A motley of fallen leaves crumbling covers
the hill. Letting them go in wind and rain,
the trees that vain and flaunting bore them remain
as spectral sentinels. Each, waiting, hovers

still. Their gaunt and gangly ranks will shield
no more hidden thickets, distant neighbors,
heavens once obscured. Relieved from labors,
earth turns to rest, surrenders up the field.

The night extends its stake and claim. In bone
and flesh, in gut and nerve, the need arises
to get ready soon to meet the cold assizes,
the pending tests of winter: time to atone

for summer’s vaunting, histrionic fashions.
Starker sun now shine on humbler passions.

Salamander’s World

For starters, just to shed a little light on the name of this brand new blog, it begins with a poem I wrote going on fifteen years ago, where a little brown salamander makes a cameo appearance mid-way through:

Seven Wonders


Between the eyes
reading and the book
a spider dropped
prompting contemplation
on magnitudes
of grace.


Seasonal sojourners
passing a pilgrimage,
warblers perched high
in ancient oaks, beset
the house with song.


By the sackload
he dragged winter
refuse out to dump;
doves cooing
gave him cause
to pause and mind
the morning.


What perfection
in dead leaves
pushed up against
broken boulders, comprising
for a little
brown salamander
a whole world!


The hawk soaring above
the green mountain called
him to fly — not
consider what awaited
the mouse scratching
at acorns below.


All innocence, the snake
basked on the sun-
baked rock; hiking
off workaday lethargy
he froze in startled terror
when his footfall
made it move.


Ducks coming in
at speed to occupy
a cove, filling it
with polychrome bustle,
charming choreography
and noise: yet the place
of honor remained
reserved for the elegant
formality, ponderous
of the geese.

Also playing in I’m sure is my affection for a bluegrass group once known as Salamander Crossing, and their fine rendition of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar.”

Finally though, as one who has recently learned from his excursion to the Other Side to respect the wisdom of ancients not yet burdened with the presumption of modern science at its most naive, the mythic qualities of the salamander resonate with me. Salamander is well positioned to see the deep duplicity of things. Cribbing here from Terri Benning’s Totem Talk about it“The salamander signifies all things that are hidden and are often seen as the keepers of dreams. Their ability to live in water and on land can reflect dreaming to be lucid and connected to the Mysteries of the Earth. It can cloak itself in the face of adversity and is a magical talisman that brings comfort in the darkness. The appearance of the salamander heralds that a time of transformation is coming from sources outside of the self. The totem animal of Appalachia. “when all else fails: crawl under a rock”