Traveling down a side road that runs through wetlands, I suddenly notice that the swamp milkweed and the swamp roses have begun to bloom, sure signs that summer is progressing quickly towards its climax. Before the summer gets away from us, here are some poems for a summer afternoon - grab a lemonade, find some shade and enjoy.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on August 13, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
We'll begin at the beginning.
Summer solstice and the coonhound at the new house serenades the slow decline of the sun. After a cold, wet week, we have pulled out a fullblown summer’s day.
In the Small Rain
There is a cow standing with her nose up, all the other cows stand or lie with their heads down, the small rain making them sleepy and stupid, but she, the cow with her nose up, has caught the scent of something and she moves back and forth a bit, testing the tiny drift of air, too light to be called a breeze. It is probably food. Her life is built around food and sex and birth. Perhaps a clover has shaken out a new leaf, or a timothy head sprinkled fresh pollen across her path. She stands for a moment more and then shakes like a large, cumbersome dog, her head back down, nosing the barnyard gravel, scent and memory fading in the small rain. This farm has taught me much.
Hobblebush baneberry jimsonweed carrion flower
Sometimes I hated you, teaching me to want you dead, feeding me bitterness and thwarted lives with old horehound and sour lemon drops.
Death angel nightshade toad stool doll’s eyes
I’d head for the woods, but you’d be there, limping along a cow path watching gravity pull down your dreams, hunch your back, leaving you with ruins and gall.
Pig weed purslane sheep sorrel golden rod
you wanted me to pay as you had, to earn every stalk and branch, to pay in years, the pain of waiting, my youth gone, my dreams, you wanted me to know as no one else had.
Heal-all boneset vervain Joe-Pye weed
But I learned patience, fought bitterness with small hopes fulfilled, hard work found new marks met, stone by stone it all came to me in your life. You refused to see it, refused to know my joy.
Musk mallow jewel weed pussy toes meadowsweet
I have mourned you, and know what you might have had, what could have come to you here. This farm is balm, a quietness in my spirit, your bitterness come sweet, rest you easy.
An Old Song
The geese, with their new flight feathers go over for the first time in weeks. They give the little pond a quick buzz, fly on to the bigger pond over the hill. The flock has grown from five early in spring, to twelve. They call the whole way over. Under the geese, the sparrows chirp, under the sparrows the crickets tune in their late summer search for an old song, under the crickets my heart finds an older rhythm. The sun rises above the wood and filters through nut trees in the side yard.
It's a year for strange weather, wet and cool in the east.
If I were to walk out now, open the door and step into rain falling straight and solid, it would be like walking underwater, my bowing poppies and baby’s breath become sea flowers, the daisies starfish moving in the current. I would learn to use gills long abandoned, and make my hands act as fins, pulling me across this new sea’s floor, swimming through rain falling from clouds piled 40,000 feet high. To walk out now would require this sea change, and courage.
Hot and dry in other parts of the country.
In a Dry Season
The rain is a ghost that haunts us. It whispers a melody through the high branches of the tallest trees, and moves on. Field and flower wilt in its passing, and the days pile up, like thunderheads to the west.
Thunder and wind blow in from the northwest fog clears suddenly and rain scatters across the yard, a near miss with a storm centered north of us. Our clouds break and run in a breeze suddenly cool and dry. Twenty years ago, in another dry summer, Wilhelmina said, “In the Bible it says it rains on the just and the unjust. What do you suppose that makes us?” I can still hear her laugh if I listen closely. I think even God smiled.
Summer often takes a turn at the end of July.
Waiting for August
July crickets are pale and silent, they hide among the stones, waiting for August when they become sleek and black, rock stars laying down the back beat for the ants.
August’s Bitter Gold
If a tree fall in the wood in August’s bitter gold, does it make the sound of crack and kick out, slow tear and fall, muffled thud and sigh of brush and branch?
And if I, alone in that stillness do hear all of it, from first tender break to last hollow crashing, must I say it was all for me that the sound welled across the pond’s calm?
End of Time
Late August heat, before the dregs of a Gulf hurricane drags its rain and a chill Canadian breeze over us, has the crickets singing end of time songs.
This article completes a cycle that brought you poems from each of the four seasons and the bits in between. I hope you've found them enjoyable.
All poems are the property of Kathleen M. Tenpas and used with permission of the author.
About Kathleen M. Tenpas
We have a grazing dairy of 55 cows in the rolling hills of western New York State where we raised two daughters who have now blessed us with four grandchildren. I have messy, jungly beds of old roses, (some real antiques left by former owners), perennials, wildflowers and lots and lots of not so ornamental grasses! I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing: Poetry from Antioch University. I am a photographer and fabric artist and I bake a mean loaf of bread.