new Mennonite Life logo    December 2000     vol. 55 no. 4     Back to Table of Contents

William E. Dellinger

          lines: fall sunrise

with this rain it is the end of summer
the trees are heavy with fruit and seed
dawnlight is golden with fall
winter comes, but not too soon.

there still is time for a cool weather garden
another acre of beans and turnips and greens
weeks left of cool eve for sunset sitting
and all night watching of the stars.

the buzzing locusts are quiet
i have carried out the springtime plans
sweated my destiny gone in sun
and refused to see my in-laws.

the work will now be caught by rain
without complaining, the slow cycle of man's
complaining begins again,
to involve time in hopes of rain
and dry, of feverish cause affected.

the mist and haze that hang in the lowland all day
clear at crisp of night
the cows sing ‘low, low’
and the stars are coming in.

‘give light and the darkness will disappear of itself’
          --Desiderius Erasmus

up before dawn, I read a Chinese poet,
and make ceremony of life, and drink coffee,
dogs sleep , shift and groan outside the window,
at my early light. from sleep arrested up,
by the dark, the winter quiet cold dark.
and wake to seek my light in words,
in small movements as I breathe and sit.
the heart moves on. I call it mind
a million miles away, to all who wait
the sun’s mad light to move,
down the river of my flood of time,
I save this location, this here,
for Cherokee tomato, indian corn, squash,
native beans and echinachea.

a small light is a light, and this small place,
takes wind from earth, slows it down with trees and shade,
and calm mind. the steady glow of one ten cent candle,
soaks the page, an uneven patch of oak table,
and one side of my tired hand glows in small light.

Winter Wood

If the ground will freeze tonight
a breeze blow. Cold. Clear. Star. Bright
in the morning i'll go for wood
at field edge, wind-fallen oak,
and saw the limbs, and roll the log to cure.

And if the fog will stay the dark,
and cold from soaking in,
and sunrise in quiet light comes slow,
the muddy ground will suck my shovel in,
transplanting trees to field's edge.
To brace the wind, to seal the wood's words,
in shade or calm enclosed,
by impermanent translucent moist hold.

By midnight the Indian woman will know,
and set the woolen socks and gloves by the leather boots,
or mud boots by the door.

all my sons have gone to war
with nature in the cities of this mad empire
though they live, they have not survived
to love this old farm.

the grandchildren grow up on TV I suppose
learn to hate dirt and odor bare flesh
my mourning prayers go to them all
that they may live. and somehow return

is this how it is supposed to be
my children, living alone as strangers
among the children of strangers
where now is home on this earth?

I stir to do the morning chores,
to walk the path to the barn and chicken house,
the fall rain pauses as I go out,
a solitary bird sings from a cottonwood at lake’s edge.

with the cold
the kitchen is warm and safe
the wood stove pulses heat and throb
a blue speckleware kettle on the back plate
flatirons black warm by the foot
my feet upon the towel rack, leaned back
in a sprung wood chair. the heat is momentary,
the fire burns itself, the chair spring again, collapse
and slide away under me. but the cold of winter,
the dark months, go on forever.

she lights small lights
around the house
and puts on tea to warm

a southern breeze is blowing
the curtains, candle flame.
with silver dark, the whippoorwill
sings out. she lights small lights
around the house.

stars deep and void
the fireflies in pasture dance.
she lights small lights
around the house.