Squirrels Without End, Amen

A collection of poetry by Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall

Squirrels Without End, Amen

Whenever I take my book to the front-yard oak
The squirrel stretched from the feeder to the trunk
Flees in a seed-strewn panic across the lawn
To a farther tree, free of human menace

This is a young squirrel; its predecessor
Arched from feeder to trunk in exactly the same way
But held its ground, or, rather, its rough old tree
And chittered defiance in contempt of me

By summer’s end this squirrel too will stare me down –
I wonder what Pasternak wrote about squirrels


You Do Not Prune an Apple Tree

You do not prune an apple tree, oh, no
You must become one with the apple tree
With saw and loppers, not unlike a surgeon
An especially conscientious one

The intrusions of vines must be excised
And the cancerous rubbish growths pulled away
Dead limbs must be diagnosed and sawn down
And the poor weeping ends tended with love

You tell the tree to take the winter off
And call you first thing in the coming spring


Theology of the Garden Bench

God’s good, green earth is holy, and must be reverenced
As an act of His Creation, a work of His hands
And of His breath, His singing into being
This glorious epiphany in which we live

Our little children live close upon the earth
Laughing and tumbling through the summer grass
With kittens and puppies as their happy playmates
Sweet Eden’s innocence echoed in them all

And we with our weary, creaky old bones
Repose like royalty on an old wooden bench


Awarded the Chair of Poetry at a Leafy Rural Tree

Among its ancient gifts are acorns and leaves
But the most generous stipend is peace
Oh, sure, we have our academic rivalries –
Just last night a raccoon occupied the chair

And the cardinals and jays squawk a bit
Mostly about seeds, seldom about verse
For arguing with Keats and Yevtushenko
Is my great pleasure and duty, not theirs

Who knew –

That an old steel chair dragged onto the lawn
Could be a center of civilization?


What the Lawns Know

Creatures –
They crawl, lope, run, slither, and walk
Across the lawns on errands of their own
Looking for love, or looking to kill and eat

And I –
I tread, creak, ride, shuffle, and walk
Across the lawns on errands of my own
With lawnmower and power tools and carts

And we –

Someday

The lawns will cover all of us


Creation’s Intermittent Rain

Soft rain to make the apples plump with pride
Bright sun to make the apples blush with red
Soft rain to batter at the sunflowers’ stride
Bright sun to make each sunflower lift its head

Soft rain to fill the honeybees’ round pools
Bright sun to call the honeybees to work
Soft rain to make all flowers into jewels
Bright sun again – is this a solar quirk?

Soft rain to baptize God’s beloved earth
Bright sun to display its glory and worth


What I Found While Cleaning a Faeries’ Well

Perhaps it was because I cleared the vines
The ancient vines, with tools of iron, of steel
And traced the circles of the well’s lost lines
With my unhallowed hands, by touch and by feel

Or that I wore my boots, or forgot my prayers
To the White Lady said to haunt this place
Or whistled secular songs, careless airs
Until the dusk, when I came face-to-face…

I have lived to tell of this wildest of adventures
I found on the lichened stone – a set of dentures

Author’s notes, despite my disapproval of exposition:

Until we became Roman and respectable, my Celtic and English ancestors made offerings at sacred wells associated with pixies and fairies and a mysterious White Lady, or Sheela na Gig.

I regret that the old well in my yard, the surviving structure from an old farmstead, is probably not a sacred well, or at least no more than any other well. While I was cleaning away the English ivy (which in English folklore binds lovers), I found on the edge of a brick a denture plate from years ago.

When I have finished cleaning the well, covering it with a sturdy concrete disc for safety, and topping it with a wrought-iron arch, I will add a crucifix.

I hope the resident Sheela / White Lady won’t mind.


A Lawnmowers Chlorophyll, Birds, and Love
“A little place in the country, a dog, a few good books – every Englishman’s dream”
-David Niven as Sir Arthur in 55 Days at Peking

A lawnmower is a rackety thing
But the garden doesn’t seem to mind at all
This second mowing of the season:
“Just a little trim along the edges”

The bees among the flowers and their little pool
Bobbin’ robins up early for their worms
Woodpeckers and finches at the feeder
And young oak leaves showing off their new green

Honoring each life as a sister or brother –
Love is much better than shooting each other


What’s the Buzz?

Mosquitoes at humans must smugly smirk
They plot all day long and hide in the mud
Then as the sun sets, in bushes they lurk
And when you pass by, they drink all your blood!


About Those Blood-Crazed Darwinians…
Isaiah 11:6-9

Outside the window I see in the autumn oak
A face-off between a squirrel and a cat
Small cat. Large squirrel. Insults given and received
They would kill each other, just like humans

The Romantic wants to see them at play
The Darwinian wants to see who wins
And if the squirrel would eat the brains of the cat
Just as the cat would eat the brains of the squirrel

And leave little headless corpses on my porch
Which is why I am a hopeful Romantic


Not Quite as Gregor Mendel Observed

Our cars are layered in pollen dust
That each old oak by nature yields
Especially on the poor windshields
Well-fertilized, and as nature must

By early summer –

Young windshields scampering across the fields


Prien Lake, November 2020

Waterfowl honk, quack, sing, and fish
Among floating insulation and foam
Near to the foundered wreckage of a boat
Along the shore, where sits a plastic chair

A discount-store throne in isolation
Set forth in rich, primeval mud where live
The little creatures whose logical end
Is in a fish or in a gumbo dish

A hurricane of hours is sorrow for years
In ancient, endless work, and occasional tears


The Divine Office at Night 1

Even if those happy spheres are sentient beings
We need not pray for the abbess moon and her stars
For they never rebelled in the gardens of space
For there they found space enough, beyond time

Perhaps they wonder if we are sentient beings
And much in need of their sung prayers instead
We, with our ancient hatreds and endless wars
As soon as formed disobedient to God

We need not pray for the abbess moon and her stars
But be most grateful if they pray for us

1 Cf. The Rule of Saint Benedict


Venus is Beautiful Tonight

Venus is beautiful tonight, and so is Mars
Heaven’s husbandry 1 is generous this month
With a fine show of planets, stars, and dreams
To cheer us with their silent happiness

Tomorrow will be cold; cold rain will fall
From the husbandry of autumn clouds
Bathing the grasses, trees, gardens, and fields
Getting each sleepyhead ready for bed

We have our coffee and a little light jazz
Venus is beautiful tonight – and so are you

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