This was once my home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

The four seasons of Michigan

This was Once My Home

This was once my home.

Oak leaves in piles upon the lawn,
autumnal jewels and children playing.
Out along the lower fence line
I heft a salt-lick into the swamp
for deer that winter there.

Ducks in their ten-thousands,
raft on raft of them -
Mergansers, Bufflehead and Teal,
Mallards and Canvasbacks,
from shore to ice-rimmed shore.
They gladden the eye,
all feasting there one last time
before they make their southern run.
Hear them as they talk,
watch them as they dip and dive,
or splash down on the dark waters there,
webbed feet sliding to a landing.

Watch as early sunset shrouds them
in dappled light;
or in the dawn when wisps of fog envelop.
And they, ingrained patterns heed,
take wing this morn,
blot out the sun for hours,
and suddenly - all are gone.

And now a different squadron
droning fills the sky;
yellow-winged novice Navy pilots
practicing their formation flying,
make their bearing and turn for base -
how much the ducks could teach them.

And now it is the Red Squirrel’s time,
and chipmunks allabounding,
with one black squirrel imposing –
sixty years its species took
to migrate here fromzoo's escape.
All through the oak-leaf piles
they forage one last time,
hoarding for winter.
And nests they’ve built
of pine needles and oak leaves,
warm pseudo-caves for
out-living blizzards and ice-storms.

And the long white cloak comes
drifting down, all silent on the ground,
but life is there and manifests
wherever sun is found.
Thanksgiving feast gives on
to Christmas joy, and that to New Year’s pall.
Children in their snowsuits,
red and blue bundles,
romp in the snow mounds;
or am I merely looking backwards
and seeing my childhood there?
And suddenly, overnight
the lake is frozen.
Once it thickens safely – a new migration -
out come augers and ice shanties,
skaters and Nordic skiers.

Finally March:
In like a lion – out like a lamb –
as predictable as early flowers
poking heads above the snowmelt
into the mellowing breeze.
And we run around in T-shirts,
pretending it is summer,
but dive under doonas come nightfall
to fend off the crisping air.
This is the harbinger of Spring for us,
and we its message gladly seize:
fragrant blossoms, bees and Mayflies,
bitting Bass and bamboo poles,
and nets for dipping Minnows.

Looking now for summer,
sweltering heat,
thunderstorms and tornadoes,
and mowing lawns.
A twister touches lake,
and a waterspout is born -
magnificent to watch close up -
meanders across
and blows itself out
in the woodlot
between us and our nearest neighbour.

Once when haying,
another twister came straight for us
in the open field – no place to hide –
nicked the stock-pond
and swung into the tree line,
doing damage and we untouched.

A score of us play
in the shallows,
take a rotting boat
and fill it to the gunnels,
play pirates and drowning men,
and scream to our mothers’ consternation,
and our perverse delight.
And then a match,
or salt will do,
to torture leaches
that have tortured us.

On summer-lit evenings
I take the canoe and paddle to
the far side of the lake,
where houses have not yet been built.
There under overhanging limbs I find
turtles and catfish, my private aquarium.
And when its dark I find the lighthouse
of our front porch is on,
to guide me back the mile again.

And then the moon grows harvest heavy,
and there really is frost upon the pumpkins.
Leaves begin to turn, Oak and Liquid Amber,
Elm and Maple, Mountain Ash and Dogwood.
This the time of vibrant colours,
unspeakably glorious.
And time to for autumn chores,
to rake the leaves into those piles,
that children take for play,
and animals ply for food.

And then!
And then down from Canada have come
those mighty rafts of ducks.
And this small lake again becomes,
an habitual flyway stop
upon their southward journey.
And we are so privileged
to simply sit and watch.

How must it have looked to
the first roaming man
to come this way,
first person to make a trail
between the great inland seas?
As proof, and invitation to surmise,
a way-tree bent to mark a
trail-turn sits there.
How many native hunters
did it lead to this abundant place?

And this was once my home.

Here I learned to mimic birdcalls,
call for Loons, and talk to deer
when they came in the pre-dawn
to drink at the brook.
Here I learned that people die,
and friends betray you,
that parents fail,
and are still your parents.

Only a flyway-stop, a metaphoric
way-tree on my trail.
But I am grateful for it.

By James Gagiikwe 2007

Submitted: December 27, 2007

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