Monday, August 8, 2016



Early morning climb to the roof

Cold dew on pebbled tar, taste of

Galvanized nails in your mouth

Work — nail shingle to shingle tight —

Each hammer pound echoes another

Pound in the hills, enough to wonder

Where it ends and who hears it then


Scrag is what they call her

A woman who has been on the river

Longer than anyone of us —

Long white hair braided and pinned up,

Yellow slicker, old pants and a squint.

Once a week she rides down the road

Real slow to the Massachusetts border,

Looks in on everyone’s place,

Then turns around and coming back

Does the same.

Her son doesn’t live out here anymore —

When Clayton did, he lost his wife for it.

Lived with his son and the small farm

For as many years as it takes to get

Sick of it, then moved closer to town

And worked for the state park.

Now his own son is doing the same —

With a wife and a baby and the job

In a wood factory, near Vernon,

Where the power plant burns into the sky.

That leaves Scrag.

I heard that name first from a young hunter

Who would never hunt, half what she has,

And he knows it.

She’s tiny, body gripped like a hickory,

She’ll tend the farm all men have left —

Mend fence and draw water and shovel shit,

Make sure the pigs don’t get loose.

When Clayton comes to sugar at mud-time

She hangs the buckets with him,

Pulls a tractor along the side of the road.

Her hair’s long and white and probably beautiful.

In this raw wind it blows apart like late summer


Treeing the Raccoon

I’m running and dodging mud holes

And ice, a human wind slamming out of

The woodshed and into the moonlight,

Where we have lain and waited the

Return of the raccoon. I was thinking

Of grabbing a coal shovel, the axe,

Even a stick on my way out the door,

But my voice seemed to do the trick —

Frightening him off tin sheets of

The duck pen and into the darkness of

His mask. I’m crushing through soft snow

And somewhere ahead he’s scurrying it

Seems in a half-circle, until my war cry

Has gripped him claws and bark up a

Tall ash tree between the house and pond —

Maybe 20 feet — until he has regained

Himself in the crotch; where under the

Wizard cap of stars I poke a flashlight

Into the first night of spring, and with

A disgusted look in the eye, he turns his

Ears back and waits a bullet I can’t hear.


Bob Arnold