Low Voice for a Loud Earth

for Carol Van Strum, who’s been in Five Rivers, Oregon, a long time

she sings earth songs
like aboriginals that call a continent
full of earth rivers
the land of clay, holes, water
[uthuru is Midwestern word for Australia
barna in the Murchison region
biik in the Woiwurrung language of Melbourne
and kurrek in the Wemba Wemba language of Victoria]

Carol sings the same chorus
for leaves, those tubers
fruit for pies, this land
a homesteader’s from a hundred
years past, she puts
skin and blood to it
mulching her family
dreams passions

it’s the land of
bees, and bear
all those seasons
deciduous mulching
among pines, skies blue
magnificent rivers in clouds

she plants saplings
for remembrance
children, benedictions
pear apple cherry
her song is a low
rumble, between moon
and dawn light
full canopy of trees

I learn patience
of a clay molder from
her, how she too
bends with sheering winds
her own roots in Five
Rivers, those storms
violent, wicked
yet she is forgiving

she sings songs for
this valley, creeks and springs
frogs and newts
there is magic in silence
her own slow troweling
of ideas, emotions
a Song of Neruda I hear
when contemplating
Carol, her wisdom
her musings, now, 2022
her prayer for pollination
“Fruitless” a gift for friends:

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.*

teachers sprout anywhere
the lichen now
on another family tree
when Carol speaks
the wasps gather in rafters
the donkeys waiting for hay
dogs rambunctious, crow
dive bombing, awaiting Carol’s
songs, the valley’s trees bend
just a little bit with her song
the silence of stars overtake
the night

Carol Van Strum

* Pablo Neruda, “Keeping Quiet” (Extravagaria) Buenos Aires, 1958)

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.