The Day

what day would it be?  N. Scott Momaday

The day
was a tracing of leaves
young as I was, with their first green

their gloss
willing to cast themselves out and be
caught by sun and air

I sat beneath them in a rising
of twigs and green 
slender limbs drawn by the sun

all of us young, all of us saying yes
the leaves, the child, the slim trunks
and the light that held us

the air that said, come then
since you are willing
here is the door open

open in you
and all of us entered together
leaves, child, the young trees

as we began our lives
in the silt of a flood plain
a glint of sun and water

that moment with the wind still
and only ourselves
slow in the light

—Sarah Webb

Photographs by Deontrai Damond


—Deontrai Damond

If I Were a Child and Waiting

If I were a child, I would climb the venerable
Pecan tree, in my backyard. It holds my world 
in place, like the mythic Yggdrasil, whose roots 
hold the world together ~ never to loosen.

Along a sturdy branch, I’d chat with the 
squirrels, and share a nut or two from my
pocket, and wonder at their scampering leaps 
into the space between twig ends of limbs. 
Pausing here, I fall into my adult self.

Grounded, like a plane without fuel, altitude
lost, I recall losses irreparable. Settling
against the massive trunk, filled with the
rings of Time, I recalled that at the heart of 
me is a fragile sprout of beginning.

The rough bark, wrinkled Time, reminds
me that I may grow again from here,
surrounded by accumulated years of 
experience. I can learn the scampering 
risk of leaping from stem end to stem end,
across the space of fear. 

—Martha Ward

Shoot After the Storm by Amanda Webb

Past pleading for warmth 
against the pain of cold, 
the wintery wait, the weight 
of the cold, persisted.

Slipping my arms along my 
sides, I was surprised to feel 
warmth radiating from my core. 
Numbed hands felt their way under 
my buttocks, seeking the supple fat 
for their warm nest, cheek to cheek. 

Head helmeted, in woolen hat, 
only my feet numb, absorbing 
the arctic air stealing in through 
the walls, floor, windows. Rubbing 
them together, only let me know 
their ache. Moving from my shroud 
of blankets, to find warmth for them 
would mean, inviting the cold to wash over me. 

I waited, I waited, then snow gave way
to the sun’s light. And, with it the return
of electricity. Feet arched eagerly, feeling
blood rush, trumpeting.

—Martha Ward

The Little Foxes Salute the World

Little green world, plump as an olive, 
how we love you! 
We, the little foxes 
cavort at night in the grass of your hair. 
The air is sweet with the lavender scent of the chinaberry, 
and the chuck will’s widows 
hide themselves in the dark trees 
and sing their night song like lullabies. 

We were born in the old den, 
the great mound of earth by the oak trees,  
redolent of foxes, 
where our grandmother and grandfather foxes lived from the beginnings of fox time. 
Water was far 
until the human brought it here 
under the old windmill 
towering in the night sky. 
But rats and mice 
scampered through the woods at night, 
and our mothers 
taught us to hunt and climb the cedar trees
to stalk 
  to pounce 
  to rip things apart with our sharp little teeth
and fill our round white furry bellies 
in gratitude 
for the plenty the earth. 

Little green world, 
how we love to be here! 
We love to drink of your water. 
Well water is fine,  
but cold spring water, with a whiff of slime and rot, is even better. We love the little hop rats and the mice, sometimes a lizard or a bunny, a wriggly snake, once a buffet of turkey slices the human put in the field, perfect except for a bit of blue green mold. We love the dewberries and the sour persimmons, the wild grapes that grow up the oaks with stems like trunks of their own. 

We love to roll in your dirt and clean the bugs out of our fur. 
We love to play in your fields 
 and run up and down your trees like playscapes. 
We don’t see much color, but, still,  
the flowers and the sky at dusk are wondrous. 
We are so a part of you, plump little olive-earth 
And we so love being a part of it all.

—Elayne Lansford

Sometimes What Comes to Us, We Never Called For

I never called for cancer, but it came anyway. 

It was not gentle. It was more like the Mongol horde invading. 

I thought I was fine one day. The next day I was told I might be very, very sick. 

Hmm, something could be wrong, let us stick these huge needles in you to get some core samples. 

Hmm, something is wrong, let’s do some exploratory surgery, pull out a bunch of lymph nodes just in case, and cut some nerves. You won’t feel all of your arm afterward, but you will feel most of it. 

Hmmm, everything has to go. We will cut it all off, but leave you with some plastic bags of saline water shoved under your chest muscles, which we can inflate as much as you want. Oh, you will no longer be able to use your chest muscles correctly, and your skin could split, but that is just part of it. 

Those stents and drains, well, that is just part of it too. Wear very, very baggy clothes so no one can see you are full of holes and tubes. You can work with your drains in. Just hide them. 
Uh oh, looks like you need chemo as well. The doses are all standard, whether you weigh 100 or 300 pounds. We can’t give you a smaller dose, even if your liver processes as slowly as a turtle. It’s the law. 

Oops, you didn’t react so well, did you? It hit your central nervous system, you walk like someone with cerebral palsy. It may go away. Oh, the skin in your mouth is sloughing off and you cannot eat? Ensure is great. Try it, use a straw. 

You have shooting pain in your toes? That is neuropathy. You are lucky you can feel them at all. And your fingers are fine, be grateful. What to do about it? We don’t know. 
Your hair has fallen out and you are sometimes so weak you need to crawl? It will pass. Probably your hair will grow back. But it may be different hair, like someone else’s hair on your head. Wear a scarf, wear a cap, wear a wig. 

You feel like the healthy person you once were has died, and you are old before your time, and disfigured? Well, you are alive. That is really the best we can do. 

Cancer is Zen boot camp. You spend a lot of time “in the howl,” as Annie Lamott says. You are too sick to plan, and maybe you are going to die, so you learn to live in the moment. Life? You realize you may not have much of it. That poor bag of bones and skin you call your body? You learn that it is fragile and impermanent. Your mind? You learn it fragments and distorts and falls to pieces when things are awful enough. Your work? You can’t do it, so you can’t identify with it. Your roles? Being responsible, being upbeat, being a giver? Pretty much gone. With your drug addled mind, you can’t be trusted to be responsible. Upbeat? When your life feels “live from the Book of Job?” Pretty difficult. A giver? The only thing you have left to give is your gratitude. 

But if it all works, you learn that none of this really matters. You learn that while you will die, now or later, life will go on. If you are lucky, that will bring inconceivable joy. You learn that not all friends are there in tough times, but many are, and one can live buoyed by love, somehow floating on it when otherwise one would sink. You learn to be very, very present.

—Elayne Lansford



— Kathleen Burke

Study for Earth Day



She was observing us, still
with her golden brown silhouette 
She did not move the whole time
while my own dog, Scooby
was walking around 
taking in the smells 
of the earth

I noticed
and waited
hoping she would stay

Should I stay still 
or should I walk a bit
to see if I could see her better? 

I walked towards her
and she didn’t move
until Scooby noticed her

Scooby froze and stared at her for a minute
and suddenly 
the coyote ran back into the woods
leaving me and Scooby in the field
she would return

She looked a lot like my own dog
who I sometimes observe pouncing on a toy
her back arched and frozen in the air
and I sometimes wonder 
how much coyote she has in her

I also envision the same coyote 
rolling in the grass on her back
with a stupid grin on her face
like my dog does every time I take her to a field

Before I left
I threw one of Scooby’s old tennis balls to that area
maybe she would come back 
and have something to play with
or at least smell our scent
and in my dreams
thinking it was our gift to her

—Miki Tesh