©1995 By Bob Litton
TO MAGGIE, ON BEGINNING HER SIXTEENTH YEAR
Now don’t turn tart or oblivious
If we celebrate less joyously
Than you this day, this year,
This circuit in your race through life.
It’s only growing pains we feel
At watching innocence eager
To share in the sins and tomfoolery
We grown-ups hide in our talk
Under the rug called “sophistication”.
There’s a scene in a book I read
About a deer, a lusty young buck,
Who scraped his felty antlers against a birch,
Slicing the tree’s bark to shreds.
If the birch lived, it was forever scarred;
Yet such was Nature’s chosen way to hone
One creature’s implements for coping.
I’ve often pondered how like that tree
Good parents and teachers are, standing
Sturdily in the way while children whet their wits
Upon them, testing boundaries and givings-in.
No misplaced sentiment should wish either
Scraping or testing not there, since the grace
For growing comes from the pain that others bear.
One memory more: A hiker’s trail
In Big Bend country (short as such trails go)
Meanders downhill from the comforts of camp
To an opening cloven in the mountain’s wall,
Where a creek decants its shallow stream;
And I could see, as through a keyhole,
Way off yonder, Santa Elena Canyon,
With the Rio Grande flowing through.
“The Window View”, that pisgah is called.
The trek to it is easy, as all treks downward are,
So that disdainfully I did pass by
Some benches set here and there along the trail.
The return’s a task, though, and I hunted
Exasperatedly for those seats
I had deemed absurdly plentiful before.
Folks I met as they were coming down
And I, up, appeared too fresh and eager,
Toting kiddos on their shoulders,
As though this jaunt were nothing but a journey
Round the block back home
Where all is level.
They stared at my flagging apparition
As if to say: “What a grump is here
Who unseemly sweats this autumn day
And inhales twice to our once
So he can’t even utter `Hullo’!”
Off they went, and I turned to watch
Their butts jiggling jollily down
The path I had just clambered up
Huffing step after puffing step.
That’s how it is with some of us adults
Who struggle daily to regain
The guileless coherency you children
Blithely abandon like molted skin.
BROADWATER, NEB. (AP) — Sixteen pelicans
found dead near here were killed by lightning,
wildlife officials said.
A chevron of white wings
brushes the green-grey sky.
In unison slow, scooper-billed pelicans
veer now west, now south,
now west again, slightly, so slightly,
only Time’s eye can see.
A thousand feet below
spreads the great Nebraska plain–
tawny, like a huge straw nest;
inviting, yet down there, they know,
the big cats prowl.
Afar and weighted beneath black billows,
a serrated silhouette of purple mountains
divides sky and plain.
Thunder rumbles amid the peaks,
and clouds roll and swirl
like ocean surf in Chinese prints–
of terrifying limitlessness.
Earth may warn dumb beasts
when calamity is nigh,
but Heaven’s intent is harder read.
Thus the pelicans fly
directly into doom,
serenely waving their wings,
until a claw-like bolt,
scratching through the clouds,
seizes them in searing clutch,
and down they tumble.
Which of us knows
our true element?