Keuka Writes has teamed up with Penn Yan Public Library and the Arts Center of Yates County to fill the streets with poetry in the summer of 2021 – literally! Any time it rains, look for the poetry excerpts around the village, which we hope will add a little delight to any dreary day.
The poems were selected from past issues of our literary magazine, Bluff & Vine, and were chosen to reflect the natural beauty and unique character of the Finger Lakes. If you’ve spotted an excerpt at one of the seven locations hosting them, and are curious to read it in full, you can find it below, along with information about its author. Of course, every poem is shared here – but you may want to wait to read the rest until you’ve found them on the next rainy day!
Keuka by William Preston (location: Stork Insurance)
The lake is shimmering from shore to shore,
as though a dance of diamonds came to float,
and here and there I see a score or more
of mallards camped around an anchored boat,
looking much like kids at a candy store.
I gaze at this, and make a mental note:
no other vision I have ever seen
can match this sparkling blue amidst the green.
This scene defines the Finger Lakes, a group
of gouges in a glaciated land,
where hills, though far away, still grace and loop
the waters with a whispered wedding band,
and I have come here on my daily troop
through muted grandeur. Grateful, here I stand
and watch the wavelets as the sun proceeds
and diamonds wink at paltry human deeds.
William Preston is a retired medical writer and editor who at present does freelance editing and copywriting and writes poetry, generally in forms. He and his wife, Marti, who grew up in Penn Yan, live in Macedon, New York.
Keuka by Gary Pierce Brown (location: The Living Well)
My mother loved the lake
when there was wind
rolling white caps scudding
and tufts of cotton cloud sprinting overhead
but this is my favorite day
hardly a cloud in the sky
and the lake like glass
I stand on shale at water’s edge
like a native brave of long ago
then launch my boat
gliding from blue-green shadow of hill
into golden shafts of morning sun
Mist settles on either side
and foggy wisps hover
where hidden gullies run
the only sounds the squeak of oarlocks
and swirl of water torn by each stroke
I rise then and stand
in the center of my vessel
breaking a cardinal rule
as we come to rest
and I am the sole human
sharing the stillness
with winging gulls
and a regal pair of loons
Gary Pierce Brown was born and raised in Corning, served as a pastor in Westchester County and Connecticut and retired to Keuka Lake in 2007. A Hammondsport Writers’ Group member with poetry in Love of Land and Lake (Foothills, 2014), his children’s book, Willy of the Crooked Lake, appeared in 2015.
County Yates by Mary Hood (location: Yates County Arts Center)
The fields of Milo
singing with grasslings in spring
feathered with Queen Anne’s lace in summer
gilded with goldenrod in fall
pillowed in snow in winter
the woods of Barrington
pasteled with dawn-light in spring
crocheted in white locust blossoms in summer
burning brightly with maples in fall
calligraphied with bare branches in winter
the skies of Keuka
tossed onto the lake’s canvas an azure watercolor in spring
illuminating the vineyards and farms in malachite in summer
making room for the harvest moon among the stars in fall
carved gray as granite in winter
sketch the year’s cycle
so that where you have been
becomes where you are now
and follows you into where you will
be in the future, in that seamless continuity of home
Author of several books on conservation, several collections of poetry and research articles on microbiology, Mary retired from the University of West Florida as Professor Emerita, served as poet laureate of Pensacola, Florida, and now lives in Yates county.
The Lakes by Gary Snook (location: Yates County History Center)
Built layer on layer
Year on year
And when freed
An unstoppable engine
Meeting rock and earth
Carving and heaving
Opening huge wounds
In the ground
Then finally retreating
And In melting
Becoming the blood
The very source
On the lakes
Gary Snook has lived in the Finger Lakes region his entire life. He grew up in Waterloo and now has a home a short distance from Keuka Lake. The flora and fauna of the region has in the past inspired him, and is to this day an ongoing influence.
What I Hope the Children Remember by Angela Cannon-Crothers (location: The Nest Egg)
She stood tall in the hot sun
above a hillside of fragrant milkweed blooming
butter blossoms swirling her stem
Quaker rouge, witch’s candle, mullein.
The children sit in the shade as
I talk about how her blossoms,
soaked in olive oil, can cure an ear ache.
An infection? One child asked.
Exactly, I answer, drowsy from unusual heat.
A couple children run to gather her leaves.
Tell me what you notice? I ask
Her velvet, the size and oval leaf shape
I mention folklore for reddening cheeks
Or putting the leaves in shoes
so as to walk with ease all day.
I don’t mention the leaves where once used
as treatment for coughs
it feels too sensitive a topic;
the children having already removed their masks today
after just twenty minutes.
Trying to feel like normal again.
These children don’t dwell on fear
but play, twirling, and so later when
I ask, what is one thing you learned
about a plant today?
One child says that Mullein is my friend
and I am honored they
remembered I had said that
above all else.
It is game time, but not a child’s game
it’s for the future, the now,
the hope we can rise a generation
to a new beginning crisp as rain.
I see the barn swallows
have fledged, cut loose at sunset
swirling in spirals on sharp wings
searching the honeyed air
for things I cannot see.
Angela Cannon-Crothers is an author, naturalist and the environmental education coordinator for RMSC’s Cumming Nature Center. Previous works include the 2019 Cayuga Book Award for Creative Prose for Changing Seasons in the Finger Lakes, a novel, The Wildcrafter, creative nonfiction of Our Voices, Our Wisdom; An Herb Haven Year, a children’s book, Grape Pie Season and numerous publications in many regional and national publications. She lives in Naples, NY.
HAIKeUkas (The Wine) by Christine Pyanoe (location: Penn Yan Public Library)
Natives, hybrids too
Dry and sweet and in between
One for every taste.
Like a hearty red?
Blaufrankish or Lemberger
(Really they’re the same.)
Love a Chardonnay?
Or perhaps a Cabernet?
Franc or Sauvignon.
Riesling is the king.
Germany, Alsace beware!
Region Number One.
Gruner or Gewurz?
Wind and water, schist and shale
(Can you say terroir?)
Sparklers and roses
Merlot and Petit Verdot
(Please more Pinot Noir!)
Saperavi, almost black
Welcomed from Ukraine.
And the history!
Hermann, Walter, Konstantin
More a passion than a job
Kudos to you all.
Christine Pyanoe is a retired French/Spanish teacher who moved to this region after spending many summers on Keuka Lake. She owns Aubergine Bed and Breakfast in Penn Yan, and continues to be inspired every day by the beauty of the Finger Lakes.
Cicada Summer by Ben Baker (location: Penn Yan Public Library)
By August, the freckles reach my fingertips
and, like a wave, recede.
It never really came to pass.
We climbed up
up and out and into the air.
Vision: what a vision!
It blurs, and distorts
and hazes still.
The woods were mostly quiet
but once, hung over
two ravens sat high in a tree
and spoke at me at length.
I skipped lunch to listen.
And they said unto me:
blessed are the children
born and made in this cicada summer,
with such song.
Ben Baker is a writer, musician, and educator living in Rochester, where he enjoys long paddles, bike commuting, and cold beverages. Ben is proficient in animal husbandry, moving silently, hats, and detecting missing hyphens. “Cicada Summer” appears in his collection, All New Land.
Farewell Finger Lakes Summer by Robert Fitzgerald (location: The Arcade Building/Hoban’s Spirits)
Purple clusters climb the hill
Beneath the dome of blue,
Reflective, incandescent lake
Ever mobile, never still.
Summer leafs shed forest green,
And autumn’s coat of colors wear;
Heavy bound the apple tree
With treasure red on every beam.
A glass of red besides me sits,
A wine of glacial heritage,
Recalls the sun upon the lake
With every thankful sip.
Spaces Infinite by Robert Dunkel (location: Longs’ Cards and Books)
the vast degrees
flow yet eddy
round us like these lakes
wrapped in fog.
Gloved golden they come
ever moving, then they smile
a goddess on the waters
blurred with moonskin
and crowned with willows
blowing about her.
She is aura
not salt or its reaction
and wrapped round all –
a flame infectious
as laughter on a bright day.
She is breeze
and swims so gracefully about.
Around we pebbles of grey
the furry frown of matter flows
a sea of forms so fine
a thread of the tiniest mind
could unwind so slowly
the vines of this jungle.
Tonight the moon is big –
full of the sky not so dark
and shadows scurry to a stiff wind.
The pines are bending
loosening their roots
in a gentle way that looks
through this window where warm prevails
and winks…reflected light, that
announced through the pock marked
pores of flesh…eternal child
of darkness, that (it feigns
the knowledge of truths…)
What bitter image dost thou deface?
What morn settles soupy before you
that shall not in time boil away?
Oh moon I howl
a gentle fury
for you now
knowing the patience
of dark nights
that the death
of dawn forgets.
Robert Dunkel is the former Postmaster of Hall, NY, where he served for 16 years. For 35 years he has worked with The Garlic Seed Foundation, an educational non-profit that teaches folks to plant and use garlic. He lives in Stanley, NY.