The Orchard

Black as night …
Coals from the slow-burning hackberry remain intact
Wistful this morning, I’ve chosen the worn mackinaw
In an age of silent gratitude and preference,
Old habits wane, but almost never pass

First Light …
The slight rap of my walking stick against the sidewall
Brings the younger collie, greeting me with lively spirit
Our singular path, passably sufficient,
Leads into the wood and adjacent valley

Taking the lead …
My scout scurries ahead, surveying for signs of wander
Cleverly marking future routes with a personal declaration
I never weary of her occasional vanishing act … and reappearance
Good Friends always find a way to walk a common path

Change …
Although my pace hasn’t slowed at all over the years,
Somehow, I arrive later and later to my desired intentions
An uneasy paradox, soothed in part by a poetic observation
That the journey is my destination, reframes this solitary outing

The Wood …
No house of worship is its equal, in simplicity or splendor
A habitat of curve and camber, there’s not a straight line to be found
Your admiration was always sincere, as my appreciation is genuine
Eagles live among the elder trees, nestling their young with brushwood and twig

Meadow and Pass …
Fairies work throughout the night to weave a mantle of petal and bloom
Long ago, the morning sun brushed a hue across this meadow, proclaiming your arrival
My scout darts out at full speed to the far end, stopping abruptly to wag her location
Whenever there’s a need to seek comfort or reassurance, I always come back here … to the beginning

The Orchard …
Once a labor of love, any inclination to cultivate this graveyard vanished long ago
Save the lone near-corner mackintosh … a monument to your care and passion
I refused to let go in the hope that, somehow, I will sense your presence
A shambles now, never assume someone else will tend to your dream in a similar fashion

On this day …
We continue on to the nearby village main; a northerly wind hastens our march
At The Orchard Café, a hodgepodge of like-minded souls gather,
Determined to make their mark by not leaving one
The collie shakes the cold, then curls on her rug beside the coal-fed Gurney

An empty chair …
Rests beside mine at our table; my quiet moment … coffee, apple pie, butter pecan ice-cream
Two friends share concern for my well-being; a third, attempts to engage in conversation
I am standing with you in the meadow … in the beginning, and near the end
My silent memory, disrupted by the collie snuggling at my feet

Enough is enough …
Death brings a sorrow that withers the strongest of souls, creating a void not easily filled
In the midst of struggle, most are blind to their condition and to any balm that might heal
My friends encircled me, placing my old brushes, tools, and pigments on the table
Hands lay on my shoulder. “It’s time,” I’m told. No argument. No discussion. Enough is enough

A promise made …
The way home was without color or shape; I don’t recall anything worth preserving
Though for a long while, my scout never left my side, until a notion coaxed her into the wood
A push of the bellow ignites the kindling; a fire is burning again … and, it feels good
I open the door to your room, pause, select an empty canvas and then bring it into the light …

James F. Ross
© 2012


One thought on “The Orchard

  1. Ok, So James, need I say WOW again? I met a real writer today and feel blessed by the accidental, yet inevitable nature of the meeting.

    I have not read the second poem because God knows that since this one is about lost love and perhaps real death, I hesitate to go down that road before digesting this one. So let me comment on the parts that resonated immediately with me.

    “surveying for signs of wander
    Cleverly marking future routes with a personal declaration
    I never weary of her occasional vanishing act … and reappearance
    Good Friends always find a way to walk a common path”

    That play on words, using the expectation that what I will read next as I advance word by word… I expected to read signs of wonder, not signs of wander. I love that. That is what artists do all the time, turn expectations upside down and make people stop in their tracks to think it over, imply puns since the line is about walking a track anyway! Plus my daily walks with my dogs over the years are my spiritual food and I love them so much for that. They are wonderful creations and am happy you think so too.

    “Determined to make their mark by not leaving one
    I love this observation. A man who is damaged to the heart’s core is exactly this way, sometimes stubbornly so”. And it alludes to the line about the dog leaving his mark, his personal declaration.

    “In the midst of struggle, most are blind to their condition and to any balm that might

    Another great line- most are willfully so because we know intuitively that there is nothing but to walk through to the other side anyway. I am experiencing lots of that kind of blindness these days with my 91 year old mother. Now that my mother’s brain is dying before her body the experience is one of understanding that this is her new reality, as real to her as mine is to me, and finding a place inside myself that is kind, non judgmental, and hopeful of the best possible outcomes given the unalterable circumstances. My mother, a woman who read the dictionary for pleasure since childhood and wrote charming engaging stories for her local newspaper, turned to me, horror and surprise written all over her face this weekend and asked me “how do you spell money?”

    So I will look at the photos next, then the other poem.
    Hope you get a chance to explore my website, the blogs and the paintings.

    EJ enjoyed meeting you too,



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