We were two musicians playing our distinct parts. She was quick sometimes, light as a flute-note, all over the place. Me, the quiet cello coming behind, rumbly-voiced and talking to myself, liable to forget what direction I was going mid-stride. Together, if a flute and cello can go together–and they did once–we were a whole song.

I miss walking with her.

Because it’s April, because it’s National Poetry Month, because I have always loved American poet Hayden Carruth, I’m sharing these two poems. They are two of my favorites.

I read them from time to time. I hear the distinct rhythms underneath the words, because of the words, and I remember how we were together. How it was to walk with her.

The Jo

The Jo

Bouquet in Dog Time

A bit of yarrow and then of rue

steeple bush and black-eyed susan,

one fringed orchis, ragged and wry,

some meadowsweet, the vetch that’s blue,

to make a comeliness for you,

with dogbane, daisies, bouncing bet,

the clover red, the clover white,

walking the field before the night,

lazy under a lavender sky

(crazy and spent from the day of fear)

for one of every kind that’s here,

sundew, burnet, thimbleberry,

all so simple, all so true,

like a bit of yarrow and of rue.


Peru 095

My Meadow

Well, it’s still the loveliest meadow in all Vermont.

I believe that truly, yet for years have hardly


seen it, I think, having lived too long with it–

until I went to clean up the mess of firewood


left by the rural electric co-op when they cut

my clump of soft maples “threatening” their lines,


this morning, the last day of September. My maple leaves

were spilled in the grass, deep crimson. I worked


with axe and chainsaw, and when I was done I sat

on my rock that had housed my fox before the state


executed him on suspicion of rabies, and then

I looked at my meadow. I saw how it lies between


the little road and the little brook, how it’s borders

are birch and hemlock, popple and elm and ash,


white, green, red, brown, and gray, and how my grass

is composed in smooth serenity. Yet I have hankered


for six years after that meadow I saw in Texas

near Camp Wood because I discovered an armadillo


there and saw two long-tailed flycathcers

at their fantastic mating dance in the air.


Now I saw my meadow. And I called myself all kinds

of a blind Yankee fool — not so much for hankering,


more for the quality of my looking that could make me

see in my mind what I could not see in my meadow.


However, I saw my serviceberry tree at the edge

of the grass where little pied asters, called Farewell-


to-Summer, made a hedge, my serviceberry still limping

from last winter’s storms, and I went


and trimmed it. The small waxy pointed leaves

were delicate with the colors of coral and mallow


and the hesitating blush of the sky at dawn.

When I finished I stepped over my old fence


and sat by my brook on moss sodden from last night’s

rain and got the seat of my britches wet.


I looked at my brook. It curled over my stones

that looked back at me again with the pathos


of their Paleozoic eyes. I thought of my

discontents. The brook, curled in it’s reflections


of ferns and asters and bright leaves, was whispering

something that made no sense. Then I closed my eyes


and heard my brook inside my head. It told me —

and I saw a distant inner light like the flash


of a waterdrop on a turning leaf — it told me

maybe I have lived too long with the world.

Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 by Hayden Carruth, Copper Canyon Press, 1991

Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 by Hayden Carruth, Copper Canyon Press, 1991


6 Comments on “The Flute and the Cello

  1. Love this! I’ve also always loved Hayden (we are on first-name basis, you see). I really need to start reading more poetry again. I just finished “Light at the End: The Jesus Poems” by Lyn Lifshin. It’s an odd little gem with a wicked streak of humor. Some of my favorite poems are “Some Say Jesus Had a Foot Fetish” and “Jesus Goes to a Poetry Slam.”


    • Oh man. Those poems sound utterly delightful and necessary! I read her a bit in college. Thanks for the reminder.


  2. Pingback: A night alone (or, my crush on a Trixie Belden character) | Cinthia Ritchie

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