Poems by Barbara Swift Brauer

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Blueberry Ridge: A Poet Weighs In

by Barbara Swift Brauer

From Canary Winter 2012-13

Barbara lives in the Lagunitas Creek watershed in the San Geronimo Valley, the last un-dammed headwater tributary of Lagunitas Creek. Her home is within earshot of ephemeral and year-round creeks, just down the road from the fish ladder where coho salmon can be seen along their annual journey upstream to their spawning grounds.

Make no mistake
this hill is not dispensable.
What else to balance the gibbous moon,
the westering sun
on a fiery February day?

See how its slopes round with the purpose,
ravines run lush with it,
its roots of rock thrust deep.

Where else do we come for small miracles?
Two pines on a high ridge.

Make no mistake, this meeting
is the work of centuries:
the uplift of plates
and shifting surface,
mountain and coastal plain.
Advent of poppy, oak,
migration of grasses,
lizard and mammal.
Confluence of light.

And what you begin as a careless walk
becomes an intersection
of your life and all that greets you here.

From the Valley below drift truck rev,
door bang, car slam, dog bark and hammer.

Here, high amid bushes, crow hop,
flick of songbird, and the wide gaze of cows.

And this oak: ablaze with silence
in the still afternoon

saying nothing
saying everything.

Full Moon Walk

by Barbara Swift Brauer

From Canary Summer 2012

Even though you’ve climbed to the ridge
for its vantage overlooking the valley,
it is only you and the moon, nothing else:

a new territory of light and lightlessness
from which everything else recedes.
Taurus and Gemini blanched from the sky,

even Orion retires, dogs at heel.
Only you in the spotlight,
submerged in light, immersed as a swimmer.

The trail beneath your feet
indistinct as a streambed, ocean floor. You walk
in tentative steps, ready for shift.

Or, as if you moved in pure snow,
flapping your arms like an angel
to animate the shadows.

As if the rest of the world has melted away.
As if it could last forever
and no one waited below.

Only Autumn

by Barbara Swift Brauer

From Canary Fall 2017

I’m alone in the house
when the footsteps
sound on the deck.
A knock at the front door
startles me from the page.

It’s only autumn.

Acorns plummet
from the lichened branches
the squirrels rain down
green chips of unripe walnuts.

The trees and hills everywhere
begging for rain.
The sun burns hot
but briefer each day.

And I grow hollow
with the shift
as the gathering dark
finds entrance.

It’s only autumn
with its yellow jacket
its special sting.

Ridge Developers

by Barbara Swift Brauer

From Canary Spring 2012

You can smell them coming, welcome
as a cane toad, grateful to gain a toehold
where they do not belong. Soon
to swallow what they can, and poison
what they can’t.

Imported from an alien climate,
hell-bent on usurping yours, they come armored
with rolled deeds and developer’s plans, airtight legal.
Soon they’re into the lay of the land,
marking up the wild places, calibrating the angle
of sunset and rise for their living room windows.

You’ll come to know
the wide smile, the handshake that sizzles
as you seize it, the eyes that see right through you
to the future they are going to ruin.

And you can hear in their friendly voices
the chain saws revving for the very trees
now holding your horizons.

Winter, San Geronimo

by Barbara Swift Brauer

From Canary Winter 2017-18

They are walking dry footed
on the bottom of Nicasio Reservoir.

Rocks in the silent creek jut
like the ribs of a starving horse.

The fish ladder is a skeleton of concrete.
The salmon do not come.

These short winter days, the sun
clicks on like a furnace, clicks off.

The frost forms on the windows, the dying
rhodies, ice in the unemptied bucket.

They are walking dry footed
on the bottom of the reservoir.

Up on the ridge the worried hikers
pass with a guilty stride. The road

beneath their feet, scrabble
and treacherous footing.

Scrub jay, towhee and robin
scratch open the dry soil in the yard.

The new moon fattens in a cloudless sky
rests in the bare branches of the oak.

They are walking dry footed.
The salmon do not come.

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