Small worlds of blue

circled our cottage door,
each flower cluster a replica
amassing blue in summer when blue
greeted me everywhere.

Cresting sand dunes, wind whipping
my towel into leggings, I saw
a blue line so stretched out
it had to curve to stay on earth.

Tugged skyward by the taut, unreeling string, I followed
my box kite as it rose, swooped into blue, and when it fell,
I flung it again into the morning wind. Bayside
by afternoon, balanced on snail-coated rocks,

I netted blue-shell crabs, held them
at arms length as Father had taught me,
and, on my way home, listened to their claws scratching
against the inside of my pail.

Evenings, on the screened porch reading by a lamp
set on a table with wobbly legs, I sat side by side
with Nancy Drew. In her blue roadster, we were two
independent girls, driving into the curve of mystery.

After bedtime prayers, I remember distant trains
whistling, always whistling on a straight line
to somewhere curved, somewhere
beyond our cottage, and the blue hydrangeas.

Summer outside this window

For Mary Junge

The drone of a lawn mower
below this window,
the intermittent hiss
of a sprinkler putting out
the burn of marigolds
in the backyard
makes me wonder
if it is you, Father,
pushing that same old machine.
You who tended the flowers,
bending over their bright
beds when I was just a child.

Here all the children have jumped
off the dock into their last
summer at home. The baby’s
awakened from its nap,
grown up and dashed
into the garden’s full light.

Under this window,
the mower passes by again
cutting away
at summer.

Weekend Weather

For Wills Henry Larson

My grandson is six.
The maple leaves, mint green.
Last night we watered forgotten
flowers, noticed their colors
had turned sad. A wasp at the edge
of the porch worked its way
across its own life.

My grandson laughs and says,
Last night after I went to sleep,
I got up and opened my door.
I told him it was a strange,
rainy night for sure.

And a steady downpour this morning.
Eating waffles with maple syrup
we watch rain splash on the deck.
It will save the flowers we missed,
too profuse for us to reach last night.

His mother and father gone
for the weekend. The pines
and maples are entwine in the yard.
For him, at his age, the two of us together
is as natural as the trees.

I Have a Plate Full of Rocks I Keep on my Coffee Table

Madeline Island, Lake Superior, Wisconsin

In memory of Molly, Peggy Schwarz’s dog

Yesterday, Stockton Island,
Michigan Island, the Porcupines—
all quilted with fog.
This morning they are visible, but remote,
purple behind the watercolors
of Superior’s blue. I wander

the beach with Molly,
whose golden fur ripples in all directions.
I move more slowly, searching
through layers of sand for agates
and other chalcedony.

She stops and turns to see if I am following.
She always wants more time
to weave in and out of coves,
stir the driftwood,
nuzzle her nose in and out
of small caves, bark
at gulls tilting overhead.

I give her that, I’m gathering
rubies striated with pearl,
dark green jade, swirled
clusters of amber, even though
I know the brilliance of rocks
will fade as dreams do
after they are lifted
from the rivers of sleep. I pocket

the ones richest in color. I stop
my search for early morning
jewelry and begin to jog
into the dog’s bright day, picking up
the pace, trying to catch up,
as she fades further from me,
lapping up the fresh morning.

You don’t have to

go to the State Fair
to be a loyal Minnesotan,
but if you do go
You don’t have to run the gauntlet
of cotton candy vendors, get snarled
like a cat in it’s sticky yarn;
You don’t have to deny your acrophobia
and try out all the machines that are geared
to drive you up beyond a sense of return;
You don’t have to mourn a childhood
that didn’t give you the responsibility
for raising a sheep, a hog or a heifer;
You don’t have to take summer houseguests
along to show off our native crafts or contemplate
all those tiny stitches sewn into quilts;
And you certainly can skirt the fowl barn,
not cluck at chickens who are the genetic pride
of some rather odd feathery folks.
Nor do you need to rush, dodge, or fight
the crowds or take small children along, no matter
how much they plead with you to do so.
But if you go, slow down,
observe what’s going on, the multitude of people.
And look, there’s a cloud of common grackles.
Have you ever noticed anything beyond their noise?
Seen how their shiny coats refract the light
and how lovely their feathers of purple and bronze?
Now relax with long pieces of observation
cooled by the breeze off the Tilt-a-Whirl,
and take colorful flight into the afternoon.

Late September Meeting

For LP

Through a shamble of trees,
I climb the hill to meet you. Leaf-light
falls into the open weave of pines

strewn on the forest floor where seedlings
sprout and the ground breathes.
Dark spruce trees line the path. Branches,

in the wind’s way, scrape while sparrows shout
and jays speak and a squirrel calls
a warning. Then silence. I hear

ripe berries drop, and you are here—so full
of rocky contour—so full of taste—
but only for a season.

We have eaten before at some other table.
Only the sound of our eagerness,
can be heard. Soon we will depart.

The forest will start up again,
continue its own conversation.

Leaves in Fall

Cedar Lake, Minneapolis, Minnesota

On days like this my mother reclined
in the front yard of our house on Victor,
comfortable in her canvas chair,
supervising my dad as he stoked his fire,
and swept the riotous leaves
into the pyre as higher and higher
the fiery remains danced into the sky.

On this fall day I sit by a cloud-filled lake
among crowds of cattails and ducks.
Bog berries brighten among the sweet decay of leaves.
The shriveled hands of oaks hold to themselves.
They don’t help me arrange my words
as I try to ignite the flames of bygone falls
to stir their ashes for these pages.