Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wet Winter

Winter in the Midwest is a quakingly cold, arctic affair. The snow piles up in huge, tar-black mounds in the streets and parking lots, and the daily low temperature readings are rendered entirely void by harsh and constant windchill. For all its severity, however, those winters are easy to bear. Firstly, there are no fluctuations. When winter comes, it is to stay, and for six months, the land is locked in comfortable hibernation. When things finally do begin to warm towards that fabled 0° C mark, it is not uncommon to see the braver residents wandering around in shorts and tee-shirts. Secondly, and more importantly, it is not, in the end, utter cold that makes winter uncomfortable, but, rather, the pervading damp of a temperate chill. When the water settles on your skin and coats your car with ice and works its way into every crack and crevice, where it can quietly wick away all heat, that is when winter is truly painful. For all that, though, it is still a stunningly beautiful time of year.

Wet Winter

It isn't the chill or the chafe of the air
on a frigid and blustery day
or the ice as it glazes and kindles a glare
every morning that keeps me at bay;

I can suffer the frost through the swirling snow
and the nip and the grippe and the squall,
for the roar of the winter, all buffet and blow,
is an impotent rallying call.

No, the heart of the hardship, the bestial hold,
is that treacherous creep of the damp;
it invests every breath with a waterlogged cold,
every move with a crippling clamp,

as it burrows through fleece to the flesh and the bone,
not a nerve to be spurned in its spite.
I could weather the winter if left all alone,
but the damp will endure tonight.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


The time for uprooting old foundations is fast approaching. Of the things that must go, I will miss the juniper and wisteria most of all. They've done well for themselves, and it's a terrible pity to see their slow and steady progress so swiftly concluded. What must be, must be, I suppose, but I dream of the day I can establish a plant and watch it grow for decades to come.


Our barrel tree has barely made a man
in height; his roots have labored for the earth
forlornly, hindered by an iron girth
and sentenced, just as soon as they began

descending, to terminated lot.
We'll turn him out, all sod and sorry dirt
and limbs askew. The effort we exert
to extricate his skeleton is not

inordinate for what it took to bed
his youthfulness so many years ago;
so many years of sun and bitter snow,
and, through it all, he kept a noble head.

But now, we move our transitory home;
no rooted tree was ever meant to roam.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Working Morning

As Autumn and Winter progress, it grows more and more difficult to get up each morning. Hot showers help, when there is time, but even that shivered dash from the bedroom to the bathroom can be a sufficient impediment to activity. We should count ourselves lucky that Oregon is so temperate when compared to the Northeast, but suffering is subjective and, from November till April, Summer can seem an all-too-forlorn hope.

Working Morning

A brisk wind blows
and blights the trees
above an icy sheen.
It burns the nose
and bends the knees
and wipes the gutters clean,

as weary folk
with heavy eyes
would rather stay asleep,
when each awoke
to inky skies,
so hesitant to peek

from underneath
a cozy hoard
of blankets rallied round,
a heavy wreath
of leisure stored
within a woolen mound.

But constant calls
of duty rouse
the lifeless to a hint
of drafty halls;
each dusky house
grows vital with a glint

of lambent light
and covers drawn
and coffee in the cup,
and so the night
is quit for dawn
and labor, rising up.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Human Faith

Human beings are inconstant, mercurial creatures. This is the crux of almost every broken relationship and failed love. How can we trust, when the ones to be trusted are inevitably untrustworthy? To be called to love, however, is to be called to trust the untrustworthy. It is a terrible gamble, but the surety of it is this: though the risk of failure is great, the reward of success is infinitely greater and, while we may escape the possibility of misery, it can only be at the cost of every hope of appreciable happiness. So, a million might fail and one succeed, but this is the burden of human life, and a world in which even one can strive for happiness is far better than a world in which all are condemned to indifference. We love, and so we put our faith in others, and this is the blessing and curse of our existence. Only remember, the suffering of a broken faith is transient, but the happiness of a proven faith eternal. Search always for a worthy human faith, no matter how often your confidences are abused. Accede to no less and, while you may endure much suffering, you will find, in the end, extraordinary happiness.

Human Faith

My faith I put in winter and the frost,
in summer and the rampant meadow-grass,
in things begotten, even as they pass,
and so my merriment imparts a cost

of mortal and perennial decline;
this is a mild charge I gladly meet,
for treasure freely tendered is deceit,
but death and reawakening, divine.

My faith in sempiternal loss and gain
is sound; these underpinnings shall abide
through age and age, long after we have died,
and, with another certainty, remain,

for, of the fleeting fancies I pursue,
I put my final human faith in you.