Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Rushes In

Young beets and onions a few years ago.

Those Eternally Linked Lives 5 March 26, 2017

Spring, once it’s official, rushes in,
heedless, yearning again toward green,
blooms, seeds. I can never keep up.
I turn eighty in two months when
these seeds will offer me peas, beets,
onions, lettuce. I didn’t used to count
days, but now I do. Each day is a gift
we can’t give back, can’t save, can
only live as if it were our last. It
might be. Keep the heart beating
by using it and all my other muscles,
tendons, organs, nerves, bones. The 
body is wedded to the soul. Keep
the soul happy, and the body will
flourish, hold off death, warm us
after a walk, sleep hard; and once
awake, find us plenty of puzzles to
solve and conflicts to agonize over. 
Each time we penetrate fear, come 
through those annoying, pesky doubts,
we re-find our balance, see light ahead,
not so terribly far off.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Heavy Gate That Was Between Us

Russian peasant farm, "First Snow," by Nikolai Smirnov

BEAVER SOUL 15  July 8, 1992.  Komarovo, Russia

I sleep in a Russian field.  A magpie
and a cricket sing my lullaby.
Walking here, I saw campion and scabious.
A bumblebee visits the meadow sweet.
After these months of readying myself,
July is mine.  Russia is mine.  Nothing
can take my peacefulness away.  Even sun!
At Komarovo!  Where there is little sun.
It is not the Bay of Finland which
draws me, but this meadow a-buzz
with insects, steaming itself dry so
slowly that no mist rises.  Perhaps 
only the tall, lyrical birches give it
away: I’m in Russia, not Wales,
not North Carolina.  The magpie
could be mistaken for a mockingbird;
the wildflowers could be picked in
Wales.  Blackberry vines would look
the same wherever they were.  But
I’m here.  Because I wanted to be
here.  Because the door opened once
and only I passed through.  Now I
learn the secret life of the beaver
in a new way.  The vulnerable white
bark of the birches opens in me a new
softness; the grasses tremble around
me with an unfamiliar tenderness.
My soul comes to rest.  The meadow welcomes
me now because the people here
have tugged the heavy gate that 
was between us open.  It is as if
we were all seated in this sunny
meadow.  Our fears have retreated
like cowardly, humbled animals
to the shadows around us.  We 
drink nectar.  We find all the 
words we want.  And our eyes
say the rest.  Our language is
the only human one; our tongues
taste ambrosia.  A kind, pale
light is with us, day and night.
We are never alone.  The jasmine
and wild roses rejoice with us.
The rain laughs and disappears.
Our quiet voices climb the
white sky and, when we awaken,
the white light beckons us

to morning communion.

I wrote this poem nearly 25 years ago, while staying at a Writers House of Creativity, Komarovo, near St. Petersburg in Russia. It's in my book Beaver Soul, published in Russia in 1997, and here in 2013 by Finishing Line Press.  A signed copy: $12, with tax and shipping $15, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gospel Sing Benefit-Judy's Speech

 First Coal Ash Train to Brickhaven pit January 2016

Gospel Sing-Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 
Mar 12, 2017, Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

I want to thank everyone–the Mt. Olive congregation, and especially, Pastor Headen and Cathy Smith, for arranging this event and welcoming us into their church, also the two choirs from Liberty Chapel and Ward Memorial churches, and all our visitors. We began fighting the dumping of 12 million tons of coal ash in our community in late 2014, and have been to court to challenge the Department of Environmental Quality’s permits to do this. We’ve attended hearings, held protests, written letters, and held fund–raising events to pay our wonderful lawyer, John Runkle. The money donated today goes to Mr. Runkle. In our fight have also been EnvironmentaLee and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League of which both our groups are 501-C-3 chapters, so donations are tax-deductible.

I’ve lived in Moncure eighteen years and decided when I came, that I would work to stop the pollution threatened then: a low-level nuclear dump. The pollution attempts have been constant, but we have in time won them all. This one has been especially hard, but we are working hard. What I want to talk about is our community, and what a blessing it is.

I knew no one when I moved here in late 1998, and now I count many here my friends and good neighbors, and fellow fighters for justice. People here have helped me with yard work, firewood, rides to the doctor or to get my car. People I didn’t know have introduced themselves in the post office. My life is rich because I have so many caring and generous neighbors. I’m very glad that Moncure is my home and that I’m part of this community, and I want to tell you: The coal ash dumping is not a done deal. When people say that, it sends out a message of despair. We have hope of winning this fight. Hope is harder than despair, but we can do it. Duke Energy is big, rich, and powerful, but we have the power of love, hope, and strong spirits. I challenge all of us to join those who are already fighting, to say, with them, “This is not a done deal. We are going to stop this dumping which brings harm: illness and death to us. We will not give up. Together we can stop this insult to our lives, our families, and our children.”


Judy with sign, 2016, later vandalized. We fight other ways.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The High Places

Judy's kitchen table in the spring of 2014, daffodil time

Those Eternally Linked Lives 2 March 5, 2017

You agreed: our story/our history
should be told. I wanted to give you
my heart whole, and I did. I couldn’t
forget the high places where we rested
and were one, each having a wing. You
left the whole story to me. I held back
until now. If we soared, we also lost
ourselves in the tangled skein of anger,
scorn, tears, deadly silence. You could
silence me, whose one great need was
to speak. Since I’m alone now, I’m free
to tell it all: the agony and loss of
paradise, and its rediscovery. We were
fools, yet wiser than everyone around
us, living our lives as if we were one
bird, one fight, with only one home,
and that always together. The love
has outlasted your death. I’m aging
but I’m speaking. Once you would 
have frowned at what I’m telling, 
but now, from your new place of

contemplation, you’re smiling.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Those Eternally Linked Lives

Peach and pear tree blooms 2013 in Judy's orchard.

Those Eternally Linked Lives 1 February 26, 2017

There’s no stopping spring once she stirs
to life all those roots under the soil cover.
Daffodils can weather ice. Peepers can go
back into their mud, but peach blossoms
come only once and kill so easily. Human
love has many changes it can ring. It can 
spring to life and then die when reality
pricks its bubble. We sometimes see
and feel what we want to, and the other
person never stops being strange. Our
souls never fuse. When the real thing
happens, we may fight to get away.
We don’t like feeling helpless or
taken captive by what we’ve seen and
loved. We don’t realize how lucky we
are, when, all unaware, we start a fire
in another person’s hearth. There’s a
deeper wisdom at work, one that 
throws off the conventional trappings
and goes for the knowing depths of 
our souls, when one moment becomes
sufficient to last us a lifetime, no
matter the consequences. We prepare
to pay the costs even before we know
what they are. Only later do we realize
how lucky we are and how that love

sustained us and changed our lives.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Eternally Linked Lives

Full Bloom 30. February 19, 2017

The Full Bloom years resurrect your great love,
which exalted you and made you suffer. Those
memories, hidden, but still alive line the way 
you walk with your always inquisitive dog.
What you see are the young hardwood trees,
their branches February bare, but they hold
your gaze and won’t let go. I was in a farmyard
in rural Russia, with people around me, but
so alone. Segregated and tended like a queen
bee, separate bowl and spoon, not allowed
to help. Everyone worked, but not me. I was
the guest. The man I loved with my whole
heart laughed at me. Then I found a stream
bank I could sit beside and write out my
sadness. To have felt connected in an eternal
way and then left alone was anguish enough,
but then he taunted me. I couldn’t see that he
was hurting, too. He’d never tell, but he did
hear me, made time to talk to me, stopped
laughing. It wasn’t a tie we could break,
though we both tried. Those eternally linked
lives can be hard to live with. Yet we did.
Now the bare twigs, their lines clean, their
sap soon to rise, remind me of what I’ll

never lose, no matter how long I live.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Questionnaire by Wendell Berry

Goff Creek with muddy water, prior to coal ash dumping in Brickhaven, Chatham County, N.C. photo: John Wagner, 2015

Here's a questionnaire for you. One size fits all.

QUESTIONNAIRE by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems, p.375, 2012

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
we could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security
for which you would kill a child.
Name please the children whom

you would be willing to kill.