, noticing sediment in my basin,
I lean forward to press one hand into the muck.
It leaves a palm print.

            For Andy
Taking off into the forest to find
signs of life in the stubble of burnt
Yellowstone hills, we saw pine saplings
growing near tufts of prairie grass.  I asked
you to pretend to be one of those young
lodgepoles, to rise up, hold your arms
to the sky and catch the feeling of being
a new tree after the great fire.
I clicked the shutter--and look:
here you are in a floppy, green tee-shirt,
a ten-year-old kid, reaching to the sky
for the emergence that later came true,
posing in front of those charred trunks
that go on like blackened phone poles
all the way out to the horizon.

Copyright 2006-7 by Cook Communication