“A good poem should smell of tea

Or of raw earth and newly split firewood.”

-Olav Hauge

Discipline is a virtue that is often needed to succeed in life. My wife, Nancy, reminds me that only five minutes of guitar practice each day will result in me being able to accompany her fiddle playing for most songs. Cycling regularly, particularly doing tough intervals will give me better hill climbing endurance on a bicycle, And writing, putting the pen to the paper, stabbing keys on the keyboard, will make me a better writer.

Since it is still winter and I don’t like sore fingers from steel guitar strings and road biking remains weeks away, let’s concentrate on creative writing.

Recently a friend mailed me a box of books for me to read. One was a book he was returning but the other three were new to me.  Two of them were about wolves. But the third volume, a simple small book caught my eye. It was a tidy collection of poetry, called Leaf-Huts and Snow-Houses.

In that book I discovered a new, but long dead Norwegian poet, Olav H. Hauge. Professionally, he was a gardener and in his spare minutes he wrote hundreds of poems and left many volumes of diaries. This was a man who wrote of being separate from nature and yet unified by it.

He was a simple man of the land and spent most of his life alone near the mountains in western Norway. He was an avid reader of poetry finding the time to master German, Chinese, French, and British poetry.

As I paged through his often austere and pure poems I found myself smiling and even inspired.

Some of his poems are like small surprises and I imagined him quickly scribbling down lines with a stub of a pencil and a folded piece of paper. And in that moment I found an exercise for my writing. I decided I would write a collection of lines that I could call a poem though I would not confine my creativity to be shackled by rhyming, tempo, or meter. This would be an undamming of creativity. I set a five-minute time limit to manage a complete poem. And I made a point of not thinking about it beforehand so as to the work being more immediate. Another rule was that once time was up, I could not go back and rework any of the writing. After five mornings, always tempered with a hot cup of coffee, I found the following:


Poem #1

March 2, 2019

Both chimneys spew geysers of oak ghosts on this frigid morning.

Ungloved I hurry to the woodshed

pick split chunks of oak and build a stout armload.

Hurry back, up the shoveled corridor towards the house.

Grab the metal door handle.

Feel the burning pain of woefully naked fingers.

Hurry into the porch to the woodbox and loosen my load.

Finally hurry back to kitchen fire and hot mug of coffee

where my fingers wrap around it in prayer, thankful for heat.


Poem #2

(March 4, 2019)

This morning the clear air remains frigid.

Squeaking down the carved cavern of a path

I head to the bird feeder bearing riches of calories.

Perfectly round rabbit pellets sprinkle the path

Confetti from a winter parade?

Or releases of joy as they make their nocturnal raids on bird spillage?

Of this I am certain,

sitting unseen nearby is a smirking rabbit.

A sight never seen by us two-leggeds.


 Poem #3

March 5, 2019

Swings can be wonderful experiences

None less than today’s.

Below zero this morning

And a breeze that cut into my face.

And 134 degrees late this afternoon

that easily urged me to freely sweat puddles

in the cedar box that brings tropical temperatures

through the magic of infra red heat.

Ho Sauna! Hey Sauna, Sauna, Sauna Hey!


Poem #4

March 6, 2019

The flame on the struck match trembles, almost unsure.

Emboldened by the crumple of last week’s news

and a cluster of pine splinters,

The flame leans into its job of making us happy.

We have a few moments to hustle to the cold porch

where our old woodbox sits fat

with wedges of dried oak and cherry.

Three mute chunks are chosen for their cremation.

And in their passing they will crackle and snap

urging us to join the warm chorus.


Poem #5

March 7, 2019

.She is on time every day

Cautiously she slips in for her share of the spillage.

A sharp-eyed hen turkey looking for feeder seeds

to get her through this seemingly eternal winter.

The juncos, chickadees and other feathereds

pay her no heed.

All are too busy eating for a chance

at another tomorrow.


Poem #6

March 12, 2019

I left Basecamp for four days

for mountain and family time.

Back here in temps bending as they should

towards spring,

I shoveled paths while birds at the replenished feeder

shunned me even more after my absence.

The south breeze carries warmth and the smell of rain.

Will winter’s hold retreat

and allow me

to trudge to one of

the nearby dead oaks to make firewood?