Poems

All poems below are copyright by Bill Chatfield, unless otherwise noted. 

The first 7 poems below are the winners of our "Poems of New Hampshire" contest:

CHICKEN FARMER (1st place)
Mary Spofford French
 

Each time we go up Route 103
just out of Newbury, we see it there.
Hugging tight to the edge of the road.
That big boulder where she wrote,
 

“CHICKEN FARMER I LOVE YOU STILL.”
 

Maybe he was in high school then and planning
to be the Future Farmer of the Universe.
Raising hens, selling eggs, to save up
for a place of their own.
 

Before they would go out to the lake
in his pickup truck to neck, they would stop
at that little Sundry Store that still will
sell beer to anyone that has the money.
 

Maybe it was the night she found out
She weren’t the only girl he took out there,
and she told him she ‘were never goin’ no where
with him no more’ that he just took off.
 

The police said how he never had time
to feel the hurt.  It wasn’t his fault he didn’t
stick around to be a man to his kid, ‘cause
he never knew. But everyone in town did
and they were none too easy on her.
Maybe she just had to let him know
 

Do Not Disturb (2nd place)
Mary Spofford French
 

Yes, the selectmen see
these partial axles, rusty bumpers
scrap metal, iron rakes, carefully placed
across his drive
and along the edge of this main route

Metal mostly. Sharp. Hard
enough to rupture tires, rip mufflers.

They’ve known him since long before he entered
his special world,
A place of anger where they
do not want to go with him…Better
to ignore, not start,
 

what no one wants to finish. We see him now.
The artist, hard at work
on his ever changing installation.
 

Dented black car wrecks set up
on their sides in a closed line.
Tires, mufflers, gas tanks
face this busy road. Cracked windshields
point south. By all this he warns us off and gives to us
his middle finger.
 

Elegy for a Mouse (3rd place)
           Peaco Todd
 

Just beyond the door between
the house and cellar landing he lies,
paws folded, not a hair disturbed.
He almost could be sleeping if
sleep could ever be so empty.
 

Probably he was a last presentation
from the cats now gone from cold Chocorua
to their winter home. There was no malice
in my cats’ needless play and I cannot
change their nature nor the nature
of the mouse nor my own that mourns
another tiny rent in the fabric of the world.
 

So alone in his little death.
Does his clan sheltering
in the cellar’s chill corners notice his
long absence? Does even a tremor
of loss trouble their quietude or is he
simply fixed forever in their eternal now?
 

They say death is the body’s passage
from something, to less, to nothing at all
but I think it is a thing with wings.
Murmuring a brief appeal to the petty
god who oversees such minute sparks of life
to bless him on his way, I toss him
over the railing of my deck. He soars,
for a moment not earthbound,
then falls into the snow, reclaimed,
to become a meal, and thus reborn.
 

This Cold Is Scratching Like Monkeys (4th place)
Mary Ann Mayer
 

The cold, the hard-assed cold,
the boning up of the landscape, the valley
seen through the picture window spidery with ice.
 

Six of us close on the couch in the high-ceiling chalet,
willing the heat, stay low don’t rise, just
waiting for an opening, even one chance
to peel off the long johns,
get naked just long enough to slide
into a hot bath—but days on end
 

and no one does; instead, circling the living room, taking turns
checking the thermometer caked with rime
outside the glass slider.
 

Inside, aimless picking at brownies and cake,
thumbing through Travel & Leisure’s Caribbean issue;
Thanks, which comedian brought that?
 

House-party on a minus-twenty degree weekend,
ski holiday bracketed by Friday and Monday’s
warming trend to zero.
 

This cold is snowless,
this cold is six pair of skis given refuge inside,
this cold is scratching like monkeys
and we do, and we joke about a walk
into the village at four pm or four below,
whichever comes first,
while shot glasses pile up in the sink,
the six of us thick as toast
 

Moose Crossing (5th place)
Gwen Hurd
 

After the signs,
we drove with searching eyes.
The maybes and if-onlys and I’d-love-tos
clenched in our sweaty palms.
 

Could that be?
Or is that?
For years and years and then-
 

she wasn’t astride a cliff on Kancamagus
awesome as the sun set fire and glory behind her.
Or slinking in a swamp
knee deep in algae and decomposing leaves.
 

We weren’t on a moose watching trip
wearing snowshoes.
Our binoculars weren’t fogging up with
hot chocolate breath.
 

It was Saturday.
You were cutting the grass and
I was folding laundry.
 

You found me, your face like lightning.
“Come see! Now!”
Because there are things one must see with surprise.
 

She was casually standing under our lichened apple tree,
leisurely stripping the branches with her enormous mouth.
We watched her for
a while.
But
it was Saturday and
we had things to do.
 

The Old Man and the Mountain (Honorable Mention)
           
Peaco Todd
 

No one knows exactly when he emerged
from the face of the mountain,
created by the same forces, the ice and fire
that harnessed the glacier, cracked the living stone
and carved the vast valley of his dominion.
Perhaps the old ones looked up
and discovered their image in his. Perhaps,
unlike those who came later and called him Old Man,
they recognized a woman in that craggy profile,
as aging faces can lose the relevancy of gender.
 

But it is a human thing to hope that the world
is not an inhuman place, that sometimes
it reflects us back to ourselves, and reassures
that we are as intrinsic a part of the aggregate
as the waterfall, the moose and bear, the mountain itself.
 

As days became years, then millennia, he presided
over deluge and drought, the cycle of forests
from green to gold to ash: the cold white world
springing over and over into riotous life.
Under his gaze tribes and herds rose and fell,
as civilization with its noise and dirt and hubris
squandered nature’s currency of balance and harmony.
 

Sculptors say the work exists in the unbroken stone,
and the artist has only to reveal it. If that is true
he was always there. But eventually the earth
claims even mountains and all things pass away.
The Old Man now is an image on a stamp, a license plate:
a dream of endurance imposed upon a shattered face.
 

Census (Honorable Mention)
Beth Haverkamp Powers
                                                                        

Julio presses his face to the car window
says Tia, No hay taxis! Where are they?
from Chicago, he counts everything:
Fire hydrants, garbage trucks, yellow or red topped taxis.
His deep brown eyes bear witness to the streets
As he observes his urban world.
 

Here in New Hampshire we pass poison ivy and granite.
His dry cousin suggests he count “roadkill” instead
On the way to our family farm.
 

Roadkill? What animal is that? he is excited at this new vocabulary.
Look, look, there! just as we pass the bloated carcass of a
Porcupine off the right passenger side –
Her variegated quills askew- one pleading, outstretched paw.
Next, an amorphous smear across the white line
Leading up to a curious, unidentifiable bulge
 

Matted grey-brown fur some days decomposing,
Breaking down in the breakdown lane.
She could be any species.
 

Then a ‘possum, two raccoons clear striped tail tells
Another ‘possum? Possibly a woodchuck
They tally and compare.
 

Perhaps that last one was a ground hog. Maybe it was a badger.
It was too brown. Maybe the blood made it look brown.
They argue like scientists. Until
A deer, her hooves black and glinting, body seemingly intact
Appearing as if she might leap happily into the woods
after waking, rested.
 

They see her, too. Her grey tongue, and a scarf of hovering flies
She’s a tableau, beautiful and still. The allure of this census
Recedes, recedes in the silent rearview.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Don’t Talk To Strangers
(1/27/17 by Maura Kennedy)

Detroit in 1968’s the time
It captured my attention
That shiny fire engine
I chased it through the streets and past the neighborhood I knew
A five year old, now lost in the city
Nowhere to turn in a town without pity

“Don’t talk to strangers,” Mamma said
There may be danger on the dark road up ahead
One never knows
Who hides in the shadows
What kind of life they have led
Don’t talk to strangers

Barefoot and bleeding, refugees, their crime
They come with sons and daughters
No shelter food or water
Fleeing with their very lives and leaving all they knew
Now we’re building walls at the gates of our city
No one to trust in a town without pity

“Don’t talk to strangers,” Mamma said
There may be danger on the dark road up ahead
One never knows
Who hides in the shadows
What kind of life they have led
Don’t talk to strangers

I remember thinking then when I was five
I knew the rules and knew what they were for
But if I was to make it home
I couldn’t keep to rules I’d known
I had to overcome my blindness
Put my faith in human kindness

Like Lady Liberty, she stood outside
Her family all around her
A friendly air about her
That she would guide me home, it was the only hope I knew
Sweet chariot, we rode through the city
The look in her eyes was more kindness than pity

“Don’t talk to strangers,” Mamma said
But is there no danger
In denying what I read
By that golden door
Her torch lit the shore
And welcomed all instead
She lifted her lamp…Her lamp shone a light…
It lighted the way, the way home to strangers

Copyright 2017, The Kennedys, L.L.C.
www.kennedysmusic.com

Who Am I?

Words (and music) by Joe McDonald
©1967 Joyful Wisdom Publishing Co BMI

Who am I
To stand and wonder, to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away.
Who am I?

There were some things that I loved one time.
But the dreams are gone I thought were mine.
And the hidden tears that once could fall
Now burn inside at the thought of all
The years of waste, the years of crime
Passions of a heart so blind;
To think that, but even still
As I stand exposed, my feelings are felt
And I cry into the echo of my loneliness.

Who am I
To stand and wonder, to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away.
Who am I?

What a nothing I've made of life
The empty words, the coward's plight
To be pushed and passed from hand to hand
Never daring to speak, never daring to stand
And the emptiness of my family's eyes
Reminds me over and over of lies
And promises and deeds undone
And now again I want to run
But now there is nowhere to run to.

Who am I
To stand and wonder, to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away.
Who am I?

And now my friend we meet again
We shall see which one will bend
Under the strain of death's golden eyes
Which one of us shall win the prize
To live and which one will die
'Tis I, my friend, yes 'tis I
Shall kill to live again and again
To clutch the throat of sweet revenge
For life is here only for the taking.

Who am I
To stand and wonder, to wait
While the wheels of fate
Slowly grind my life away.
Who am I? Who am I?

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Lyrics to a song written by Joe Crookston (see: https://www.joecrookston.com/)

Fall Down as the Rain

When my life is over
And I have gone away
I'm gonna leave this big ole' world
And the trouble and the pain
And if I get to heaven
I will not stay
I'll turn myself around again
And fall down as the rain
Fall Down as the rain
Fall Down as the rain

And when I finally reach the ground
I'll soak into the sod
I'll turn myself around again

Come up as goldenrod
Come up as goldenrod
Come up as goldenrod

And then when I turn dry and brown
I'll lay me down to rest
I'll turn myself around again
As part of an eagles nest
Part of an eagles nest
Part of an eagles nest
And when that eagle learns to fly
I'll flutter from that tree
I'll turn myself around again
As part of the mystery

Part of the mystery

“2055”        by Seth Chatfield 

Welcome to the future, now it’s 2055
the ice caps all have melted and the last oceans just died
but as always there’s an upshot - if you’re brave enough to try it
there’s an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, floating on the tide.
Long ago we changed the channel,
when we should have channeled change,
but we loved our entertainment
and we auctioned off our brains.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda doesn’t matter In the end,
and that’s looking like tomorrow so go hug someone my friends.

Corruption was a problem when we had a government
when the companies took over, right away that problem went
and yes they took our healthcare and of course that one was wrong
but here’s a life-hack:  you won’t need it if you just don’t live too long.

Thank God we closed down all the schools, that was an awful cost
and now we have the cash to pay for all the wars we lost.
We could always start another if we found more enemies
but it’s getting pretty dark in here and also hard to breathe.
Long ago we changed the channel,
when we should have channeled change
but we loved our entertainment
and we auctioned off our brains.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda doesn’t matter In the end
and that's looking like tomorrow so go hug someone, my friends.                                    

morning walk

I am walking

down by the river-side           

down by the small place

where

the cardinals whistle

to the bluejays

and

the bluejays mark their

time///

whistling in

the morning

is yet to be a crime.

 

Verses from part of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

…There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
…And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea…

 

hutchinsonsingerssongbanner

 

(the above poem is part of a song composed by Judson Hutchinson, sung by Abby Hutchinson of The Hutchinson Family Singers, 19th Century NH)

 

Bystanders No More

We are innocent
Claim the folks
   On the sidelines
Bystanders only
   As the world turns

Shaking heads sadly
As the world burns

It is time to stand up
To take a real stand
Eyes up and aware
No more heads in the sand

Innocent bystanders
Who stood idly before
Must be involved
…Forevermore.

 

Tune

There are those
in shadows
urging me
to change
    my tune...
the song I sing
from my cocoon.
My tune’s not
changing
at the drop
of a thought
…like it or love it
or like it quite not.

 

sun and shadows

sun and shadows
pulsing
one
  after
    another
putting on a show
requesting
a choice -
which way to go

 

The Last Apple

dew
drips
 s  l  o  w  l  y
from your last
and only apple

cool green

a tentatively green
b
lade of grass
shivers in the cool
    
of the evening.

Writing                                      

Writing a poem                         
  is never done                         
    words multiply                   
      to infinity from one      

Winter Hazards         

Winter hazards in the air

Invisible people must beware

Of other folks who cannot see

You cloaked in invisibility

Frozen breath might give a clue

But little else shows up as you

 

invisibly                        

if the invisible man speaks
B O L D L Y
will he soon walk hand-in-hand
with shadows?

Awake

Awake with the wind
I am lonely and cold
No wish to arise
No impulse to be bold

Awake (version 2)

Awake with the wind

I am lonely and cold

      I have

No wish to arise

Nor Impulse to be bold

 

Sunspot

There is a little sunspot
dancing on the sun
twirling flames into the “air”
and no doubt having fun

NASA worries that the spot
may engender a large flare
rendering havoc in our lives

a chaos truly to beware
 

It’s just a tiny sunspot
in the solar scheme of worth
although to us it’s rather big
six times as large as Earth

 

Falling

 

yellow leaf falling

tip of my tongue extended

autumn convergence

 

False Choice

The road I was on came to a Y…
Begging me to choose between
existing paths
Urging me to smoothly decelerate
or just as winsomely
Accelerate
onto one of the two roads.

Such a fork in the road
does not encourage
Other choices:
Stopping,
Making a U-turn, or
Disembarking
to start walking
    
around
in the middle.

 

Excerpt from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by NH poet Robert Frost -

…The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Success - by Calvin Coolidge, Jr.

Success, O magic word, Success!
How much you mean to happiness
Men seek you over e’ery land,
But scanty few have you in hand.

Men slave for you and with life pay
If they can clutch you for one day
You are the subject of their prayers
To you they give their thoughts and cares

Men say untruths for you alone
And by foul means you’re called their own
Yet rest not till their dying day
Because they grasped you in such way.