The poems below were shared by EPIC writers Gerald Bigelow, Kristina Stapleton and James Backstrom
at the recent Friends of the Library meeting
at the recent Friends of the Library meeting
Remembering My Grandfather
As time passes,
the silent snowfall,
branching from trees to roof top eves,
gathering in spaces,
time tied to memories,
memories to time,
the bristles of my artist brush,
stiff, wiry, like my Grandpa’s beard,
paint memories of times past,
Grandpa, I can no longer touch you,
I can only touch the things that you touched,
hold the things that you held,
I still have your pocket watch,
a gold 21 jewel Bulova,
silent like your voice,
stored, deep, in the recesses of a top dresser drawer,
daily, I give 22 precise turns on the crown,
setting in motion,
an awakening- anticipated,
a slumber- broken,
the breath of each movement,
a gift- celebrated,
the coming of memories,
synced with time,
ticking without notice,
the heartbeat of time,
the memory of your voice,
fading, deep into the silent snowfall.
- Gerald M. Bigelow
Warmth is not just a crackling fire,
alive with wafting fragrant cedar aromas
it is more than a puppy snuggle,
on a cold winter’s night
warmth is an emotional statement of comfort!
for some of us,
The Blues, not always warm,
when Nina Simone sings,
“I’m gonna to put a spell on you”
You are warmed by, an emotion,
whose depth turns the soil of your soul
when Ray Charles sings,
darkness becomes light
the warmth of the Blues cuddles the soul,
diminishing the ingrained pains of generations
The Blues of being Black
is not merely the reality of being Black,
it is the constant,
that you are Black!
The Blues is a mystical meditation,
not broken by separation,
the pain of the lash,
nor the threat of night riders,
The Blues is the blanket,
that covers the unspoken sins of society,
warmth is comfort!
try living a life,
never being comfortable,
eyes always on you,
constantly feeling like,
a lost lamb in a pack of wolves.
- Gerald M. Bigelow
BREAKUP AT THE CECIL HOTEL
It is an expanding universe
where the intimacy that sparked
whole writhing families of blame,
shame, and unconditional love
relax out into distance and calm memory
regretfully enjoyed at leisure
while reclining on this king size bed
as we sail apart from Egypt into forever.
The breeze-blown chandeliers stir up,
rocking high in the 12-foot ceilings
of this hotel in Alexandria
with their crystal bells quivering
and chiming in the dusk,
each bell a star twirled in a new universe.
Laying under that music
we join a cosmic evening of motes
floating in circles as mysterious
as the swirl around the sinking head
of a crocodile in the night time Nile
who left a spiral of stars on the surface
where his eyes had stared hard.
The was of being turns into the now of dust
Stardust. Once again
All tinkling with the cut glass
sounds of the celeste
and the ring expands out
from the place where we plunged
into that ringing universe
with a shoreless wave goodbye.
The dizziness in the busy store
Where the colors swim
And the numb mind struggles
When the checker asks “Did you?
Did you find everything?”
The cart is heaped, but really
Did you find it all, down
To the last thing you need?
Like the head cold aching in the temple
Of your frontal lobed brain
It is the thing lasting longer
Than you needed it.
Achingly slowed down – how
How how can you respond?
I needed the sun, a beach chair,
A pretty drink with an umbrella,
I needed a rich and patient lover,
A warmer coat, a brighter future,
I couldn’t find them anywhere.
I hear myself saying “Antihistamine”
And the stock boy runs for it.
~ Kristina Stapleton
Outside the air is alive with gnats
and green-backed flies, bumblebees and
hornets, honey bees and wasps that dance around
dying mud puddles where larvae twitch
and pollywogs waggle in the shallows
Sword and bracken fern, trillium
and falling purple stars of bittersweet
night shade tangle in a greenbelt.
An inchworm humps up a leaf
beneath a watchful robin whose twitter and flutter
prolongs the morphined timelessness
of patients dying in the hospice.
Nurses move among them like apparitions
speaking tenderly while adjusting IVs
and the relative agony of coming to terms.
Outside a hummingbird needles fuchsia
blooms that swoon over the balcony.
You asked me to bring your Peterson Guide
to give a name to the singing green wings.
It sits unopened on your night stand.
Now you dream of the rednecked country
of your youth,
of a swollen trout stream in Western Montana.
In your moments of near lucidity.
you tell me how rainbow slide in the rush
And hold themselves
in equilibrium with the current,
how you might slip behind a big stone yourself
into an eddy of time, drinking the sweet
waters, emerging in the smoke
of dawn when all of this is done,
To become translucent in the warming sun,
crossing a yellow field like a rippling breeze.
The Pygmy Owl
I never met Athena, but I knew Bonnie Threlkheld,
the smartest kid in the 5th Grade, reading Tolkein at ten
and multiplying fractions in her head.
Once I found a small owl dead on the side of the road
stiffened in rigor mortis, all feathers and perfect eyes.
She must have flown into a rushing car
Her death the sum of the blunt force of her hunting desire
and draw of the bright beam of the headlight
of some weary traveler trying to illuminate
the next sharp corner on Grimm’s Hill Road on a moonless night.
I nestled her in tissue and moss in a shoebox.
With my mother’s gardening trowel
I hollowed a tomb from the red mulch
of a big cedar stump crowned in huckleberry.
I knew little of the funerary arts or ceremony--
only what I gleaned from my Illustrated Children’s Bible
my reward for a nearly perfect recitation of the Lord’s prayer
in Sunday School at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.
I added a third “forever” which made Pastor Erickson smile.
I dug out a white granite stone from the creek bed
as heavy as a medicine ball.
It took two hands to lift it into place
and seal away the tomb for eternity.
By fifth grade, we all knew of the wisdom of owls.
I was the second to last boy standing
in the Spelling Bee that Bonnie won.
I had a big vocabulary even if I couldn’t spell
every word in Webster's Dictionary.
Still, I congratulated her when she proclaimed
letter by letter, b-d-e-l-l-i-u-m, bdellium, a resin used in perfumes.
Who else knew of silent “Bs,” double “Ls,” and an “I” pronounced like a “long E?”
I’d read about Athena and her jealousy.
Bonnie, though, seemed sweet and naïve.
Her hand, warm and soft when I shook it.
She might have heard about curiosity and cats,
She might have been friends with Hobbits,
but I knew about owls and beacons of pure light.
- James Backstrom
Working from Home
Looking out my window into the greenbelt
I am taking inventory of the various
shades of leaves as they open, yawning in a wet spring.
The willow first, then the red alder
and bigleaf maple after a showy display.
Not to be outdone, the bitter cherry, in a white bouquet like a jilted bride,
and the red elderberry with creamy cones of inflorescence
now wilt above waves of Himalayan blackberry
whose invasion is stalled only
by an old wooden fence in need of repair.
I can’t see it from here, but a misguided hazelnut grows
maybe 200 feet to the south.
Its twisted branches chart rising uncertainty in the markets.
I take my coffee outside and catch up on the office gossip
with the incessant chickadees and a song sparrow who almost majored
in music but settled on business.
Deeper in the woods where the ground stays marshy into August,
domineering spruce and a shaggy red cedar
dust the windows of the undriven cars along our street.
Near the green pond, black cottonwood await a little heat
to let go clouds of seedy hope.
The recovery is still a little beyond us.
Our morning meeting again focuses on the issue of rabbits.
Acres reserved for native growth and still they nibble in our lawn
in the early mornings and evenings when the light is soft and kind.
“Their anxiety is their safety,” says my beautiful boss,
“They’re twitchy and wary, scampering from shadows.”
I’ve been sleeping with her for years and everyone here knows it.
On Saturday, I think--the days blur together--
I heard two young eagles whistle before I saw them
playing in the sky above, wings in soaring arcs.
The rabbits no doubt burrowed away in nuzzling safety.
Even the handsome coyote I sometimes see
with a tail nearly as bushy as a fox
looks more hungry than cunning.
Someone’s called in a specialist,
a feral calico, lovely and murderous,
here to cull the redundant,
to make the necessary optimization.
She suns on a three-man rock in the afternoon.
What’s her per diem?
I’ve watched her go mousing
in the groundcover, or take a songbird
mid chorus, leaping like sudden tragedy
into the purple lilac I planted some years ago
for the boss’ birthday.
Now the calico’s taken the initiative on the rabbit situation.
I watch incredulously as she trots towards a hole in the fence
with a bunny nearly her size, carrying it away like a naughty kitten.
Lori, across the street, feeds the feral one with her own cats,
but still the calico stalks, caching what she cannot eat,
domesticated to a degree like we are,
but always on the hunt.