Montana, 1879

The axe falls in time with his breathing
The nutcracker bird calls in time with his swinging
The sun draws beads of sweat from his forehead
The Yellowstone River bends around his homestead

Jessie kneads the dough in time with her singing
Daisy-May and dolly are on the front porch playing
The sun casts shadows through the ponderosa pine
The golden eagles soar along the timberline

Split logs lie around his feet ready for stacking
Autumn fogs and winter snows are beckoning
A refreshing breeze arrives with a solitary cloud
The hay is cut and the fields are ploughed

His axe falls on the last of the day’s labouring
Jessie calls from the window to stop him working
Four riders home into view on the road from Melville
The man reaches for his rifle and time stands still

Oh Sweet Grass County, my beloved family
We worship your land and all its bounty
From the mountains high to the pastures low
We live and breathe as the waters flow

 

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Woodland Will

Shush, the trees are sleeping
early morning, autumn, winter
limbs and boughs silently listening
for the chop chop of the woodsman’s axe

they know before their sap starts rising
that the will of the man will be done
for his fire there needs to be coppicing
and cries of timber felling

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Mother Nature’s Neighbours

In the backyard battleground
The mother wants rid of her daughter
But the daughter wants more worms

Time to fly the nest little blackbird
The mother tries to persuade her daughter
But the daughter has a broken wing

They argue beak to beak upon the ground
The mother determined to force the issue
But the disabled daughter won’t let go

A stand-off dance of sorts now ensues
The mother twelve inches from her daughter
But the daughter mirrors her every move

Flicking autumn leaves as blackbirds do
The mother finds a tasty morsel or two
But the daughter dashes in for the steal

Another fight and flying feathers
The mother’s had enough of this pantomime
But her daughter’s bond is that much stronger

Than Mother Nature would care to admit
With winter waiting beyond the hedgerow
Where the weak will succumb to cold defeat

 

(These past couple of days I have been watching a pair of female blackbirds fighting and bickering in the yard. One appears to be injured and I have surmised that it is the young of the adult which now appears to be growing impatient for it to leave her side. The adult tries to chase it away but it keeps hanging around and dashes in when there is any chance of being fed.

I love all the birds that visit my garden and always have nuts and seeds in feeders for them. Living on a smallholding away from other houses and people they are my closest neighbours

Mother Nature is also often a cruel neighbour who waits next door with harsh winters and her very own and very effective mechanism for dealing with the weak and injured. I wondered about drawing comparisons with the way we treat our own weak and injured but the story of the birds felt too self-contained to add another dimension. Sometimes it’s best that we just observe and leave our emotional footprint out of the equation.

By chance I was writing this poem as the Daily Post prompt came through. The word ‘neighbors’ (spelt ‘neighbours’ here in UK) seemed to fit the theme quite nicely despite my having already posted the poem elsewhere under the title ‘Succumb’. Have a lovely weekend friends)

A Mighty Leaf

The mighty leaf lay on the ground
A blanket for the lost and found
Within the woodland’s earthy realm
We kissed at night beneath the elm

In daylight hours the sun had shined
Our hungry lips had warmly dined
On this and that and pleasant stuff
That quenched our love near enough

Seasons came and seasons passed
No-one questioned, no-one asked
Why the leaf turned crinkly brown
From winter’s cruel and frosty frown

But we all knew the months ahead
Would offer up more paths to tread
One for hardship, one for pain
And many days of freezing rain

But all good things to those who wait
Get on with life, don’t hesitate
For when the mighty leaf turns green
Spring’s passions will turn libertine

Summer Broke

Summer broke
With the snap of a twig
And a rattle of branches on our window

Witches claws you said
We snuggled back into an extra hour
Beneath the printed leaves on the duvet

And the sparrows on gutters
Rubbing beaks and telling tales
We later found one in the wood stove

Covered in ash as if cremated
Flew headlong into the kitchen window
I picked it up and held it to the air

Beak gaping open shut half dead
Eyelids open closing semi-conscious
It took a while before taking flight

These are moments to remember
Better than weddings and birthday parties
Your words not mine

I could never match your words
They came like sudden surprises
On the wind like birdsong and seasons

You kicked them about with childlike abandon
Autumn leaves lifted and scattered
Winter warmed behind scarves and mittens

We rode the storms together
Counted clouds and named their shapes
Ignoring what lay straight ahead

The cancer that came and took
Summer broken with the snap of a twig
And a rattle of branches on my window

Like witches claws you had said
The words now hollow echo in my head
Beneath this lonely extra hour duvet leaf

Mime Artists

The trees are moving like mime artists
Yet the wind is not their voice

They shed their silent thoughts
With every leaf that falls to the ground

The word autumn is echoed
In the crisp scrunch of footsteps

But it is a slow uncertain suicide
Shutting down and boarding up the show

Standing bare through winter
The arc of the sun scraping the horizon

Waiting to see if they will survive
And become mime artists once again