–after William Stafford’s “The Way It Is”
I’m hard on things. I wear them out.
So I worry about Stafford’s thread.
It might break as I trip through life,
making turns, not letting go.
It needs to be more substantial,
say a steel chain,
the kind with pleasant tinking
as it’s dragged around,
not shackles, though.
I would count the links,
each one, a day,
sunrise to sunset,
then dusk to dawn,
hold it like a rosary,
trace back and forth
across the links
like Hansel and Gretel,
reviewing where I’ve come from,
the white house with green shutters
in the graying neighborhood
of my memory.
I must confess I hurried
through a lot those days,
looking ahead like youngsters do.
Just like I said the rosary as a child,
my hands barely touching each bead,
praying like a motor to get on with living.
Verde and Becky at ninety two
still travel the sagebrush sea,
Oregon and Idaho,
to bluegrass festivals where they jam in camps,
sometimes, literally ‘til the sun rises.
Tonight: Fossil, Oregon, population 471.
Verde picks on mandolin, Becky rides guitar.
Lanterns placed on dusty ground
in the center of a circle
light only some of the musician’s faces
like the way spokes radiate
from the center of a wagon wheel.
Verde moves in and out of the light
as he wanders the arc, plinking.
This is not wild foot-stomping brouhaha,
but music that crossed the plains
soothing settler’s evenings on the trail,
wrapping a blanket of calm
around the listeners who hold the circle.
Becky stands very still when she strums.
All the music flows to her fingers.
Her eyes dance with the stars.
Dust makes the lights glow.
Some sit in chairs, instrument in their laps,
many stand, dancing with their knees.
Not much singing, just a dulcet melody
travelling from star to star.
This sound belongs to the night.
Frank Babcock lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is a retired Albany middle school teacher and owner of a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the strange thoughts that rattle around in his head and to get them off his mind. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps. Poems published in the local Advocate, Willawaw Journal, and Panoplyzine.