Leslye Layne Russell - the-hold.com, December 2000

...and to all a good night!



Layne in the Sierra


Leslye Layne Russell, northern California poet, is also a performing singer and guitarist, and experienced minimalist dancer. In 1969 Layne received her degree in English from Chico State where she studied poetry and writing with George Keithley. She did post-graduate work in Religious Studies at CSU, Chico, and in the Arts and Religious Studies at Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado. Layne's poetry has appeared in many poetry journals since she began publishing her work in 1996. After living in Sonoma County for twenty-six years where she raised her two daughters and stepson, Layne recently moved to Redding with her husband, guitarist James Russell, and their blue-eyed Lynx Point Siamese, Sky. Layne's extensive poetry web site, "White Owl Web," can be found at http://whiteowlweb.com.

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    The Moth

    Through an obstacle course of
    falling snow
    a white moth flies. She
    darts and dives over,
    under, and around
    the countless crystals, huge
    and drifting down.
    She makes it to dark wood,
    harbors under eaves.

    Will I make it
    from these mountains,
    two hundred miles,
    to your brown-sweatered arms?

    Please lay a fire,
    put on water for tea.
    Listen well as I tell you
    stories of white storms and
    fires and unfinished poems,
    a moon-made moth and
    cold stars.


    I always carry with me
    a little mountain box;
    I open it, smell pines,
    hear my mountain mother,
    sing with my father stars.

    I open it, see the deer,
    the sun shimmer on firs,
    see dragonflies dance
    in wild mountain lilies.

    I open it, laugh with the river,
    watch life pass in clear wind.
    Here the eagle's breath is mine;
    I dive and fall with snow,
    softly swirling, deepening,
    disappearing, returning,

    On this box there is no latch,
    it is weightless, and
    opens with one breath.


    Two peaks and a craggy dome
    rise above Portola,
    just behind the neatly kept
    high school, give majesty to the
    tiny depressed railroad town.
    Trains come, trains go,
    lacing the Feather River canyon,
    stopping here in this unpolished
    jewel of the Sierra.
    Forty-six years after leaving
    I find this place in the
    deepening of snow,
    the callings of mountain blood
    answered, kissed softly,
    quietly wrapped in winter white.


    through the window
    my father pointed
    named constellations
    named the stars
    poured wonder
    from the Big Dipper
    into the room

    we traveled deep space
    into no beginning or end
    into god is everywhere
    then in the Silence
    I slipped starlight
    under my pillow
    and drifted dreamless
    into light

    I eat this apple
    for David

    in silver light of
    mountain snowfall
    by the fire I get your call

    we talk of our lives
    the two day power outage
    my one complete haiku since arriving
    and of eating at least five servings
    of fruit and vegetables

    I had just thought of you
    and within three minutes
    the phone rang
    it happens like that with us
    after thirty-eight years

    when we hang up
    I go to the kitchen
    select the brightest firmest apple
    cut it in half to see the seed star
    then into eighths
    serve it on a plate
    sit down with the fire
    paper and pen and unfinished haiku
    and eat each breathing bite
    in honor of you


    my foot high Santa
    stands on the mantle
    red felt suit
    black belt and boots
    gentle smile every year
    right out of the box

           (I gave him to you on your
                 first birthday
                      my mother told me)

    he has lived well the decades
    earned his white flowing
    as I
            my silver hair

    given this

    snow flies and drifts
          against the night
    years of mountain winter
              lie on a white meadow

    a pigtailed girl of four
          in her sled on the roof
              laughs and slides
          into always arriving
    and white hair

    given this white blessing
          she does not forget

              nor forgets the lives before--
          this little Tibet
    in the Sierra

    fourth Christmas

    you aren't in your kitchen
    with glazed persimmon cookies;
    no angel fingers,
    no burning bayberry candles,
    no sitting me at your oak table
    to crack pecans from your tree
    or wrap your presents.

    at home the phone doesn't ring
    your kitchen to mine,
    doesn't carry your voice
    two hundred miles, doesn't carry
    your voice across
    the universe.

    I step outside--
    the same Christmas stars shine.

    All poems © 2000 Leslye Layne Russell
    Unauthorized use is prohibited.

    ...not a creature was stirring...

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