Beth Paulson


One early June day we saw the doe
lying under a juniper on a slope.
We'd watched her walk lame the day before.
Some said haul her body out with chains
behind the jeep.  Some said bury her
in dry, rock-filled adobe soil.  Meanwhile
we lived a summer near that knoll
daisies and poppies spent their season
in the sun until the hill turned bronze.
In the end we left her where she lay down
in dying, how many can choose the place?
her last sensing, fragrant boughs,
last view,  immensity.


One evening we drive down the river road,
red-dusty from a lack of summer rain,
not traveled much this hour after supper.
We've come to search for flagstones
to pave a shady place next to the house we think
we'd like to sit: a friend said he got some 
near these high sandstone cliffs
up from the river bank across the road.
Over the years these sedimentaries cleaved 
and fell to new repose, half-buried or lodged
near sturdy firs or trunks of knotted Gambel oaks.
So you stop the truck when I say
There and Over there
so I can scramble up through brush
when we spot one, or two a little further up.
Then I push them down to you, or you climb
up the steeper banks, worried I might fall.
The stones you lower down the slope to me
I lift in my scratched hands and
with slow care stack in the truck.
Each heavy, red-brown slab I hold 
an earth gift:  I, the thrifty one,
always wanting to make something
out of what's free I can find,
you, the one who bears the heavy burden
to content me, who says if I want,
you'd move a mountain.


On the surface of the earth
it seems apparent, most action
happens where things meet
cup to the lip, beak to the nectar,
beetle to the bark, hook to the scales,
dragonfly to the skin of the river.
Slick purple eggplant,
fuzz of ripe peach, bristly pinecone,
silk rose petal that breathes its fragrance
on my fingerseach surface emanates.
Everything blooms at the edge
crocus in spring, summer wildflower,
new grass shoots, ancient redwoods.
Great rivers run underground
but on earth's green and blue veneer's
a plenitude of waters.
Half-buried boulder, baby's soft crown,
fur, feather and hair, facial features
of persons I most love
I'm content with what's exposed.
Where things contact are crusts,
membranes, molecules that cling and cleave,
open doors and borders. 
So I'm grateful skin holds me in,
for fence line, tree line, porch and sky line,
black rim of distant mountain,
white curve of the moon's margin,
and I ponder with a complex brain
a universe in me that has no edge,
no horizon to hold everything inside.

Beth Paulson taught college writing for over twenty years at California State University Los Angeles and now lives near Ouray, Colorado where she teaches writing workshops, directs local poetry events, and writes a popular column for the Ouray Plaindealer.
  Her poems have been widely published in literary magazines and her work is included in anthologies published by Houghton Mifflin and University of Texas Press.  She has two published collections of poems, The Truth About Thunder (2001) and The Company of Trees (2004) as well as a CD of nature poetry, By Stone By Water. Beth's poem, "Hollyhocks," was nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize.  



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