One of the things I love most about going to our farm in The Great Piney Woods is going up the old dirt road to get there. I never understood about dirt roads before -- how they can become like corregated cardboard after a rainfall, or how the dust from the road can cover the tree leaves and vines along the side of the road until it almost looks like snow. After a trip up that road, I can now understand the meaning of "getting left behind in the dust". The path to our eden is about 5 miles up a winding, twisting, old dirt road which is both beautiful and challenging... but the challenge makes the adventure even sweeter.
Into the Forest
We wind along the soft dirt road,
billows of dust swirling behind us,
the crunch of rocks under the wheels.
We follow the curve into the green
pine woods, the needles splayed above
like an Impressionist painting
stark and lush and beautiful.
We turn into a deep forest,
tall trunks pushing into a canopy of emerald;
here and there, a spray of citrine leaves
dances between the branches of evergreens.
Sweet Gum Shawl
The sweet gum leaves spill
across the green of the forest
like some magnificent Indian Yellow
pashmina shawl, flipped to the side
by a femme fatale.
Flowing loosely in drapes across
the lush pine needle velvet
each leaf like a separate tatted star
made of silk thread and fashioned
with care by the Creator.
I wrote this poem as part of a series of poems that will be published in a book very soon. It was a particularly gorgeous fall that year and I took many pictures of the forest and the many configurations of leaves. Today, this poem reminds me of a femme fatale I knew... a woman, a friend who passed away last week. She was a karaoke singer who loved to sing the country songs. She was tall and thin with long straight black hair to her waist, She always wore boots, boots with a short, short skirt or torn up jeans. She had a lovely face with clear,brooding dark eyes. She could have played the beautiful Sacagawea in a Hollywood film or biopic about Cher. She was always animated and soulful. She had a stroke while singing her heart out at the mike (so we are told!). She left behind two babies who will never hear her sing. Everything in life is so fragile. The lovely yellow leaves which swathed the trees when I took these pictures are long gone... all turned brown and decomposing on the forest floor. We must capture these precious moments of life when we see them. But, to do that, we have to recognize them. I took the pictures of the colorful leaves one fall when the weather had been cold early enough to transform The Piney Woods into miles and miles of luscious color. I wish I had taken my friend's picture when she was singing her sad songs and she was dancing and alive.
The old jail stands crumbling,
the windows with bars
still intact, the rusted door open.
Someone has scratched his name
in the old masonry; It is hard to read,
the letters are now worn.
Perhaps he sat here, in this jail,
in 1870, waiting for the short trip
to the hanging tree;
Perhaps he waited here until
his parents posted bail
and he got his girlfriend back.
Perhaps he got 30 years
for robbing the bank, the one
with the columns but no roof.
Perhaps he just stayed one month
because he got into a fight
at the Trinity Saloon.
The old jail stands crumbling,
the windows with bars
still intact, the rusted door open.
Someone has scratched his name
in the masonry, leaving a sign,
Perhaps the only sign, that he was ever here
I took this picture on a lazy Saturday photo safari into rural Texas with my dad and my husband, Clint. We were out looking for adventure... and we found some.. We found the old R.A.D. sign post for a lost ranch (more about that later), and several old barns, old abandoned houses and some vintage automobiles. The thing that touched me most, though, was finding the remnants of this old jail -- still with someone's name and the date 1870 (?) scratched into the side of the wall. Many, many stories could be told about what happened in this jail if there were still folks around who would remember and would be willing to tell. I love old buildings -- especially buildings over 100 years old. It is a sad fact that many of the older buildings in Texas (and the U.S.) aren't valued for their history. At least in rural Texas, we can still see many of them, although sometimes the folks that live around them would rather have them torn down. In Houston, it seems like every old building I love gets torn down to make room for a new condo complex. I have written many poems about fine old buildings that are now just memories. But... back to jail! It seems ironic that this old jail (which is a jewel, really -- an interesting landmark of Texas history) still stands in a county in which the major employer is the prison system. Those buildings are much fancier!! (and bigger!! ) The old Texas towns were rough. Reading the history of some of these counties is like reading the script of an old John Wayne movie. Tough places to live and to grow up. The people here are proud of that.
I fell in love with the Piney Woods in a very roundabout way. I grew up in Houston (and I love Houston -- more about Houston later). I spent my later childhood years in what was then a suburb of Houston. It was considered far, far out on the very edges of the city. This is not true now, of course, as H-Town has moved miles beyond where I grew up. The point is that I grew up in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood where there were houses exactly like ours down the street. Still love that old two-story house, though, built around 1965. My parents bought a house in a small town on a lake north of Houston. I would go there and I would enjoy the lake an the woods, but I was not enchanted with it at the time. Then, for reasons of his own, my dad decided to buy a little farm house with 6 acres and Piney Woods and decided it would be a legacy for my husband and me. That's when I truly fell in love with the Piney Woods. The Piney Woods take up about 1/3 of Texas and some parts of Louisiana and Arkansas. They include The Big Thicket which is a world famous ecological system. The Piney Woods are magic. I have spent the last 4 years taking pictures and writing poems about both the woods and the small town located close to our place. I see it with my poet's eye and I try to capture what I see.
A Scattering of Amber Leaves
These leaves, their vivid luminous
stars falling across the Piney Woods,
are like shimmering blankets of cut gems.
They create drifts of little stars,
a world of gold and umber,
floating above the mossy green forest,
a universe of exquisite luster.
I began this blog in April, 2015. I knew I wanted to begin sharing my poetry, photography and my art with people who would appreciate the importance of creative endeavors. I had been told about blogs from my colleagues, my students, and even my children. I have been very technologically challenged in the past and I wasn't confident about how to proceed. I asked my youngest son for assistance in setting up this Weebly site and I posted one thing just to see how it would work. And, then, my computer crashed, Many months have passed and I have endeavored to learn about blogging through many sources (especially the Artful Blogging magazine which is published from Stampington & Company.) I know what you're thinking and, no, I am not being paid by Stampington to say nice things about them!! I have been reading back issues from cover to cover. The stories of the bloggers in the magazine and the beautiful photos and collage art have made me realize that I can overcome my "tech-phobia" and I can really so this.
This is the start of my journey. As they say, "every journey begins with a single step", or in this case with a post. I have been creative all my life. I grew up in a very close family. We had to be close because my father was a scientist and engineer in the oil industry and the companies he worked for transferred him constantly. From the time I was born to the time I entered sixth grade, we had moved 28 different times. We moved to Houston when I was in middle school and we stayed there. During much of my formative years, I found solace in books. I would read while I waited for the bus, while I waited for classes to begin after the bus dropped us off, during lunch, during gym if I could get away with it, and after school waiting for the bus. I began writing poetry and taking poetry seriously when I had the fortune to have an excellent English teacher in high school who encouraged me to write, He would let me write short stories instead if boring essays.
After high school, I continued to write, My path was not the usual path, though. In fact poetry had a big influence on my life in several ways. I remembered Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" and I took a different path, also. I joined the Navy and spent the early years of my youth in Cuba and Greece and New England. Throughout all those years, I continued to write. I had a few things published in Navy newspapers and other journals. I bought a camera and learned to take photographs. I saw beauty and detail in all the places where I traveled or was stationed.
In Cuba, a favorite pass time was to go to the park which is located on the base (which is on Guantanamo Bay) and right by the ocean. I would sit for hours just watching the ocean. I would stay there all night sometimes... on the quiet beach, with the red and black land crabs that crawled over the rocks in the hundreds sometimes, and the stars gleaming above the cliffs. I think that I have always had poet's sensibility. I saw an interview once with Omar Sharif, He was talking about the making of the movie Dr. Zhivago. He said the director, David Lean, wanted to convey the sense that Yuri Zhivago, the main character, was a poet. Lean could not just have Yuri reading poetry. Instead, he used cinematography to show the poet's sensibilities by showing the world through Yuri's eyes -- how the yellow leaves drifted down in the forest scene, how the abandoned mansion was full of drifted snow. This interview was very revealing to me. (It was an interview on Turner Class Movies channel). It explained why I usually see things differently than many of the people I know, why I would notice the small details.
I have found that many of the bloggers also see these poetic details. That is why I think creating a blog is an important step for me to finding like souls who want to live a creative life. That said, I think I should explain what was happening when I wrote "Larry the Lyre Snake".
I wrote the poem on Easter morning. My family had all gone up to the Piney Woods to spend the weekend with my dad who is 86. Every Easter with my dad is a gift. We woke up on Easter morning and were sitting on the back porch looking out at the forest directly behind my dad's house and to the lake which shimmered beyond the trees. I glanced over at a large sweet gum tree and notice a long, gray straggly vine. I commented "that a vine looks like it could be a snake", and just after that, the vine began to wriggle up the side of the tree. Eventually, the snake made it to the top and shortly thereafter, we noticed the mother squirrel screaming and chattering, The snake was occupied for about thirty minutes and then crawled down the tree. He came down faster than he went up. He was full of something -- presumably the baby squirrels from the nest. He was quite long -- four to five feet. We all took turns watching him through binoculars, He slithered off into the forest and we headed to the computer to figure out just what kind of snake he was, We identified him as a "lyre" snake, a kind of Texas type "boa" that is on the endangered species list. We dubbed him Larry and later that weekend, I wrote that poem.
Texas Mystic Poet is a published poet and author who loves Texas, poetry and The Great Piney Woods. All poetry and photographs on this site are copyright protected. All poems were written by Linda Koffel and all photos were taken by Linda Koffel. They may be shared on social media....