--for Marylou Jennings

After you walked down a row of a hundred sunflowers
Listening, maybe, to my phoebe singing
As is its wont at twilight, the summer
Constellations came out with an owl
Hunting shrews over the hill. You said, “Hello,
Silent hunter.” But his reply was “Goodbye!”

How rude of him! An impudent goodbye
Is not how the sun greets a morning sunflower
Nor how lovers greet. They kiss hello.
Phoebes reply courteously with more singing.
Why did you bother greeting that old hoot owl
Anyway? There are better things to do in summer.

What did we do in that no-so-far-off summer
Before one more kiss and then we said goodbye?
We didn’t waste time gossiping with owls
But neither did we walk among your sunflowers.
We spent the summer, it seems, with a singing
Phoebe, had time for only a few hellos.

It seems so cheery and familiar to say hello
That perhaps, in the middle of a hot summer,
A crotchety bird that doesn’t care for singing
At all could easily hoot and grumble. “Goodbye,
Go away, hie thee to thy sunflowers,
Stay away from the cold sphere of the owl.”

One shouldn’t be informal with an owl
Who disdains a too-intemperate hello.
Rather wrap your arms around sunflowers,
Especially in the middle of the summer
Before it’s their turn to say goodbye,
Embrace them as they nod to the phoebe’s singing.

In August at dusk nature is filled with singing
Creatures: phoebes, crickets, but not owls!
The equinox lumbers nearer and it’s goodbye
Swallow-tailed butterflies, hello
Fallen leaves, walnuts, apples, all of summer’s
Children, and the ripe seeds of the sunflowers.

To us, summer was filled with sunflowers,
A phoebe singing and an impudent owl:
I wish we had said hello and never goodbye.

Copyright 2012 Ronald W. Kenyon. All rights reserved.