Winter Grass …. Revised 9.1.16

Winter Grass and Other Poems

This collection of what I have called my poetry, should at least have a title. So I have called it Winter Grass for two reasons. It came late, after the growing season and has little elegance or flower to it. It has little of life in it and nothing but persistency to recommend it. Winter grass is a reminder of what has been and a promise of yet another spring. We are sure of the one and hopeful of the other. It is pathetic stuff, homely and hardy without much reason for it being at all. But then, it is not quite all submerged in ice and snow, promising another day will bring new grass and make it green.        Raymond C. Harding (c.1965 ed.)

{Not all poems are dated. We have assembled separate collections according to the year they were written, 1963 -1965. There are only a few dated 1962 which may be grouped at a  later time. Also, we will soon release a short collection of undated poems. We realize there will be some redundancy through various collections but consider it an opportunity to enjoy a surprising second helping from time to time. ed.}


[Raymond C. Harding,(1900-1965): His poems, typed by his wife Florence, using a pre-1950’s portable typewriter, on single sheets of now well-aged paper and with carbon-copy paper intact, somehow managed to survive numerous residence moves, being packed and repacked several times over. They traveled  from Massachusetts to Florida, to Minnesota, and as of late, back to Florida, where they are being revived, thanks to the thoughtful preservation efforts of his granddaughter Laura Harding Tallen , born some 9 years after his death.  Now his son Richard and wife Denise are continuing Laura’s efforts at putting his collection into digital format where his children, grand children and great-grandchildren can perhaps derive pleasure from such “pathetic stuff, homely and hardly without much reason for it being at all… not quite all submerged in ice and snow, promising another day will bring new grass and make it green.”

Raymond C.,Florence, and  Ray J.Harding left a family treasure of creative writing that somehow survived fifty years and more of  being tucked-away, hidden in folders, waiting for the right time-thaw to spring back to life. We are pleased to think that  now their words will surely reach a wider readership than either he, Florence or Raymond Joseph could have imagined.

 “It is pathetic stuff, homely and hardy without much reason for it being at all. But then, it is not quite all submerged in ice and snow, promising another day will bring new grass and make it green.”

 That other day” is dawning.

   We are publishing three plus years of poems here on Off The Beaten Path for our family’s sake, most of whom have never seen them, and welcome them and  all web visitors to read, enjoy and perhaps be inspired to cultivate their own fields of green grass.

We sincerely hope you find great enjoyment in the many verses and stories they have left us.                                   

   You will also find a short grouping of poems by Ray C.’s grand-daughter Laura Harding Tallen, at the menu on my blog site, with expectations of more to come from her. Right now she is very busy raising two beautiful children, along with husband Josh Tallen, in Minneapolis, MN.

Please see:  Off the Beaten Path –

Ray C. and Ray J. Harding left a family treasure of creative writing that somehow survived fifty years and more of tucked-away, type written manuscripts that now, children and grand-children are busy putting into digital format that will surely reach a wider readership than either author could have imagined.

We hope you find great enjoyment in the many verses and stories they have left us.

                                                 Richard D. Harding and Laura N.Tallen, on behalf of the Harding family.


Winter Grass

This winter grass Grown old and brown

Still waves above the snow.

Knowing icy winds will pass

and feels a stirring down

Where the quiet rootlets grow,

Embryonic, dark, unseen.

Patience is a virtue here,

All in due time without delay

New season soon will shift new scene,

It always does from year to year.

The brown stalks know another day

Will bring new grass, and make it green

The Teal’s Last Flight

Here in this inlet by the edge

of this forgotten Northland slough,

hemmed in by the saw-toothed sedge,

he idly circles, testing now

the dragging green-tint wing limp,

useless at his side.

He lifts his head inquiring

scours the heavens far and wide,

for hopeful glimpse again

of those familiar forms

so like his own.

Whistling wing strokes as they rose,

heading for Alberta’s dawn.

He senses that his vigil’s vain

but pushes outward from the shore.

Defying all the stiffening pain,

attempts his springing rise once more.

One wing will not work as two.

The listing body falls away;

spinning in its awkward slew,

green wing will not fly today.

From Mississippi’s stream he led

his hurtling green wing band

guided by the mystic beam

to the new beginning land.

This luring pond fell into view,

a promised quiet interlude.

Wings slant and the tired crew

begin their slide for rest and food.

Too late he heard the cracking gun,

too late to slip or turn.

A shock and then the spinning sun,

the crumpled wing, the pellet’s burn.

Then the trembling crazy slide

ending where the tall grass grows,

blends with the tawny bird

to hide him from the retriever’s nose.

But that was suns and moons ago,

frosty dawn – the shorter day.

Darkened clouds, he seems to know.

flock will not return this way.

He circles round to calmly wait

the urge of life now burning low,

unmindful of the final fate,

sharp tooth, talon, ice or snow.

Forlorn, this living bird can dream,

the half bird with the shattered wing

that chains him to this inland stream,

still waiting for another Spring.


(Ray’s note)   Teals in Flight.  The tired, restless feeling of the old duck not able to make the migrating flight with the  flock but not quite knowing why, trying launching starts that do not really come off, with lonely reminiscent eye finds himself pond bound while the others take off and away. He paddles around disconsolately and seems to know he soon will be prey for the predator – “sharp-tooth, talon, ice, and snow

The Kingfisher

The old Greeks had a name for him

This spear fisher, found

upon a vantage point, a handy limb

over a stream. He’s “Halcyon”

Bird of the bright blue days

He clearly sees his prey below

The weather that we like always

When, with him, we a-fishing go.

We fish for pleasure when we can,

For him it is a sterner chore.

In this, the bird is unlike the man,

I think he does enjoy it more.

We’re fussy of the kind and also

of what we catch, and say,  Too small,”

But in his eyes They’ll do, and never get away.

(Ray’s note:) “Little Ray’s favorite bird with special accent and stress on the KINGfisher.” Mother, Joey, and I had picked our favorites, Redwing, Thrasher, and Scarlet Tanager in that order. Then Ray announced his choice.  {Ray and Florence (Fla) were talking about birds with grandsons Joe and Ray.   ed.}

Spring Storm

From over Appalachia’s crest,

a flood of warming upper skies

rolled in today from out the west.

Spring caught New England by surprise.

Warm winds slam the icy shore,

two ancient foes in quick attack

bright sabers flash,

the thunders roar

young March has broken winter’s back.


Signs of Spring 

Just what is Spring?

It could be almost anything.

Black water coursing in between Snow banks

or a bit of green patch on a field of white.

Day’s longer journey into night.

A country road churned into mud.

Willow branches turned to bud

Tiny shoots with overcoats –

a warming sun that tries to cook

some greening from a weedy stalk,

or folks outdoors to learn to walk

again, and learn first hand

the signs of new life in the land.

from the marsh a “peeper”

tries a practice “beep” on,

just for size.

Crocus spears

that break the ground

for an early look around.

April brings its warming rain,

robin’s chirp joins the refrain

and each lowly sprouting thing

bears final proof,

this now is Spring.

now if you please,

Springtime could be none of these.

She Builded Better 

Who taught this airy sylvan bride

To weave a nest at her first try?

To hold these little lives inside

Safe between the earth and sky?

We know His constant Loving Hand

Supporting worlds, the next and all

And knowing this we understand

The marking of the sparrow’s fall.

(Ray’s note) “Man has to learn his work by practice – a beaver makes his dam, a bird its nest as well, or nearly as well the first time it tries as when old and experienced.” –Darwin”

Second Spring Again 

Now comes the mystic time again

The longer days with warming rain,

when morning grass was newly lost

the aged look of bearded frost.

In keeping with this newer look

the ice succumbs to wooing brook

and both run full.

The word  is passed and distant heard

the twitterings of stirring things,

bird notes and soft gurglings

of “peepers” in the pond at night

where stars are mirrored in their light,

and dandelion’s golden eyes

peek out like stars

from grassy skies,

rejoicing in new sight and sound.

We marvel at the world we’ve found.

New life and new adventure near,

and though we’ve seen it every year

its newness wears a pristine sheen

to match its new and lustrous green.

We who know each passing phase,

now in our winter, welcome days

that sound the old familiar ring

it’s great to be alive at Spring.

“Rara Avis

We rode down to the park one day,

Demarest Lloyd – down Dartmouth way

and entering I knew I heard

the sharp, clear whistle of a bird,

piercing, shrill. I stopped, got out

to get a better look about

up and down, both left and right,

no bird at all came into sight.

And then again the notes came clear

and sounded louder, at my rear.

I turned to find approaching me

the cause of all this mystery –

the park custodian no less,

ending all surmise and guess.

He to one side was clearing wood

we had not seen him as he stood

well off the road. I heard him say

“We’ve opened up the park today.”

We’d passed the entrance at the fence.

that “shrilling” bird cost fifty cents.



I see two sparrows on the bough

and watch them as they swing and sway.

I do not know as I watch now

which will be first to fly away.

Had I the power I don’t know

just how I’d use it.  I can’t say

Would I bid the one to go

and tell the other, “Stay”.

Each parting has a special pain

Reserved, as I suppose,

more for the one that must remain

Than for the one who goes.

Narrow Land 

This reach of curving sand.

This principal beach.

This glacial land

ancient, new.

Blue sky above wide ocean view

I come to love thee tho lately,

true this narrow land.


Ice Breaker 


A bubbling White Throat’s

trilling song

can well suffice to urge

reluctant Spring along

and all the ice remaining,

will not last for long.


How much moisture for the seed,

how much sun do petals need,

who can measure Nature’s care

Before a flower scents the air.

A crocus cleaves the earth at dawn,

a hundred desert suns have gone,

and yet the cactus rose delays

its fullness yet for further days.

Love comes swiftly or comes slow,

all things need a time to grow.

The crocus fades, its hour run,

I’ll wait the rose through rain and sun.

Fancy Bather: For Fla 

At Assawampsett Reservoir

we met a friend from Baltimore

In black and orange togs arrayed,

down to the water’s edge he strayed,

nor heeded warning sign that said

“No Bathing Here,” but bobbed his head

and sank his feather’s orange flame

in cooling depth and then became

a shaking dervish sending spray

in silvery cascades every way

then stopped to preen each quill in place

and satisfied, he turned to face

the piney woods.

Then rising fast and full displayed his color flash

this oriole now fresh and cool

has no more need of this vast pool

Aloft he finds his airy path for us,

observers of his bath

he chirps derisive “au revoir”

for trespass in the reservoir.

(Ray’s note) Fla and I stopped for a moment at the entrance to the pumping station drive.  She spotted the oriole at his bath. I promised a poem. 

Dune Pines 

The wind clipped pines huddled in leeward dunes

trailing branches,

tracing lines in restless sand; and the tunes

the south wind brings

softer than the grey gulls wings,

respite from the winter knife

pruning all green struggling life.

Stunted trees that seem to know there is always time to grow,

lean against the wind and sigh there is always time to die.


(Ray’s note) The dwarf pine of the outer Cape described by Edwin May Teale, “North with the Spring.” which I have seen at Calhoon’s Hollow. Trees barely two feet tall, yet often fifteen to twenty years old.