by Ron Friedman

Breath of Dark Horses

Do you fear crossing bridges?

Like the jerk of your leashed
dog against hips and bones
or jagged rocks,
forward movement crippled.
You can hear the scratching
Crossing water years ago.
When it was someone else’s.

Now it is yours.

For a short while,
you could think,
life is only smooth fluid
flowing down to
where your convictions
pool together as belief.
Wait till there is so much pain.
You declare, I will solve this!

As throughout all your days.

Once in gabardine jacket, vest
Silver hair swept back,
You stood erect and slim as
a flamingo’s neck reaching
out in all those tongues.
Holding everyone in enchanted
moments with the world.

No one thought you
too were human,
limited in your days,
vulnerable as the rest.

But you were also a sculptor,
a mathematician, a poet.
You knew everything was fleeting.

Like the breath of dark horses in
winter you once slept with
in the barn.

(For Ann, a late blooming Magnolia)

Let’s say you rewrite your story.
Drive to the arboretum
Bring your dog so he can lead the way.
Cloudy sky, blue sky, sun, no sun.
Stop at the pergola
Where the blue pendulous evergreens
Shine before giving way to shade. 
Dance up the steps like
Long legged peacock spiders .
Twirl under the roof like the
Cowboy in Missoula.
Pirouette, plié like your old lover
Like the twisted white pine needles.
Leave with the girl you danced with all night.

Near the tree peonies
Where the mallard swims,
Step up to the plate.
Foul two off into the wetland.
Let that guy think you can’t hit
His curveball after seeing two
Fast ones.
Be ready, wait on its break,
Send it deep to left
Over the fence.
Do it again your next time up.

Find the cinnamon barks
How their skin peels away
Like paper thin dry barnwood
Splintered by years and weather
Run like the splintered skin
Through the wide shouldered
Japanese forest grass
Through the Mexican feather grass
Through the tall grains of Nebraska.

The kousas are weeks behind
The buds not even formed.
Their language not understood.
No jailer will be able to translate
Or explain their confinement.
At the trial you simply say,
A different language, a different culture.
Knowing all the time
It takes years to think in another tongue.
The jury declares innocence.
The kousas, free to bloom as late as they desire.

Now, at the redbuds
Run like the mile record holder
Place first by the red railed covered bridge.
Where the winners gather, bow down.
Accept the burden as if you
Knew weight comes
With stepping over a finish line.

Find the group of magnolias.
Stellata blooms all burned by the late
Spring wind and cold
Tattered wasted white petals
Now having to wait for next season.
Their roots still pumping
As the days warm and leaves form.
Before you head home
Another magnolia, buds not even open
The metal tag saying, Ann.

The Free Library

So, you want to know,
how far back is eternity?

You think first, eternity, is an
element of time, but let me
tell you this, early on
there were towns named Eternity
films named Eternity, streets named Eternity.
So when you ask
how far back is Eternity, I just look
from  the Wayalusing Rocks
or the Marie Antoinette Lookout
and I can tell you.

From the Pagoda of Reading
its far but not quite as far as
Scranton’s first electric street cars
and gravity railroad.

Or from Nanticoke Creek
You would have to go back
a civilization before all the
white people came, a
place natives sought to escape
their over trodden land in Maryland.

But from Olean, you can regain
your health at the Bon Air Hotel
and climb through the rocks of
rock city and suck in the good air
found only there.

Traveling through these landscapes
to wonder how far back anything is
you must look up into a sky night, or
day, and ask also, how far, how far.

Or you can just count the miles
to California from all those
Pennsylvania and New York towns
and look for the street
signs or stop at the free
library and ask once again.

Through Downpours

There are three footbridges
at the park, only one
crosses water.

But in April, when the
purple magnolia blooms,
you return to your younger days
when beauty would call you
through downpours to touch and
caress, say you love five times.

I mean, to be young and
to see beauty is not the
same as now.
There is nothing to compare
it too during your younger days.
To tell you, this could lead to
love, or the pain of love.

But now, you should know better
You have been witness to every depth.
But dive in once again.

Counterweights and Gravity
The Yoyo Champ

A yoyo champion is
displaying his collection
multicolored black and blues,
red and yellows, after the storm
rainbows on his shelf by the
window where the easy chair
sits and provides a view outside.
Purple clematis grows
later in the season
honeysuckle fills the air.

He is too comfortable to care
his teapot is whistling.
He is back on stage
walking the dog, the sleeper,
rocking the baby.

He knows the next round
will bring out the world’s
best yoyo artists.
He has prepared new moves
beyond the matrix, beyond
the trapeze, beyond the no named
tricks he saw while walking the streets
last night in Budapest. 

He had been in love with
a figure skater who moved
across the ice like a scissor tailed
hummingbird in blue and red. Her
glide away and back again with the
full twists made him think of his trick.
He would replicate her glides, her
toe loops, her spins, the tension between the blades
and ice like the tension on his string.
As long as she glided away and returned
he knew it was perfect as long as the string held.
And that was the key, introduce a new string,
one more tenacious than those of early days.
One with a hollow like the steel blade edges of her skates.
It would remain secret yet unbreakable, it would
shimmer in the spotlights when he performed
hoping she would realize, it was her on the ice,
that created these shining moments and allowed him
to mimic her intricacies, her flashes of color, her blue plumage
feathered like the king fisher of India.

It would be up to the judges to decide
If an unbreakable string was legal.
They would only have a few minutes
To decide if love could continue
coming and going gliding on ice
or when jumping high leaving contact
with the strings, would gravity and
counterweights rule the day.

Ron Friedman grew up on a family farm in Clarksburg, NJ. He became interested in writing early in elementary school. After completing college with a degree from the University of Montana in Literature and Anthropology, he returned to the family home where he started Paint Island Nursery, a plant nursery with focus on natives and and flowering plant material. The local arts scene was rich with writers and he created The Paint Island Poetry Festival which gathered poets and other writers from the region for day long events. He now lives in Webster, NY with his wife and son.