The First Sunday Evening in June

The first Sunday evening in June

is like that famous score by John Cage

titled 4’33”.

He had the idea

to write a piece of music

that instructed every musician

to simply and simultaneously

rest:

to not play any note or sound

for four minutes and thirty-three seconds.

It was an experimental,

unprecedented undertaking,

and an homage to his legacy occurs

every first Sunday evening in June.

.

Spring had never considered

something like rest

not since her crocus spears

had pierced Winter’s icy soles

in the great awakening of earth.

Spring’s symphony of ceaseless energy

had shocked the stick landscape

and shook out its mane.

Spring had roared and rushed,

and dashed and pranced,

and stitched and spun,

and babbled and burst—

but she had not rested.

She had been altogether unacquainted

with stillness

–unacquainted, that is,

until the first Sunday evening in June.

.

June has, at long last,

taught Spring how to rest.

June has stilled that capricious nymph

and calmed her frantic cadence.

June’s noble verdancy

and golden twilights

have commissioned

something altogether new:

a thing novel and as yet unknown.

June has gifted the world a rest,

a calm,

a calibration.

It is here with us now,

a citronella sigh

in a crystalline chalice,

brim-full serenity,

on this first Sunday evening in June.

June 2, 2019

Fireflies in May

I was raking in the backyard last night at twilight, and the corner of my eye caught what I took to be a firefly. I stopped my work, and my gaze quickly followed the upward sparks of my soul ascending from my dew-pointed pasture into the cool evening air. I looked for the firefly to light again, but it did not.

“Of course not–it’s too early for fireflies,” I said to myself, and concluded that I must have seen the moon reflected in a small puddle in the bottom of my wheelbarrow nearby. The deeply rooted part of me further resolved how wonderful it is to have lived in one place long enough to know when things like fireflies and dogwoods and black walnuts make their appearances.

And then, not 10 minutes later, I did actually see–without a doubt–the first firefly of the season. And the humble part of me further resolved how wonderful it is to not know everything.

May 31, 2017

The Greens of May

It’s the morning after the gala,

and even the Cherry admits

she overdid it this year.

The Lilac’s purple litter

has fallen and faded,

and the King’s crown

lies in state.

The canopy’s canvas

is bourgeoning with green—

twenty different shades

of verdancy gleam

in fourteen splendored

hours of sunlight.

The blushing boughs of April

a distant memory,

now in May

our gaze falls down

to those petals we must cultivate.

May 9, 2019

I Have An Antique Rose

I have an antique rose;

She waits patiently for me.

When I draw nigh with pruning shears,

She utters not a plea.

Her thorny branches twine in knots,

They tangle by degrees.

Yet when I start to thin them out,

She neither fights nor flees.

She stands in proud defiance,

An indomitable foe;

It’s ne’er in doubt who will win out

Each pruning episode.

She submits to one dear Master,

And she pines to see his face.

Her roots may be on Broad Street,

But her heart’s at Christine Place.

Still, every spring I try my best:

I snip, and grapple, and grunt.

I’m the firstborn son of Ronald E. Pearce,

But that seems not to count for much.

My rose, she endures my poor pruning,

She suffers, and not only that—

Her crown looks like a haircut gone bad,

My arms, like I vaccinated a cat.

April 22, 2019

Dump Trip Saturday

Dump Trip Saturday is sacred among Saturdays.

It stands alone unto itself, unique and holy.

Its rites and rituals are solitary and serene;

their execution is communal (and clamorous!).

.

Dump Trip Saturday is always borne from Saturdays past:

A pile of scraps after a completed project,

appliances failed beyond repair,

a neglected playhouse, a weary mattress,

tattered furniture, rusted tools.

Dump Trip Saturday starts with necessity.

.

But necessity soon blooms into charity.

A dump-bound man looks at his half-empty truck bed

like the parabled rich man–

appalled at even the possibility

of an unfilled banquet table.

Messages are texted down alleys and avenues

and streets of the Borough:

Have anything for the dump?

I’ll stop by after work.

Sure, there’s plenty of room!

I’ll just move the dishwasher.

We’ll throw that couch on top!

The load piles high, and the truck bears it up gladly.

And his man is happy.

.

Dump Trip Saturday dawns a still and quiet morning.

Men rise before the sun–no alarm clock, no external impetus.

It is their call, the order of the day.

Coffee is pressed and boots are tied.

Straps are strung, and tightened, and checked.

.

Dump-bound trucks on Dump Trip Saturday

lurch out with rusty groans,

From driveways and demo sites,

from fixer-uppers and farmsteads,

each embarking is alike:

Easy on the gas until the load settles in.

Real easy around the corners, and steady up the hills.

Rearview mirrors rendered useless.

Daddy’s helpers wearing galoshes and granola crumbs,

bouncing on backseat benches.

.

A dichotomy of diversity gathers at the scale house gate:

Chevys and Fords and Dodges in tranquil ecumenicity.

Work trucks and farm trucks

and old trucks and new trucks

in one idling iron queue.

A creaky old Ram with a one-bedroom apartment

waits after a Chevy with a hoarder’s last will and testament.

An old Ford arrives with an entire razed barn,

all but the weathervane heaped on the trailer in tow.

Nary a cubic inch is but spoken for–

every bed piled to heaven like the Joad family’s Super Six.

.

Dump Trip Saturday is needful and necessary,

but it is melancholy and rote.

In its path of annihilation and eradication

lies the balance between sentiment and suffocation,

hoarding and habitat.

Each heave is a release–a flush, a forgetting.

Dump Trip Saturday is the crash of the past

into the dumpsters of history.

It is the fate of all the rusted, the broken,

the sagging box springs yearning to breathe free–

the wretched refuse of the county’s filthy floors!

.

There is no remembrance of former things,

nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be

among those who come after, says the Preacher.

All trucks come the dump, but the dump is never full.

To the place where the trucks go, there they will go again.

April 2021

To the Forgotten Lady

Every year,

at about this time—

when Spring has sprung,

and April, come indeed she has,

when the Easter eggs are empty,

and the garish garden lanes

are settling down for Summer—

every year

it happens that

I beg forgiveness of a tree.

.

It usually happens

on a Saturday

in the morning,

leaving the hardware store

under sunny blue skies

or opening a camp chair

along the third base line.

.

This ritual of my repentance

is prompted by

a discreet “Ahem”

from my periphery.

“Ahem,” she signals—

modestly,

chaste and unassuming—

or, “Pardon me,”

bashful,

courteous,

and demure.

.

Then—

at that moment,

and in that instant—

enraptured by her glorious appearance,

before the beauty of her blushing boughs,

I remember

what it is

that I had forgotten.

I realize again my recurrent transgression,

and I confess my annual treason

to the forgotten lady,

to the Crabapple.

.

I had,

unknowingly—

silently and subtly—

started to refer to Spring

in the past tense,

as if it were

coronated,

culminated,

complete.

.

I had,

unwittingly—

incorrigibly and ignorantly—

acted satisfied with Spring,

“sufficiently suffonsified,”

and satiated with the season.

I had,

as it were,

imagined my soul’s storehouse

filled to capacity—

incapable of

anymore awe.

.

Every year,

about this time,

my heart aches

to think that I had forgotten

the Crabapple.

Every year,

at this very time,

I repent,

I reform,

and I spend the balance of my days

in the resplendent glory

of her blossoms.

April 19, 2020

Every Branch That Does Bear Fruit

Pruning whispers a metaphor every spring, but this year it seemed to grab me by the face and look me directly in the eyes.

Pruning primarily consists of removing old growth—the cutting away of that which was once vibrant and fruitful. Even the most sentimental of us acquiesce to ordinary pruning.

But sometimes the gardener has to snip a healthy, living branch for the overall good or the grand design of the garden. Sometimes two healthy branches are growing too closely to each other or to a neighbor. Sometimes a healthy twig that bloomed once is trimmed to force it to bloom twice next year.

This is the pruning we find difficult and even object to. We cry out and demand that the Gardener explain Himself. We resist His shears or bristle at His touch because we can’t look past the cut or the void left behind. We can’t imagine new growth in the immediacy of our loss.

But we must trust Him who makes all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We must believe that He will be faithful to complete the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6). We must rest in the promise that He prunes every branch that does bear fruit so that it will bear more fruit (John 15). Apart from Him, we can do nothing.

March 21, 2020

Up to the Light

My younger daughter spent a considerable amount of time (I am told) writing this note for me the other day. She was so obviously pleased with herself and her tiny correspondence that she met me at the front door and wriggled like Christmas morning as she told me where in the house to find the note. I located it and unfolded it, and then I tried with no little difficulty to decipher the orange-on-pink letters and associated accents. When she noticed my furrowed brow and squinting eyes, Lydia squealed, “No, Daddy–you have to hold it up to the light to read it!” So I followed her outside and was, in fact, able to (a little) more easily read the hand-written note in the bright afternoon sunlight.


Her note has caught my eye from my office windowsill a few times since that day and her cheerful “You have to hold it up to the light!” has come to mind every time. This has prompted me to reflect on her sage advice and its broad applications. So many things in our lives need to be “held up to the light,” so to speak, in order for them to grow and thrive. Our children need the love of a father and a mother to shine upon them. They need the bright light of truth and clear boundaries for their feet, and they crave the warmth of kind words and forgiveness. A wife flourishes in the light of her husband’s steadfast affection and his devotion to her needs and delights. Her petals radiate in the light of his attention and adoration, but whither or wander without it.

Conversely, when we find our hearts vining toward and becoming entangled with the pleasures and treasures of this fallen world, we are really rejecting the one true Light of the World. This exchange tries to shutter the truth of God and seeks to live in the darkness of lies that ultimately disappoint and destroy. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” I John 1:5-7

October 1, 2020