Contemplate the rhythm of a pandemic,
listen, listen, fiddleheads open and trees
riot quietly from flower to leaf, invisible
sadness takes the meadow among vivid
songbirds in full karaoke. Late winter
walks fade in the rearview mirror, daughter
now visits most every weekend, last Sunday
she and boyfriend built raised beds,
timbers fairly gleamed in the sun’s reflection
off the solar panels that replicate sky
from the barn roof. Try to imagine next fall’s
harvest with no end in view, son’s on FaceTime,
he’s returned to the other coast after two months
in the hills of Central Vermont with the parents,
too still; safe, yes, but silent. A frail, fraying world
connected by a surfeit of screens while
ancient dog steps gingerly through the soft,
soft grass and shrubs I never noticed before
dispatch missives of delicate pink-white
threads on faint evening breezes.
So much certainty is gone, or what
we used to call certainty, before
that Wednesday when shutdowns cascaded
from the parquet floor of the NBA
to the mountains. Around the world really.
Still, depend on some things: late afternoon
videocalls, a cacophony of peepers
that does not fade until after midnight,
yellow warblers, full-throated at first light, wind
gentling over the ridge, hillside ashes, birches,
oaks foreshadowing fall, clad now
in yellows, greens, carnelian. The dooryard
magnolia puts on a show for the ages.
Both dogs sleep by my feet on the front porch
where afternoon sun is best over the mountains.
I’ve never seen such tenderness. Oh, you could
tick off a long list of what’s lost until well
past darkness –it comes later and later each night.
Things are never truly settled but now
the stutter’s front and center if you want to look
beyond the bittersweet afternoon shadows
lengthening towards the solstice the way
childhood used to slip imperceptibly past.
A lifelong New Englander, Jeff Bernstein watches the seasons slowly turn in these strange times from a hillside in Central Vermont with an occasional foray into town. The dogs maintain our sanity and provide all forms of relief. Poetry is his favorite and earliest art form (he can’t draw a whit or hold a tune). He would most have liked to have been, like Thoreau, “an inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms… [a] surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes.” Recent poems have appeared in, among other public cations, Allegro Poetry Magazine, Best Indie Lit New England, The Centrifugal Eye, Cooweescoowee, Edison Literary Review, Grasslimb, The Kerf, The Midwest Quarterly, Mulberry Fork Review, Paper Nautilus, Pinyon, Plum Tree Tavern, Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology, Rockhurst Review, Silkworm and Tipton Poetry Journal. He is the author of two chapbooks; his full-length collection Nightfall, Full of Light was published in 2017 by Turning Point.