Leaves: A Tritina

This poem was written to fit a form called a tritina. It’s kind of like a sestina, only different. Here’s an overview if you’re interested. Hopefully you will be–give it a try!

Leaves

My boots shuffle slowly through the leaves
The leaves that cover the winding trail
Breaking the forest’s hush, its stillness, its quiet

But that’s why I’m here—for the quiet
So I step more softly now, through the leaves
The leaves that cover the winding trail

Were it not for the trail
My heart would not know quiet
So I’m thankful for those fallen leaves

The leaves that cover the winding trail and the quiet in my heart

Casting a Ballot

It’s late afternoon 
seasonably warm in the middle of October
in the year two thousand twenty 

The line to vote 
stretches from the shade of the north side of the courthouse 
into the sun of the west side in my north Alabama county 

We in line have a casual attitude
almost nervous but not quite
as volunteers walk up and down the file 
entreating us for questions about what is a simple process 

A simple process with an import 
that engenders uncertainty
so clarity is appreciated 

We stand
we shuffle
and we stand 

We can wait. We will wait.

Flashlight

Wondering if I closed the gate earlier this evening
I make my way into the back yard
flashlight in hand, and find it open.

Closing it, reassured the fence will keep the dog in 
and the rest of the world out 
I slowly make my way back to the house.

On a whim, I play my beam along the fence line.  
Two rabbits freeze
unaware their eyes are glowing in the light.

Something else scurries through the chainlink 
just as the darkness of its space is broken
and I hear yet another as it moves through the garden.

Once indoors, assured the walls will keep me in 
and the rest of the world out
I close the door behind me.

Friendship

There is, amongst men today
a commonplace superficiality 
celebrated with getting together for a game
or enjoying a few cold ones before heading home.
And it is good, in a commonplace way.

But friendship, real friendship between men
is a rare occurrence.
A shared set of values
common ground deeper than a few inches of topsoil
and the recognition of a kindred spirit

Finding all of those at once is indeed a rarity
and is of lasting value.

Feathers

A feather drops 
and the loss of lift and maneuverability is immediate
What was possible moments ago 
is no longer 

Coming in sheathed
new feathers are just extra weight until they’re ready 
and flight as it was 
is restored  

Sometimes change is sudden


New flight feathers coming in on a male American Kestrel, Falco sparverius.

When a bird grows new feathers, they have a protective sheath that stays in place until the feather is fully formed.

Complexity

I recently planted a swamp milkweed

There is a small garden 
In my front yard, out near the street, and 
That’s where I decided to put it

When I consider what has taken place 
And what is to come
Those biological processes
I find myself in water just a bit over my head

At one time there was a seed 
There was soil, moisture
Sunlight, the right temperature and a 
Miracle that brought the plant to me

Then I brought it to that place 
That small garden in my front yard 
Out near the street
Where I decided to put it

Days have passed and still the plant lives  
Myriad variables falling within a certain range
A range that allows and sustains life
The life of that plant 

That swamp milkweed that lives or dies
Regardless of my decisions
That plant in the small garden 
In my front yard, out near the street

And I did, or “Teaching, August 2020”

Fifth grade, Mrs. Williams’ room
If I can get through this presentation
The rest of the year is easy
And I did

Algebra, ninth grade, fourth quarter
If I can pull off a 90 on the final
I’ll pass the class
And I did

Parris Island with a late September report date
If I can make it through without getting set back
I’ll wear that uniform home for Christmas
And I did

If I can get my little girl’s fever down
The worst is going to be past
If I can get through this last class
College is behind me

If I can —

And I did
I didn’t ever do it alone, but I did

What do we say?
Clear this hurdle
Climb this mountain
See this through

And we will
And we will

Draft, July 2020

Not Just a Moment

I was given a moment, earlier today 
And I’m happy to say I recognized it as such
An instant in time when I spotted a feather 
Lying on the ground by my garden fence 

An owl, sometime during the night, visited my yard
There was a moment when I recognized the feather 
Just as there was one when the feather was lost
Quite possibly a different moment saw the taking of prey in the dark 

We’re given moments, and sometimes they are given us
They’re not seconds, mere divisions of a day
Nor are they heartbeats, each one cherished but passing without remark
The life-giving product of a miraculous electrical impulse

We’re given many moments each day
Most of them inconsequential, but some of them not

The morning sun reflecting off sprinkler-wet stepping stones
A moment when I see my daughters looking out from a picture frame
One when I find my dog wanting to play
Another sees me finding a note from my wife, giving her love

A moment when my eyes fall on a flower in an unexpected place
A moment when the sun is just seconds away from disappearing 
behind the tree line to the west
A moment when sleep takes us, and there are no more