Flora and Fauna

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We walked companionably along the bog boardwalk, admiring the vegetation and simply enjoying the day. Paula, who had wandered up ahead, walked back toward us.

“I just wanted to let you know,” she said, “There’s a snake up ahead.”

“What!?!” several of us chorused.

“Is it blocking the path?” someone asked.

“No,” Paula said, “It’s on the path by one of the benches. Off to the side.”

“Well, what’s it doing?”

“It’s just kind of flicking its tongue at me, ” she said. “I came back to tell you because I didn’t want you to come around the corner and be startled.”

We walked forward, some of us more tentatively than others, rounding a bend in the walkway. Then… there it was! About 10 feet  2-3 feet long. It wasn’t on the path, but it was facing it. In primo launch position!

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Photo credit to the valiant S. Koenig

I looked at it skeptically, eyeballing the path around it. There was certainly room to walk around it, but it would put me within range. Why was the snake just sitting there, still facing the path, flicking its tongue? Was it smelling us and considering how good we’d taste? That flicking tongue sure looked a lot like someone licking their lips…anticipating! Whatever it was doing, it clearly was up to no good. An innocent snake would have moved along by now.

“Ugh! I hate snakes!” I shuddered.

“Take a picture,” someone suggested.

“You take a picture!” I responded in my most mature manner.

That’s when it happened. A few yards past the snake, two of my friends had stopped and were looking back at the snake and at us. A movement caught my eye. I froze. As horror rendered me mute, I watched another snake wriggle up and through an opening between wooden slates in the walkway, right between my friends, and then slither over the edge and into the bog.

My mind was immediately filled with Indiana Jones-like scenes of slithering snakes swarming in massive colonies beneath us. I could imagine them squeezing through the wooden slats all around us, up and onto the walkway, to form great writhing piles of snakes. How many of them might be under there???

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“Oh MY GOD! Did you see that???” I whispered ( or maybe screeched).

“What?” they all asked.

I didn’t stop to answer. I hightailed it around the first snake and all of them, moving rapidly down the path, stomping my feet down dramatically as I went, hoping to stave off any impending reptile offensive.

Further down the path, after my friends had caught up, I explained what I’d seen.

“Are you sure?” they asked me.

Sure!?  The image had blazed into my retinas! Yes, I was sure! But, it turned out, no one else had seen the snake. Not one of them. They looked at me skeptically.

“Maybe you imagined it, ” one fine, supportive friend suggested.

I shuddered again, replaying the reel in my mind. That smooth reptilian body squeezing up and over the boardwalk. Imagine that?

I wish.

 

NYC Dress

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IMG_1489.JPGI first saw the dress on Wednesday afternoon while browsing through the racks in a street stall on Broadway. I immediately loved both the style and the print. “I might just have to get this,” I commented to my co-worker, showing her the dress. “I wonder how much it is.”

With the dress in hand, anticipating a bargain, I approached a nearby vendor. “Excuse me. How much is this?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s $20,” he said, “But it’s not mine. It’s his.” He pointed to another man and then ducked under a divider to return to his own stall.

I admired the dress some more. As a Salvation Army devotee, $20 is at the high end of my spending range. But… the dress was really cute and, I reminded myself, $20 is NOT a lot to pay for a dress. With a cardigan, I’d even be able to wear it to work. Having quickly convinced myself and with encouragement from my colleague (who astutely recognized both the aforementioned cuteness factor and the reasonable price), I walked over to the second man.

“I’d like to buy this,” I said, holding up the dress.

“Ok,” he said. “It’s $29.”

“Oh,” I stammered, “$29? The other man said it was $20.”

“What man?” he asked, and I pointed to the misinforming individual. They exchanged a few brisk words in a language I couldn’t understand.

“No,” he replied, turning back to me, “$29.”

“Is there any chance you could go down on the price?” I asked.

“No,” he repeated firmly, “$29.” Reluctantly, I returned the dress to the rack. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

But I kept thinking about the dress. It really was so cute and I could dress it up or dress it down. Very versatile! Also, $29 isn’t  unreasonable. It’s only $9 more than I’d been prepared to spend. That’s just two coffees at Starbucks!

So, on my last day in the city, after two days of internal debate, I realized I still had some spending money in my pocket. (We’ll ignore the entirely unrelated decision to use my credit card for some small purchases.) I decided to splurge and buy myself the dress as a New York City memento. I returned to the vendor, hoping the dress was still there. And luckily, it was! There was no place to try it on, but a S/M should fit. I’d just have to buy it on faith. I pulled it off the rack and happily paid my $29.

The next day, back in Maine, I was eager to try on the dress. After untying the wrap, I realized that the dress was sewn together in the interior–a sort of fake wrap. Hmmm…I guess I must put it on over my head. Diving into the dress, I realized quickly that this wasn’t going to be a smooth operation. I wiggled and contorted, keeping an ear out for any sound of fabric ripping. Finally, after a fair amount of exertion, I got the dress on—and it fit! I untied the wrap and examined the interior waist again–no button…sewn tight. Hmmmm. After another bout of gymnastics, I was able to pull it off over my head. Phew!

The following day was warm and sunny–Perfect inaugural sundress weather! But this time the dress seemed even harder to get on. I guess this is what I get for buying a dress off the streets of New York without trying it on, I thought. I tugged, pulled and wriggled. Who was this dress intended for anyway? Determined, knowing it would fit if I could only get it on, I persevered. It felt like a birth scene! Finally, my shoulders emerged from the tight waist and I could easily pull the dress down, where it settled nicely into place. Once on, there was nothing to indicate my battle.

“Cute!” my daughter commented when I emerged from my room.

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get on,” I exclaimed.

Later that day, my hand brushed across my side. Huh? What was that ridge? My fingers lingered, following a raised line under the fabric. It ran right along the seam, up the side of the dress. What could it be? Oh….Understanding quickly blossomed, along with chagrin. It was… a zipper!  All this time, I’d been battling with the dress and the answer was only a quick, albeit well-concealed, zip away. That night I smoothly pulled the zipper down and easily stepped out of the dress. How many times before, I wondered, have I missed such a simple solution?

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New York Symphony

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New York City fascinates me. There’s such energy there. I’m convinced that even if you took away all the sounds, the city would vibrate or hum. Both times that I’ve attended TC Summer Institutes at Columbia, I have stayed on 77th Street. One of the highlights of my visit is to walk up and back Broadway to 120th every day. I especially love the morning commute. The dog walkers are out in force, and merchants are opening their stores, unloading carts, carefully wrapping bouquets in sleeves, and stacking fruit and vegetables into rainbows of produce. The passing cars hum. Small groups of pigeons and sparrows feast on offerings of bread. Sunlight glints off the top of buildings and dew drops still cling to the blossoms in planters and parks. Although they say NYC is the city that never sleeps, to me, those early morning sights and sounds are the city waking and preparing for the upcoming performance of the day.

New York Symphony

In New York City
day dawns
the quickening air pulses
with vibrations
the deep heavy rumble of delivery trucks
the click clack of carts
crossing sidewalks with a rhythmic
ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk
the contented coo of feasting pigeons
a burst of beating wings
as a startled flock takes flight
evading the percussive
thump-thump-thump
of approaching runners
or the staccato clicks of high heels
the punctuating steamy exhale of the buses
a crescendo of trumpeting car horns
a blazing siren
and the steady swish of tires
and humming engines
threaded through with
the cheerful calls
of vendors and passersby
and the sweet strains of bird song
All tuning up
for a day in the city
a New York City symphony

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

Check out this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Carol Varsalona’s blog, Beyond Literacy Link. She has a bounty of poetic offerings this week: her Springsations gallery unveiling, a sonnet to read aloud, a poem about fried chicken and an invitation to write about mac ‘n cheese at next week’s Roundup in honor of National Mac and Cheese Day .

Two Feet

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI step out of our comfortable New York city hotel, grimacing slightly when my feet hit the pavement after yesterday’s touristy 27,000+ steps. Walking up to Starbucks for my morning Americano, I look up, admiring the light glinting off the tops of the buildings, noticing new stonework details, enjoying the early morning pulse of the city. 

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I turn after crossing the street and notice two feet, peeking out from beneath a blue blanket. A man sleeps against a building at the edge of the sidewalk. His two feet are clearly visible…pale and clean…surprisingly clean. Where are his shoes? Does he have shoes? I imagine them clutched to his chest, held safely, though I can’t see beneath his blanket.

Two feet. That’s all I can see. In my mind I frame them, those two feet swaddled in blue, and snap a picture. I think of baby pictures, those sweet shots that zoom in on tiny hands or feet nestled in the folds of a blanket. I wonder who once washed these feet. When did this man’s path go astray? What steps has he taken to arrive in this place? Are there loved ones who worry for him? Who tried their best? Or did their worst?

Two feet. A blue blanket. A New York sidewalk.

And then I walk by him and continue on my way.
How many others will do the same today?

Currently (as of last night)

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’ve had a tough time slicing lately. Somehow Tuesday comes along before I know it and once again, I’m floundering. Last night I was determined to have a slice to share today, so I fell back on the tried and true “Currently” structure. Please bear in mind that I wrote this last night. (My morning beverage of choice is a more acceptable orange juice with a splash of cranberry.)

Currently I am…

Wishing… for a nice cool breeze. The temps hit the low 90s today and it’s still sticky. I finally took the flannel sheets off the bed. (I hope I wasn’t too optimistic and that I don’t regret it in a few days!)

Looking at…the flowers blooming in my garden. The first of the rugosa roses have made an appearance and “…the green fists of the peonies are getting ready/ to break my heart…” (Mary Oliver—I recently read her poem Peonies for the first time (Thanks, Tara!) and then read it again…and again…and again…)

Planning… for the final two weeks of school. These may be the longest or the shortest two weeks in the history of the world.

Reading… my e-mail from TC about the June Reading Institute. Is anyone else going?

Writing… comments for report cards and trying not to repeat what I wrote in the last two trimesters. Searching for the perfect phrase…

Watching… the wine level in my glass go down.

Listening… to the evening chorus of the birds and to the far off sound of some motivated (or irate?) neighbor who is chopping or banging something.

Drinking…I’ll give you one guess 🙂 (Hint: see Watching…) I’m pretty convinced there’s some major evaporation going on here as well!

Eating…pretzels. I have a major pretzel problem—not just any old pretzels though. It’s Snyder’s Snaps all the way for me!

Mood…vacillating –so much to do, so much to reflect upon, so much to anticipate, so much to regret, so much to enjoy.  So much!

Abandoned Farmhouse

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Abandoned Farmhouse
by Ted Kooser
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.
…..

(click on the title to read the remainder of the poem)

house3.jpgI read the above poem recently and thought immediately of the abandoned houses that haunt the back country roads in Maine. Their stories are palpable. Ted Kooser imagines one story, with an ominous tone, in a setting spiked with broken dishes and spines, boulders and leaky barns. His poem inspired me to revisit an old post and some pictures I’d taken long ago, and to write the following:

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Once upon a time…

The house had good bones
its story still stirs the air
like a haunting whisper
Once upon a time…

Big house
little house
back house
barn
like vertebrae on a spine
skinned with a coat of cheerful yellow
crowned with a jaunty red roof
waving a welcome
with blue and white curtains
at its windows

Now, open windows are blank eyes
Dulled yellow paint
peels from bone-dry clapboards
the red roof bucks and heaves
a fractured spine

No bark echoes in this yard
No drying clothes dance in a soft spring breeze
No child’s laughter trills
Even the birds seem silent here

Look
Listen

In a gaping window
the dusty curtains flutter
like a broken sigh

There is no graveyard
for houses that die

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

If you’re interested in learning about the “big house, little house, back house, barn” architecture so evident in Maine, click  here. If you’d like to read some more poetry at this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup, head over to A Year of Reading.

Things To Do poem…

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A1LwE+CtJkLIf you haven’t yet read Elaine Magliero’s book “Things to Do”, I strongly encourage you to do so.  I owe a big shout out to Jama Rattigan for her delightful interview with Elaine Magliero, which inspired me to pick up this enchanting book.  I shared some of the poems with my class, and they were eager to try out this form. So was I! It’s a wonderful entryway into persona or mask poem writing. Ever since reading it, I’ve found myself thinking differently. What might I do if I was…moss? a cat? a house? Thinking this way, I looked at my favorite birch tree in a new light. It now seemed like the perfect subject for a Things to Do poem.

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Things to do if you’re a birch tree

Greet the rising sun
Sparkle with dew
Wave au revoir to the morning star

as each day starts anew

Shelter singing birds
Dangle a swing
Spread your skirt of dappled shade
Jewel your core with rings

Stretch your pale limbs wide
and reach up high
Create a crackled quilt of color
in azure summer skies

Sway with the breezes
Rustle your leaves
Cradle the full moon in your branches
on a soft and sultry eve

 

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

To enjoy more poetry, make sure to visit this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Buffy Silverman’s blog, Buffy’s Blog.