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.