Russell Rowland

Hitting the Brakes 

Neighbor Clarence pulled out in front
of a truck in Concord.  Truck’s fault says he,
as wife Claire makes eyes behind him. 

We get it.  Smoke rose and the drivers
opened their doors.  Clarence’s life paraded
past his eyes: in review, in justification. 

Years driving a school bus, no accidents.
Piloting his own plane, alive to brag about it,
tight barrel-rolls, higher than sex. 

Rental, till their car is fixed.  Insurance
increase.  For Clarence, his driver’s license is
his license to live.  He won’t go down 

to an empty garage without a fight.
He still sees an aviator’s eyes in the mirror,
no cataracts.  As for spouse Claire, 

love hopes all things.  Passenger
the day of the crash, she slammed her foot
to a brake pedal that wasn’t there.


Reassurance re Bears 

Descending the Turtleback Mountain Trail,
I met a family climbing up—parents, daughter—
and alerted them to the smallish black bear
I spotted, one switchback past. 

I said the proper, necessary thing: a bear’s
response to us in the woods is to skedaddle.
If it reacts some other way, like aggressive,
probably we provoked it. 

They pressed onward, reassured.  I then
considered what I might also have said, about
forest being a creature’s home and table; we
the guests nobody invited. 

I could have told a nervous mother how I
had seen bears often thereabouts, or at least
their retreating backsides, and without reserve
felt like a magus reading stars. 

When broad-winged hawks ride the thermals,
I name them Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael;
the raven, Lucifer.  Purple or painted Trillium
is Holy Trinity to my eyes. 

Black bears make do for the reprieve I crave—
after such doings and undoings as weren’t in
anyone’s best interest.  A shaggy powerhouse
is absolution!  Yet it bolts.

© Russell Rowland

Seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee Russell Rowland writes from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, where he has judged high-school Poetry Out Loud competitions.  His work appears in Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall (Encircle Publications), and “Covid Spring, Vol. 2” (Hobblebush Books). His latest poetry book, Wooden Nutmegs, is available from Encircle Publications.

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