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In December, Helena Minton’s contemplative free verse and Ryk McIntyre’s vivid performance pieces provided a striking contrast. Below is a poem from The Gardener and the Bees © 2006 by Helena Minton, published by March Street Press:




You left in the gray beginnings.


Animals slept underfoot.

Kings walked into the barn

two weeks late with gifts


and nothing could make it warm

not my will or lists

of ways I would be better.


Time not to ask too much

of myself or others

but to bend to work at hand


the paths I had to shovel

and to walk along stone walls

snow covered


but I knew were there.


Deceptively simple on the surface, “January” is actually quite enigmatic. It seems reasonable to suppose that the “you” in the first line is a reference to Mary, Joseph and Jesus departing from the stable before the Three Wise Men (the Kings) arrived with their gifts, but then the poem shifts to an “I,” who admonishes herself not to be too self-critical – to concentrate on the “work at hand,” knowing what she has to do and where she has to go, even though the way forward is obscured. Mysterious!


-Elizabeth Knies



Helena Minton lives in North Andover, MA, and works as a librarian. Her other books include Personal Effects and The Canal Bed, both published by Alice James Books. She’s on the board of the Robert Frost Foundation in Lawrence, MA, which hosts a poetry series modeled on the Portsmouth Hoots.


Poems submitted for this column must be no longer than 19 lines.