Burning the Leaves is a book of poems aimed at meanings generated not only by immediate contexts but also by deeper themes spawned through relevant turns of phrase. In other words, similar sounds mayand, more often, may notdeepen the opportunity for meaning that would be otherwise unavailable to the ear and the eye.
If rhyme and rhythm are just right, the experience of language is deepened. If it is off, the experience of the poem is doubly damaged. In the spirit of sonnets by Frost, Keats, and Spenser, Junkins focuses on his travels through Massachusetts, Maine, China, and beyond as he questions whether risks are worth taking in poetry and in life.
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"You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees."
DECEMBER RAIN AFTER HEAVY SNOW:
The white pine seedling just inside the woods blurs past the sculptured nude facing south and glaze re-rounds the Rose of Sharon hoods in fog. Whole white childhoods, mouth to mouth beyond the clothespin birds, begin to bevel over the barely sloping graveyard field.
JANUARY AT THE WINDOW,
caught by the wind-blown beech leaf grazing the frozen snow at noon with lost intent, I pause as last night's disappearing dream re-draws itself, yet the tone goes wrong and that old lien returns before my eyes, softened by the torn rag strip blowing from the plastic trellis, the morning glory trumpet sky above the winter trees, their long blue wicks flowing across the snow in the sun. The leaf long gone with the forgotten dream, I nap.
FEBRUARY: OUR BACKYARD ROSE OF SHARON
Long after the petals drop, gentle snow descends all day. Deer pass by the white mound in the night when evidence and memory coexist the way that dreams without sound prod the memorial past and we wake with tone on our hands. The deer have gone on and are sleeping it off,
WHITE ON WHITE: NEARING SOLSTICE
At the edge of our whitening grass, on the sawed maple stump beside the wraith-high blueberry bushes blending into the woods, our miniature bather bends to her lifted foot, so delicately contained within her alabaster tones, and muses on the undefined detail at her hand.
AN EAGLE MAKES A SINGLE PASS OVERHEAD
Snow fog drifts through the maple bucket woods assaying the scrawl of the early April brook through our backyard haze, opening the book of the long awaited spring, the one on the bedside table that we enter while we sleep,
OLD DEERFIELD: REMEMBERING THE RAID OF 1704
These March snowfields beyond the playing fields where the Florentine sun bleaches tobacco barns and the paint-less hinge-clasped boards warp gently in their time (for time cannot be called on leveled pine in the sun), these meadows white except for drifting cumulus shadows of a darker hue led north from this valley of shadows of dreams too fragile to step beyond, too close to accept,
SUNDAY RAIN IN APRIL: OPENING DAY
and the river swollen and roiling under the bridge hell-bent now among the ploughed and level fields, white-flecked brown with river travel,
APRIL FORSYTHIA ON MAIN STREET
in Old Deerfield are mere dandelions in the front yards of Lilliput where size broadens our perspective on surmise about the nature of captivity. I mean particularly how the forced marchers into death and the easings of their pain accustomed them to the way the seasons changed the same, though further north; the torchers of the town were yet yellow bright in scenes still on their minds. They must have longed for spring,
THE HAWKS ROAD BROOK IN THE SPRING RAIN
The dark stream comes through in the rain like news from that other world, slow from the woods in the April rain, for here the pulpits hood their silent tongues, and mayflowers steady at the moves of the reacher's hand. Here fresh water rises in the amplitude of spring, and briar stalks sprout the first green on their arching stems, blocked in arithmetical precision in their seeming praise of the measured stream beneath. That other world is always there, the new old president,
PARKED BETWEEN THE VALLEY FIELDS IN THE WARM WIND AND RAIN
Down from the red dahlia and the morning glories on Hawks Road where our out of season lily leans,
Butternut squash flowers bloom on the edges of the late picked fields, and the hurricane season languishes in the glow of Penn Warren's hundredth year, the anguish of New Orleans in the autumn air, our state of mind. His Band of Angels tracks us down again, "sold down the river" in high yellow season again, the nation's old theme. Long fuses, vines bursting into trumpet flames, Amanda, brown become "yaller," the genitalia of the map the slave journey's end. Robert of Kentucky knew King Louis' delta earth, the fecund sap of life: mockingbirds, trombones, the brew of bodies intertwined. When the walls came tumbling down, the angels wept, fearing at the rumbling.
LATE SEPTEMBER MORNING GLORIES
Lingering in my car, I watch the blue morning glories lead up the side of my garage in the warm September rain. They barely move in the ruffling wind, but the hue of purple encloses four of the twenty-four blooms,
SEPTEMBER BACKYARD IN DEERFIELD
I would wish hummingbirds for Kaimei when I am gone, and green and purple sheen will hover in the sun, and in this delay before the dazzling streak into all that seems beyond our reach, will play in metaphor the reenactment scene when I would hover,
OCTOBER IN OUR TOWN
Now when the autumn ague draws old hips again, and the marathon-worn joints are dry to the bone, I sit beneath the orange maple sky in the sun, watching the hummingbird hover. He sips the last rose in mid-flight, backs up, and is off in a blur,
DEERFIELD: ON HEARING ALBAN GERHARDT PLAY SCHUMANN'S CELLO CONCERTO IN A MINOR AT THE BOSTON SYMPHONY
Just above the first shallows east of Stillwater Bridge, the mid-April calm is slow moving glass except for near-bank swirls that note the mirror sky. Yellow curls ribboning the passing cars, strange balm of spring, are gone from view. Gone the least sparrows from the near east sky, day after day. On the banking, green follows gold.
— for Roger Howland —
THE DARK-COMPLEXIONED WOMAN IN THE YELLOW DRESS
on the west portico of the Capitol gave us the long view of monuments again, the banner of the masses stilled and the reach of words in the air,
"Fame lasts one second. Don't fall for it."
Libai, Tang Dynasty, China, 8TH Century
SWAN'S ISLAND: A CORMORANT SWIMS BY, DIVING, LATE JUNE
The view east through the birches is yellow-
MAINE HIGH SUMMER: THE SOUTHWEST BREEZE BLOWS DIAMONDS
on the mid-morning bay and a lobster boat works the south side of the tide rip between the western Sister and Red Point. His toy engine is a mile away riding the white-blue day. The constant sea change tides him through the soft shell days of the molting gold on the ocean floor. It is all rhythm here and the beguiling calm of day unfolds so orderly it draws us to the fire at night where we remember the blaze of stars trespassed by trails of military convoys ferrying limb-less ageless boys to the wards of Walter Reed in solitary public view. On this moonless night the planes pass over, tiny specks of light.
Here on the headland of the old Morrison tent ground,
THE FERRY LANDING IN LATE JULY
An empty rowboat rocks on anchor at noon in Mackerel Cove. White caps roil under the sun.
FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE AS THE FOG COMES IN
The plaintive cry of a lone gull cuts the gathering fog, and the channel bell rocks its toll. Early summer gives and takes away. The tops of Harbor Island's spruce go white, and Normie Burns heads out. His wake disappears under the folds of seamless sheets.
AT THE DRAINING OF THE QUARRY POND
The late July fog hangs outside the bell in Burnt Coat Harbor, and the lighthouse disappears and forms again. From the north rim of the stone quarry, the brown surface of the draining pond clears to overhead blues. Workmen douse the geometric slabs of the lowering wall,
MINTURN: THE VIEW ACROSS TO BURNTCOAT HARBOR LIGHT
Looking across to the Western Way this cold July noon in the nursery school parking lot, the bell buoy spots the channel stark on the steel harbor lake, tide-pulled in its distant western lean, dark spruce bold in black-green channel cliff descent.
LOOKING ACROSS MACKEREL COVE INTO THE JULY FOG
The small tidal cove beyond Dusty Staples' wharf tints foreground green, then white. Out there four miles in the white, Blue Hill names the bay. While the tide recedes, the morning is cut in half by four noisy crows across the street: three-toned,
Excerpted from "Burning the Leaves"
Copyright © 2018 Donald Junkins.
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