The years teach much which the days never know.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Steel tines scratch, then pierce
oak leaves, brittle, brown, sticky with wet.
I rake the old trees’ sheddings, these dregs
of my choice to quit my mother’s dream job,
to live like her grandfather, raising goats.
A life, his son, who loved the Divine Comedy,
escaped only with difficulty. And yet,
I never regretted having traded
memo writing for manure shoveling.
When chores grow burdensome,
as they must, sometimes,
I toss a toy for the dog,
for whom work is play.
In a strange symmetry, we share a dull ache
in a weak joint. To last all day
at our self-appointed tasks, I need to pace
my throwing with her devoted chasing
a stick, stripped of its bark, gleaming like a pale bone,
tattooed with sooty shadows, inking the small
indentations left by her teeth. I watch
her focus, my dog-daughter, so different
from all the herders I have raised,
marvel how she ignores the goats
when she can retrieve instead,
hear my mother saying “you will understand
when you have children of your own.”
It starts to drizzle. The rain does not bother her.
And I, unlike my mother, don’t frown at cloud’s release. Now,
below the dark firs, I clear away broken branches, but also cones,
closed-up tight, protecting their parent’s future, passively
awaiting a stronger sun. I survey
the long stretch of packed gravel, already uncovered,
firm and functional, connecting gate and home.
Resting my chin on my rake, I let my gaze travel forward,
follow my darling hunting for the latest throw.
Her nose close to the ground, her tail a slow and steady wag,
she zigzags in wild patterns until a whiff makes her turn and zero in.
I think of iron filings, how they align along magnetic lines,
make visible the enfolding forces.
Neither Stalling Nor Waiting
We shuffle, ankle-deep,
through the recently dropped
dresses of the big-leaf maples,
their luminous yolk-yellow
still untarnished by brown
age-spots, are taken back
to bygone falls, when we scooped
such bounty with both arms,
then, dancing on small feet,
threw the leaves to the wind,
watched them sail capriciously
like delicate swallowtails who will soon
let go of their short, but glorious lives.
Out in this splendor, where
the sun gilds the gold,
having found a new entry
through already bare branches
—vertical blinds pulled open
to a rare and vibrant jewel blue—
we inhale the fresh, musty
emanations of the still moist leaf-mold,
and, pausing on our favorite bench,
throw a stick to the dog,
for whom only the chase matters,
who runs with equal excitement
up or down the trail.
My legs dangle like a six-year-old’s
from this slightly-too-high seat;
we sit close, share a shopping bag
to protect our aging bodies from the cool,
damp wood, here next to Plunket Creek
reawakened by the recent rain.
It tumbles head over heels
down the narrow canyon, sounds
a base accompaniment
to the dog’s occasional calls,
as we talk of times past
and trips to come. Neither
of us ready to move on.
Brigitte Goetze lives in Western Oregon. A retired biologist and goat farmer, she now divides her time between writing and fiber work. Links to recent publications can be found at: brigittegoetzewriter.com.