Unbidden, a green memory
sprang forth, so overwhelming
in its clarity, it leapt across
three quarters of a century:
I stood before a counter-top
of jewelry, eye height, beside
my father who had brought me to
that "five and dime" store in the Bronx.
Among the many rings displayed,
one gleaming emerald shone there
surpassing all the rest, and, firmly set
within a silver band, it was on sale
just for one dollar that my father
told the saleslady I'd saved.
I bought the ring to give my mother
on their wedding anniversary;
I still can see her squeeze it on,
stretch her thin fingers out
that glowing morning to display
how perfectly it fit. I marveled
at the smoothness of her hands.
I live now on a mountain-side,
the northern country of the evergreens—
spruce, cedar, ponderosa pines,
tall tamaracks reflecting in a lake
that quivers green an greener as
rough wind withdraws into the forest shade.
From my high room I look out far
at darkened green of winter firs
whose branches are bent down with snow;
and I can see pale green in springtime when
the softer tips of boughs extend new growth;
even dense shadows as the sun descends
seem tinted with a greenish hue.
Despite accumulated years, I'm green
with inexperience; I'm green with envy
for the lives I won't have time to live;
I'm green, oh green-o, in the melodies
I hum beneath the intake of my breath,
and when I contemplate the purple depths
of darkened sky with clouds outlining
migratory birds, I know at night
my heart will still be green, the green of emerald,
in the fine shimmer of its crystal light.
Robert Pack's poems and essays have appeared in over a hundred magazines and anthologies, such as the American Scholar, New Criterion, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, and Yale Review. His collection of poems, Composing Voices: A Cycle of Dramatic Monologues (Lost Horse Press, 2005), was a recipient of a Montana Book Award: “Pack’s crisp, sparkling language touching on subjects of personal importance to everyone creates a wonderfully accessible collection of poetry. It is a laudable addition to Montana literature.”
For the past sixteen years Pack has taught courses in Shakespeare, Romantic Poetry, Modern Poetry, and Ways of Knowing at the Honors College of the University of Montana in Missoula and at the Osher Institute for Adult Learning. He and his wife, Patty, live in a log home with a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains in Condon, Montana.