Aug 292011

Beyond the serious torches of several cypress trees,
The dusty chirrup chirrup of militant cicadas,
The noble solitude of a solid lonely oak
Clattering his leaves at the sun over a bleached field
That balanced his high growth by spreading out,
Desert-like and hot at noon, and all afternoon
Until the evening made them equal sharers 
Of one shade, a blackness welled up from the root.
Beyond all this, beyond the blushing bluish grasses
And inner darkness of some evergreens out right,
I thought to see what seemed from the county road
A sweet hilarious patch of beech, tittering 
Among more sober rowans, and walked on
Farther than I had thought at first to do.
A forest darkness hustled, a coat atop my coat.
And so I came upon a late-flowering bush
Hidden deeper in among more doubtful darks,
Taller and elder, more august and up high.
It was way out of season, much too too late,
Yet full of hopeful blossom regardless
Of the season's clock; it kept its time its own--
Before the long sharpness of the frost that tapered
In shadows till midday, it held its whites aloft.

The flowering bush was a thing itself, alone,
Clotted with milky flowers as large as fists
As if to claim a space among the harder barks,
As a child will feel more brave at midnight,
Startled from a nightmare, to smile in the dark,
Or as a father walks twice round and round 
A house, for proof he really has a home.
The flowers asked for bees that would not come
To so shaded an interior, whose buzzed instincts
Could not guess to lead them there, too far
From the sugary buttercups and tigerlilies of the field;
The bees were busy with their honeys and their hives,
Too industrious to bother with this thing alone.
I wondered what had made the seed drop here
All those years ago when this bush first pipped.
Had some panicked thrush raced bewildered through the thick,
Or been carried dead by some hawk, and dropped?
How had the seed, which loved the sun, found 
Filtered light to endure, in the coolness all about?
Had some tree burned out and a dormant seed 
Been sprung, hot from its casing, into germination?
I'd known an odd old fellow who had not
Half begun to sing until he was half past eighty,
And his voice as awful as an old phonograph;
But still he sung, and mostly pleased himself of late,
And showed the lyric shavings of sharpened wit
To any too-curious; those words were his fists.

Above us all in the little clearing, the dull touch
Of a near cloud's inner-lighted immanence
Broadened into mystery over man and bush.
Something happened then, I did not know
How much until years afterward had stretched
My roots into some new dark flowing underneath.
But then, I did not know what I would become,
And, never having intended to be there once at all,
And having forgotten all about the patch of beech
That had first sent me off into the dark,
I shook my head at the flowering bush and took off.

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