Robert Frost's "good neighbor" in Vermont not only builds fences, he writes poems--and writes them well.
After a distinguished 50-plus year career as a New Jersey lawyer and public servant, Wiley turned to poetry to celebrate memories of long-vanished family (and folkways), city life and--most lyrically--the pleasures of summer life in the Vermont countryside on the shores of Lake Champlain, the environs of beautiful Hero Island. Using simple language to evoke the simplicity of daily life, he follows the tradition of former Vermont Poet Laureate Frost, who mastered the art of speaking plainly of plain things. Unlikely subjects--sawing wood in "Crosscut Dancing," where "Two-man cutting is a toe and heel dance / a no-touch dance where the feet don't move"; or "The Screens on Bayview's Front Porch" that "don't know what they've let in or out"--rollick in Gilbert and Sullivan patter meter before calming into a nostalgic evocation of summer twilights when "laughter from the porch rocking chairs" marks the cocktail hour. Gifted with precise language (perhaps honed by his legal career) and a keen eye, Wiley betrays a romantic soul that relishes the moon presiding over "glistening silence" in "Center Moon," or the beauty of yard tools (shovel, axe, rake, all lovingly catalogued). An ironic eye makes light of the little aches of aging in "To My Knees," as he instructs them in proper behavior, which means no knocking or bending in sequence when walking--and, of course: "don't try bending backward." Losing his sense of smell--"you learn to value what you lose"--turns into a meditation in "Dying in Pieces Is Not All Bad." The lovely image of a hummingbird's tiny feet "tucked back at the ankle / wings beating in a blurr" closes this collection of delightful pieces by a poet who knows that it's never too late to find expression in poetry--even though, as he says, "you wonder why it didn't last longer."
Travel to Hero Island (it's real) by book or road for a relaxing visit with a poet new to letters, but not to life.