In Search of Simplicity
Once in Concord, a brash young man took axe
and hammer to trees beside a pond. He used
his degree from Harvard to build a cabin
where he would live two years. Some days
he walked to town to work beside his father
at the family pencil factory.
On the way, he noticed fish bones beside the water
and the shade of blue a sunny day might bring. He noted
when the first leaf flared crimson in September
and when the last fell from the maple. Evenings
he scribbled down everything – memories
of a river adventure with his dead brother, the thunk
of acorns falling on his roof, the day two laughing boys
passed, clinging to the bare back of a farm horse. He noted
the date ice sheeted his pond. He wrote speeches
declaring his right to withhold taxes
that would pay for a foreign war.
The trees around his cabin grew so thick
he could not glimpse an alizarin sunset
without a walk to Walden’s shore. The branches,
outside the window blocked his view of nearby
rounded hills while he wrote about climbing
Katahdin. Every Sunday he came and went three miles
round-trip along the nearby railroad track
to eat his mother’s chicken stew and leave her
his dirty laundry. We do not know
what she thought while he sat dreaming up
great thoughts beside her well-stoked fire.
Louise Cary Barden’s poems, which frequently draw their imagery from the natural world, have appeared inTimberline Review, Greensboro Review, Chattahoochee Review, Crucible, and others. Recognition for her work includes the Calyx 2018 Lois Cranston Prize and the North Carolina Writers’ Network chapbook award (for Tea Leaves). She recently left her long-time home in North Carolina to become an Oregonian.