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Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

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Ashford, CT, US

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The Two Faces of Maine

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

When you think of the state of Maine,
which countryside do you see?
Which distinctly different fraternal twin-
coastal seascape, or inland wilderness?

Do you picture the dramatic surging power of the ocean?
salty tears caressing an angular face of rocky shoreline,
then trickling into the red and green seaweed of her hair.
The changing countenance of her coves
varying with her shifting tidal moods.
Images of lobster boats drifting between misty harbor islands,
Acadian crowds, street vendors, seascape artists and
tall summery houses with verandas reaching towards the ocean.
And a colorful blur of people playing on tawny sand.
While others hurry to and from a huge green L.L. Bean.

Or do you envision the calm quiescent lakes
nestled in corners of deep dark woods?
Land of the loon and lumberjack.
Within the cool shadows of her soft woodland visage,
light glints off the blue pools of her eyes.
Quiet peace permeates the far northern lakes.
Far from civilization, one sees only a few modest cabins
and hears the whispering dip of the paddle
and gentle lap of waves against canoe.
Have you seen the face of the forest:
her exuberant patchwork quilt of birch and evergreens?
Each irregular swatch delineated by river or brook.

From Katahdin's brow, all waterways flow through
a maze of wrinkled creases toward southern sibling,
eventually reaching her gaping mouth of coastal sea.
Watery threads stitch the quilt of forest,
binding her together with her angular coastal sister.
Joining at last the two faces of Maine.


March

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Cold nights melt away by drips
into warm days of longer light.
You can almost feel earth's angle
change in relation to the sun.

At woodland's edge,
dangling from a maple tree,
an ancient silvery gray pail
opens metal arms to catch
drops of cold sweet sugar water.
Life and pure energy flow from wooden veins.

Distant fields
are sprinkled
with zigzags
of melted snow.
Most has been obliterated
by tepid sun
revealing grass
sprouting like beard stubble
on pale face.


An Old Garden

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

White wood lost to green vines twining
as decades passed, the ivy kept climbing
silently swallowing the rambling gabled house.

The shrubs were like children who had outgrown their yard.
To cut back their blossoms must have been too hard.
For ladder, a picket fence untended
over which honeysuckle happily ascended.

The old garden had grown so well.
But as passersby, we could not tell
whether or not the house was in shambles,
so completely was it covered by brambles.


The Feather Trees

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

The air is cool and moist
as I wander among the feather trees.
Their stately tree skirts are tiered
with layers of dark green lace.
With barely a ripple,
they whisper to one another.
Slivers of weak light squeeze
through a lacey filter of branches.
Stenciled gold-dust and green
settle on the floor of the hemlock grove.
Beneath me, velvet moss-strewn earth slopes
towards the muted sound of the brook...beckoning.
Her water-song echoes off cream-polished boulders.
Undulating liquid notes are gently absorbed
by spongy earth and great feather trees.


Evergreens

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

In the spring, I give you flowers.
Pale shoots burst forth into leafy green canopies
to cool you as summer dawns.
I bring you more flowres anf ferns as summer unfurls.
In late summer and fall,
I give you bountiful berries and fruits.
Each autumn, I give you a colorful shower
of exhausted leaves to carpet the earth anew.
Even in the deepest darkest winter,
I give you evergreens-the promise of new life to come.
On a cold gray day, the sight of hollies'
lingering red berries can warm the heart.
Know then, that no matter when, no matter what,
you are never forgotten.


To have Loved a Parent

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

When you stand at the brink of the cliff
staring into the empty blue-gray abyss,
grief stricken, with red eyes
swollen from a waterfall of tears,
a voice inside you screams
"No, No, NO!" in shock, anger and fear
at the permanence of death.
"But I still need you..."
The hollow sound echoes back
from canyons afar.
Then there is no sound at all
but the sound of your tears
sliding down cheeks to valleys below.
Then you come to know what it is to have lost a parent.

Exhausted, much later you awake to find yourself
sitting on sun-warmed sand listening
to the comforting sound of a brook
babbling of happy days past.
Its familiar voice reminds you of your parent's words.
Whose spirit is now free from pain
and chains to earthly body.
Memories peek out unbidden from forest glades.
Hidden in shadows cast by old trees.
One by one they reveal themselves
then slip back into the shroud under wet moss
growing on stream stones.
Recollections and images in that place for you always.
Gone in body, but still a part of everything.
Always remaining a part of who you are.
And you come to know what it is to have loved a parent.


Sunset

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

A sinking sun ignites cirrus-strewn sky
with a silent explosion that scorches.
Earthward she hurls her blazing torches
setting fire to the calm lake
with mauve and orange ribbons
trailing in her wake.
Fiery clouds billow
like smoke above blaze
then fade into purple haze.


Campfires in the Sky

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Gazing skyward on a clear cold night.
My window frames a moonless star-embroidered canvas
where shimmering white hot suns
are scattered across a sapphire midnight sky.

Cobwebs of constellations with sparkling pearls
suspended in inticate patterns.
Is this design secretly governed
with clock-like precision by gravity?
Can all this beauty be solely the result
of impersonal mathematical and scientific laws?

I think back thousands of years to past humans
lying beside glowing embers of ancient campfires.
They gazed in wonder on nights such as this,
trying to understand the vastness.
I imagine them contemplating so many distant
campfires in the sky.

I think of them naming each cluster of sister-stars.
Their star-stories became legends revolving around
celestial patterns and imagined images.
Told and retold by twinkling of fireglow.

Our ancestors gazed at the same shimmering suns
scattered across the sapphire midnight sky
and wondered about the limits of the universe.
Our descendants will do the same.


Backyard Ballroom

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

In the ballroom of my backyard
is a crowd of dancers all cloaked in monotone green.
One by one they cast off capes and masks, then
a myriad of warm bright costumes, beneath, can be seen.
The identity of each separate guest revealed now,
shines forth his or her multi-hued differences.
Some are adorned in scarlet or maroon dresses.
Others are festooned in fiery finery and
embellished by saffron, flaxen, or auburn tresses.
Russet jackets appear and flame-colored shirts.
Some are attired in wavy-edged golden skirts.
As more and more dancers
remove hooded green cloaks,
the show finally begins...
The brilliantly bedecked folks
begin their autumn dance
in the ballroom of my backyard.


The Dancing Lights

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

I can still remember the night clearly.
A few of us working late, each
in our own cubicle of solitude.
The sprinkled lights from our scattered desks
as distant as separate stars.

The silence was suddenly broken
by the abrupt sound of a door opening
and someone's excited voice calling:
"Come quickly-outside-the Aurora Borealis!"

Appearing from different corners of the library
we converged in the hall and drowsily
filed down the carpeted stairs.

The door opened into crisp invigorating night air.
As we climbed the hill, eyes adjusted to initial dimness.

Looking skyward, we saw white waves
break across the black velvet Vermont sky.
Rainbow gossamer wings floated across the waves.

A ribbon of iridescent colors appeared
to be waving like a translucent flag.
The bright banner of light gently rippled
upon a dark expanse of midnight sky.

Unconscious words of awe escaped our lips
in appreciation for this unexpected gift.
Renewed, we turned back and descended.
Each returning to our separate work,
we no longer felt alone.


Trail Song

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

I was conceived in the woods near a brook.
My trailblazers gave me life,
carving my destiny from
the raw-boned rocky earth.

My skeleton consists of stone and ledge.
My skin composted leaves and wood.
Water is the blood that percolates through my veins.
Roots are my sinews that hold me intact.
I dress in a sprinkling of living green
ever-changing ground cover.
In winter however, I often wear white.

Follow me through winding evergreen tunnels of
mountain laurel spilling pink blossoms in June.
I will lead you down rocky stairs to gardens
strewn with wildflowers and maidenhair ferns
beneath verdant leafy filter of forest canopy.
I will take you to hidden wetlands where
wild swamp azalea blooms magenta in spring.
I beckon you to pause by lilting laughing brook
to look, listen and learn my secrets.

Your footprint on my soil sustains me
so that I will not be forgotten.
It extends my life and yours.
All I ask is that you keep me pure.

I am a footpath in the woods, born for
your enjoyment, health, spirit and life.
Visit me often and you will find inner peace.


Alien Beauty

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Four times I have traveled west with the sun.
Colorado twice; California: from San Francisco
down to the southernmost tip; and an extended
cross-country train journey to western Montana,
proceeding from there by car to explore all of the
varied four corners of Washington state.
But provincial I must be, for each time I went,
I longed for New England's quiet beauty.

I have seen Yosemite's towering splendor.
I have wandered through wildflower-dusted
alpine meadows in Glacier's grand park.
I backpacked and camped in the Cascade Mountains,
and slept in a high-altitude lakeside gravel bed
that looked like a lunar landscape.
In the Rocky Mountains, I gazed out at pure lakes
ringed by dramatic lofty summits.
I viewed marmots, mountain goats, black-tailed deer,
flowers of beargrass, indian paintbrush, and blue columbine.
I have witnessed the clean-polished streets
of Whitefish and Kalispell in Montana.
I met interesting and friendly people.
But always, I missed New England.

Everything I saw was beautiful, but alien.
I have seen places out west that
almost seemed to be another planet.
Steep rocky canyon walls,
awesome in grandeur, but somehow lacking.
So different from New England's rich history.
No ancient stone walls lacing the landscape.
No sugar maple stands, or lush farmland.
No green velvet forests like those that blanket the gently
undulating folded fabric of our New England landscape.
My eyes searched the foreign lands for something familiar.
Parched peaks, vulnerable, exposed, with rockslides below.
Few trees to give cover and comfort to great open expanses.
In both eastern Montana and Southeast Washington,
flat sod-covered tree-less expanses stretched
unbroken from horizon to horizon.
Lonely level lands of farmers' fields
without benefit of protective forest.
Oh, alien beauty, I am glad to have met you!
But my heart lies elsewhere.
It happened to me, a transplanted New Yorker,
when I was quite young...
Somehow New England seeped into my soul.


Natural Childbirth

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Under a silvery full moon, you find yourself
swept out to sea.
Suddenly set adrift, helpless, exposed and vulnerable.
Tossed here and there
by waves in an ocean of pain.
Never knowing when
or even if you'll ever touch land again.
Not knowing how much longer
you'll be able to go on swimming.
Minutes feel like hours
with the rise and fall of tides.
Then a sharp brief twang
as you feel shark-like incisors
cut your flesh.
Exhausted, you struggle to stay afloat
as tidal waves engulf you
and take over your wounded body.
A last great surge of power pushes you towards land.
Panting, you find you've finally made it to shore
with the feel of wet sand sliding beneath you
and something more...
Now, as you crawl up on land,
you find that you are not alone.
Seaweed-strewn, pulled from the womb
you find you've been given
a gift from the sea.
All the helplessness and vulnerability
you felt has gone - transferred
into a small wonderful wet little creature
who emerged from dark salty protected waters
and now exposed to sunlight and air,
and cradled in your arms,
needs you for protection, survival, and love.


Tropical Insomnia

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Late at night...so quiet, peaceful.
The tropical breeze exhales her moist breath
through the needlepoint screens.
It's almost as if I'm the last person alive.
Just the warm yellow lights in the distance
gaze back at me blinking like
hundreds of night owl eyes.

Dimly, the two-level buildings melt into four
with their reflections on the stained glass lake.
Slivers of orange, yellow and topaz
shimmer along its glassy surface.

A poised palm silhouettes
the now cool Floridian sky.
The endless lull of crickets
and the hum of some distant motor
reinforce the cool calm collection
of invisible sunburned sleepers
tucked away safely, self-contained in their
identical air-conditioned white cell units.

Recharging like batteries, they are recuperating
for their daily ritual; waiting for their
reoccurring rendezvous on puffs of
flourescent white powder...
to worship their orange-lemon god
and bask in the glory of their sacrifice.

Turtle and bird smells drift ashore.
A small splash shatters the stained glass.
The fish is again swallowed as the cracks
ripple and curiously mend themselves
in precision.


The Fountain

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Endless water flows
from her tilted urn of stone.
Standing on the garden deck,
her world, her stage, her home.

As if while pouring, the girl suddenly froze.
Could move no more from her spellbound pose.
Swirls of hair and draped robes unyielding too,
now glazed with a spray like dew.

Her stone gray eyes gaze out
with no sign of doubt or fret.
Untroubled by her country frock
with hem all shiny wet.

A steady rain of gentle water-drip
caught sparkling in curved basin
entices woodland birds to bathe and dip.
Some days her sweet arc of water-spill beckons
hummingbirds that dart, flash and steal a sip.

Splash and gurgle all night long
springing forth nocturnal song.
A soothing lullaby is played
till light of dawn does start the day.

Ripples softly drift to edge
of her enchanted private pool.
In eternal pause, she serenely
pours the source of her renewal.


Fog Mists

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

For two days the fog descended
from the clouds and hovered
above invisible stone walls and soil.

Trees evaporated and shrubs dissolved
under a pale milky veil.
Driveway and roads all effaced.
Houses isolated like islands in the mist.

We are blinded by ghostly vapor
shrouding our window views.
It transforms the scene into the
cotton-gauze mists of our dreams.


Ode to the Lost Art of Letter Writing

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

If I had to write off all my long-distance friends
who did not put pen to paper for a spell,
how many dear old friens would be left?
It's not easy to tell.

That's not the remedy; it's not too late.
Today we are fortunate, no matter how long the wait
to have a friend correspond the old-fashioned way.
Thoughts and feelings poured out in pencil lead or ink.
Keeping connections via post is the best way I think.

When each long-awaited letter finally does arrive,
rekindling memories, it keeps the treasured friendship alive.
Across the miles, such smiles and joy are spread
to hear from one's friend in good old-fashioned lead.

And though we've long ago given up the quill,
the ink that flows on the page offers still
the hearts true message from mind to wrist.

Today there are no letters sealed with monogrammed wax.
Instead, it's an instant e-mail or a fax.
I miss the stationary with the personal touch.
A personal momento means so much.
No, faxes or e-mail dashed off are a mistake.
True letters are well worth the time that it takes.


A Tribute to Trail Pioneer "Grandma" Emma Gatewood 1887-1973

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

To look at her, one might have thought her frail.
But no, at 67, Great-Grandma Gatewood
became the first lone woman to walk the entire Appalachian Trail!
In 1955, she told her family "I'm going for a hike in the woods."
Instead of pack, she sewed denim cloth to make a duffle sack
in which for 2000 miles, she would haul her wordly goods.

In lieu of fancy hiking boots, canvas keds she wore.
With no sleeping bag, pad, or tent, she slept on forest floor.
Exposed to the elements, how'd she accomplish this amazing feat?
With light blanket and shower curtain curled 'round to keep in heat.
Free, lightweight, waterproof, transparent, long and wide-
from rain, a simple shower curtain was a wonderful place to hide!

At night, wrapped inside her clear dry cocoon,
she weathered storms or watched the rising of the moon.
When chill set in, she piled leaves in denim mattress,
along with heated rocks to warm her bed.
With no heavy stove to weigh her down
Grandma ate cold food and along the trails lightly tread.

As Grandma traversed rugged footpath, winding here or there,
billowing clouds surrounded and shrouded gray wind-loosed hair.
Expansive valley views and magnificent sunsets were hers
ascending through laurel, hardwoods, and firs,
while pine-scented winds carried their healing touch.
At times the beauty must have been too much.

When tired or hurting, she found the strength to rise above the pain.
To pry her from the trail, the mosquitos tried in vain.
When the legendary pioneer came to town, kind folks living near trail
invited her into warm kitchens and homes, eager to hear her tale.

In years gone by, this woman spry, 11 children bore.
Young Mother and wife, she faced strenuous life with the faith to endure.
After decades passed, she began at last her arduous labor of love.
Singing hymns by day, Grandma scaled her way
over rock to cliff above.

A tireless walker, of that you can be sure...
Not content to hike the Appalachian trail but one time,
from Ohio home, she journeyed alone to accomplish it twice more.
establishing her as the first repeat "thru-hiker" of that trail sublime.

Though folks might have said that Grandma was poor
her spirit was rich in immeasurable ways.
Grandma Gatewood remains a legend evermore.
A Great-Great Grandma at 85, she departed earthly trails
but continues to live on in trail lore.

For those not seeing value in her pioneering pursuit
...the point may be moot.
But to the strength of her character,I bear Grandma tribute.


Snow Prints

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Warm breath pierces icy air
while weak winter light squints
through fleecy wings of cloud.
It lightly feathers the weathered
land of Westford Hill.

An open pasture bears
a heavy crop of ripe granular powder.
Plodding across it, I am
big-foot as a snowshoe hare.

The crisscross lacing of rawhide
from my "bear-paw" snowshoes looks
like so many cottage windowpanes.
Skirting trees, with crunching underfoot,
I leave a winding ephemeral trail
of diamond-paned imprints
decorating frosted fields and forest.

My path intersects many others:
the double dentition of each deer hoof print,
and a lacework of paw-prints woven
by foxes, native turkeys, squirrels and more.
Paw-prints strewn like stars
across the frosty breath of snow,
Bobcat tracks lie like a fallen necklace
of asymmetrical flowers draped atop
snow-covered ledges near "Boston Hollow."


Our Apple Pie Roots

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Round ruby-red apples
peeled, cored and sliced.
Sweetened, mixed with cornstarch
and of course spiced.

Fruit formed by earth,
rain, air and sun.
Connecticut-grown and tended,
‘til harvest time has come.

Flaxen fields of waving wheat
sprung forth from fertile soil.
Today, to procure the food we eat,
there is so much unseen toil.

With powder-dusted hands I sift
through a snowstorm of flour,
mixing, kneading dough paste stiff,
I imprint a chapter of my life in a half-hour.

Rolled and stretched smooth and thin
like bed-sheets pulled, then tucked in
around a cinnamon-apple mountain
sweet pillow-topped by scented fountain.

Whenever I bake this treat for others,
its sweet perfume fills the air,
reminiscent of our great-great Grandmothers
and the apple pie roots we share.


Rainbow Falls in an Adirondack Winter

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

I remember sleeping waters of frozen blue.
After a hike, miles through snow--dusted winter wood,
seeing the indescribable beauty of Rainbow Falls in January.
A turquoise ripple-sculpted glacier towered 150’ above me.
I am reminded of past glacial ice that chiseled out
this notch of jagged rocky canyon.
Massive ice also fluted the deep groove of
Ausable Lake bed, which now lies in shadow
at the base of a ring of looming "Cathedral" spires.

Over the millennia, the deeply glacial-scarred canyon healed
and softened with the falling and filling-up of water.
Now, in winter’s frozen silence,
below the sheer ice wall of rainbow blue,
lies the frozen glass bowl of Lower Ausable Lake.
Lake water hardened to white quartz.
As if held under a spell, in this
mini-glacial event called winter.

Just a millisecond of time for our planet
until sleeping beauty’s blue cascade
will be kissed by sun-warmed lips.
I imagine first a trickle and a tinkling sound,
then a popping and crackling before the
great crashing of breaking ice echoes through the canyon.
The power of spilling water will chip off rock fragments
that later settle in the lake.
As the glacier recedes,
life will be renewed with a great
rainbowed rush of falling water.


In Recognition of a Very Special Ashford Teacher: Barbara Zulick

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

She rules her young subjects with love, not fear.
They all want to please her because she is so dear.
Because she cares about each of them so much,
They listen carefully, follow directions and seldom rush.

As she nurtures each child’s individual talents,
each begins to realize they’re someone special too.
Extra time is spent, beyond call of duty, correcting with kindness
so each child beginning the year frightened and unsure
begins to blossom, thrive, and strive for more.

If you are lucky enough to have this dedicated teacher, have no fears.
You are sure to savor the happy memory all of your years.
How this amazing teacher, wife and Mother manages to transform
so many youngsters each year is hard to fathom
unless you understand that her secret ingredient
is to always discipline with love.
Older pupils, from years gone by,
come back to grace her with grateful hug.

This wise and wonderful educator is such an inspiration
and she certainly has our family nomination
as "Teacher of the Millennium"!


Autumn Winds

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

A brisk wind whirls through the autumn woods.
Swirling sienna leaves dance across ochre grass.
The last golden and burnt umber leaves are spiraling down.
Each slender tree body and limb sways to the rhythm of late autumn.

Squirrels, preoccupied with caching acorns,
for once, take no notice of sunflower seeds
spilling beneath birdfeeder.

Left-over birch and maple leaves, and hickory leaflets
now rain down in sharp gusts.
All leaving their parent trees, except the oaks,
whose flapping leaves refuse to let go.
Shriveled oak leaves still cling tenaciously
to knobby wooden fingers.
Their leaves, like dried corn husks, rattle
with a shifting, ever-changing melodious wind-song
that whispers of stronger gusts yet to come.


Moonlight Ski

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

A crystallized memory frozen in time: the Vermont woods
on a moonlit snow-lit winter night.
I spend a magical hour cross-country skiing.
Embarking in a clearing by the old school house,
my waxed skis grip, then slide rhythmically
across a blanket of blue–gray snow.

With a flutter of darkness,
the double-tracked trail enters shadowy woods.
Push, glide, moonlight, moon-shadow, silver, then charcoal.
The trail curves up and around a hill.
Push and glide up past dark conical forms
as I enter a long forgotten grove of Christmas trees.
A pale pewter sky frames
the jagged silhouette of conifers along the horizon.
Above me, sparkling stars are caught in tree branches
like so many tiny white Christmas tree lights.
I leave the penumbra cast by silent evergreen sentinels.

Snow-light appears as I slide into a silvery frosted meadow.
I hover above the snow-entombed grasses and flowers.
while a slice of silver lemon crescent hangs overhead.
Push, glide, then exhilarating slide downhill
to an ice encrusted frozen stream at meadows edge.
Cross with a tinkling of ice flowers breaking beneath skis.
Snow-covered branches float above me.
Frozen flowers lie hidden beneath me.
Dormant plants in repose all around me,
but my heart is pounding, brimming with life!


Vermont’s Autumn Bonfire

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


In late September, a bonfire ignites
on the distant overlapping ridgetops near Lincoln, Vermont.
The first sparks erupt on wild upper reaches
near Skylight Mountain, and leap over evergreens.
Deciduous shrubs and trees turn into colorful campfires
as if seeking warmth from freshly chilled mountain peaks.
Orange-yellow flames lick at Green Mountain foliage.
Leaves catch fire then send out shooting sparks
that spread to neighboring trees.
Gradually, each day, the fire creeps
to successively lower levels.

By October, long cold fingers
reach down from peaks, pulling
the blazing bonfire earthward,
transforming cool distant blue hillsides
into glowing warm woods.

Each autumn, green vegetation is consumed by flame.
The wildfire spreads to valleys below
and spills to edges of farmers’ fields.
A nearby crimson barn competes
with campfire hues, but falls short.

No fire department need be called.
Not water, but cold, extinguishes the fire naturally.
Flames, fueled by disintegrating chlorophyll,
begin to burn themselves out.
Broad leaves reduced to brown ash
now float to forest floor.
Wind whips through skeletons
of empty deciduous trees.
White-waisted birches become prominent,
as do scattered spruce and fir trees.

With each successive spring, the Green Mountain halo
is renewed and we are surprised to find
no damage has been done!


Ballerinas in Bloom

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Lopsided shrubs sculpted by foraging deer
are artfully carved into contorted dancers.
They wear topiary tutus of pink and purple
holding azalea arms up above in a circle.
Lower limbs with pointed toes;
each shrub appears to be a ballerina
frozen in an absurdly elegant pose.


Water of Sky

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Tonight, looking out the window after sunset,
I noticed the sky had turned to liquid.
It became a tranquil lake of blue hue.
Darkening clouds metamorphosed into
purple islands set against the water of sky.

Dusk descended as softly
as the falling of a blanket of snow,
as gently as a chickadee lighting on a birch branch,
and quieter than the softest rustle of wind.

A tangle of bare arms reaches skyward from forest floor.
They join and blur together in deepening shadows,
then transform into a silhouette of uneven shoreline etched
against the calm ink blue watercolors of heaven.

The first evening star appears to be a reflection
glistening upon a dark expanse of water.
It shines like a beacon for ships in the night.


Early Spring

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

Early Spring’s strengthening light reaches
glowing fingers into slumbering plant cells
stirring them into a flurry of activity.
Leaf buds swell with hidden growing
embryos of pale-green, their banners curled.
On forest floor, verdant wheels
of fiddleheads prepare to unfurl.
Nearby, magenta popcorn bursts from early azaleas,
sunset colors reflected in their young faces.
In the clearing, a leaf-less saucer magnolia
is covered with silky "butterflies" of pale pink
fluttering above the awakening sod.
Its fair sister, a star magnolia, waves ivory ribbons
the color of yesterday’s snow, and drips with sweet perfume.
Sprays from the pink waterfall of a weeping cherry tree
cascade down towards earth.
Expanding flower buds of native columbine
bestow splashes of red and yellow.
Each red-spurred blossom bears a bowed head
that hovers above a dark delicate stem.
They ascend amongst lichen-dappled cobbles,
in the shadows of ancient stone walls.
A ruffle of wind stirs up a refreshing spring potion
of warmth and floral fragrances.
This is the true tonic of spring!


April of the Leafless Woods

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

In April of the leafless woods,
I wander through large open pillared rooms.
Sun floods through the light open-roofed canopy,
only slightly obstructed by interwoven branches
and the sage green tassels of maple flowers.

Wide windowless views span across hillside
towards an awakening pastel landscape.
Sounds of birdsong and rivulets murmuring
echo through bare branches.

Damp floors of green and brown, beneath boots,
curve up a graceful slope towards a stone staircase.
I climb the stairs of ledge to a green-carpeted tower.
Hidden there are unguarded treasures.
I find the delicate pearl-like jewels of
wild anemones, blooming white,
in April of the leafless woods.


Flea Market Find

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


They were like so many needy orphans,
clad in threadbare jackets of crimson and sage,
all looking for a good home.
The dusty pile of century old books
sat forgotten at the flea market.

Like lost spirits from an attic of the past.
Each one discarded, but still bursting with secrets
and stories to be shared.
Excerpts of history and timepieces of fiction intermixed.
From brittle yellow pages,
their silent voices cried out to be heard.
I listened and learned.
I rescued and adopted them as children,
nearly lost to a life of neglect.

Now they have become my treasured companions.
Friends who travel with me back in time.
My dog-eared books are windows to a forgotten past.
A time that can no longer be seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted.
That is, until the pages are opened,
and one becomes transported back.


A Connecticut Cougar Crosses a Boundary

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


Toppled towers of glacial debris
lie like ruins from an old stone castle.
A lone "mountain lion" melts into the Ashford night.
The cougar’s long golden tail, her identifying feature,
is concealed in darkness.
Perpetually shy, she hides in the pre-dawn shadows
cast by moon through ancient heaps of scattered boulders.

Towards dawn, the New England panther
unwittingly crosses a human boundary.
Though seldom seen by humans,
she now pads through a hickory woodlot,
then silently crosses a patch of tawny hayfield.
The dark cavern of an old woodshed looms ahead.
She spies the narrow crevice of slightly ajar wooden door
as an opening between rocks reveals the darker interior of den.
Fatigue and the welcoming black recesses draw her in.
She negotiates a canyon between neatly stacked wood cliffs.
Puzzled briefly by the scent of split oak rather than stone,
she sniffs the mouse-scented shed breath appreciatively
and curls up in the furthest dim corner.

Just before dozing, she hears a sound near the "cave" entrance.
The opening inexplicably widens_
letting in an alien creature along with slant of early morning light.
The panther is instantly on her feet.
She leaps over the astonished girl,
her long tail carving a golden arc through the dank air.
Escaping through the open door, in search of protective shadows,
she hopes never to return to the strange wooden cave.
The last thing the cougar remembered about this place
was the scent of human fear.



Ashford Gold and Silver

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

One senses something different
even before eyelids flutter open.
Something is begging a premature awakening on a vacation morn.
Illumination brighter than winter’s usual
insists from behind window drapery.
The early morning room bathes in a golden glow
filtering through flowered curtains.

A tapestry of silver and gold etches onto the breathtaking blue sky.
Frosted branches sparkle in a forest of diamond-studded swan feathers.
Fluffy-headed evergreens don cloudy caps.
Tree roots tuck in under clean blankets of goose down.
Diagonal stripes of soft blue shadow transect the hillside in open wood.
White birch catkins hang in neat rows and adorn bare branches
like shining charms pendant along a silver bracelet.
Dark trunks, sandblasted by snowy night winds,
are coated white, all along their northwest aspect.

A similar view may have greeted the early Ashford settlers.
Did it awaken in them a childlike excitement?
Or did it evoke only thoughts of endless toil,
brought on by the chilly New England winter?

In this white-washed world, each branch has been scrubbed shiny.
As if cleansing cares away during the long night,
nature erased all traces of evil,
creating a "New World" of beauty, hope and peace.
Just one glimpse of Ashford’s gold and silver paradise is priceless.


Powder of Sand, Powder of Snow

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


Shimmering sunlight danced across
a white sheet of sandy beach.
While walking barefoot, I came upon
a sugar-crystal castle of ivory
with fantasy turrets and indented windows
towering above etched moat,
lovingly molded by little hands
from Virgin Island white powder of sand.

Sparkling silica grains mixed
with flecks of mica and salt, and
bound together by sea-water.
Water is the glue that holds you together.

I wandered, as a scorching sun pirouetted
over florescent warm powder of sand.
Turning back, I found that the castle
was gone, swallowed by sea-water.
No sign it had ever been there.

Shimmering sunlight danced over
a pale-faced field of snow.
While snow-shoeing, I came across
a sugar-crystal snow fort,
lovingly molded by little hands cold
from New England white powder of snow.

A curved igloo built of snow blocks,
cemented by ice and crowned with icicles.
Interlocking crystals of frozen water
joined together by more water of ice.

I turned to watch a wave of dark clouds
shadow the hillside powdered with snow.
The next day, I came back to find the igloo
had vanished, swallowed by rainwater.
No sign it had ever been there.

Warm powder of sand, cold powder of snow.
The magic of water
that binds you together
is the solvent that loosens your hold.


Untamable Ashford

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


Trees ride on great swells of rock encrusted hillocks.
A spider-web of rivulets flows south
to brooks and scattered wetlands betwixt peaks.

The early settlers of 1700’s Ashford could not tame her,
though how they tried.
They hunted both to feed their families
and cull dangerous wildlife.
Eventually whittling away wolf and turkey populations.

Her forests, they continually cut back.
Her Earth, they tilled around house-sized boulders
and tiers of ledges, coaxing stony soil to produce sustenance.
The errant glacial cobbles, farmers tossed in piles,
that grew like haystacks.
Flat stones, the pioneers dovetailed
to build sturdy interior cellar walls for their homes
and an elaborate grid-work of exterior stone fences.
Rough-hewn timber stacked atop stone foundation
created cozy but flammable shelter from cold and storm.
Their houses just a latticework of frail wood atop resolute rock.

But hardwoods, conifers, and mountain laurel all conspired to grow back
so Ashford could again assume her wild countenance.
And still, bobcats elude hunters by hiding in caves.
Despite all, the present home of foxes, coyotes, hawks,
and increasing numbers of native turkeys.
To this day, deer eat farmers’ crops and connive to multiply.
For centuries, industrious beavers have plotted
to plug up her large brooks and small streams
and initiated flooding of lowland field and forest,
expanding wetlands and creating scenic ponds.
And of course, her boulders and ledges are immovable.

An abandoned old east-west dirt road,
once labored over by horses hauling 1800’s buckboards
now lies hidden, a lopsided moss-covered path
in the northeastern wilderness north of "Boston Hollow."
Escarpments and ledge peer down on occasional hiker or hunter.
A few scattered empty stone cellar holes and fallen chimneys
are footprints of lives once lived
and speak to the pioneers’ previous struggles for survival
in a place where now laurel and forest flourish alone.

Will ledges and wetlands continue to act as
fortress and moat to keep development at bay?
Docility be not Ashford’s fate.
May she reign forever untamable.


Borrowed Time, Borrowed Land

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


Borrowed time, borrowed land.
Soil stirred, seeds scattered, crops gathered.
Tenants for only a moment
then passed from hand to hand.

New owners reap the bounty of their labor.
Only a small slice of life, theirs to savor.
Each farming family emersed in nature
‘til the final harvest time is nigh.

Seasons twist back on themselves
in a never-ending rainbow.
Colors brighten at harvest at height of twilight’s glow.
Falling into winter, a white quilt is gently laid.
Time hurries on, the spring crop flourishes
and turns the land to jade
for the next generation of caretakers.

Landowners who never truly own the land.
Seeds returned to the archives of the soil
like books on loan.

Borrowed time, borrowed land.
Caretakers for only a moment
then passed from hand to hand.


Seventeen Moons

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


If a poet could visit the frozen planet of Jupiter,
she might try in vain to capture with words
the varied brilliance of her moons.

Peering through breaks in a red gaseous storm
in the gathering dusk; seventeen moons appear,
like children of differing sizes and incandescence.
Each peers out and takes a turn cart-wheeling through space.
They hover above a blanket of grounded ice.
Never straying far from Mother Jupiter.

Reflected light from satellite orbs, witnessed
through a curtain of swirling dust.
Multiple sunrises and sunsets
add a semblance of warmth to horizon.

Wisps of cloud, like frosty breath drift
across distant moons of chiseled polar ice.
Each sharply etched against black backdrop,
a cavern of eternally expanding space.

Lunar siblings circle in slow motion around a banded giant.
Seventeen moons never leaving home.
Forever paying homage to the great girth of Jupiter.


Firelit Adirondack Night

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


Embraced by a circle of stone, after nightfall
a vermillion river of flame flows upward,
sliding gracefully over wooden limbs.

Timber and tinder bathe in auburn light,
sending showers of sparks skyward,
against a charcoal black backdrop
as if creating new solar systems of glowing stars.

Beyond and below the crackle of campfire,
silver wavelets undulate in Cranberry Lake.
A waxing moon weaves patterns
from sterling and pewter liquid metal into silver braids.

Firewood melts away unevenly
leaving an exaggerated topography
of orange ember hills as remnants.

Wood worn away by devouring flames,
leaving a scattering of pockmarks.
Reminiscent of stone, worn away by water and time,
like potholes scoured from rocky gorge.


Walking on Fallen Sky

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland


We navigate the winding path
atop bits of atmosphere instead of soil.
Until the frozen pieces of fallen sky melt
and slowly, surprisingly, we become grounded.

Soon, our feet will touch awakening grass
and become one with the Earth again.
Soil will sift through our fingers in days
when daffodils begin to stagger along the path.

Dancers

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

The group of dancers moved as one,
gracefully, with a single goal.
Like a flock of geese flying in v-formation,
As a group, stronger than any separate part.
Each dancer flapped her wings
to the rhythm of the rippling song.

The dancers swayed in unison.
Torsos bending like grass blades, weaving
together, then apart, in fluid harmony.
On coordinated waves of alternating motion,
they became part of something larger and more beautiful.

Their arms, trailing ribbons,
carved colorful patterns in colorless air.
Their legs sliced shadows in synchrony
as they went spinning across the stage.
Together, they created magic as if they
had been waiting all their lives for this moment.

Nobody Noticed Daniel Pickens

by

Gwen D. Feldman Haaland

When Daniel Pickens tried to speak,
he stumbled over his words
as if they were great obstacles of rock
impeding his path.
Something always got in the way
when his tongue tried to form words.
The message in his head could not be transported
from his mind to his mouth.

For all he tried, the other kids just laughed.
He must not have anything important to say, they thought.
By adolescence, they were used to his broken voice
and no longer noticed Daniel Pickens.

But no one knew that when he put pen to paper to write a poem,
he secretly poured out a golden flow of words.
The words magically appeared unbroken
and told a story like a dance across his page.
Each twist and turn of phrase,
each vivid description
came out EXACTLY as he intended.
Sometimes alliterative, sometimes rhyming,
though often not, but always
an angel’s voice seemed to speak
through Daniel Pickens poetic words.

One day in class, Mr. Hollett,
told all to write a poem immediately.
Time: only 15 minutes beginning NOW.
Amid groans of frustration,
Daniel’s classmates struggled with their words.
They could not seem to find the right locution.
They began over and over again
but they were never satisfied with the results.

No one noticed how Daniel Pickens’ pen
flew across his page, painting it with
a symmetrical rainbow of seamless words.
Utterances that came out right the first time.
"Time’s up. Put your pens down and
pass your papers in," Mr. Hollett directed.
Then he shuffled all their papers and
began to read each poem aloud,
concealing the identity of their respective authors.
Students burst into laughter and jeered
at awkward wording, or perplexed,
they tried to decipher the message or meaning
that each struggling poet was trying to convey.

All except one poem.
One poem shone brightly above all the others.
The words were gentle and beautiful,
yet overwhelmingly powerful.
The sounds flowed together in exactly the right way
and spoke to something buried deep in their hearts.
By the end, they were close to tears.
After moments of stunned silence, students protested
"No way!" and "Mr. Hollett, you wrote that one_
or someone famous maybe_"
"I certainly did not write it, but someone right here
in this room just wrote this poem."
Nobody noticed Daniel Pickens.

The students all voted that it was the best-written poem
then begged him to divulge the author.
Finally, he told them:
"Daniel Pickens is our poet!"
They looked over at the skinny
bespectacled boy in shock and disbelief.
"Did you really write it?"
"Y-y-yes, I d-did. I’ve b-been writing poetry
s-since I was f-four" Daniel gulped, blushing.

How could it be that his classmates had never
glimpsed any of the beauty that was hiding
inside the stuttering boy?
Why hadn’t any of them noticed something in his eyes
that surely should have hinted at a depth
and wisdom beyond his years?
They never looked at him (or the world)
in quite the same way after that day.
Now they looked at Daniel Pickens and they listened.