I’d seen him an hour or so earlier,

outside of Medford, before the

rain set in, and I’d hunkered down

at a truck stop to ease the dizziness

in my mind and the queasiness of an

empty stomach, too many cigarettes.


Must have gotten a ride soon, then

passed me when I was off the road.

Here he was once again; suede coat

now soaked to a seal-skin sheen.

His dog was soaked too; black lab,

no leash, sitting next to the bedroll.

That was about all I took in before

eased the gas and onto the shoulder.


I don’t know what possessed me.

Normally I don’t pick up anyone.

Something about his reappearance

perplexed me and needed an answer.

It was kind of a closed-in, dreary day,

a day when you look for company,

good or bad, just to share the rain

and the half-full bottle on the seat.


He didn’t run to the truck when

I stopped a bit ahead of him,

as a young man might do, but

merely bent full from the waist,

retrieved his pack, tipped down

the brim of his hat a lower, and

started forward with a purpose.


The dog came too, of course,

perhaps adding to my belief

in this man’s native goodness;

I can usually rely on dog sense.


Whatever the reason, I decided

to pick up this soaked hitchhiker;

he and the dog grew larger in the

right hand mirror, as did the knife.

by Richard Hartwell



Four – or is it five? – lonely leaves

left dangling from the apricot tree;

wrinkled, yellowed ancients of the

ravages of late fall, early winter.


Seems sort of forlorn to be the

last ones left hanging around

when all the others have left

hurriedly, in the wind, weaving

away to the far side of the yard.


Leaves and fruit bunch together,

huddled communally, windrows

against the base of the wall as if

in group therapy they organize

to rout the wind and restrain the

ravages of snow, rain, and ice.

by Richard Hartwell


Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school (remember, the hormonially-challenged?) English teacher living in Moreno Valley, California, with his wife of thirty-six years (poor soul, her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife and their two children, and twelve cats. Yes, twelve! He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large; and, like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, that the instant contains eternity. Given his “druthers,” if he’s not writing poetry, Rick would rather still be tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon.


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