V.  Runes



The chipmunk is not as ignobly brazen as the squirrel—

not the crazed mad dasher crossing the roadway, then


turning around, with its tail a raised question mark in

the air, always twitching, as the squirrel speeds beneath


the wheels of the moving car.  The chipmunk is not as

imprudent or daft as the squirrel, is not at all maniacal, but


behaves more in keeping with an athlete, its white racing

stripes emblazoned on either side of its upper back,


intimating speed, although not in the squirrel’s mindlessly

frenzied fashion, but more in the way of a sprinter, with


the finish line of the other side of the road its inevitable

destination, a veritable cross-road dash, acorn in mouth,


its four feet engaged in the very definition of what

the word bolt means.  However, as much as squirrels


may be fleet they are not known for being friendly, such

impertinent creatures as they are, muttering their harsh


chatter, lunatic interlopers always setting limits that exhibit

a boundless temerity.  Whereas, a chipmunk I chanced 


upon hiking Mount Lafayette, as I stopped mid-mountain

for a rest, volunteered to join me in a snack of trail mix,


tame enough to eat some right out of my outstretched hand,

filling its mouth at various intervals until the pouches


in its cheeks bulged, and upon surfeit it returned to its hole

dug into the earth beneath white pine, only to emerge again


for more peanuts and raisins with which it could

line its burrow for leaner times, whom native Americans


called the one who descends trees headlong, whose

nicknames include steward and housekeeper—


how we gamboled that summer day, Tamias striatus,

both of us bartering trust, having befriended one another.

—Wally Swist




Two-year-old Oscar has grown up

on the dementia unit of a Nursing Home.

He wins the platinum loyalty award

where as most dogs only receive the gold.


Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University bows

not only to Oscar’s perfect record

in death predictions

2-4 hours before its arrival,

(more accurate than hers),

but to his steadfast companionship,

remaining at the dying patient’s bedside.


After twenty-five such vigils

nurses now call relatives

when Oscar makes his final visit.


As if that were not enough,

Oscar is gorgeous.

                                          —Jane Herschlag





Cows in the distance,

small as crows,

go unnoticed by this calf

smelling mother’s breath.

Mom’s white eyelashes

fringe calm eyes.


She’s as curious about me

as I am about her.

She lets me talk

and stand close to her calf.

This trusting mom

must be friends

with the farmer.

                                              —Jane Herschlag



Owl, lost


Your face watched me

Your eyes of a lonely girl

turning away

side after side

looking over one shoulder then the other

to draw me from the basin within the tree

that hid your children


When you left the branch

it swayed so little

I wondered if I had seen you at all

then your gaze locked mine

from another part of the forest

tearing my gaze again

from the dark eyes

of your young ones


Now your tree seems empty

Its opening a mouth twisted

in a laugh

the autumn leaves covering that mouth

like the palms

of a hundred hands


No young ones

No bones or ruffled snags of fur fallen

beneath your ledge

Nothing but sanddust

and darkness


I want to see you

I want to hear you calling

in the night

That silken whisper

Even if it is not me you call

Even if it is me

and the night grows short

                          —Kelley Jean White



The Larkspur


All flowers live up to their names

an eponymous breed claiming colors, scent and heart

warriors with spears rising in the field

able to bring us to our knees

reminding us of forgotten dreams

those small hidden places like shadows

under the dark leaves

surrender written on the wings of a moth


I loved the larkspur before I had ever seen one

one word conjuring another world and

I lived in both

the wildflower meadow sits in the sun

a disdainful garden needing no man

weaving spells and humming the land

all we can offer is

the glorious names.

—Susan Oleferuk





With my left hand on her shoulder, my right sliding

across her back, I take in the smell of horse, pushing

my nose into her hair, rubbing against her until she leans

into me as if she wants to fall asleep inside the love.

Stroking and stroking until her coat takes on the sheen

of newly-minted light. Measuring the distance inside a wish

to be one with horse and landscape, the way the sky feels

when I lift my hands, stretch my arms apart to split the clouds

and know a horse is the fragile piece of God, the divine

bit of flesh that fell to earth with us, took on the definite

bones of being mortal to be what we cannot be, strong where

we are weak, weak where we are strong, so we become

the one thing when I slide my hand over her back and press

my cheek to hers, warm and giving as the morning sun.

                                                —Constance Rowell Mastores





—Doug Macdonald



Where the Tree Fell


Watch the water as it winds

Its way over root, a tide

That clasped, unclasped, wound, rewound,

Drenching leavage, loam.  Alone

This tree learned by rote the right

To root.  Now broken branch, bough,

Trunk and terminus unknot.

Wild west winds brought this tree low,

As low as earth would allow.

Now wind blows where it is not.

Broken where it used to bow,

As tangled as words I write,

Giving to the living a loan

That opens earth, a raw wound

Where the tree roots were untied.

Roots too shallow for west winds.

                                                —Laurence Snydal





Tonight we shadowed the moon.  Well, she’s been

Our parasol, darkening our doorway

Only too often.  Now it’s her turn again

To back offstage into obscurity, play

Her part, fill her ashen plains, empty seas,

With earthdark.  Be terrified.   Draw your shade,

Moon.  Hide in the earth’s focussed cone that frees

You from the spotlight for these moments.  Fade

To a shadow of yourself.  Be dark there

As we here, as we here block the glow of

Starshine that’s your customary wear,

The glamour of chastity, madness, love.

Stardom eludes you now but only through

This brief eclipse.  No reflection on you.

                                                                —Laurence Snydal



After the Earthquake


When the earth spoke it didn’t mumble.

It groaned and growled.  And the two firs whipped

Branches hard against the house.  I slipped

To one knee, heard the backyard grumble,

Shiver, shake, snatch at its compost quilt

With dirty fingers, settling back to

Unmade beds where gardens might come true.

The dog barked.  Our confidence was spilt

Out on the ground.  Stone bones sifted through

The meat of mud and loam, sandy glands

Swelled with sweat.  The earth here raised soiled hands

To heaven, stirred in its bed, and you

And I trembled too.  Now how can we keep

Our covenant with certainty and sleep?

                                                                Laurence Snydal



—Doug Macdonald