©Poems of R.F.Mueller- Other Times, Other Thoughts
In those times the unexpected held sway.
No one studied the news. Existence
was in the present and only
romantically in the past and future.
From the seasons I knew what to expect
but not from history. So do I remember
spring's first signals in the return
of redwings, in the winnowing flight
of snipe, later the bobolink's
hovering song and the blowing iris where
swamp and meadow meet. Last season, last year,
that was the past in practical affairs.
But romantically I heard the beat
of ancient drums and saw the haze
of remote campfires. But unlike
the buds of May, the maturation
of children was unexpected and the
nubile daughters of neighbors came upon
me like strangers through the arch of dawn,
like the late summer ejaculation
of jewelweed seeds after slow maturation
under cool arbors of wild cucumber vines
in the deep elm swamps. I was unprepared
for all the twittering exhuberance
and legs so warm that summer's lightest
cotton prints couldn't cool them but must
demand skirt-raising, form-defining breezes.
And so also it was with the world.
So even as I listened to
dictators' rantings, the capture of remote
islands, I could discern no underlying
pattern of the future, only the present's
hidden springs of capsules peppering
my face. In that way Pearl Harbor
and draft notices burst upon me,
and with them went the poignant life
of nature's rythms, the old country —
small town thrills like those warm legs
packed into blocky 30's cars, the quiet
of narrow, lightly-traveled roads
(even these now recognized as the very roots
of an unwelcome future), a time with all
its sounds and smells vanished forever.
Indeed the roots bore fruit in the postwar
world of wheel-singing freeways, the blaring
horns of commerce and plastic-scented
stores, cutting to ribbons the fields and hills
and soiling the waters of my childhood.
This was the price I had to pay
for the power to know the future ever so little —
to learn that entropy held sway.
All references to flora and fauna come out of the rich experience of my younger years in East-Central Wisconsin's native habitats; out of numerous solitary wanderings in the "deep elm swamps" with their Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis) and Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) vines, the wind-bowed marsh grasses and sedges and the cliff and lakeside forests with an undergrowth of punishing Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum). A vivid memory of the back yard marsh (now donated by me to the State as a preserve) of my home is of the abundance of frogs, particularly the Northern Leopard species (Rana pipiens).These experiences had an acuity that later ones seldom had. There was also farm work: hay to be pitched high up on horse-drawn wagons and endless rows of vegetables to be weeded on one's knees. Although my experience with the opposite sex came early, it was bumbling and never very dissolute or even common. Rather, my early teen-age exuberance was largely satisfied by glimpses of female underwear ads in catalogs that we recycled in our outhouse. However, I early learned to appreciate pubic hair on females, beginning with an astonishing glimpse of a friend's nude mother through a crack in a bath house wall. I still feel that today's women are sacrificing a prime element of sexual attraction by eliminating these, as well as other body hair! I also wonder what factors of body health are being jeopardized thereby. I was aware of my "mega-surroundings" at an early age, and distinctly remember a night, standing in the dark of our farmstead yard, listening to an unfamiliar sound, the whine of tires on concrete, originating from a ( first-time ) newly- paved Wisconsin Route 55. I also have a distinct memory of seeing the accumulation of eroded black limestone topsoils in end furrows of plowed hillside fields-and the immediate recognition of this as a prelude to these soil's inevitable decline.