Breaking Trail

During our recent double-snow-ice weekend extravaganza, my husband was away, and I spent many hours out in the aftereffects, shoveling and walking the dog.  It was a wonderful opportunity for embracing cold and silence, and for observing the snow-covered wonderland.

  1. Silent Night

It snowed all night, and into the next day,
Snow falling, silence falling, deep and deeper.
Alone for some days, myself and the dog,
Ventured out into the muffled dark.

The quiet, overwhelming, enfolded us.
The world was ours, this whiteness ours alone.
My pup, a black blur, hurdling soft heaps,
Twirling and arcing, ecstatic in the drifts.

It stills the mind, this blanketed world,
Cars disappeared under new-mounded lids ,
Paths gone, my track made new, and difficult,
But in a simple way, a way that pleases.

Frost and Stevens with their minds of winter,
Heard darkness, deepness, in their empty woods,
Wind in bare trees, or death, or nothing.

I hear my own footsteps, breaking  trail,
The muted celebrations of a dog in fresh snow,
Our footprints weaving together and apart,
My thoughts, loud in my head and heart,
All the world a silent new beginning.

  1. Snow Sparkle

The following brilliant day, this scene ablaze,
We break our trail again, now barely there,
Obscured—no soul has braved this glittering path.

My dark companion, bolder in the light,
Is everywhere, inhaling, marking  scent
For fellow travelers who’ll widen our way.

The dazzle blinds me, penetrates my core
With light and lightness, burns my senses clean,
Displaces thought with glistening crystal glare.

I stoop to parse the mystery, this diamond field,
The luminous, shifting sparkle spread out wide,
A million mirrors answering the sky.

Mary Peckham for The Poplar Grove Muse



I am a middle-aged runner, a person who by some inner compulsion began long distance running in my mid-30s.  I’d always imagined myself as a long distance runner when I was a kid.  In this vision, I’d be running towards the sun down a long asphalt road by myself wearing soft soled shoes, and the air would be dry and easy to breathe.   In this vision, I had a long gold ponytail that swayed back and forth with each step.  I was medium height with gangling limbs and had a heart-shaped face with a soft smile.  I was a girl who barely sweat even in the hot sun with tan legs and no boobs.  In the reality of my youth I was awkwardly tall, disproportionately chunky on the bottom half of my body.  I was a girl crying in the bathroom at my grandma’s house at nine because I was too developed to “not wear a bra anymore.”  I wore the weight of always being picked last to scrimmage on our girls’ soccer team.  From the coaches point of view, I was smart, had vision, but lacked speed and endurance.  And from the other girls’:  the girl who had a butt so fat that it looked like it was churning chocolate while she ran.

So I visioned myself as someone else.  Not only did I vision myself as a distance runner, but also a basketball player.  I could see myself, a certain version of myself, being able to jump up and touch the rim of the basketball net while laying the ball through the hoop.  In reality, my personal trainer at the National Institute of Sports and Fitness was trying get me to be able to jump to even graze the bottom of the basketball net. I never reached the bottom of the net.  I remember the afternoon Dan had to go over and manually lower the basketball hoop so I could touch the net.  Maybe he saw in my eyes, what I thought only I could feel.   I needed someone to give me a break, to offer me the opportunity to feel some kind of achievement.

Maybe this running now, too, is about that, a feeling of promised achievement.  My present self fulfilling a promise it made to that little girl: one day things won’t be this bad.   And it turns out, I was right.

Today, I ran my familiar training track, a dirt path lined by tress on two sides.  The tree-lined path used to be a railroad.   One and a half miles down path, the tree line opens up to a clear flowing creek.   I’ve run this track for several years, this stretch of land has become my friend.  I like how details of terrain jump out to me on a long run, and how I notice the passing of time like when the mulberries are ripening in late May.   My cells are excited to breathe in different qualities of air and know for certain if rain is in store.

Funny thing is, I thought this running was going to be about her, about the girl; maybe that’s where something began, but there’s so much more.  The clear flowing creek is frozen, it is the first time I’ve ever seen it like this.  I briefly notice its contours, the pattern of water has been frozen into what looks like a swirl, small air bubbles line the surface just underneath the ice.  I see the ice and the frozen bubbles, and in that moment I am back looking through the eyes of me, as a girl, the real me.  Not a vision of me, looking down from somewhere else, but me.

I am a girl looking into a frozen puddle on Creekwood drive.  I wonder about what makes water freeze in those patterns, and what will happen if I crush the ice under my foot.  I lift my knee high to my belly and drop my foot down, the ice shatters and I feel omnipotent.

Allison for the PGM

Gratitude à la Ross Gay

Hear ye! Oh hear ye!

I have a husband with lips lush and thick, that pucker, really pucker when he comes in close for a kiss. Which he does, earnestly, every time I enter or leave the house. And he is a man who does the dishes wearing purple rubber gloves, and folds the laundry before I get home, and finds a way to use the frozen liver in the freezer that his aunt gave us when she moved to Florida. Pâté, my friends, pâté on toasted sour dough bread topped with jalapeño jam.

I have a daughter with eyes of piercing blue, who won’t take no shit from nobody, not even her mom. Who told me today as I was cleaning her poop out of her panties that I am angry a lot. How do you know? I asked. Because you look mad. You don’t say things in nice voice. And you fight with daddy. What do we fight about? I asked. You fight about work, who gets to go to work. Come here. I told her. Please. And I looked her in the eye. You are right, my dear. I don’t say things nicely a lot of the time. And I’m sorry. I’m not angry. I’m not mad. I’m just not as patient as I should be.

All this to say, I’m grateful for my daughter, and boy do I have a lot to learn about how to love her well. I’m grateful for tomorrow when I’ll be with her again, and can try again, with a quietness, a gentleness, to guide her not control her.

And my Leo, how he bumbles and sings, his voice lilting with joy. “Sure!” he exclaims when David asks him if he wants to stomp through the snow to check on the chickens. He’s a flitter, a flutter, a jumpy wild little thing, with slobber slurring his words and watering his shirt. I talk harshly to him too, I know. But there is tomorrow, there is tomorrow. And tomorrow will be the day I will be more present. I won’t try to get anything else done. I’m already grateful for tomorrow.

Hear ye! Oh hear ye!

I have this little yellow house with a living room just the right size. With kitchen cabinets that I painted in two-tones, a deep gray and a bright pastel turquoise. The walls are yellow too, painted by Joy and Craig who came one weekend, unbeknownst to me, with brushes and old clothes and set to work moving the big pantry shelf and taking all the things off the walls. They turned a red kitchen yellow with their love.

Gratitude, my friends, gratitude.

— Laura Lasuertmer for The Poplar Grove Muse


Holding it in,

stuffing it down,

for years.

Journeying from adored to ignored

and damaged.

Alone in a house

swimming with people.

Boisterous brothers, too bothersome

to bother.

Symbiotic older sisters,

loved and loving,

but leaving the nest and me.


holding it in,

stuffing it down,

with their business,

and busyness.

Too broken and spread too thin

to notice,

to see.

Together when drama and trauma

focused the view, for a time,

for births and deaths

and defects,

while secrets were buried and lies told.

Holding it in,

stuffing it down.

Gaps in memory,


Choosing to forget,

filling the story with blank pages.

Creating sanity

living in the chapters of others.

Choosing the drama,

the love in hard times,

preferring the scars.

Holding it in,

stuffing it down.

Screaming through the invisibility,

See me, see me.


Sherri Walker for The Poplar Grove Muse



We Must Take Utmost Care


We must take utmost care,
to be aware as we awake
to each new day,
that we are obligated
to share this planet,
to care for this planet
as if our lives depend on it—
because they do, you know.
No ifs, ands or buts.

it is written…
in the book of Genesis,
chapter 1, verse 26:
“Let them have dominion
over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the air
and over the cattle
and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing
that creeps upon the earth.”
“Them” means you and me.

Pardon my heresy, but No!
We should no more dominate the earth
than the worms that burrow through it,
or the chickens that scratch its topsoil,
or the whales that fill its oceans with song!
We belong to the earth!
We are one of a million billion
lifeforms that share the air,
the water, the food, the space.
Human race—yes—
but not top dog,
except in the fog of our own
misconceptions, shaped by
misdirections of biblical writers of yore
and scores of money-grubbing vultures;
by cultures saturated with bad habits
and unreasonable expectations—
as if the earth and her abundance
are forever, no matter how much
we drill, mine, spray, pump gas
or pass the buck by saying:
What’s my little bit of care worth
when military giants guzzle oil
and feast on the spoils of war
in their race to dominate the earth?

We say no shame, no blame,
but shame on us if we fail to see
the big picture—the web:
crossed, crisscrossed,
angled, draped,
and secured with silver threads
from sea to shining sea,
from mountain peak to mountain peak,
from pole to pole
and dipping down, down into
earth’s deepest holes.

Others’ mistakes, ignorance,
crimes are not ours to rest upon.
We must do what we can,
our own small or big part—
we have to start somewhere,
in our minds, in our hearts,
in our souls’ best intentions.

The web of life:
not our web,
not a thing to be owned
or sucked dry,
or put high on a pedestal
to worship or deny.
The blame of its demise
would surely land on us…
“Unless” (to quote Dr. Seuss)
“Someone like you cares a whole awful lot.”
Unless we, each one of us,
care a whole awful lot!

So, let’s rise up with strength
and celebration, determined
to take utmost care, determined
to be aware as we awake
to each new day,
that we are obligated (and blessed!)
to share this planet,
to care for this planet
as if our lives depend on it—
because they do, you know.
Our lives and
the fish of the sea
and the birds of the air
and the cattle
and every creeping thing
that creeps upon the earth.
And don’t forget the trees,
the flowers, the fruits, the nuts,
the very air we breathe.
No ifs, ands or buts.

Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse