The poet and environmentalist, Nancy Nielsen, died on May 23rd, 2016, after a lengthy period of declining health. Her partner for many years, Alan Brooks, has recently published a collection of poems, maybe someday, written during the last months of her illness and the two years following, and is putting together a collection of Nancy’s poems for future publication.
I was fortunate enough to visit Alan and Nancy a number of times in their secluded cabin on the shores of Straight Bay, in Lubec, Maine, and remember with pleasure evenings when, after supper, we sat around and read poems, our own and others’, and, if we were very lucky, Alan could be persuaded to fetch his guitar down from the attic and give us a song or two.
What follows is a poem of Nancy’s, sent as a New Year card; a poem of mine, published in a slightly different version in Out of Silence, and two poems of Alan’s from maybe sunday,
The Light This Morning
for Nancy Nielsen
The light this morning is touching everything
the poet says, and I imagine you
standing tall again
no longer numbed or navvied
letting loose the dogs
then stepping with them
into the pool of early morning,
the dew on the grass
fresh around your feet
I see you
walking in this early light
bending to your garden
setting things to rights,
these moments before
the day itself is up and going
A bird starts up from the trees
and you turn back towards the house
the cool of the kitchen
smell of coffee newly ground
the small clear crack of shell
as the eggs are loosed into the bowl
apples sliced straight into the butter
foaming ready in the pan
flour, a dusting of sugar, cinnamon:
The taste of it;
the cabin encircled, almost, by trees;
the clearing into which we walked
and you walked out to greet us
the light around us touching everything
Your poet’s eye
your stubborn hardiness and grace.
At Your Graveside
faint skirl of gulls from the flats –
ache of a yellowleg’s cry from the marsh:
end end end end end summer’s ending
The sky today holds everything
we ever asked of it.
Encircled by goldenrod,
I say your name over and over –
you, who are now in this earth and of it.
Leaf shadows play
among first leaves falling.
Coyote Came In The Night
Coyote came in the night. I was gone.
Coyote, surely you know
we moved away years ago?
Surely you watched us leave –
felt our sadness –
saw us, a rare once in awhile,
return by day for an hour or two
and mostly me, alone, and then
and then, and then
only me alone?
She would have smiled, Coyote,
to see by first light that you’d visited –
come right to the back door –
and that you’d eaten of our fallen apples.
You sang to her often
and she called you Wise One,
sometimes even Friend.
Soon I will be here, Coyote,
both day and night. Come to me then
not as a tradesman or servant.
Our house is too humble for that.
Come to the front door as honoured guest.
Sing to me in the crisp nights of Fall
as a reveler, and in the longest nights
as a caroler singing
beyond this world’s grief