“One Small Section of Sky” and Other Poems, by Ralph Earle

One Small Section of Sky

She taught me the names of the flowers  
around our half-restored farmhouse: 
peony, forsythia, dogwood, rhododendron.
She planted vegetables for us to eat. 

More beautiful than Queen Elizabeth 
and her jewels, she sang snatches 
of popular songs when the sunlight took her. 
Her voice would soar and then, abruptly, stop. 

She read to me from old leather-bound books, 
Byron and Idylls of the King. For show and tell, 
I recited Tennyson and was made to skip 
into third grade. I cried. My mother took my hand. 

On that evening under clacking apple branches 
she made the heavens match her old blue star map, 
showing me Deneb, Altair, Procyon, Betelgeuse—
our own small section of sky. 

The Things I Do When I Am Alone

I learned from 
you, to sit

with the falling 
leaves, slice 

a pear into sections, 
eat it slowly

as if solitude 
were a sweet stillness
Days of Sheep and Garlic 

My mother sent us each a five-pound tub of honey 
at Christmas from the eccentric bee-keeper 
who administered stings for her arthritis. 
After the mastectomy she raised sheep,

for the warmth of wool, and for nurturing
living things, one, then four, then eight, 
and when lambs arrived she gave them names
and sold the ones she couldn’t keep. 

Now that her sons had families of their own  
she wore jeans and a plaid shirt, 
with the wind in her salt-and-pepper hair 
and the beginnings of a smile. 
She added garlic to her diet, 
and onions and other things she grew 
in her new garden plot behind the barn. 

When I visited, she and I would drive off 
in late afternoon to where the river 
tumbled down from the mountain 
to a bone-numbing pool among boulders. 

We would frog-kick toward the waterfall 
that spilled into the shadows of the spruces
until we reached the icy veil of spray 
and let go, and let the current take us.

Ralph Earle lives outside Raleigh, North Carolina, where he designs websites for poets and like-minded people. The holder of a Ph.D. in English Literature, he has served the cause of poetry over his career as writer, teacher, editor, organizer, critic, bookseller, and appreciative audience. During the pandemic he has been taking long walks and teaching people to use Zoom. Recent poems have appeared in Indelible, Running with Water, Red Fez, Tar River Poetry, and Sufi Journal. His collection The Way the Rain Works won the 2015 Sable Books Chapbook Award.

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