Foxcross Farm

When I think of the farm
it’s the stone bridge and country
road curving by the low barn.
It’s Tony’s tomatoes, white peacocks.

When I think of the farm, I see pine
trees, green pastures, the
bramble roses by the creek
sheep standing in the field.

When I think of the farm
I watch women spinning wool
the whir of wheels descant to
soft voices and gentle laughter.

When I think of the farm, I see
Airedales, Romney sheep,
a rabbit and Rhode Island Reds,
a well-fed Peaceable Kingdom.

I do not think of the ground
we walked last night when
one of their flock went missing
fearing death had stalked a lamb.

When I think of the farm
I don’t see Anthony striding the fields
Julie peering into corner and cranny
in tense, sweaty anxiety.

Death’s but a hair’s breadth
away each day. It makes
sweet our brief walk through time
I don’t think of that.

WHAT CATS KNOW

The neighbor’s Siamese
all smoke, beige fur, padded feet
appears in the abandoned yard
next door to torment my puppy.
She cleans herself and watches.
How does she know not to wander
into the busy street out front
or Interstate behind
to be flattened by van or semi?

What makes her sit instead
and groom, blue-eyed Charybdis,
amid weed-shrouded lilacs
while vehicles vahroom past and
exhaust wafts through the air
stained with scent of fries and
big Macs from across town?

Dogs know none of this.

CROWS


Black forms
fly north-by-northeast
over the transparent moon.
First one, a few
then a broken ribbon
crosses the sky
as the crows fly home
to roost.
 
Audubon does not say
nor maps reveal
which nook hides
so many Corvids.
They sway and weave  
heading coastward
over lagoons and draw bridges
rivers and roads.
 
I’ve wanted to befriend
a crow for years
although I know
taming wild things
is not an act of grace.
But the presence of wildness
is soul mending
irreplaceable.
 
 

BEACH

Glasses on an open book
    its pages ruffled by the wind.
Spring air (as winter melts away)
    against a naked patch of skin.

The warmth of sunlight on my back.
    The sight of seagulls as they fly.
The scent of sand beneath a towel.
    The curl of waves under the arc of sky.

Salt water when it’s clear and cool.
    Toweling hair after a swim.
 The beauty of the beach when fall is near.
    How skin when drying, gathers itself in.

These images and more return to me
    when salt and sand and sea’s nearby.
Sweet days lived long before I knew
    how life like summertime could fly.


LIKE ME

Like me.
That’s the drug – a draft of this nectar
can own me into the next life for an accolade
you barely recall.

Like me.
Quiet my fears with the smile and nod
I awaited endlessly at war zone dinner tables, parentless
performances and lonely surgeries.

Like me
and it’s ok not to have been born a son,
to be funny, a tree climber and never a prom queen
to get migraines.

Like me
and I could weep, run,
dance, spread my arms to this fast warming world
in joy, terror and love.

FIDDLEHEADS

Each May I walked the ground along Bull Run
seeking fiddleheads.
Returning home with my bag of ferns,
I’d blow the papery layer off,
then steam them. Their perfume filled the house
with a scent I dream of still.
I’d arrange the stems and
whorled tops on a painted plate
and drizzle them with hollandaise.
Sitting on the porch with fiddleheads and wine,
I’d watch the sun set and
celebrate surviving another Vermont winter.
The feast made it impossible to believe
the world less than
perfect.

Each May I return to that riverside
to walk and pick and steam again
those green ferns in my mind
savor days feasting on found food
before wine and wanting tangled life.

It was a small New England town
I taught English to farm kids.
Summers I sold crafts to tourists from a one-room school
with Gretchen Crookshank, 80, all gossip, elegance
and jangling bracelets and the nervous
mother-son pair from Center Street, whose handmade
hats looked machine-made.
I studied knitting with a Norwegian neighbor and
spinning at the Hoffman’s farm.
Barbara, the bus driver, struggled to get her rabbits
to mate – tales of candlelight and music in the barn
defied myths of rabbit reproduction.
I made spending money as a night librarian.
I had kind friends.
My husband loved me.

Each May I return to that riverside
to select ferns
and steam them once again
to think on the turns
that took me far from fiddleheads
and the small town that held them.

A town I left to wander
from school to ski resort to Fortune 500 corporation –
another marriage and a family
South to Jersey then further still to
Carolina mountains where high along the Blue Ridge
we built a home with our own hands
board by slow board – designing as we went our nest
which, when it fell, almost toppled me as well.
But I had a son to raise and
clothes that needed washing
dinners to cook, a dog to walk
I learned that women hold the world together.
I moved back to the rumble of Interstates and 18 wheelers
where a red-tailed hawk glimpsed early
could hold me the entire day.

Each May I look northward
dream of fiddleheads
along Bull Run
remember pale iris in the yard,
where nightly trains
run whistling by.

Cynthia M. Sheward