Sunday, December 27, 2015

Dogs Without Leashes

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

Dogs have stories.
People have stories.


I saw her in the morning, on one of those
sites on the internet. I had gone for two
months without a dog. That was enough.
In the afternoon, I drove to the shelter,
an hour and a half, and asked to meet her.

A middle-aged woman went to the back,
to the place of cement and shiny metal, of
kennel rows and forlorn once-they-were-wolves
singing out their deep grief and longings.

I waited.

The door opened. She slunk into the room
on her pink belly. I came to my knees
to greet her.

“Hello, pretty girl.”

She urinated on the floor. I lifted my right hand
to the nape of her neck, and began stroking
her soft fur, black and white, all the while saying
lovely things. She trembled and tried to make
herself smaller than her bones were able to go.

Beneath my fingertips, under her tight skin, rolled
hard round pellets, several, put there by a shotgun blast.
Trapped there. Part of her body.

“May I take her for a walk?”

Outside, she strained to the end of the nylon leash,
wild-eyed, scanning the woods and fields,
planning the direction and speed she would go,
should she break from what tethers her to this world.

Whenever we go hiking, she runs out ahead of
me on the trail – up the mountain or down. Every
so often she’ll stop, and look back, tongue lolling.

“Are you coming?!” 
“Please, let’s keep going!”

“Yes. I’m coming.”
“I’m coming, pretty girl.”

She runs back down the path towards me, smiling,
coming nearly close enough for me to touch her, but
never close enough. There’s a glint in her eye. Her tail
is wagging. She turns, and bolts off again, full speed
ahead, and around the next bend.

I watch her go.

When I went back into the lobby, the woman
behind the counter looked anxious, embarrassed,
perhaps, apologetic.

“We have lots of other dogs,” she said.
“I can bring you several more to meet.”

“No need,” I said, handing her the adoption
form and the fee.

“We understand each other.”

© 2015-2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary"
To be published by Talking Waters Press in 2017

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Coming Home: Now Available!


"In this collection of new poems, Jamie K. Reaser explores the journey and meaning of coming home. She invites the reader along as welcomed guest, witness, and co-walker. The way is demarcated by the themes that define her work: nature and human nature. Whether the poems were inspired by reflections on birthright, a black dog, or someone poaching wild ginseng, Reaser reminds us that the only way to truly come home is to actively love this world – a learning process for every human."

Visit or other major online retailers
Or, ask your local independent bookstore to order a copy for you

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Winter Solstice

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

Sometimes it is the growing darkness
that writes the lines. How foolish we
are to think that we are not bound by
this. The red bird and I are animals. You
would admit to this too, I think. Short days
make for short foraging. It’s not always
about food though. Sometimes, it’s about
finding something else vital that you need to
sustain you. Survive. Joy, for example.

I know people who are starving.

I put out seed for the birds. I have enough to
share and their joy is mine. That’s what the
short days are for – to realize that time is short.
We best receive what is offered and give joy.

“Come! Come! The feeder is full.”

The sun is rising. Make thoughtful haste. 

© 2015-2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary" (a work in progress)

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

People in Winter

Photo: (c) Barbara Melton

Foxes don’t try to hide what it takes
to live. They see no reason for shame,
and so do their deeds in the bright of
moonlight, sometimes announcing them,
like the vixen did in the meadow two
nights after she took my golden rooster
by the neck.

In winter, there are two thieves:

The fox and the season trying
to steal the fox.

One of them succeeds.
You can’t blame it.

Why do people look upon the angel
in the snow and say they are that?

© 2015-2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary"
To be published by Talking Waters Press in 2016
Many thanks to Barbara Melton for use of the photo

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When Men Sell Their Souls

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

“When men sell their souls,
where do the souls go?”

It’s an important question,
if we want to get them back.

And, we should, you know.
There are good reasons to do it.


I have a deep fondness for hollow
trees, they welcome so much to live
within them: a screech owl whom I
have known personally and, on my
farm, there is an old black locust filled
with thick honeycomb and sweet,
golden honey and so many bees that
the tree hums and vibrates under a
many-lined palm laid gently upon the
vertical-running bark. We keep each 
other secret.

But, hollow people, they don’t let
the lovely things in.


I find myself spending more and more
time with trees.

© 2015-2016/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary"
To be published by Talking Waters Press 

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Those Who Bow Their Heads

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I too want to keep the company of those
who bow their heads. What is our
purpose if it is not attentiveness
and gratitude? Let us have allegiances
with that which breaks us open and
that which makes us whole.

Have you noticed how the light finds
you, but always gives you over to the
darkness so that you can see what is
really there to see? Listen to the voices
around you, I have begged, how they tell
you about humanity in gestures. Your
humanity, theirs, mine, ours. How much
of it we have neglected out of neglect of
this generous world. I want to comfort
this place with a million utterances of,

“Thank you!”

Let me find other words too, always, and
walk with reciprocity in my step. Always.
If we were having dinner together tonight,
I’d say something simple like:

“There is food on the plate.
Lives have made it so.”

That’s plenty of reason, certainly you
agree, to bow our heads in attentiveness
and in gratitude.

“Thank you!”

“Thank you!”

© 2015-2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary" (a work in progress)
To be published by Talking Waters Press

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Fire Song

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I have walked among the sage, brushing
it with my palms and wafting into my nostrils
the scent that lingers in the cup of my hands.
You don’t forget this. Not the circumstances,
not the place. Explain this to me.

I’ve never seen a sage grouse dance. I’ve
heard tell that it’s like watching a feathered
dervish making his way between the worlds.
A spiral up. A spiral down. I believe that’s possible.

When I was a little girl, I’d sing a nursery rhyme
to ladybugs. Do you know it?

“Ladybug, ladybug fly away home. Your
house is on fire…”

People thought I did it because I like ladybugs,
and I do. But that wasn’t it.

Have you stopped to wonder why certain plants
will come all the way across the world to ask
you what you love?

That was it.

That moment when a ladybug must stop
everything she is doing to save her home,
to save her children.

Will she?

“Ladybug, ladybug.”

Do you care enough to go home?

If you listen closely, you can hear those weeds
out there singing the same song, the fire crackling.

“The sage?” They ask.

“The sage-grouse?” They ask.

So often, I’ve found answers to adult conversations
in the memories of my childhood.

“What do you care enough about to 
stop everything for?”

“The sage?” They ask.

“The sage-grouse?” They ask.

There have been a lot of fires recently.

“The sage?” They ask.

“The sage-grouse?” They ask.
Large areas going up in smoke.

How many of us remember that this is our home?

How many of us will remember that this is our home?

I love the sagebrush and the sage-grouse. I want 
to dwell on the scent of sage again.  I want to see 
that dance. I want to be close enough for dust 
disturbed by bird feet to settle on my boots and jeans.

I hear the song of the fire.

I want to go home.

© 2015/Jamie K. Reaser
For the participants in the Western Invasive Weed Summit
Boise, Idaho, November 2015

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sufis Whirling

Photo: origin unknown

I like to think about Sufis whirling, wondering
what they see, or if they see at all. Maybe,
there is something beyond seeing.

I think, perhaps, it is knowing. You,
understand, don’t you?

Poets must have one foot in knowing and
the other in what is not knowable. That’s our dance.

© 2015/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary"
To be published by Talking Waters Press in 2016

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Angels in My Head

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I have angels in my head.
They teach me to be a better human
than I would be if left to this rather
awkward task alone.

They say things like:

Here, now!

They give me a chance. They nudge me
into re-membering that there is a difference
between living and existing. Things exist.
I want to do better than that.

Sometimes they quarrel.
Quarreling angels make for interesting
company. Sometimes, there is just so
much good, so much loveliness, so much
wonderment to be experienced that
these angels feel the need to fight
for my attention.

I think this is what it means to be blessed.

© 2015-2016/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary"
To be published by Talking Waters Press

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Sunday, October 25, 2015


Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I’m thinking about what happens when you go back
to a place that was once fond of you and see all
those strangers you’ve known for many years,
and how so much will have changed, undoubtedly,
but not the fact that you are still wondering who you
are and how all of this is supposed to fit together,
somehow. There are bridges that convey us between two
points on this Earth, and others that take us
on entirely different journeys. I’ve stood on both.
I want to see the ducks, yes, of course, the ducks of
the ducks that once held my confessions, hear the
yellowed beech leaves crackle beneath my boots,
and try, very hard if I must, to remember
things that I never thought were important. Somewhere
along the winding brick pathways and boxwood-edged
gardens, I’ll stop and say my hellos to some soul or another.
I’ll mean everything I say in the words that follow. A poet
is always earnest. The trouble is though, we never truly
find our way home. And, we know it.

© 2015-2017/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Coming Home: Learning to Actively Love this World"
Published by Talking Waters Press 

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Friday, October 16, 2015


Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

On these mornings you can hear the trees themselves
speaking, not the birds that have lifted into currents
and gone on two miraculous wings. There is grief
in their voices, and relief. You know what this feels
like, if you have lived. Leaving: letting go of what no
longer serves the body and soul, often the heart. I can
standby, beside and underneath, and give some sense
of comfort by telling them how beautiful this process
is, how I admire the way they do it with the bold
prospect of witnesses.

I think that relating to the leaf is harder than relating
to the tree, unless you consider that the bird left
the tree for some grand adventure, and then you go on to
realize that we are all leaving each other constantly.

Our old selves, too.

It was a tree, on one of these delicate barren mornings, 
that said to me: 

“I love to watch you change and grow.”

© 2015-2016/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Plant Songs" (a work in progress)
To be published by Talking Waters Press

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mountain Stream Poem

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I’ve looked, but I cannot find a poem
that Mary Oliver has written about
a rushing mountain stream, the
kind that takes on the tongues
of gods after storms have done
their cleansing and prepared the
land for what is next to come. How
could she not? How could her pen not
have stopped here, so many times
before, wondered, listened, and then
told the stories that the gods want
us to hear, want us to live?

I have written one for her.

© 2015-2018/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Conversations with Mary" (a work in progress)

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Water Ways

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

I took form in this aqueous place, this place of 
tentative buoyancy,  in this life, decades ago, in 
other lives, perhaps, long since, in ways that I 
cannot understand but some part of me
recalls as belonging.

As a child, I meandered in brooks, turning over 
rocks for crayfish and salamanders, salamanders 
that still had gills, indicating that they were still 
young in the way that we are still young.

And, in the summers, I went to the beach, where 
waves taught me how to take hold and how to let go, 
and where I learned that I am ruled by the moon at 
least as much as the sun and other stars.

Have you ever noticed how the moon has chosen 
water to hold her reflection, only water?

I am not a fish, but I have looked into the eyes of fish, 
many. I am not a whale, but I have looked into the eyes 
of whales, a few, and each time I find myself there. Other 
orbs too. Like blue marbles that sparkle iridescent in the 
sunlight and in the gleaming of those who hold them 
between thumb and forefinger.

Have you ever noticed that when you walk up to a fountain 
with pennies in your pocket in a grand city or some out of 
the way little town that your heart beats differently than it 
did the moment before you stepped onto the bricks, or 
cobblestones, or asphalt that led you there?

Rain. A metal roof. That’s enough.

I have had relationships with puddles that are deeper than
with those who have called themselves family, some who
have called themselves friends.

You? When was the last time you jumped in one?

What was the point of this story?

It had something to do with water, how in water you can
drift back and away, and how despite – but I believe because of –
this drifting, this floating, this letting go of some proverbial
shoreline, you can come back from some place remembering
every thing, everything, that is essentially you.

©2015-2016/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Wonderment: New and Selected Poems" (a work in progress)
To be published by Talking Waters Press

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Leave Me My Wings

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

What kind of person pulls wings off a butterfly? I don't want to be this fragile, broken thing. Nowhere to go. No way to get there. Leave me my wings. I came here to fly.

Beauty alighted before you. Fear and a hand rose to tear away, to abuse. I don't want to be this fragile, broken thing. Nowhere to go. No way to get there. Leave me my wings. I came here to fly.

This is your pain on the breeze and my prayers for your wounded heart. I don't want to be this fragile, broken thing. Nowhere to go. No way to get there. Leave me my wings. I came here to fly.

Flowers should never weep for loneliness, and you should have have seen as anything less than wonderful, a precious soul. What happened? I don't want to be this fragile, broken thing. Nowhere to go. No way to get there. Leave me my wings. I came here to fly. Even if my time is short, I am going to fly. These wings are mine.

(c) 2015/Jamie K. Reaser
Lyrics to be included in "Wonderment: New and Selected Poems"

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Snake in the Hand

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

My parents decapitated every snake
they saw. I remember watching severed
heads and severed bodies writhing,


in the grass. The mouth would open and
close, open and close. It was pink inside.
Maybe, black.

When I was old enough to read field guides,
my parents got in trouble. Big trouble.
According to the books, there were no
venomous snakes where we lived. None.
Every single species was harmless. Actually,
they did good things.

I was not happy.

I laid down the law. “You aren’t allowed to
kill any more snakes!” My declaration was
non-negotiable and backed by facts. Plenty.

That was the day that I learned to stop
trusting everything adults said and did.

The next snake that I encountered was
a garter snake – a large female. I reached
down and picked her up, gently placing the
fingers of my right hand behind her narrow
head and supporting her sleek body with
my left hand, just like the books said to do.
Then, I went to find my parents.

I was told that ‘it’ was not coming into the
house. Ever. But, I was given a playpen-sized
box that an appliance had arrived in earlier
that week.

The snake and I spent most of that day
on the back patio in that box with grass
that I pulled and worms that I caught.
She ate a big one. It was still wriggling
when it disappeared into the universe
inside her.

I learned a lot about snakes that day,
like how easy they are to love.

I let her go.

And, the next day, I went down to the
brook that ran patiently behind the house
– Harrison Brook –
where I knew northern watersnakes
lived in holes at the top of clay banks.

I waded in waist deep, causing water
to separate at my left hip and embrace
me before flowing onward, and waited for
them to swim by – going to or from their
streamside apartments. When they came
my way, swimming, I’d put my hands in the
water under their long undulating bellies
and gently lift them up. Then, I’d get
bitten. It never hurt much, but it did
draw blood. Sometimes.

I did this again and again, until they
trusted my particular touch. Then, I’d sit
with one or two on the sandy shoal at
the turn in the creek and just look at them
and talk to them. I think they said things
to me too, but I don’t remember
what, exactly.

All demons can be befriended this way.

The snake in my hand, right now, is a lovely
ringneck, steel gray with a golden belly and
collar. She’s silky smooth and elegant,
looped around my thumb and forefinger.

I relate to scales in much the same way that
religious people relate to beads. Holding her
is an act of prayer. But, what is the
prayer? This is my question. I think that it is
a good one.

I think, perhaps, I’m still praying for those
decapitated snakes. Or, maybe, I’m praying
for people. Decades have passed. I’m still
clear about who is harmless. But, it seems,
much of the world is not.

© 2015-2018/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Wonderment: New and Selected Poems"
A work in progress

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