“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” — Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Art of Doing Nothing (or how the little dog died)

Oh, my. How long it's been. What can be discovered in the predawn hours and must be shared,  shared when others sleep but you can't.

One Christmas, a while back, we had to put our dog to sleep. I wasn’t going to write about it but then I thought about how she liked to sleep curled up beside my chair with her nose on the heat register, content to be doing nothing, which brought to mind a book my son gave me one Christmas called The Art of Doing Nothing which made me remember a poem I wrote when she was a puppy . . . and so it goes.
Sunny was twelve but spry until the week after Christmas when her belly suddenly bloated and overnight she could barely walk. It seemed her legs would no longer support her stomach. We thought she was constipated and the vet said to give her pumpkin and if she wasn’t better in a few days to call back. We gave her pumpkin. She ate it; she would eat anything. 

But Sunny didn’t get better. She could manage the porch steps down, but when she finished her business she couldn’t climb back up. She just stood there looking up with her mournful little shih tzu eyes.  So there we were, carrying her inside and out, up and down, like a puppy. My laptop sits on a table beside the heat register and it was always her favorite place, but she wouldn’t leave her bed. I put part of a fried egg in her dish. She ignored it.  

The next morning, she lost control of her bladder, legs splayed in a widening pool of discolored urine. I looked down at her in horror. My husband took her to the vet. The prognosis? Possible kidney failure or a tumor or any number of other age-related ailments. The cost? $120.00 for a diagnostic blood test and $80.00 for an X-ray, and this just to find out what was wrong. Surgery, recovery . . . who knows? The vet said she could still die in six months.  Our other option was $58.00 for euthanasia and $120.00 for cremation if we wanted the ashes. If not, they would “group” cremate her for $50.00. 

  “My God!” my daughter said. “That would be like Auschwitz!” The kids didn’t want her cremated. They want her buried on the farm with a cross above her grave.  

My husband carried her home in a bag while I was at work. The problem? The ground is frozen. This dilemma makes me think of the burial-delayed funerals in the U.P. They have a no-shovel season from November 15th to March 1st. Digging into the ground would be like trying to penetrate 8 inches of concrete. Most cemeteries have thinly-walled buildings that rely on Mother Nature not refrigeration to keep the corpses cool. The caskets are tagged and slid into racks in the storage facility until the spring ceremony, which is no different than a regular burial. They’re used to this up there. There’s a large Finnish-American population in the U.P. Back in the old country, bodies were stored  in the church’s bell tower until they could be buried. 

We don’t have a bell tower but we have mounds of rich, organic compost.  So as of now she’s nestled under a mound of compost, and next summer she’ll be spread over the farm. Is that so bad?  Do the kids know this? No. They want her buried with her blanket and her stuffed animal with a cross over her head, or a marker on which would be inscribed: Here lies Sunny, a good dog.  She never peed on the floor until the day she died. She liked carrots and lettuce, eggs and pumpkin. She liked people.
And this is the poem that is about more than a dog but you know how one thing reminds you of another and then another because everything is connected.

The mercury outside my window
is covered with ice
and frost breached the inside of the glass.
I scrape it off with my nail—
it falls into the sink.

The furnace drones without pause
and my summersick dog lies on the register.
A draft runs through the house.
It sets chimes ringing and makes her nervous.

I inventory things not to do.
It’s in a book—The Art of Doing Nothing.
Meditate and you can see things that aren’t there—
brandied cakes and a bottle of wine
set out on the sideboard as if for a friend.

I look behind doors and pause at the stairs
come full circle to see myself sitting there—
in a winged-back chair, out of window’s view,
back to the wall, like a shell-shocked soldier.
Night blankets the house in a mantilla of doubt
but only cold comes in from under the door.

Connected with and inspired by poetry friends at: The Imaginary Garden with Real Toads for the Tuesday Platform. Add a poem of your choosing for feedback if you are a poet and a writer.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don't Say It's Not Blue

Tracks in the snow around the headstone
lit by the moon in their going somewhere—
sparrow, hedgehog, booted foot—
lit by the moon determined and blue
and there! a wreath dropped fragrant and green
blanketed by snow and lit by the moon.

For Poets United  midweek motif with focus on the moon

Monday, January 8, 2018

Monday Haiku

Feed me, mother said,
mouth open like a baby bird,
bread crumbs on the bed.
Spent shells fall to ground,
Redtail hawk drops from the sky,
Child runs and hides. 

Smeared blood, tearful face
The little bird wouldn’t die
Only a sparrow.

Linked to the poetry at the Imaginary Garden at http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Under Our Feet

The furnace groans under our feet
and candle flames dance on a draft
as lights fastened to garland strung around the porch
swing in the wind, moving slow.

We're moving slow,
finding a foothold where once
one was,
shifting under our feet,
like sand at the beach,
shifting under our feet,
moving slow.

Dawn's first light streaks above the barn down the road,
the shed and the granary take shape down the road,
close but further than once they stood.
The ghost of a swing sways from a tree
no longer there.
The faithful dawn cares not for a changing landscape
nor human inability to let go.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


The wind waters my eyes as I carry a 5-gallon bucket of water from the hydrant to the molting chickens. I plug in a heat lamp at the back of the coop so the eggs don't freeze.They aren't laying as they should but still need to be tended, fed, bedded and watered. The temperature is dropping and chickens can't be without water, even when they're molting.

Snowflakes drift down from the overhung sky. The wind rises. I set the basket of eggs on a board in front of the bins where we store feed and containers at night so they don't draw rats-a measly four eggs from a flock of fifty- open the lids and eye the feed I have left for the week. Yesterday, I pulled dead pepper plants and some mustard and fennel gone to seed out of the hoophouse and threw it into these hungry chickens. Today, it was a jar of dill pickles that failed to pickle and a delicata squash with a soft spot. They like squash. The pickles lie untouched, along with the sprig of dill and the clove of garlic. Finicky.

I step off the board and it seesaws, tipping the basket over. The eggs roll out and one breaks on the hard ground. I scoop it up and put it in the cat's dish He eats good too.  Who says farming is hard?

Friday, December 1, 2017

The multi-cultural beach

Woman in hijab in line at the bath,
child clings to her hand with wondering eyes.
I wonder what they think of us-
bathing suits and messy hair,
bare legs and fleshy thighs.
I wonder what they think of us.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Day The House Came Down

I hung a hummingbird feeder outside my window
The horizon is empty where a house once stood—
shingles crushed, glass shattered, beams broken.
I hung a hummingbird feeder outside my window.
The dump trucks are gone and the excavator is stilled.
The demolition work is done—that which withstood
tornadoes, storms, and depression fell in eight hours.
I hung a hummingbird feeder outside my window.