dark nature poems "A mouthful of earth to remedy all." - Edward Thomas Gregg Glory Published by BLAST PRESS
To a Summer Hailstorm
I have been in existential hail Since Noah first began to bail; Hailstorm, shake me till my sadness goes; Strike me till new blood flows. Ravish mind with unfettered ice; Let cold be all of your advice. Thunder down and dent the car. Remind us of winter with a faithful scar. Strip skin to tatters with your kisses, Only, hailstorm, do not miss us. Tear the mailbox from off its stick; Freeze the healthy and the sick; Fill the chimney with cotton balls; Catch the walker in a squall. Rattle buckshot with heaven's force-- I am the target, you the source. Disappear and vanish in a drought To all but me, who keeps you caught Closer than my second thought. Magnificent blank in skies above me, Stoop to whisper that you love me; Like a naked cinder for your use Seize me, hailstorm and muse.
There's a dark deep down in ordinary things Resists our bringing them into view, Or else in bringing them what light we bring, As if to ask the question 'Who are you?' I do not know what answer I would make Being myself, and, so, invisible-- Although I know when I give or when I take, Outfitting my days as I best am able. There's a dark deep down in ordinary things Resists us, the way a mirror pushes Until we're left again with things as things, Alone among our daylit doubts and guesses. I am one keeps to himself, and although I do, I do not keep the dark alone.
Wintering by the Atlantic
As snow and snow will in snowing meet, What slid down danced into a wild sleet And randomly clung, each to each, Resisting ocean's disassembling touch That undoes the individual who falls And in that fall returns to ocean's all. There was nothing there in what was of sky, No help of light to help say why, Only usurpation's snow-deadened hiss That ended each self-formed singleness Distilled from upper vagueness and the cold. They did not fall because they had been told. They fell because there was nothing else to do But fall, and this the ocean knew.
In a Manger
It lay self-entangled, curled as ramshorns, -And pushed the belly into being mother-- Who, to be herself, had first to the Other,-- Which looked as if it didn't want being born. Its sideways was more, and worse, than backwards. It had to be sawn out to be itself a lamb, Startle the clover and bleat "I am." The bowie knife came handy without a word. A tense scarlet torn sort of giving-in, A clattering shape cauled on scattered straw, Ungainly upright legs besides the ewe's, Shook me wet and bellowed out of pain. What had come too soon would need a mother's milk. I pulled all night through wetness with raw silk.
The Paper Mill
I look into the portions of my thought, cold and dull. Wheel in wheel unsettles the quiet mill asleep And puts an uneasy harness on all I feel. The river like a clock runs fast and deep. Soon there will be paper, deep and white. Wet slush from the chute, heaps of pulp and dust, Driven by the living water to be a blank in sight. A haaing gear gives my cheek a buss. I pole a belt to the drive shaft, and all begins-- Horses in wheels turn, turn in their dreams; Floorboards shake with purpose, dark and dim. The razor nibs of the saw-wheel start a seam. I weep, weep for sleep and do as I must. I look into the cold dull portions of my thought.
A Blue Perhaps
The provident power of hurt and harm The provenance of an eye ingathers, (Its certain witness of a moment's charm That lightly changes a life forever), Bluely demonstrates in this morning glory That measures us, our smallness and our fear, With too blue an eye to ever bear Until a touch of night shuts its story. Then we dream, with a certain sort of blue rue, And wonder in sleep's deep wanderment If the sun will show us what to do Or if dreaming can tell us what we meant. An eye perhaps has followed us all day through, But we do not know the eye's intent.
Having grown long words in fieldgrass daylong, I stepped into a wooded brook to dip Ink-worded hands into the snickering quips Offered up by the silverquick stream; I wondered just what the water had meant to mean, Whose loose stones insist the water into song. Many times I had lost what footing I had felt, Suddenly cried out, or laughed in despair, By hard wet things beneath thrown over, Raw agony raised to the eloquence of a welt; And, with water in my mouth, I'd often remarked The sincerer operations of the lark, Spilling a slippery noise above taciturn rocks That break bones and never forget.
Three dark junipers shadow where time stood, Representative of my brothers and Myself, from earth and water grown to good Plain wood on the township's public land. Huddled under them by the neighboring pond Fireworks cracked to color July the Fourth; We then, as I now, beside the dawn-like mud Stood every year we'd been on earth, Three stranger brothers our divided folks Reaped as seedlings from the brick adoption house Into a home too shy and shamed for such a name. Now torn away ourselves to spouses And lives, from rooted things by time unyolked, I stand between the trees without a name.
I wake in dark. The air itself seems stained. The dark appears a darkness self-sustained By whatever of darkness must remain Even at whitest noon. But this is not noon. This is the dark without a shadow, without a moon; A dark that won't stay shut in rooms; One that follows even the ripest mood And rots there, and will not give way to good. This is the dark wolves build in woods Who have no hands and whose teeth are sure. This is the black that cancels the cure; This the emptiest hour and the deepest hurt. This lies behind eyes and bottoms every heart. This it is that makes a faster beating start.
His dusty body goes backwards to be dust. On dust more frictionless than ice A frantic slipping ant will make us wince To see a crucible mind no more than claw; A mind that harbors no dark thought to appall But shapes his perpetual falling wall. He does not jump for justice or to be just. Summer's first rain-drop rolls in dust a world Whose wet invites all wetness hints of growth (Such a world may we recognize in drought). Silent and dry, he emerges like a roar And makes the molten tension burst, And drowns himself with water, nothing more. And a something unrepeatable is learned.
The Willow Bond
"Let's have a game of truth or dare," she said. She snapped a longly hanging willow-wand. We shared the field with no one but ourselves And the willow that knew us from the play of years That fountained alone and yellow in the field. Winter's tears to April dew had yielded. "The game is played by our both being blind Until the willow tells true where true love abides." A hint of mischief's smile filled my closing look. She offered an antennae-end; I felt and took. "A willow wand between two lovers' hands Communicates the tension of love's bond." The switch, whip-supple, wetly flailed, Live as a shedding snake held head and tail. I felt, where dew-bewildered life had broken off, A sad pull; something, then, lent something soft To our springtime game of gain and loss. The wand had left a distance for us to cross And reared between us a budded arch Forever flowerless as frozen March. "My question is: Will you love me all your life?" "What you mean is: Will we be man and wife?" I broke into a laughter I did not understand. The willow sent it on to her own blind hand. Perhaps this willow, being the duticle thing it is, Adds a playful pulse to those it passes. Something about the way the time compressed, Or how the intercessor willow hissed, Misgave me to give the game my heart;-- And that too went out along the drying bark. What we are, I thought, we are by accident. What happens makes us bend as we are bent. I kept eyes open now, sure that hers were shut. A glimmer or a tremor of I knew not what Laid a furrow clear across her forehead, As when question answers question as we'd feared And not as we had hoped. The bond, the branch, snapped Sudden as two children's hands can clap.
The Abandoned Tower
We drove almost to the mountain-top, And had no wish leave it when we stopped; No wish to leave the dew-enhanced, dew-christened air That pleasured the lungs like a circus scare When the sure trapeze for once escapes talced fingers And the mind on sudden emptiness must linger That had thought to catch a glittered body's twirl. The thinness of the atmosphere made dull The closing click of doors when we stood A moment out of the car and out-of-doors. Sunset took the higher half of woods And the tin toy of the Ranger Tower And showed us how a second Troy would burn. We smiled to see just what we understood As we stood together without a word, Without the cluttered need to speak and yearn That had made our road-trip Cassandra and the King. The library had malformed our limbs To wood, as much as books are wood, by sitting still To read. We were over-ready to try a climb Or try our no-words silence or try anything To stretch out the long day of many knots Our deep need to know had dearly bought. The road swirled up away from feet at once Round the mountain-top as round an ice-cream cone; The road was rock and mist, the bones of clouds, Red tatters gone redly under sky's west rim, Like lashes of an agitated eye grown dim. We watched small spots of dark swell and bud And swarm up after us all the way until At the last powerline we were caught In a fatal undertow like a single thought.-- We walked on colder, with dark-adjusted eyes, Still rounding toward the top. Things in nature Cried out their alphabet of names, but none Were ours, or reflected back any name we knew. Our silence stretched between us like a clue. Footsteps added footnotes one by one Until we had left lower for higher ground for sure. The tower sprang into the interrupted skies. Spray paint through a lettered grid of spaces Had tiered the artifact with conflicted texts. We smiled once again to see nature vexed; To touch where some derelict human trace is. We grinned, too short of breath this time for speech; We would have said a word or two this time, For comfort's or for habit's sake, among pines Where, in counterfeit of clouds, we saw our breaths Touch. But we were wordless and rib-sore, Out of perspective in a piney bowl Rushing up around us like a garden wall That aimed to keep in both flesh and soul Within the clear-burned stone which grayly bore The bolted tower that rose without a door. We might as well have been inside a kettle With the tower for a witch's ladle For everything additional that we could see. We scanned the structure for defects, but hurriedly. What with the talus and its getting late We knew we didn't have the time we had. Still we gripped the rungs; they poured a cold Beyond experience under our skins. They were put here for a purpose, as a gate Is put- to propose a boundary and suggest A sort of going through. Of course, the jest Is that the gate can't tell who's going out or in. And we ourselves can't be sure of what we take With us, in a purpose we call ours. The sky began to stipple with young stars. Each strut galvanized chilled hand to sweat, So that we had to pull rolled sleeves over Each rung, and get what grip that could make To hoist ourselves a little more above. Our collars had been thumbed up since we'd begun; Our inch-thick sweaters had been left to hang Like exhausted swimmers over library chairs. Stars jarred and jumped --no, that was our eyes-- We took two deep sucks in to every one That before our sojourn had satisfied. What mist was in us at once would seize Into ice spider-webs instantly as breath. I hung halfway up a minute and heard The charm of deadened church-bells in her tread, Ringing on the upward steel as cold as death. I looked around afloat in the tops of trees Dizzy as masts and yardarms in a racing sea. Night had come upon all things everywhere. The trees put on their cassocks black and bare, But refused to give a redemptive air. Trees, gathered for prayers, stood devout. The tower was all exposed angles and no lee. She was where I couldn't quite make out-- Loudly made the platform on hands and knees. Something of ice came down in shards. A keening wind, whetted almost to urging, Made me wonder darkly at the wooded ring; The mountain leaned to windward And snatched my shirt to tell me "Come and see..." With a knowing note of something up a sleeve. But this was more than would fit what I believe, More sleeve and deeper than what I knew of me. "You should see it up here, you really should. Come up, Kerry, and hold me by the shoulders. The world's as small and sharp as in a mirror. If you shout down the mountain, you can hear Echoes carry your own voice back, but clearer." As if Earth were one to put our feelings to Who never once told us what to do.
A Death in Woods
I kept as solitary as a wood alone And often walked till all I knew dwindled to rumor Talked from another country in a half-heard-of humor. When death gave me up, I could keep the bones. Today, having at last journeyed past myself, I looked into a little wayside brook Which, by caring nothing, all my nothing took. I left a husk to worry a rocky shelf.
One year all year I kept the pond for mirror, And tasked water in place of one that broke And so had run out of looking luck. The pond re-made me foot to head,- and, nearer, Showed my face as something like, no clearer. Flat stones I scalped across what shone for song Laughed at my distorted self the summer long. Then one day in the polished lead of water I saw what my broken mirror showed too often: fear Of eyes in eyes, a black kept-back glance Desperate for breakage like a last chance To be itself something more than a moment's stare. When autumn came, and I dared again look down, A reluctant pond as rough as hands hid my face For days, but not the sense of my disgrace. Leaves above my pallid blur mocked me with a crown. Winter's stintless nights full of wishes as a star Drew ice across my mirror in a frozen sheet Obscure and cold, and chilled a glance that Knew me once, and I held back a shiver. When my breath came back to breathing more at ease-- When pond had been blanched ice long enough-- I thought how roots go down, fathomless and tough To stretch what stark water offers into trees. Then I looked again, with midnight thoughts, At the rowans surrounding.- And then beyond all thought, Far into the night, and past night to coming dawn.-- I looked into my mirror and hoped Spring again Would wake it as full of fears as it had been.
Would Not Have
On an uneven roof comes midsummer's chore To clear the flue that had all winter roared-- A core of darkness with a throat of fire Soaring to a speech of sparks that suspires-- White-hot fleets into a world of frost, A second set of constellations we may cross. I cleaned with broom and water, a working witch Fouled by the labor black as a sewer ditch, Like pulling up a fountain by its roots That has no cleaner wet than velvet soot; Every swish and lunge bade me be a bear Until an evening's scrub would wash me clear. I heard a cry like a baby's squeak. A bat. Something in me that could not speak, But saw two eyes like spider's eyes to scare, Gave the thought: I would not have him here. Six million years had put him in his cave. I sought to sweep him with the broom I waved. We were too much strangers for the bat to fear Untoward intentions in my coming near; Our worlds were not close enough to make us foes; (Hate's a thing of nearness as things go.) I would not have him there, and thought to undo him With a startlement of fire out of season. So I built a fire to double summer, Stood by the heat-wavered flue, heard it hum, And waited like a cat for what would come. In a laugh of wings, in a ring of fire, What I saw fly out was neither foul nor fair But a living creature of the living air. (Face to face, my face was larger.) I would not have.... I knew I did not want Such rapid flapping in my fireside thoughts. When I look to flame, I demand to dream Upon flame's own ever-changing theme; Seeing how it prefigures in earnest night The glare of summer, the stars' own light. Because altered fire refused to move him, I called him a black clot devoid of reason. I used a poison. (I would not have him there.) Congealing and winging in the summer air-- He fell out indefinite as a spill of inks Dark enough to make me think.
A Wood to Sing Through
Our daily catbird in the parking lot, Half-unknowing his danger where he stood, Sang out eyes-shut atop a cinder block. A blue abandoned Cougar, its purr removed, (Haunted all last night by a pregnant stray Hunkering into home in her birthing mood) Had a dead crow's feathers like an exploded toy Puffed from under a moveless wheel hoved tight, Feeding what must come, at most, in a day. Obliquely by her belly kept from being quite upright, In cotton fog half-obscuring our shared world, The mottled cat sat motionless on one stripe. The catbird's territory song searched vacant grounds That should have had a wood to sing through, Not learned to be inured to all our sounds. I wondered how I'd feel with the catbird shooed, Mother-cat nursing uncurled by the curb, Patched kittens purling dust just where he flew. Silent in the silence man-made things disturb, The cat, too quick for me to see, pounced once,-- And the catbird, leapt to asphalt eaves, sang on.
A Bronze Creeper
I had come too long down my own way now To trouble with what signs dreamed appearing: The simple-minded purpose of an arrow An impertinence of trivial clarity Pointed only to waves of vines that drowned it, Getting more vine-entangled the more I walked-- Nature's green indifference a match to man's. Mourning doves cooed the midday shadows soft. I left all plans behind me and dropped intent Back with those signs, and leaned my father's valise Initialed in cursive gold against the last. I would pick it up when I returned to reasons, Sagging in voluptuous vines with a leather sigh. Mourning doves cooed the gathering shadows soft Under wavery arms of patchwork sycamores Deep in the broken bounty of the wood Where no sand-path of man or dog had stepped To interrupt the easy gloom of leaves; Indian Pipe and a fungus stump gave A heavy odor the nose ignored. The mockingbird with enviable ear Talked to all his neighbors in their own voice, As if by their sharing some outward wail They shared some single mystery at source. Half a sycamore had blown down dry Like a thrown blade-switch in an electric storm; Vines evinced no interest in its half-dead form, But rode the living half half-way high. There were whirlpools of vines in those woods, Shunted hard aside all the time I walked them. A bronze creeper takes its own time in ascent, Using a tree's own strength against it, Snake-slow up to the tree's own lofty end, Like cloud gone everywhere or like climbing fire; But more I think like fire than cloud Or perhaps a fiery cloud come down To threaten all that grew up from ground. The wires that fuse back from its leaves Tighten years against the tree-spine in a grip To shadow-out leaves that block the creeper's light. A grip once light as feathers, lighter.-- Yet shows the trick of closing tighter, Hand over hand, or leaf over leaf More properly, it makes its imagined height Match the trunk's achievement grown up right. They share a center that discernment sees. But the outline, like a helix spun, begins To burr and blur like an old old man Who can't hold even his own old name in mind, Until all the limbs lay overtaken By a wilder interposing dark of green That turns dry birdsnests out to ground Or catches in an interlace of palms Small-nippled nuts before the autumn-fall Drops them to the danger of maturing. How many years had I grown outbound to here? I hear my own father laugh and shake his head At nothing I had thought, or at something So far back it was plain invisible to me. Well, now perhaps I can sense the why: We had been let drop to grow, for reasons not Our own- chance, or even evil, occurrence With nothing of our own doing in it. We're left with nothing else to do but grow; What better purpose has a laugh than sensing that? Among a friendly roundelay of fieldgrass, A sycamore has its life-plan laid out From the first frond of its setting forth, Unaware of how its reeled-in corkscrew Waits to over-awe and overshadow all. The grasses murmur nothing all day but sun. Nor does the sycamore seem to posit How its holding out beneath that summer sun Provides just the slip of shade the creeper In all its years of greenly slithering Has learned to need. Once I came upon a giant Sycamore sequestered in a neck of wood Crowded as town, so hazed-over with bronze Filaments root to crown, it seemed on fire-- The triumphal creeper self-inwound above Even the crown of the vine-engulfed tree. All the trees surrounding were backed away As their live skirts might catch- but the effect Was only the halo-emptiness of life The dead tree had claimed in adoration of sun, The slow outward longing of love's eternal Intertwine of warmness and warmed being. Here was a love affair too cruel to countenance One side all terribly requited want, The other too reserved to ever push, And that was another story out of life. I knew down in that those who would not stand Oftimes retained the power of hands And, seeming weak as lace, still could strangle. This courtship would have no day in court; A long struggle, and a single end.-- The corpse had a solemness, I'll give it that, The way a bonfire dies down to ashes And obedience. But it had no dignity, Nothing of itself amid the choke and flame. Bole and limbs still held themselves, riddled through With spiny roots that cared nothing but to use. A squirrel confused the leaves for a desperate hour And then chewed clear. The creeper had no use For birds, lightest true climbers of the wood, And to their coming down proffered a net. The creeper was everywhere and was everything. We do not know our purpose, but onward creep As a mood may creep day to day on fire Behind our walls, knowing nothing but to creep. These flamy bronzes too, were too desperate Of their own old man's hairy grip and perch To hazard seed beyond their flame in flowering; What flowers came of that flame showed too poor And too few to drop the match-head seeds. New life must only smolder here this season, However wary the trees of renewing smokes, Thrown scarves to scar and catch the throat, And envelope a head made blind to its own good. The creeper, for all its bronze-fire threat, Had no enemy but itself, --heh, -- And spent its life in extending tendrils Of itself, all green willfulness and dare Hurling its shapeless metaphor outbound To some self-supporting taproot, to be That tree, that life, if but for a time-- Stretching and warping its bare being To another's bones, the way any son Inherits his father's laugh, and in time Has his humor, right down to the last laugh.
Bullets 'oft gang awry' When we squint with lying eye At the target we had thought To level with a shot; Somewhere along the barrel Our curving expectation falls And what is becomes a part Of what we hope to shoot, Or perhaps an intervening wind Has changed beginning and the end. The future always lies Somewhere in the 'is,' Or so the marksman's maxim goes Hunkered in a bush of rose. The future always lies Somewhere in the 'is' Our eyes are scouting now; Hope and here intermix somehow, Nor get pulled apart Unless our killing art Delivers to the shaping thought The dead end we had sought. The philosopher with his carcass Dispenses with his guesses - What would be now is, And this is happiness. Nor does he as he eats inquire "What if I had not fired...." Or if a speck of dust had interposed Between his sightline and his nose. All the dedication of his thought Goes to digestion of what he's brought From the wild field, as able, To his domesticated table. Not until quick hunger comes again Will his thoughts curve and turn To all the 'Ifs' of chance That can cancel out his choice And send aim or word awry In the hunted day.
The dilemma of doing's to 'have done,' And by choosing from Many be left with One. Addition's chief mischief is dubbed a sum; The unwary mistake it for a total solution. The wise contend that all is confusion, Or at best a formal intuition. To act presumes belief, or so I'm told, And am pointed onward, backward, or upward to God, (And reminded not to mind the length of the odds). The less done the better is my subtractive reaction. I'm not quite afraid to feel quite forsaken, (Except that, of course, I might be mistaken). One thought is left me, with which I'd begun: "The dilemma of doing's to 'have done.'"
Good and its Opposite
There's a rhyme at the joint point of knowing. There's a place, a way of saying, that clearly makes "Good" and it opposite resonate, and even ring The way a glass cries out when struck-- Sharing its invisible essence like a singer. Glasses, brim to abyss, display a range Of interchanging tones to the ringer Who bangs the magnanimous Strange. Does a sip sip the Good, or a sip sip the Bad? Either way the song sways, half-empty, half-full. The opposite of Good's not Bad, but Odd, whose disobedient music's beautiful. What words can we sing, for the Good, for the Odd, That will make them ring out, spoon-struck, like God?
The Mental Garden
A rambling meadow scenery Rank with irrigated greenery, Showed a semi-sawed-off double dozen Of saplings stretched since Spring, some Waist-high to heaven, that autumn's Clear-cut mowing would take care of (Not much of disordered growth Survives the park's enforced swath). Nature's mistakes seed a scene With a richer oddness than she means. Plants that harbour high ambitions Need time and shade for such positions. Ignore me long enough, and I might Just get to be something; kids grow at night. Adults enlarge by thinking through (So I've heard said, and think it true). A modest eraser can undo A millennium's gain by rubbing through. I bite my new ones down to wood And trust to cross-outs, understood Arrows, and wild whole-page insertions. Erasure's just too much exertion And never pays for the lost word That down the line might have proved good. Human education is a crop Best harvested without a lop. Shapely shape the upward trees By what mind kens, and heart perceives. The grandest but add leaf to leaf To make their roundness right-- Just so the round of human life Requires a necessary height.
In the right angle of a fence Definitions first commence To lock us into making sense. By running round and round a thing With a tape measure for a string We hobble it to give us wings. Its only from our having tried To live without a why inside, Or, like a mystic pray tongue-tied, That we have ever given thought To holding in what we have got To see what we've done without.
Chain Chain Chain
Once upon a time, I had slightly Bruised my fingerend in tying Unneedful knots too brutally. The knots were sonnets, gracefully Losing bout by bout in rhyming, Despite my careful scratching That annulled no spot of itching. I had not thought that writing Was so much like fighting Or two witches bitching So under-epidermally. I stayed at it relentlessly Tying tying tying Every Musing, Bruising Blossom stylistically. The daisy- Chain was for no one particularly (Or perhaps I am lying) You know how things get tangly When we practice firstly.... The lengthening String of words got too stringy And self-involved in singing That should have taken flight more singly By whistling Unconcernedly And not too self-consciously, The way A clumsy Kite, so sprightly Can climb all day By dodging More effortful breezes, never too longly Lodging, Never aloft too lingeringly Until the crisis of a knot too thoughtfully Unthoughtful cripples the so skyey Thingy Into a crooked tree.
A clouded day in a warm week Is little, in a whole month a week Of rain, sans weekends, is OK; A covered month of storm and soak Is welcome in a year of weather That puts sunburns and hurricanes together. So when an inner barometer Flails from hails and rain to shine and sweeter And darkly back again To damnably, darkly fail.... whatever.
You are the thing I love, no lie. You have given me despair. I don't know how, I don't know why, But my faith has come from there. I key my verse on my hearse's side: "All our knowing burns down to 'Why?'" -Nor give a fuck about my verses' pride That they may live, and I must die.
i. She A slippery sense of mental decay sharpens the knives and the wits of the wives In drawers long locked away. The sunset casts a spurious look to calm the unmentionable ache in my unmentionable place With a Hallmark sort of trick. But the hidden hurt must out; the curse must make its choice, match inner and outer voice, And let the quiet heart once shout. ii. He Why are you so quiet? What have I done? Silence mounts the table urgent as a gun. All night we've argued mazes and all night the night before: We see ourselves in the window glazing dart glances at the door. You'd glad be shut of me-- I'll be quit of you, I swear-- And in the going horse of voice and voice we bed each other on a dare.
I had stopped myself at noon, amused On an abandoned track that moved Through a wood no longer used, Through waste acres of a watershed Cloven by a regular runoff where Clarity was wildered by wild briars. Until a hidden water's hissing Showed that something else was missing, One never would have wondered That anything there had harkened At the juncture where briars darkened As if by deepness of the angle At the midmost of their tangle. Something moved beneath the plane Where the interrupted track regains The far oasis of the wood, Something going crossways where I stood, Crossways to my onward motion. I stood without a blessed notion. At the very precipice I paused, And waited to see if what had caused Me to arrive there once Would cause me to hurry further on. I listened to what I could not see, Water in the dirt continuously Spattering against such hazards As its pattering traversed. I spied the farther side, which seemed Indifferently like where I was indeed, A wood moving on to wood, A leafy dark neither bad nor good. A tree, once proud upon its ridge, Lay translated into a bridge At my left, and the track repeated Its pattern as it retreated Past the tree's, an oak's, fallen crown Stripped to wires on the farther ground. I put my foot, and it seemed To hold upon a mossy cloud With just a warning creak or two That subsided like morning dew. Another step, another crack And I was airbourne along my track, And the whispered waters loudened To an almost-roar unshrouded. This was something, then, a place Unusual in the closed-in space That gives woods a closet feel Of uncomfort, of bodies real But mentally disposed of, The way we take our clothes off And refuse to see them wrinkle Any longer as real people. Had the slope been undermined, Had the tree been dealt an ill-timed Blow by lightning an age before My feet had brought me to this shore? Whatever the history, I took A naturalist's close firsthand look At the detail that feeds the mind When mind's to thinking first inclined And all the world's a wonder As perpetual as thunder. There's an art, a large art, of course, Comprehended in just looking close. The moss had browned to gold, it seemed Unfed by any mist or stream Despite the pounding of the sound That made a pulsing all around Centered in my ears. Still firm,-- So then, just a dry summer's harm, No more, curable by summer storm Soaking live roots back to greenness, The dieback of a season's meanness. An ant with an aphid hat hurried by Anxious of her fresh supply. Another step, another, and hushed Came the crumble where foot had crushed The intradose of a termite arch (Found more often in a fallen larch); A colony of teeth in such bone-hard wood! Whether bored, or because they could, I could not know, and understood That even in a thing so small I myself could not measure all By limits of my comprehension. But now, done with desecration, (Or, more optimistically, Aeration of the tree) They left to found another nation With colonists from this way-station Who pack up their idea of home And take it with them where they roam. And now the whole tree was hollow, And houseless hoot owls inward followed. Also into this interesting Emptiness, came bees without a sting, Carpenter bees who hustled and tore Termite tunnels to a larger bore For their solitary parlors Conveniently near both briars And water. Who'd've thought there'd be So much of life in so dead a tree? I had gone down upon my knees In my investigation, pleased To spend my day in something other Than myself. I wondered whether, As I stood again on what stood No more, if I should include What was father on out there Now I had come thus far to stare; My thoughts surrounded me like fog In the middle of the ruined log, As unsteady of my footing there As unsure of my going.... Where? I peered a step just past my place And conjectured farther on a pace; The path behind was twice the gauge As the dwindled path on the next stage. It seemed that most upon this track Had come this far to double back. Well, I never have had more regard For that stepper Kiekegaard Than for my other walkers in the wood, Intending to walk on as they should, Instead walking only as they do. I kicked a little nothing from my shoe And made my balance come and go, Unsteady and unstable how to go, Uncertain and unsure how to know, Kicked a something from my other shoe, And in the end continued onward, too, As few had chosen here to do, As all who are not only bones may do. To keep unlost, as doubt to doubt You wander roundabout your route, Simply do not doubt your doubt.
The town blind behind, blind woods ahead, And a whitened graveyard here. I stood alone with my luminous dread In the dying of the year. From the midnight hill I'd seen below Huddled graves, yet each alone. And here and there in the hollow, low, A dent in snow without a stone. Poplars dropped odd shadows, the moon Dropped a mood. Whatever talk may tell In me had talked-out too soon. I brushed a small glow from where it fell. The stony concentration of a face Shone angel no longer- here the snow Wears his worn-out years of grace To the blankness of his soul. His name's gone out like shopfront lights, His verse survives by guesses. What had brought me here was what night Had done with my distress. I walked out from being And walked to having been; Living was only seeing, Death's just having seen. The bell was black and the time that tolled Was an absence in my heart. Into those bleak letter-gaps, I had rolled For all my part.
Wintering by the Atlantic
A midnight ocean and a stippled snow Greyly perceived from a rail I know Shared the grainy dark of here and nearer. What water was above me seemed uncertainer. What rolled in mist below rolled solider. As snow and snow will in snowing meet, What slid down danced into a wild sleet And randomly clung, each to each, Resisting ocean's disassembling touch That undoes the individual who falls And in that fall returns to ocean's all. I could not tell just what my seeing meant Nor how long soundless darkness had been lent; There was nothing there in what was of sky, No help of light to help say why, Only usurpation's snow-deadened hiss That ended each self-formed singleness Distilled from upper vagueness and the cold. They did not fall because they had been told. They fell because there was nothing else to do But fall, and this the ocean knew.
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.
A Winter Eden
A soft possible snow had descended And let the moon climb down from the sky. The world lay in whiteness without witness or end. Snow lay on the tree-limbs like ladder-rungs rounded And softened my cold need for why. Not a blank footstep, not a note of sound Intruded on the marvelous sight. All creatures, all creation slept like the ground, As though no other dark did our dark surround. A winter Eden and a winter night. And then I thought: It is as if some other than The snow had snowed down or in, Coldly immune to storm or reason. Each hour I held that thought held only harm. I searched the moon-snow transfigured farm. The fallen night I found, I found no ease in.
Wet Weather Promise
Breathing close, I notice our airs Have lately come as close to tears As any injured feeling bears A human made alone by fear. Already this mist's been here three days, Immune to our creator's rays; Where it came from it did not say. It has not gone again today. Heaviness lingers on every bush, Limned in weak whiteness near as touch; All that moves, moves only to hush. And, as I said, it makes my breathing close. Once I was unsure of whether Eyes and earth could share a weather, Despite our eons so close together; Now I know, I should feel it better.
A milkweed has it in it to become Something, and challenges the field With myriad pods above the other stalks, And then there's the whiteness, all that whiteness, Clumped and disparate with the wind slow, A slow diaspora that struggles mostly Into our reservoir just there, or plants its flag In the same field that served as home. There's that in us as well that never waits, That wants out,- and gets out too,- past fields It blows out onward always in the mind, Same as the milkweed taken root and risen To spurn its soil, and dies in seeding out its thought; Just so, our light cares, light temptations Lift out and abandon us, and we wish it so. Some other valley's always more our sort, Some other sunset igniting through the gorse. Hand me that dead milkweed stem you've Yanked up there- thanks. See how the lips Have gone to beaks with vomiting dreams All day long and under the August sun? Here's one deep-in hasn't the heart for escape, For leaving the only home its ever known; No matter if that home is dead or soon to die, Home is home. There's a reach in the design, Wispy almost-nothing pulled to this seed Soft as a moth, perfect for an escape Once the pod's blown out, hardened to scrap-- Necessary for these feathers to move on Into the endless. Rise after rise Lies past this embankment of peaches, straight on To the sea out somewhere, toward the Pacific perhaps To judge by the wind. Never thought of it, Although I suppose we all crawled from there, But that's one home not hardened yet, Not the sea, not yet, or if it had, Something else has troubled it back to life.
The Compass Rose
I ride the night-yard's rose bush like a saddle, Burning to be nearer what shines afar, And visit all the dreaming stars for marvel, My rose and I still waking where we are. All below is lost, I believe in what's above. Unburied from sleep, I and my heart arose-- As full of feeling as empty of self, they say. But knowing myself as I know my yard and rose, I say, "Losing finds all again; there is a way." Twenty years about both house and bush I've spent; Twenty years dreaming to the rose-soft summit Where the sun arises a rose and sets a rose. Having gone round in love, I return to love; I wake to see where my rose-dreaming goes. My compass rose is cunning, her roots are deep. I dream the dream I need when I dream of sleep. The self is buried, and its roots are mossed. Roots are what come of being lost.
This quick collection saved my life.
June 11th – June 28th 2001