Poems For Two Sisters

©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.

A MANIFESTATION
(FOR KATHERINE)

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–
     unframeable landscape
     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?

Finis

     

 

 

        

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