All the little things

like watering the strawberries and currants,
because they are up and leafing,
or carrying the wicker basket,
full of wet clothes,
down the steps and out by the trees.
One could miss the way
the fingers squeeze together
the top of the clothespin to
attach the seam of the blue shirt
to the swaying clothesline.
One could miss the moment,
when the sprinkler is moved around,
that each small strawberry plant drinks in water,
up from its root tips.
One could miss these details of care,
one could look back over the day and say only,
I washed the clothes.
I watered the garden.
One could miss all of these—
how the brown socks are
carefully laid out to dry.
I don’t want to go on about it,
but isn’t it the small things,
the little acts of love,
that keep this heartrending world
spinning on its axis?

Elise Stuart

In the dark, the edges begin to blur

Mimbres sunsetLying beneath a thick comforter
and far-off stars,
I move over a little,
making my body an island.

Illness drives a wedge
between me and the world.
I crave solitude,
its calm, drifting rhythm.

Close my eyes and become
more than this body,
round a bend
to stand in golden light.

Recall touching
the pale down
on my son’s tiny head,
right at the crown—

Soft spot that dimples in
where Soul
dives into the body and
flies out—

e. stuart

Three Deer

Three deer come out of my garden
They may as well have the last of the tomatoes
I silently ask them to leave the pears and roses
and they do.

The two young ones bound up the hill,
while the doe turns to look at me in the dark
We exchange a gaze of love
that seems longer than hours,years.

Back in bed—I feel peaceful,
as if I’d caught some of the deer’s
grace and gentle purpose,
my whole being is content
in a new way
in this world, in this time,
on this moonlit night.

Raven Kept Watch

He sat high above,
watching the brown house
with its empty front porch,
broken picket fence,
battered gate.

He heard the shouting,
the punch,
the slaps, the screams . . .
Then nothing
in the early morning silence.

He saw a large man emerge,
walking slow,
who pushed himself into a red truck,
then drove a crooked path
down the street.

He called.
She awoke
from a restless sleep,
glanced quickly out the window
to see the truck gone,
black raven on the pole.

She looked around,
nothing to take,
nothing she wanted.
Pulled her jacket on
to cover the bruises,
put her purse over her shoulder.

He watched as she walked
down the sidewalk,
not the same way the man had gone.
He swooped down from his perch,
followed her to the highway,
wings wide.

She kept moving,even as she stepped
off the curb. A woman in a pickup
stopped to let her by.
Raven circled.
She mouthed thank you, thank you,
a long scar running across her face.

Elise Stuart

Sanctuary

The backyard holds me–
like the mother who never was.
Arms around my back,
my head laid on an emerald shoulder.

Tall wooden slats in the fence
stand guard, unlike my father.
All three gates are latched,
so the trees and I are alone.

I dream against gnarled roots,
highway to the underground,
forging kinship with the soil,
sink down into the earth’s embrace.

Let down my own thick tap root,
lift a greening stem up through the dark,
orphaned no longer,
lift leaf-hands, cupped, to meet the sun.

Elise Stuart

Alive

sycamore treeThis is who I am:
woman who drives with yellow dog
over roads of dirt,
going fast over the sip of creek water.

Who is brown hills,
dry sharp shrubs,
muddy river water,
smooth worn stones on sand.

Strong as red rock cliff,
soft as grass,
uncertain as rain clouds,
brave as birdsong.

Turn right on the highway
back to town.
Don’t lose this . . .
Don’t lose this . . .

Elise Stuart

The Way

night blooming cereusThis is the way we walk our destiny,
one hand on the light, one hand on the shadow.
Feet tread the ground gently,
sole making the imprint of
the bear, the butterfly.

When we start out again,
old soul wears a new body.
We run, shout, bound through the woods.
Time passes, wounds pierce, sear—
the light becomes dimmer . . .

River of forgetfulness
engulfs, wears us down.
Pinched and forlorn,
we don’t know why we came here or how to get home.
We try to escape. It works, but not for long.

Mystery, still unsolved,
we meet someone.
In a lightning flash of knowing:
a face so familiar, the eyes, the sound
of the voice. The connection

drives us on dark, slippery roads
or wide open ones.
Whatever it takes
to make the heart break, then beat again.

What we find in the end
is our true selves:
born to, knitted to, lashed to, sewn to, tied to, part of
something greater—than we’d ever imagined.

Elise Stuart