Selected Poems by Richard St. Clair

Twenty-Four Gathas of Faith in the Nembutsu

My birth in the Pure Land is assured:  
My karmic roots are severed and starve—  
As I pass into Amida’s Pure Land  
I give thanks for His saving Primal Vow.


Amida Buddha’s Light shines on all,  
But the first priority of His Vow  
Is the offer of everlasting enlightenment  
To all entrenched in blinding passions.


I fulfill Amida’s Name simply  
By saying it singlemindedly,  
Without any calculation—  
Thank you! Namu Amida Butsu!


Believe in the Buddha's true words!  
Nothing is required of us but faith,  
And even that is the Buddha’s gift  
Which we but need receive with joy.


Powerlessness lies in our self power.
True mindfulness is to recognize  
That it is the Light of Amida that saves us.  
True Effort is to realize No-Effort.

Why settle for the Border-Land  
When we can attain the Fulfilled Land?  
Why worry about our last breath  
When we can anticipate fast birth!


Travelling south on the turnpike  
I take the exit and go West:  
A detour? No, a short-cut—  
The Pure Land is just over the hill.


It shines everywhere on all beings,  
Penetrates the densest neutron star:  
Amida’s Compassion knows no limit  
And discriminates against no one.


Not by calculation are we born,  
Not by supplication or fine art:  
Accepting our foolish selves in faith,  
Settled is our Stage of Non-return.


The cool night air and a new season:  
I did not calculate the changes of time,  
I cannot calculate Great Compassion:  
The Nembutsu was made for me — alone.


His perfection is indivisible.  
His compassion is immeasurable.  
Amida’s Vow is inconceivable.  
Amida’s Light penetrates my blindness.


The Buddha of Inconceivable Light  
Whose wisdom shines throughout the ten quarters  
Knows my needs better than I ever can:  
My birth in His Land will astound me.


Dharmakara studied the cosmos  
And found it a sea of suffering;  
He carved out an easier pathway –  
No effort, just faith – to Nirvana.


The very size of the Pure Land  
Is greater than can be imagined.  
How much greater are its adornments—  
Greater still the glory of Amida.


There is no depth that is out of reach  
For the hand of Amida Buddha;  
The Light of his Compassion floods out,  
Rushing through the deep of my dark mind.


My eyes opened by the Light of Amida,  
I see things differently than before;  
My inner eye is opened to His Vow,  
My dark mind ignited by his Flaming Light.


The Light of Amida is near.  
The Light of Amida is here.  
Amida Buddha's Light is everywhere;  
All directions from here are West.


There is no practice powerful enough  
To reach enlightenment in this world;  
Yet, no matter how defiled our being,  
The Light that fills all worlds will save us.


Take refuge in the Unhindered Light,  
The Wisdom of Great Compassion!  
Take refuge in the Infinite Light,  
The Compassion of Perfect Wisdom!


The sea of delusion is deep and wide:  
Countless beings are drowning in it.  
True Shinjin is without measure:  
In time it rescues everyone from samsara.


Light beyond measure is Amida's.  
It fully fills the ten quarters.  
All the Buddhas praise His Name;  
Saying His Name, my small voice joins with theirs.


What others call the Eightfold Noble Path  
Is not my concern – let them walk it.  
I accept the great gift I have been given,  
Amida’s promise of Buddhahood.


Far, far beyond is the Other Shore;  
Near to me is Amida Buddha’s Light.  
His White Path bridges the two Rivers:  
With ease I cross to Amida's embrace!


Amida, Thank you for Your gift of SHINJIN,  
To accept the karma that I cannot change,  
The power to change the things I can,  
And the wisdom to know the difference.

A Classical Sestina about Shakyamuni Buddha's Enlightenment

Before he was enlightened under the tree
he fasted and self-tortured every way.
He had no friends, just fellow ascetics, men
who ate but one small grain of rice each day.
His body became shriveled to the bone,
his only home the forest and the sky.

The rain and lightning came down from the sky,
so he sought shelter underneath a tree.
A carcass he saw nearby, to the bone
the vultures had already picked away
the flesh entire upon that very day.
He knew death was the destiny which men

all faced as life approached its end: yes, men
like he, and as his eyes turned toward the sky
he wondered if his time had come that day.
The wind blew savagely and shook the tree.
He pondered to himself, “I’ve lost the way,”
and sure enough protruded every bone

of his sad shriveled frame and every bone
as well of those devout ascetic men
who starved as he did, searching for the way
to find release from suffering. The sky
burst open, rain fell on his sheltering tree
and soaked his ragged clothing all the day,

the dark-gray clouds extinguishing the day-
light, and though he was wasted, every bone
in his frail body cried for help. The tree
said nothing nor did the ascetic men
who left him to die, when suddenly the sky
grew bright; a girl fed him, showed him the way

that he would come to call the Middle Way
between denial and indulgence. Day-
break, and he saw the truth as if the sky
itself spoke to the marrow in his bones
and freed him from the extremes of mortal men
while meditating under the Bodhi tree.

Under that tree he found the Middle Way
to free all men from pain: How bright the day!
And not a bone-white cloud was in the sky.

Sestina: Reluctant Spring

When days of winter rain return to snow
and midwinter thaw reverts to ice,
retreating into sleep I dream of warm
and sunny times when music fills the air
with tunes of J. S. Bach, and flowers bloom
in scores of different colors, scents, and shapes.

Despite the grand abundance of these shapes,
they don’t equal the varieties of snow
flakes floating in the sky, which seem to bloom
like winter flowers: microscopic ice
in crystal form, falling through the air,
compacting into drifts only the warm-

ing sun can melt.  So let return that warm
enchanting spring whose lilting weather shapes
our moods as does the elder Bach’s sweet “Air
upon the G-String,” and we forget the snow
as if it never happened:  How sweet the ice
cream on our tongues, the scent of every bloom,

especially the lilacs from whose bloom
exudes a fragrance that begins to warm
our hearts with every breath we take; no ice
remains upon the ground; the natural shapes
of people, disencumbered of their snow
apparel, flesh exposed to softened air,

and song birds from the south come through the air—
the cardinal, whose bright coat seems a-bloom
like crocuses which pushed up through the snow
just weeks before.  But just before the warm-
ing days have come to stay, their lovely shapes
once more are covered with a coat of ice.

The treacherous month of April with its ice
storms waiting to betray the fresh spring air
wreaks its havoc on the budding shapes
of flowers, birds, and man:  too soon they bloom
as if not ready for the tempting warm
days which we thought had at last dispelled the snow.

The air of early spring, its fleeting warm
sun rays in which bloom myriad sights and shapes—
when will it finally melt the snow and ice?


[a Villanelle]

The freakish cawing from the blackbird's bill,
In autumn after other birds had fled,
Impaled the air and signalled winter's chill.

I stood and listened, savoring the thrill
And wondered why the superstitious dread
The freakish cawing from the blackbird's bill.

Perhaps they'd better reckoned why the shrill,
Outspoken, charcoal guardian of the dead
Impaled the air and signalled winter's chill.

A witness of the seasons, it could fill
A tome or tomb with woe: I heard, instead,
The freakish cawing from the blackbird's bill.

The raven's kin, it played the brazen shill
And, morbid incantations having plead,
Impaled the air and signalled winter's chill.

But as I yearn to hear the robin's trill,
I think of when, now comforted in bed,
The freakish cawing from the blackbird's bill
Impaled the air and signalled winter's chill.

Burning Ice

My eyelid felt
A scanty flake of snow.
I went to sleep.

The virgins weep
Who burn before they know
That ice can melt.

Awake, I yawn,
The curtain leaves my eyes,
The dreaming breaks.

What blaggard takes
A virgin by surprise
Before the dawn?

Again I felt
The scanty flake of snow
And fell asleep.

My virgin heart
Too young to know its years
Comes back to haunt

And, more, to taunt
Me to the point of tears
And then depart.

The crying child
Has wet the bed again.
The child is me.

Too late I see
The savageness of when
I was defiled.

Again I wake,
The curtain leaves my eyes,
The dream remains

As do the pains
I suffered everywise
For mother's sake

Back when the snowflake fell.


I am
in sor-
row's care,
from sav-
age wear,
a choice
that I
would nev-
er make,
a path
that I
would nev-
er take
but of
was forced
to tread,
no time
to say
just why
it was
that way,
just was

Where Do You Go?

Where do you go,
My little one, my love?
Where the moonbeams cry softly
Around and above.

Where are you going,
My heart and my soul?
To flee the harsh storm,
Its serpent and troll.

Where do you go now,
My friend and my life?
With you to earth's end,
Far away from the strife.

Cold Refrain
[Rondeau Redoublé]

As daylight brought a song into my heart
A bittersweet annointment cloaked the trees
With cunning craft, it blanched the branches' art
With chaste and chilling crystal reveries.

The sun broke through and with a coaxing 'please'
Conspired with earthbound gravity to chart
A course to crush and melt the freeze
As daylight brought a song into my heart.

Alarums, fire sirens, tore apart
The mesmerizing winterscape with ease,
Derailed the image with a sonic dart.
A bittersweet annointment cloaked the trees

Which mechanism crassly sought to seize
And shake as if its plan were but to thwart
The work of nature, by whose quake and quease,
With cunning craft, it blanched the branches' art.

The drama having played, I gave a start
To think of summertime, the grass and bees,
When winds will warmly coddle us to part
With chaste and chilling crystal reveries.

But that is months away: For now, a quart
Of water is a block of ice; a breeze,
A messenger of grief sent to impart
And plunge its judgement, without cost or fees,
Into my heart.


When wanton, wilting winter wanes
And wastes its way to will-less water,
Aqueous air, amnesiatic,
Aromatic, and aural ambience of
Blathering newborn breezes,
Brusquely brushing me beyond and backwards,
Now nesting in nature's night of
Nurturing, my nascent naked self,
Assuaged, secure, assured
That seeking shall someday surrender,
Fastened to a firmament
Of friendship, forceless, fearless, free,
Draughts deeply of dense delirious dreams,
Debauches in deserved delights,
Reaping a richer rose reality
(Rivulets of tears are running) ...

I, my eager ear inclined to learn,
Am feeling, daring to exist
And bind my heart in oneness
To galactic cosmic zero,
To the heartbreak of forever,
To the one and only


The Fahrenheit reality:
It squeezes in relentlessly
Today, a hot and humid hell,
Enough to make blood pressure swell.

A typical July in Boston,
Not a gram of subtle lost on
Me because there's none to lose
When everybody sweats the blues.

Between the shade and the sun the choice
Is academic: Not a voice
Complaining of the sudden rush
of Quiet-Kool to ease the flush

And make us all an 'a la mode'
Or Baked Alaska. Now the toad
Takes refuge underneath a leaf
Of bush or tree or shock or sheaf

Of barley, wheat, or flax or rye,
And never thinks to query why
It is this way - as if the answer
Helps. Yet, even so, I can

Make guesses for myself; but then
I end up pining more for when
The leaves grow red and brown and
Temperature eases down again

To what is manageably good,
When serenely I can walk the wood,
Not forced to take the heat or cold
Or feel I'm one more season old.

But that is when and this is now:
Perspiring trickles down my brow.
It might as well go on forever,
This excruciating weather,

This oppressive July swelter.
Oh, to be a snail, whose shell
Gives refuge from the torrid blast
Until the worst of it has passed:

But it is it and I am me,
And nary's there a guarantee
For any living thing to find
Relief from this Saharan grind.

So why complain and make it worse?
Because complaint, when lodged in verse,
Assuages bad and worse and worst
By rendering all of it accursed,

In my book anyway - in which
I say again that life's a bitch
And have no pangs in saying so,
As back into the heat I go.


no conversation . . .
just the winter ocean surf
heard beyond the dunes

soldier's funeral
a steady gust of March wind
tears at the colors

katydid rhythm
joining the evening chanting
of the Buddhist monk

the dog thinks she helps
by foraging with her nose
mushroom gathering

just introduced and
not knowing whether to kiss
New Year's Eve party

reflecting sunset,
the placid winter ocean
looks as though it's warm

lightly falling snow . . .
all quiet on New Year's Eve
in the hobos' camp

old romance novel
reading for a chilly night . . .
dying embers

straightening the nets . . .
the bat makes a nighttime pest
for the fishermen

stopping forbidden
by the side of the turnpike:
herons' nesting pond

pigeons standing still . . .
their heads bobbing right and left
in early spring sun

cloudy winter sky
circling seagulls snapped away
by a sudden gust

railroad station pit
suspended in an updraft
a dead leaf twitches

scent of hyacinths
gentle talk in therapy
by the flower pot

autumn graveyard mist . . .
sparrow atop the gravestone
eyes me then flies off

gusting winter wind . . .
small buddha in the front yard
scarf around his neck

midnight chill
someone rifling through the trash
for bottles and cans

summer butterfly
flitting across my path and
into the dark woods

lightly falling snow
in the road a crow pecking
at a mashed pumpkin

Indian summer:
the roses on the branches
smelling like roses

a chill wind
the Jack-o'-lantern's teeth
melting to mush

a morning walk;
rose blossoms half-buried
in early snow

New Year's Eve:
heavy clouds have settled
over the quiet city

a cold winter night;
the Hunter's belt pointing
to a million stars

low hanging clouds
a crow making lazy eights
in the wintry calm

moonlight on the pond;
in the cold of winter
nothing moves

a wisp of cloud
floating across the moon
cold returns

in the still of night
the moon is gone from the sky
only my heart beating

the evening cool wafts
in through the open window
the alley cat's mewling

in the small forest
the smell of rotting wood
autumn sunshine

almost colliding,
a white autumn butterfly
and a falling leaf

across the muddy path
a beetle struggles

wanting to hug it,
the big retriever
with fleas

gift of a worm:
the robin's full-size offspring
can't swallow it all

twilight adagio . . .
moving through the ocean fog
cranberry workers

therapist's office . . .
noticing the withering
poinsettia leaves

opening the door
the scented breeze quickly gone
in the old outhouse

sudden autumn storm:
dog and master's frisbee game
goes on anyway

their master's cigar
little puppies on a leash
taking turns sniffing

behind the garage
March wind making dust devils
out of old cobwebs

distant rocky shore
softened by the ocean fog . . .
sand-dollar hunting

fighting the March wind
pedestrians barely miss
the limping pigeon

snow become sleet...
a piece of ice
blown into my eye

on the stucco wall
mona lisa painted
in dark glasses

the bright sun...
yesterday's snow
melting into icicles

in the clinic waiting room . . .
giant fern by the window

sheets of ice
on the Charles River
ducks floating on the melt-water


I closely eyed the postage stamp
Beneath my lamp:
The schooner's sail
Had caught a gale,
Was listing port-wise, and the crew
Was out of view.
The tiny scene
Was caught between
The framework of the stamp's design.
I felt the brine
Splash on my face
And watched the race.


While I wait I wonder.
While I wonder I dream.
While I dream I grow.
While I grow I waken.
While I waken I wonder.

Da capo e senza fine.

Inside an Etching

Fog does the most interesting things
to the most pedestrian scenes
It is a rarity here
perhaps that is why when it comes
it gilds reality with an awesome tone
and turns the view outdoors
into a photographic essay

The screen window of this room
is a permanent fixture, a mesh
which filters everything outside through itself--
the few cars in the parking lot
the pair of trees in silhouette
and the evergreen outside the window

The lingering patches of snow
that should be prospering
merely linger here in this
not-quite-sempiternal but sodden
mid-January spring,
tinged with an odd effect
that blocks everything beyond it:
I can only guess what the fog hides,
an even remoter ground of nothingness
could be a road or a river,
a yard in which nothing moves
and only a distant crow calls

A car starts up
and breaks the moire
of mood and motionless matte
the host says good morning
and my vision is grounded

It was a perfect vision,
living inside an etching
for a while

The Pond

There is a pond
outside this house
and other worlds
I cannot grasp
or touch or see
people too kind or cruel
to make any sense to me:
I'll stay put for now.

I could trespass
and walk around the pond
and see it from the other side,
see the house I'm now inside,
but as for those other worlds
I can wait to find bridges to them
if the need should arise.

The pond soothes me
dumbly reassuring me
that I don't need to go beyond it
for today


Feeling my way
across the lake without a map
is like
singing words without music
is like
chanting aloud how this world is
one vast nest of sorrowing
with only little oases of joy
sprinkled here and there.

Riding the current
and looking down
I see pebbles at the bottom,
the dripping tears
locked inside me for years
that dried to rock
and sunk to the lake bed.

"Run, do not cry,
sweet little one,
it never was your home:
do you not know it?
you have been cast off
from their fears,
and now
you have to find
your own."

Every atom has a place in the cosmos,
Every rock
comes out
at night
to sing.

Night Flower

What is it I have learned
from the sky
I have not learned already
from the earth?

What is it I have learned
from the bird
I have not learned already
from the flower?

What is it I have learned
from the day
I have not learned already
from the night?

To an Elusive God

God of my dreams,
Brother Nature,
Heal my torn seams;
Take not me away
From the pain that I am:

Grant me the sight
To seize my own life
And scale the long height;
Break not my heart
With a promise not kept:

Goddess sublime,
Sister Sylvan,
Forgive the fool's rhyme;
Bless me with breath
And sustain my resolve:

Deities all,
Abet my hope,
Let me not fall;
Purchase my plight
With one serene night:

Hail to the Lord
Who are master of day;
You I move toward
From out of the cave
And into the Light:

And, God of my dreams,
You, Brother Nature,
Heal my torn seams;
If you will, take me soon
From the pain that I have:

To Mozart

Gracious talent, mind sublime,
Poet of the sound-flux
In a realm outside of Time:

Generous spirit, golden heart,
From your inspiration
We draw breath to ply our art.

Favored talent, gifted soul,
May we tread your foot-path
'Til we reach our highest goal.

Wondrous bard, and songster pure,
Whose melodies so fair console
That goodness will endure:

Mortal Muse, and genius true,
Open wide the door so they
That seek Truth may pass through.

Triolet: How Sweet the Morning Mist

How sweet the morning mist and sweet the day,
Whose timeless time has neither start nor end,
When sounds the mockingbird’s ecstatic lay!

How sweet the morning mist and sweet the day!
O, that this precious moment long could stay,
My heart to lasting ecstasy to send!

How sweet the morning mist and sweet the day,
Whose timeless time has neither start nor end!

Triolet: The Train Whistle

The wailing whistle of the passing train
Resounds along the tracks and through the air;

As the bleating alto chord cuts through the rain,
The wailing whistle of the passing train
Lets forth another melancholy strain;

But who will feel the sadness when or where
The wailing whistle of the passing train
Resounds along the tracks and through the air?

Triolet: Yellow-breasted bird

The yellow-breasted bird alit
Upon the swaying evergreen:
I've searched and searched a name for it.
The yellow-breasted bird alit
Has anonymity to knit
A mystery—this fleeting scene,
The yellow-breasted bird alit
Upon the swaying evergreen.

The Ballad of Ippity-Ippity-Poo
[a nonsense doggerel]

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo,
He drank too much selzer and raspberry goo:
His stomach was sloshy, he floated away
To the river, the lake, and then out to the bay.
'Blubbedy-blubbedy-blubbedy-bloo, '
Said poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo
Said to himself, 'This never will do! '
He thrashed with his hands and he thrashed with his feet,
But he floated out farther with every beat.
'Blubbedy-blubbedy-blubbedy-bloo, '
Cried poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo
Saw a small isle in the ocean so blue.
He took off his shirt and he made him a sail,
'Til the wind finally came up and blew up a gail.
'Blubbedy-blubbedy-blubbedy-bloo, '
Gulped poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo
Got to the island but lost his right shoe.
The place was deserted but had a high tree,
So he climbed it to find out just where he could be.
Where am I? ' thought Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo
Saw a tall sailship almost out of view.
He waved his white shirt and he shouted so loud
That the sea-gulls got scared and flew up like a cloud.
Come save me! ' screamed Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo
Dropped his shirt and it fell to the ground down below.
But it landed upon a gull tending her nest,
And it caught on her beak as she shook her white crest.
'What now, O what shall I find here to do? '
Cried poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

Poor little Ippity-Ippity-Poo said
'I'll drink no more selzer and raspberry goo.'
And at that the seagull cried out loud and shrill,
And she flew toward the ship with his shirt on her bill.
'Blubbedy-blubbedy-blubbedy-bloo! And now
Who will help Ippity-Ippity-Poo? '

The sailors caught sight of the bird flying by,
And they saw the white shirt like a truce flag up high.
'Make for the land! ' said the captain so brave,
'There are people to rescue and lives to be saved! '
They sailed to the shore and they found it was true.
And they rescued poor Ippity-Ippity-Poo.

But Ippity-Ippity-Poo is not poor,
For now he is back safe and sound at his door.
He drinks what he should and he eats what he should,
And now he feels ever-so-wonderfully good!
And that is how Ippity-Ippity-Poo
Was cured of his selzer and raspberry goo.

Autumn Revels and Reveries: An Extended Poem
(composed ca. 1995)


O for time to dream, to climb,
To wander, stray my life away,
To roam the grass and hear the willows,
Rest my head upon the pillows
Of autumnal magic, long
Before the dawn of night.

Much there is this golden fall,
I cannot hope to drink it all;
Yet hear, my heart, a quickening thrill
Regaining strength in me from nil.
When I resign myself I seem
To set the demon-gods a-teem
With trembling in my letting go,
The why I cannot know.

And while I thrill, I fret and wish
For nothing but a quiet niche
Where wooded gardens fill with fruit
And quench my mind down to the root,
Where sunshine brightens every hill
And every flower on my sill.

I laugh and cry—my paradise
Is just below the lidded eyes
Of my awakefulness—and write
This semblance of a rhyme
For lovers now and latertime.

Walking and Halting

In and out of rhyme and scan and parse
A free-float twixt what’s meant and simply is,
I take a lazy stroll, stop here and there.
It’s fall-time in the city, or two cities-
One where folk allow the wilds,
The other where the wilds allow the folk.

Show their veteran splendor
In late autumn sky when all their leaves are gone,
Whose high white bark’s a steeple gleaming blanc.
You’d have to look aloft up there to see
What’s just a grizzled could-be-anything
Grayish bark away down here at ground level.

A thousand graybrown pods like dead string beans
Hanging from a naked tree
Look like so many bats
All curled up sound
And safely out of reach.

Deep green moss grows on the asphalt walk,
Not even the hard frost killed it.

Crows in flight,
Last birds in the trees
Not counting the sparrows.
Crows everywhere,
Some in stone cold vigil.

I hear the
Swinging ringing gently tinging and clinging of
Wind chimes
Much much more now than there ever was in summer
Since the
Hushing rustling whitish noise from greenish leaves
Is gone.

Tell me, Evangeline,
Outside of kindergarten art class,
Just who in the world ever honestly saw
A brown treetrunk?
My heavens, not I!
And let’s face it,
They’re gray, driftwood gray
With perhaps just an afkan of moss
Or a sprig of tough lichen for garnish.
Yes, show me a genuine
True-hue brown trunk,
And I promise I’ll eat
My straw ten-gallon hat.
That’s a fib, you know.

The giant weeping willow,
All yellowed and mellowed
And floating and boating the air waves,
Brushed by darling breezes,
Washed and rinsed on high
Like so much Spanish moss
Put out to dry, stands
A giant witness to nowtime.
Most all the other trees around
Are rightly bald and bare:
Its whispy tresses yet are sailing there.

An arrogant duo of clever ivies
Saucily flaunt their devil-red fruit
And guard the city-slim yard
At the front of the house
That I pass by each week.
Its holy-hell green-and-red
Plasticky satany-santaclaus
Prettily threatening thorniness
Tells of the snows that are certain to come
And reminds me it takes more than coldness to kill.

One decidedly lonely ante-deciduous
Wildly flamboyant survivor,
Its leaves gone all orange and furnacy-red,
Holds onto its glowingly moribund verdure
Amidst a scene of otherwise bare gnarled branchlessness.
Doesn’t it know they should all be bloawnaway dead?
Didn’t it hear that the colors all peaked long ago?
But I’m glad it is so,
That it has such a curiously absent-mind head,
Just like mine.

Berries, berries, berries, berries,
Bright-red clusters, smaller than cherries,
Little insy cliques of things
Pinned onto the leafless wings.
I love the bloodred dots
Against the perfect blue of sky.
There’s jut a leaf or two I spot
Still holding on for dear death’s sake:
Look hard enough, you’ll see.

Rose-hips, bountiful rose-hips!
What a proud tall spike-lined bush they flaunt,
Must be ten forearms high if one,
The stem’s a baker’s inch through the mid,
But watch the prickles if you’re picking,
Pluck those hips and set a fire a-licking at the pot,
Stew hard and long with lots of sugar
'Til you have a fine sweet jelly
Worthy of the name: Rose-hips!

The conifers are coming into their own.
They don’t quite look up to the task,
Not yet.
Uncertain, I should say,
All huddled close for safety here and there
With no more leafing counterparts
To give them company.
A strange new prominence is theirs
Just by the changing of the season’s guard.
Someday their “ever green” will be
The only verdant sign of life
In winter’s whitewash and the sequel
Much and slush and slime of melting time.

Even little maple saplings
Struggling out from under fenceboards, too,
Are all gone old.
Fought all summer,
Got a foot or two of stretch,
But like their parents,
Jaundice came
And took them off to sleep in golden sleep.

There’s a noble sight,
That what’s-its-genus,
Living regal wood
Reaching up and out and down
And everyotherwhichway,
But not a single leaf there left upon it,
Threadbare now,
It pokes a million holes into the sky.

Until today I hadn’t seen that fine new stretch of laths,
Dirtying cream white strips among the wizened old ones
Of the weather-beaten stockade fence.
Perhaps I didn’t want to see,
Perhaps I didn’t care.
But just perhaps the new crisp air
Has made my eyes grow clearer to such things.
I cannot know.

I’ve never seen a bulldog
That’s head looked quite like a bull
Or even like a pig, except this one.
It’s gross, but someone’s friend,
I guess of she who’s walking it.

Now this one’s sure a Christmas tree,
It has the short short needles
Just like those the one had that my dad bought
Back that year on Christmas Eve for fifty cents.
But this one’s still alive
And’s got too big.
You’d need a neighborhood of folks to cut it down
And dress it right.

I’d swear that at first glance
This fat old trunk was armor plate—
Again, the broadside of a rhino,
Or an elephant’s foreleg, almost.

The berries on these ten-foot junior trees
Seem fairly melting in the air.
They complement the terracotta tiles
Upon the house’s roof they front,
Though not so brilliant, I should say.
Four trees to be exact, all spaced along
By an engineer’s measuring eye.
Not even that fierce mathematical canon
Could keep these merry berry-makers
From growing in their own way, size and shape.
Exempla gratia:
The trees on the corner where the two streets fork
Has itself a main crotch
From which two crotched forks split,
Of which the former sends a fork
Right through the other’s crotch.
A brazen hermaphrodite if ever there was one.

And what of this tree?
A palamino pony
Might sport the very same
Splotchity white-red-grays
On its hide.
And what of these goldfish
Pendant balls of fluff?
They look like toys,
Foam rubber orbs
Made to be tossed about in play
By the wind.
And on the lowermost trunk
The scales of a prehistoric lizard,
Or it just might be
A 'gator’s skin tacked up to dry.

A hollow giant knot-hole
In a giant oak:
Just the perfect hiding-place
For just the perfect critter-folk.
But here’s the joke:
It’s only one foot from the ground,
And on a busy street at that.
Too bad,
It’s otherwise the perfect home.

Violet tinted snow puffs of bloom
Popping out of leaves and stems
That look like those of weeds—
Could be that they are.
They’ve lasted out the marigolds, so
Just maybe the weeds will inherit the world.

Even here on the brick train-plaza,
Busy place of commerce, home to homeless,
A poolet of water entraps a maple leaf
And maybe some elm’s issue for a moment,
Gluing them fast to the outdoor floor
Until the air dissolves the stickum
When on they repair to yet another hostel.

They hardly look like flowers,
But they’re purple after all.
The leaves are green about, below.
Festooned, the would-be blooms might well
Be caterpillars cozied up.
But there they’ve hung that way,
In fours and more all summertime,
And still the leaves stay green:
The clumps are surely flowers.

Curly snowball of a cat
Privately at bath
On Missus’ porch,
Tongue away
The smudge and stain,
As white as snow, you know,
You’ll be transparent
In a month or so.

What bright blossoms you can find
In late November
In this old New England town,
Which see:
Hardy mini-carnations (I guess) ,
But for the crimson hue
I’d call them marigolds by shape
Still sporting this morning’s rain this afternoon,
Leaves in various states of conversion
From worldly summer
To wintry chastity,
Still flowering brightly now
For all the frost.
And yet a step beyond
I see the same front lot has
Two hale pink carnations, also
Bright as day,
And big as life can make them,
With their stems ferociously at-arms with spikes,
A hardy cousin to their junior nearby sibs,
Both reveling in the autumn sun.

I suspect I’ll be here
On another walk soon.
But a week’s foray longer
Heading toward winter
Will change the waning scape
Into another fine display
Of changing autumn fashion.


I stood with book and pen
And wrote these lines rough-hewn
Where I beheld the very wonders,
Felt the very feelings there.
Now refining rhyme and probing meaning
Sheltered in my flat, and warm
Within a state of reverie and revelry
Of heart and mind at all the scenes
I saw and came a part of, I am
Honoring the moments
When this verse was born
And hoping that the words herein
Continue shaping all those
Fleeting shades of sensing and of knowing
Whichwise I am certain to forget
Or file into the backmost vault
Of memory’s melting void.

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Questions & comments to: Richard St. Clair

Last modified: 14 May 2014.