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Dane Arnold
About Poet
Dane Arnold resides in Chestertown, Maryland.  He is married, and is the father of John, named for the grandfather he never got to meet. Dane has been a guidance counselor in Queen Anne's county for seventeen years, twelve of those years at the elementary level. At the same time he has been writing and exploring the possibilities of the poetic form. His poem "The Idyll" won First Prize in its category in the 2008 five-county Mid-Shore Regional Poetry Contest.

Public Supper

We pass a door to the kitchen
Clatter, bustle, aprons, and steam
File in smiling
As others stream out
White clapboard church
Gathers us in
On a contented Saturday evening
In mid-summer Penobscot

The beans, three kinds
Steaming in plain bowls
Are passed stranger to neighbor
Family to stranger
Breaking brown bread
Together, breaking the ice
Over clam casserole
And real mince meat pie
I meet the sweet lady
Whose husband took the deer
That she used in her baking
Moose she assures me makes the best
Mince meat, but venison's not bad
A man at our table
Slides his pie to me
The last slice of mince
"Since you're from away,"
He insists, "and likely won't find
The real article
Like it's made around here"

John is just sixteen months
But the beans are passed his way
Brown bread and broccoli salad
He greets, is greeted, eats mostly pie
Escaping into the kitchen
To the merriment of his captors
Our son finds his place
In the fragrant chatter
Of a public supper
In a weathered church
Facing out to sea


The Idyll

The golden salt meadows soften into evening
Pine clad coasts recede, lamenting
Our arms outstretched, we bid farewell
To summer, to Maine, to you
Still filled with the grumble of the work boats
The fragrance of balsam and seaweed
The taste of beans and brown bread
Again and again we bid you farewell

Twilight arrives now soon after supper
Refastened collars, shoes with laces
School bells, the combines are taking in the corn
Crisp dawn smelling of apples
Oysters are in season, culled from the bay
The Chester River laps against the pilings
An echo of a fog-shrouded morning
In the mist that clung to Bailey Island
This summer while John busied himself
Piling stones and striking up conversation
With the old man who scraped and puttied his boat
On the beach because the tide would be out a long while
Our beautiful boy clad in an odd assortment of clothing
So that damp and warm he might, like the lobstermen
Readying their boats, feel and smell the weather
So that we might quietly join in, being from away

The wind sighs through the pine grove
I stand on a rise searching the night sky
For an answer to these tears
The stars glitter and pulse and are silent
I came to find the Yule log, and brought
The hand saw four feet long deep-toothed
As I had done with Dad on many a Christmas
But he is gone and the woods are empty
And the wind howls, and the stars blur
Remorseless the bright moon casts down my shadow
As I turn away with my saw
Otherwise empty handed
I stare into the evening fire and find the flames
Flickering in our cabin in early July
I always build one even if it's hot
Because a good fire warms the heart

I cut the roses back and it promptly snowed
The willow is budding which you see
Only if you stand at a distance
It is and is not winter; new shoots and icicles
John is not yet two but two of his favorite stories
Are One Morning in Maine and Blueberries for Sal
We speak of harbor seals and seaweed
He remembers picking his own berries
But that was Cape Ann - still, we say it was Maine
Some nights in our prayers we humbly enquire
If we might return once more
To Penobscot, to Freeport, to Harpswell

I am one of the old fruit trees
In this forgotten orchard
Knee deep in meadow grass
Shifting drowsy in the noon sun

Down the rutted lane
Not far from the cemetery
Buried in the copse
Where old seafarers dream
And the salted headstones
Are worn nearly smooth
The balsams open out
Into this clearing slanting down
Back to the stone
Back to the sea

Hornets drone - a branch bobs
In the breeze breathing off the water
Its muted creaking prompts
A sleepy protest from the thrush
Hidden in the thicket
Then silence

We have grown old here on Deer Isle
Gnarled sentinels of the Penobscot
Hoarding the blaze of noonday summer
Against the salt grey of winter's blast
Today we nod to the murmur
Of the tide washing onto weed-green granite
To the fragrance of wild herbs and sun-baked grass

We are here - there is still time


Black Raspberries

Will there be berries this summer?
Down at the corner of your property
Near the road where everyone drives so fast
That you finally gave up
Crossing to get your mail
The vines were cut back hard
In the fall and winter was
Especially deep in the Pioneer Valley

Those berries are a treasure
Black raspberry
In abundance
Enough for the birds
And for the grandkids
Who also pick blueberries
At the little patch in the backyard
Down the road on the honor system

Using your stained recipe
Warming your oven
We mix the berries and bake pie
As you have done
In Westbrook summers
Irvington summers
Summers in Braintree
In long-ago kitchens

So many pies bubbling from the oven
Over a lifetime of baking
Of berries
We do the baking now

So you can rest

The vines spring back vibrant
Coaxing their berries in the sun
Can there be berries this summer
If you have gone?


Dane Arnold
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