CRACKING THROUGH STONE WATER
Come the mid-winter freeze-up,
the cold creeps in, silent and stealthy
an assassin clutching
a glass dagger, which he thrusts
down the length of Keene Valley.
Our pipes, which once sucked fresh water
from the stream like straws, snap
brittle as thin tusks of ice. Time
to haul out the ten gallon milk pails
and drag the toboggans down to the river.
We shovel aside the pall of fresh snow
the steel pan scrapes
against the ragged rocks
and hack a jagged hole
through the stalled stone water.
Ice chips scatter like potsherds
of bleached slate. Beneath
the white sheet, a quick currency flows.
We haul it up by hand in buckets, stinging
our fingers with liquid fire.
The work of cracking through
takes such work, some never begin
too afraid the stream is dry or fallow.
Only the true cut
releases the springs.
Then the poems come. Sometimes
they rise to the top like golden koi
nibbling the rim of liquid sky.
Most times, you're digging a well
through an icepack of frozen tundra.
The result all depends
on how thirsty you are.
RIDING THE AUSABLE CLUB BUS
When I was very young, the first bus
was a '48 Ford woody
with panels burnished blonde
by the weather's harsh rag.
It rattled and shimmied down the Lake Road so long
I guess it shook itself to death, dropping
into piles of rusty bolts and gears, axles,
pistons, and shredded seats, oozing their snarl
of kinky horsehair stuffing.
A later bus, Kelly green and fresh
from the GMC factory, sparkled
like a Tinker's smile.* It took twelve
but could carry more if kids sat
on people's knees. Instant community.
We wore heavy jackets, hiking boots
and enough bug-juice to repel a moose.
Some men, heading for Gill Brook,
carted tackle and rods. They wore vests
with pockets a multitude of eyes
and floppy hats stuck with hand-tied flies
each with fancy names like Owl, Bloodworm,
Ginger Quill and Dovey Bumble.
On schedule, our driver rueful and stoic
about hauling campers all summer long
flicked his cigarette aside,
crammed our backpacks, wicker baskets
and sleeping bags into the rear, climbed
to the wheel, and switched on the engine,
clanking like gin bottles in the rumble-seat,
then it lurched and squeaked
down the changeless road
of our eternal forest. We stopped once
to open the old AMR gate,
a lattice-work of wooden antlers,
then lumbered past the Ladies Mile.
It was like riding an aged elephant
working up to a slow trot.
Inside, we swayed, we bounced
like potentates perched on our howdahs
'till our fillings nearly fell out.
We clung to steel poles
for dear life. You had to shout
above the grinding motor,
simply to be heard.
The bus coughed and wheezed up the rutted road,
spitting stones between its tires.
We crossed Pooh Sticks Bridge.
We passed the trailhead
to Beaver Meadow Falls.
We climbed hills, rounded
innumerable bends, and forsook streams,
(from which we never drank.) At last,
the bus dragged its metal carcass
up the final grade then took a steep
hairpin curve and plunged
toward the Lower Lake,
(its brakes protesting all the way).
There it slowed,
gave one last gasp, and came
to a dead stop
perhaps even happier
than we to arrive.
They say, after a certain age,
even lucid men long
for a quick death.
*"Tinker" is a UK slang word for an Irish Gypsy.