There are big rocks thirty miles to the south
in Slippery Rock Creek.
There are big rocks thirty miles to the east
in the National Forest.
There are big rocks thirty miles to the north
on the shores of Lake Erie.
But here in the rolling farm lands of Black Ash
there is just one big rock.
Walk with us just down the hill
past the edges of the berry bramble
and the fallow field
to where the
North Fork of the West Branch of Little Sugar Creek
winds its way through the beeches and hemlocks,
rippling and glinting
murmuring and echoing
the breeze of the leaves.
Turn here at the witch hazel tree.
The path narrows, but just a stone’s throw
into the little glen
Indian Rock is there,
A ten-foot maple tree grows from its moss;
Eons and roots have split the smooth stone.
There is a foot ledge
to enable scrambling,
but no grand view from the top,
for this granite boulder guards a small ravine
and a bubbling spring
that feeds the
North Fork of the West Branch of
Little Sugar Creek.
a giant granite anomaly amidst
a sea of sandstone,
thrown here in ancient days by melting glaciers
The granite is carpeted with moss
and baby blue forget-me-nots
Pale green lichens and fiddlehead ferns–
Image courtesy of freeimages.co.uk
Relics were found here.
Mortars, pestles, arrowheads
from the people called Seneca.
Picture the mother, baby strapped to her back
pounding the leather, the corn,
kneeling to collect clear cool water from the spring.
i carry my child in a bright green back pack and we
collect the water
in our plastic Mr. Donut buckets,
but i feel a kinship with her just the same.
i lift him from the backpack and sit him on the soft moss;
i step up on the ledge from behind
and we rest in the shimmering green sunlight
on an ancient moraine.
my pale hand reaches to stroke this red haired child
crawling on the mossy rock
as her brown hand tousles the dark hair of her child
crawling on the mossy rock
and in that second
the august sun shines like a spotlight on the ten year old
joyfully riding her new green bicycle (without the training wheels)
down the gravel driveway.
like a pro, not even braking,
she leans to the left and whizzes onto the dirt path
packed down through years of truck tires.
through the trees she rides, slowing now, for the pull of the dirt
is harder on bicycle tires (though easier on knees).
the trees bow to her, the queen of the bicycle.
the sun glints through the leaves and the air is
saturated with the sweet scent of ripe peaches
and the hum of satisfied and satiated bees.
she pays no attention to the glorious around her
because she is ten years old and not yet aware
that her childhood Augusts were golden.
the grandfather is waiting for her to tire of riding circles
in the orchard. he figures it will take twice (maybe three times)
and she’ll be ready to listen to the lesson that peaches teach.
he has the ladder ready when
she drops her bike next to the dusty green farm truck.
“Help me pick some peaches?” he asks.
he steadies the ladder and guides her small hand as they reach,
touching the fuzz gently, gently, every squeeze will bruise these
peaches easy as you bruise those knees.
gently gently she places the peach in the basket looped over her
he moves her hand to another hanging low on the branch.
see this green? see this fuzz? peaches have to ripen on the tree.
their juices have to be warmed by the hot August sun. they take
their time ripening and can’t be hurried. you can’t pick the tree
clean, you have to go again and again to the same tree.
peaches teach patience.
together they fill the basket, moving the ladder around the tree
taking their time — savoring the tree-ripened juicy chin-sticky
sweet yellow sweltering August patience-teaching peaches.
patience is not his usual shape, this short round man in the straw
hat and farm clothes teaching peaches to the skinny girl with bruised
she learned peaches. she learned love. she still stamps her foot at
and she can’t abide sickly grocery store peaches.
For the next few weeks I’m taking an online poetry course over at Monna McDiarmid’s place. This first week we were asked to write about childhood, and if we wanted, to use the color yellow. I probably won’t post all the poems, but this one I liked because it was such a good memory of my grandfather, who built Apple Hill Cottage. And my sister sent me this photo just as I was writing the poem…It’s a work in progress. Comments welcome.
The long, gentle summer evenings of my childhood were sometimes pierced by the crack and zinging whine of a twenty-two rifle.
It was my grandfather, defending his country sweet corn patch from the groundhogs.
His main garden was in town behind his house, where he planted and tended and grew enough vegetables to feed us and his entire neighborhood.
But oh how he loved his sweet corn. And in the country below our house, there was plenty of room for as much sweet corn as he could plant. It seems we had corn on the cob every night for dinner in July and August.
Pa wasn’t a cussing man — he was a school teacher — except when it came to the groundhogs who ate his corn. For awhile when I was a kid I thought damgroundhog was one word.
I feel his pain.
He would sit in a yellow lawn chair in the back yard above his garden with a glass of sweet tea and his twenty-two across the aluminum arms of his chair. Waiting.
I’ve been suggesting to Mr. H. C. that he do the same with the deer. Of course, we aren’t allowed to actually shoot them, but he could aim above their heads… (Or he says shooting in front of them on the ground is the safer way). Perhaps they would think it was hunting season and disappear into the deep woods.
He didn’t seem to be interested, so I got out the yellow lawn chair and the twenty-two rifle for him yesterday. This evening, I saw him cleaning it, and there is now a clip sitting near the back door. I suppose I could try it, but I think I am such a bad shot, I could accidentally hit one when I’m aiming over their heads.
Can you be arrested for poaching the King’s deer on your own land?
Yes, you can.