Michael Ratcliffe – Five Poems


Contemplating The Grasshopper That Landed On My Knee While I Sat In A Meadow On A Sunny Fall Day Reading The Zen Teaching Of Bodhidharma

I was just a surface to land on,
a thing of nature,
like the grass around me,
on which I’d laid my coat
and sat reading, or the stones
of the tumbled-down barn behind me.

It is good to have these moments,
contemplating the grasshopper
that lands on one’s knee,
the wind that moves the grass
and plays across one’s face.

The world can be maddening,
until you understand what’s real.

In Search Of Paw Paws

I went in search of paw paws
down a trail in a park
where there was said to be a grove.

I found the trees, but it was too late
in the season. There was no fruit.
So, I sat on some rocks next to the river

and read from a book of Chinese poetry,
the sound of water over granite ledges,
competing with traffic on the interstate

only a half-a-mile away. The afternoon sun
shone through the yellow leaves
of beeches and sycamores.

And I thought of nothing,
but the cool autumn air,
and the sweet taste of paw paws.

Geography Of Memory

Reading her name in a book—
old memories stirred.
Wind across Welsh hills.

That night in the pub.
Slow walk back to the lodge.
Mind cleared in the cool air.

Invitations to stop
by her flat for drinks.
Excuses like English rain.

Reading her name in a book;
her obituary on-line.
Autumn leaves.

In The Sonoran Desert

The old tales tell us
we were made from dust,
and to dust we will return.
Perhaps it was water
that God breathed into Adam,
merging heaven and earth.

We come to the desert
for enlightenment and life,
but we are aliens here.
Sixty percent water,
we are prone to dessication.
Dust stalks our lives.

The Tohono O’odham believe
some humans become saguaro,
succulent giants presiding
over this arid world.
I think they are the ones
who learned how
to become like gods.

Status Of The Garden At The End Of October

The last carrots pulled and cleaned.
Corn stalks cut and laid aside.
We’ll use them as decorations.
The stunted remains of the beans,
tossed into the compost with the weeds.

The okra still grows, flowers drawing
every ounce of warmth from the sun,
pods lengthened in the humidity
that returned earlier in the week.
Most grew too long. Only one
was tender enough to eat.

There are a few tomatoes
left on the vine. I’ll leave
them to ripen, and if they don’t,
we’ll slice and fry them.

The marigolds are still alive,
and since there are no insects
to repel, we enjoy them
simply for their colors.

Dad, there’s still two months
of autumn left—still some
growing days ahead.
We still have time to prepare for winter
and plan for next year’s crop.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Blades of grass bent before the wind. Swirls on the carpet left by the vacuum cleaner. A clod of dirt in your hand. Thunderclouds building on a hot, humid day. The whirr of the bicycle chain and the rhythm of the cranks, well into a long ride. The still small voice that need not announce itself with ornamentation. Beauty is all possible things.

Michael Ratcliffe lives and writes between Baltimore and Washington. His chapbook, Shards of Blue, was published by Finishing Line Press, 2015. His work has appeared most recently in Fourth & Sycamore. More at: michaelratcliffespoetry.wordpress.com,