Come the mid-winter freeze-up,
the cold creeps in, silent and stealthy 
an assassin clutching
a glass dagger, which he thrusts
down the length of Keene Valley.  

Our pipes, which once sucked fresh water
from the stream like straws, snap 
brittle as thin tusks of ice. Time
to haul out the ten gallon milk pails
and drag the toboggans down to the river.  

We shovel aside the pall of fresh snow 
the steel pan scrapes
against the ragged rocks 
and hack a jagged hole
through the stalled stone water.  

Ice chips scatter like potsherds
of bleached slate. Beneath
the white sheet, a quick currency flows.
We haul it up by hand in buckets, stinging
our fingers with liquid fire.  

The work of cracking through
takes such work, some never begin 
too afraid the stream is dry or fallow.
Only the true cut
releases the springs.  

Then the poems come. Sometimes
they rise to the top like golden koi
nibbling the rim of liquid sky.
Most times, you're digging a well
through an icepack of frozen tundra.  

The result all depends
on how thirsty you are.  

Pamela Cranston


When I was very young, the first bus
was a '48 Ford woody
with panels burnished blonde
by the weather's harsh rag.
It rattled and shimmied down the Lake Road so long
I guess it shook itself to death, dropping
into piles of rusty bolts and gears, axles,
pistons, and shredded seats, oozing their snarl
of kinky horsehair stuffing.
A later bus, Kelly green and fresh
from the GMC factory, sparkled
like a Tinker's smile.* It took twelve
but could carry more if kids sat
on people's knees. Instant community.
We wore heavy jackets, hiking boots
and enough bug-juice to repel a moose.
Some men, heading for Gill Brook,
carted tackle and rods. They wore vests
with pockets  a multitude of eyes 
and floppy hats stuck with hand-tied flies 
each with fancy names like Owl, Bloodworm,
Ginger Quill and Dovey Bumble.
On schedule, our driver  rueful and stoic
about hauling campers all summer long 
flicked his cigarette aside,
crammed our backpacks, wicker baskets
and sleeping bags into the rear, climbed
to the wheel, and switched on the engine,
clanking like gin bottles in the rumble-seat,
then it lurched and squeaked
down the changeless road
of our eternal forest. We stopped once
to open the old AMR gate,
a lattice-work of wooden antlers,
then lumbered past the Ladies Mile.
It was like riding an aged elephant
working up to a slow trot.
Inside, we swayed, we bounced 
like potentates perched on our howdahs 
'till our fillings nearly fell out.
We clung to steel poles
for dear life. You had to shout
above the grinding motor,
simply to be heard.
The bus coughed and wheezed up the rutted road,
spitting stones between its tires.
We crossed Pooh Sticks Bridge.
We passed the trailhead
to Beaver Meadow Falls.
We climbed hills, rounded
innumerable bends, and forsook streams,
(from which we never drank.) At last,
the bus dragged its metal carcass
up the final grade then took a steep
hairpin curve and plunged
toward the Lower Lake,
(its brakes protesting all the way).
There it slowed,
gave one last gasp, and came
to a dead stop 
perhaps even happier
than we to arrive.
They say, after a certain age,
even lucid men long
for a quick death.

*"Tinker" is a UK slang word for an Irish Gypsy.

Pamela Cranston
PAMELA CRANSTON was born in New York City and was raised in Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. From the age of five, she has spent summers in St. Huberts, New York, where she and her family have been active with the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society (ATIS) and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) for over fifty years. She received her B.A. from San Francisco State University, majoring in Interdisciplinary Social Science, where she also studied extensively in their creative writing program. In 1988, she received a Masters of Divinity degree from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) in Berkeley, CA. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1990, she has served San Francisco Bay area churches and hospices for the past fourteen years. She also is an adjunct member of the faculty at CDSP, writes, lectures, gives poetry readings, leads workshops and retreats and does spiritual direction.  Her books include: The Madonna Murders (a novel to be published in 2003 by St. Huberts Press); Clergy Wellness and Mutual Ministry; and An Eccentric English Journey (privately published.) Her poetry, essays and book reviews have been published or soon will be appearing in various books and journals such as: Anglican Theological Review, On the Trail: An Outdoor Anthology by Birch Brook Press, Blueline, EarthLight, Cistercian Studies, Forward Movement Publications, Journal of Christianity and Literature, Journal of Pastoral Care, Kilvert Journal, Mindfulness Bell, Mystic River Review, New Moon Review, New Song Press, Northwoods Journal, Penwood Review, Presence, South, and Women: Empowering and Healing. Pamela Cranston lives with her husband in Oakland, California, and returns to the Adirondacks regularly. She is a regular contributor to The Adirondack Review.
Adirondack Voices