The Closing of Art on the Trails

Artists and poets pose at the closing of Art on the Trails on September 17th

The closing of Art on the Trails on September 17th was one of the best days of the year for me. To see the art adjacent to the poets who were inspired by it, hearing their words, and seeing the joy on the faces of over 80 people, walking along the trails of Beals Preserve, is a truly special experience.

The poetry was, by poetry editor Maura Snell’s report, some of the best we have ever had. Of over 100 poetry submissions, we could only include 34 poems in the book. Maura felt so strongly about some of the other submissions that she asked me to publish another 9 poems here.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Empathy by Madeleine Lord

Meditation by Akshaya Pawaskar
after Empathy by Madeleine Lord

One day your grief grew wings 
and flew away.
Your anger sprouted 
two feet and walked. 
The ego that soared like 
an airplane,
retired to the boneyard.
The flights were memories
and what remained 
was that final landing,
a touchdown to ground.
You closed your snake eyes
and the deceit died.
The greed joined its palm
in prayer and 
then unfolded to let go
to give, to forgive.
You scooped your heart 
Stretched it, filled it
with love, head held high.
Peace spread over your skin 
like a cool breeze
into your metal bones 
dissolving the fatigue,
exuding from your lips 
a gentle smile.
Regret was a mere word, 
lost in the era gone by.
All that was left was
acceptance and empathy.

Cultivating the Heart by Linda Hoffman

Grandpa Joe by Cheryl Miller
after Cultivating the Heart by Linda Hoffman

My Grandpa Joe, born Giuseppe, called Pep by his friends,
Took bare patches of dirt and plots of land, 
And transformed them into gardens of fruits and vegetables.
Because growing and cultivating were how he showed love.

Amending the soil with compost and manure,
Working tirelessly from sun-up to sundown.
He tilled and planted each area with toil and sweat, 
Because transforming the soil was love.

Nothing went to waste, everything was consumed,
Either by people, by animals, or by the creatures in the soil.
There were enough fruits and vegetables for all.
Because feeding people and things was love.

Even when his bowed, arthritic legs could barely carry him outside,
His body bent, his gait slow, his hands gnarled.
He still weeded, watered, and picked the smaller patches.
Because showing up every day was love.

He has been gone for nearly thirty years,
But I still hear his voice calling out as we sat around the table, 
Imploring us all to “mangia” and taking joy in watching us eat.
Because caring for your family was love.

Giuseppe, Pep, but Grandpa Joe to me,
Transformed his land to feed his family.
And we were all made better as a result of his labor,
Because his love for us cultivated more than food.

Tilting At Windmills by Jon Laustsen

Charlie by Chelsea Bradway
after Tilting At Windmills by Jon Lausten

Dirty, muscular hands called to steel 
Settle in and little mounds appear 
Peeking out.
Sweat wipes from a fumbled brow, 
Soil moves from one place to another. 
Small tears find their way to the ground. 

Rain soaked the earth, turning it into brown rivers. 
He stood observing his progress. 
“Not good enough”, he thought to himself. 

Soldiers waiting silently for peace, 
Would have to wait for another day. 
Previously dug holes now pools splashed with hard drops of rain. 

Feet cemented to the ground, 
Not wanting to leave a job undone. 
Closing his eyes, he remembered a warm supper would be waiting.
Little did he know, the supper was made by his future bride.
Reluctantly, he trudged through the water falling from the sky,
Shovel resting on his shoulder. 

Clothes darkening with each raindrop, 
Footsteps shuffling on cobblestone streets, 
Buildings looming, as if they were protecting him. 

A door nudged open, muddied shoes left to dry. 
Sweet smells drift from the kitchen. 
Inhales deeply, the scent of Jean Nate sneaks in. 

Blending the sweet and savory, 
Edith Piaf provides the background to her joyful
singing. Home is wherever she is. 

Tomorrow soldiers will rest soundly in the cold earth.
Tomorrow is another day.

Dandelion by Gings Grinbergs

Be Kind To This Flower by Lawrence Spezzano
after Dandelion by Gints Grinbergs

A flower
Burst from the ground yesterday – 
Shiny, silvery and new.

All eyes turning toward her
Widen in the way that 
Gold and silver 
Awe us with their presence.
To them, 
It’s like how the light bends
On the rich green
Of a dandelion stem.

She’s weighted down by full, heavy seeds
Dying to pop off and fly
In countless directions.
So everything in their brain says:
Get it before the whim of the wind!
Feast on every molecule
And absorb every wavelength of light
Until it’s gone.

I understand. 
But please,
Go easy on this beauty 
For she knows not what you do.

Bison, bison, bison by Hildreth Potts

Bison, bison, bison by Heather Kaufman
after Bison, bison, bison by Hildreth Potts

I saw you first in rain     the drip drip drip 
beneath the June canopy     running off your metal pelts
my own skin beaded     in raindrops and sweat.

On the plains of Montana      your herds once filled 
the land     your heft so great you needed three names     
to bear the weight     of past abundance.

Yet here your frame is half-sized     hollow
filling me with fear     then     a softening     
to something supple     as the steel of your fur.

I crouch beside bison three     her left eye locks on mine
searches me with questioning     dejection 
or perhaps defiance     in her gaze.

What kinship remains     between a beast     
and a being charged     with being in charge?

Sunlight now filters through the sticky air     glinting
off each beast’s silver fur     falling 
through the gaps     in their shrunken limbs, 

these witnesses     to dominion gone sour     
wasting     beneath an overhot sun:     
bison     bison     

bison     would you rough-sponge 
my pruning fingers     while we wait     
for rust     to set in?

Below and Above: A Floating Wetland Supports Life by Holly Ewald, Alexandra Ionescu, Matthew P. Muller, August Lehrecke, and Maxwell Fertik.

The Floating World by Lynn Horsky
after Below and Above, sculpture by the Rhode Island Collective

Out on the pond, I spy a paradisal sight — a little floating island in the sun. Transported to a shimmering Avalon of my childhood’s lake

I swim out to its raft in cold water — sun bathe on hot splintered boards. Upturns nostalgia as my grandmother’s floating island custard dessert,

an egg-shaped spoonful of meringue cooked in custard, posing as an island.

[That’s it with art — inspiring daydreams, sparking the imagination,

engaging memory and the sub-conscious — simultaneously swimming towards
the mythic Faery Queen land — to segue in a mist to a kitsch kitchen cabinet
scene with a vintage instant pudding box on the shelf— when multiple puddings
appear in sundae parfait glasses, in a painting by Wayne Thiebaud.]

[Back on the path, here, I’ve been wandering in the woods.]

Grounded, I seriously analyze the situation:
observe a little raft on the pond; a floating botanic garden; a hydroponic
eco-system of pythagorean proportions breaking artistic boundaries
and syncretistic disciplinarian confines; a collaborative scientific experimental
effort to observe and record over time how selected plants native to this place
survive on its simple double tripod trellises.To document in a graphic way, how
wet feet-loving plants set their roots to thrive in pond water, fortified by dissolving
nutrients. How in return, the plants’ photosynthesis and respiration release oxygen
that cleans the water. A beneficent exchange. [disclosure: I saw the video]

All that is composed will be decomposed.
Cause and effect in real time
circulating energetically in
chemically charged bonds, nature’s balance as it’s known.
Artists and scientists conferred and built, a truly paradisiacal, life saving boat.

Lollipops (detail) by Bridie Wolejko

Ode to Five Lollipops by Sue Kinsella
after Edgar Allan Poe (inspired by the work of artist Bridie Wolejko, ‘Lollipops’)

In the depths of the woods, where shadows writhe and play
There stands a sight, more curious than the natural light of day. 
Five lollipops, artificial in their design
With white sticks, waist high, they form a haunting line.
Their heads, clear and moulded, of resin’s eerie embrace
Conceal fallen materials, nature’s own enchanting face. 

Collected from the yard, where secrets silently reside
Dried and arranged, forever sealed, they cannot hide.
Within each head, a story of life and death is bound.
A macabre pause in nature’s course, a chilling profound. 
Dandelions, their seeds imprisoned, never to be set free, 
No longer scattered by the winds, but held eternally.

Japanese plum leaves, their vibrant hues strangely bright
Preserved in everlasting beauty, a twisted delight. 
A halt to progress, a stillness in the dance of time
As life’s fragile pulse merges with death’s eerie chime.
Under the veiled sky, be it sun or tempest’s reign, 
Amidst the whispering wind and thunder’s wretched strain.

These lollipops stand, no longer of the earthly woods
Something ethereal, beguiling, misunderstood.
Whimsical and fearsome, like tales of dark lore
Where sprites and spirits roam, haunting evermore. 
A scene from the fables, a spellbinding sight
To leave smiles tinged with trepidation, day and night.

So gather, intrepid souls, and behold this twisted grace, 
Where beauty and destruction find a mirrored resting place.
Come one and all, roll up, remain awhile
Admire the creator’s hand, their skill to craft and beguile.
For in these lollipops, a haunted art is spun, 
Where the artist’s spirit lingers, forever to be undone.

plastic landscape, transformation (detail) by Lisa Barthelson

How One Saves the World by Trisha Knudsen
after plastic landscape, transformation by Lisa Barthelson

Begin by loving the earth as a child, barefoot in the lush green grass, touching dew-laden leaves and feeling the sun glorious and warm on your face. Kissing toads and saving worms just out of the soil for a soak in the rain, removing them from the harm of driveway tires. Helping to plant the bulbs in autumn that will bring summer’s blossoms. Hugging and climbing and loving the majesty that is a tree.

As a young adult, begin to understand that you, too,
have the power to change man’s cycles of the earth’s destruction. Pick up trash in your own neighborhood. Adopt reduce-reuse-recycle as a sort of spiritual mantra, tossing the tins and glass and used plastics into bins to be reborn. When you’re grown, learn that this alone is not enough to save us.

Clamped down in a pandemic, start collecting the detritus that comes into your own home, fashioning it into shapes which will eventually become a form of art that proclaims, makes real, creates a statement for others to gain knowledge that will also spur them to action. Pieces of beauty generated from scraps and bound together to catch our attention and prick our hearts to engagement. This is how one begins to change the world.

Forest Nymph by Melanie Zibit

The Dryad by Sarah Dickenson Snyder
after Forest Nymph by Melanie Zibit

Will she wake—
stretch out of stone? 

I have heard stories 
of her wandering, 
her vanishing. 

She reflects the leaves 
& ferns & oak trees 
in her marbled green. 

A spirit we can see & touch. 
Who isn’t transformed 
by the presence of a nymph?

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