Where have we gone,
and what have we taken?
What oaths are honored,
what promise forsaken?
These skies are clear,
as all skies once were,
these fish are leaping,
these waters are pure.
So where have we gone
and what was the cost?
For all that we’ve gained,
how much have we lost?
The flags of summer have all flown
And now are strewn about my home;
Begonias lay, all drabs and grays,
Suffering in degrading ways.
Some subtle portal called my own
Through which the sunshine stabbed and played
Is rayless, dark, with doom foretold
Of slush and sleet and snow and cold.
The season slips towards decline
With brakes stuttering in the slide;
Screeching shrilly, joy-dead drunks
Hunker down and enjoy the ride.
Yet there are roots and dreaming trunks
Patiently waiting to revive.
I have known the drenching heat
Deep in clay-rich soil’s cracks
And fissures, the squeaking mice
Starving in their fallow fields, the bald-head
Vultures circling desiccated streambeds
To feast on bloated, popping bluegill.
I have known the quoggy springs,
The hungry mud gobbling boots,
And trees uprooted, swept away,
The world a river, the end downstream,
And all, all adrift in the swell
Atop the A-frame cabin with the rough, ruddy shingles
A great blue heron sits, wings tucked away, beak swiveling
To regard the still waters of the pond. The bullfrogs call
For mates, the dragonflies buzz and flit. Bass lounge in the murky waters,
Waiting for anything to drift their way,
And mink sleep secure in their sandy warrens.
In the office building, halfway across the world,
a family of kangaroo mice huddle together in a hole
gnawed into a mess of wiring and metal fiber.
As strange as it may seem,
All is natural.
The viper has pride in his venom
The lioness admires her claws
The hawk shrieks delight as she’s diving;
In silence we dwell on our flaws.
The bee knows his lot is to gather
The fox sees the world as a game
The vulture is cruel but needed;
In darkness we’ve all lost our aim.
The flower brightens the furrows
The goldfinch sweetens the air
The spiders are spinning quite softly;
In stillness we dream
if we dare.
As I lay beneath the willows
With only rigid roots for pillows
My lazing eyes draw focus on
The branches drifting in the breeze –
And how the Sun’s shining spears
Are cut to darkling patterned tears
That fall upon me and permit
My slumberous eyes to restful ease.
Then grows my spirit, sweetly dreaming,
Of all the world shrunk downward, seeming
Small and sure and swiftly beating
As the hearts of lovers meeting;
I see the bulky, boisterous bear
With her cubs in cozy lair,
And hear the bird-song’s rolling call
As they wheel about the air.
Ah, on those peaks I leave my head,
And feeling southward, dare to tread
Crossing lakes with steady strides,
Then dip my hands in western tides.
Ah, that water’s warmth has certain charms,
So on that beach I leave my arms.
Then done with sight, done with sound,
And with little left to gift the ground
I stand and feel the saplings blowing
Up against my ticklish toes.
There I stand, my spirit flowing,
Down into the deep earth going,
Mingling with the roots and knowing
That I am one with all things growing.
The lively woods are lonesome
with the creaking of the trees
as swiftly sifting snowfall
gathers ‘round my bundled knees.
I’m crouching by a maple
sanded silver by the snows,
My hands and eyes ache numbly
as the wind slips through my clothes.
The chipmunks crash and clatter
with a clamor twice their size,
but this is mere distraction
and they do not draw my eyes.
The briars set to riot
now I’m watchful for a kill,
and through the nested nettles
swishing tails and antlers mill-
They herd at half a dozen
and their breath beats at the air
And though it is an easy shot
I leave them grazing there.
My hands scratch clay-rich dirt
As did my father’s, and his, and his;
With roughshod nails on leather fingers,
Long but without slenderness
Made solid by the task.
Those hands hefted these same loads,
Bore the seeds of past promise,
(These planted shells have always grown)
Pushed the same heavy plows and
Tamed the land with selfsame toil;
But on the earth lusts for our labor,
With gruesome gulps she
Grows these fields.
I put aside these cloying thoughts
And scratch another seed in.
Mild meadows hold her clutch;
small beak searching out the brush
as grass bends low by crafty touch.
She spies the eyes burning bright;
but valiant wings dare no flight
she flees the nest, chirping fright.
Her stilted legs lack for grace
but they bear her far apace;
far behind, snouts seek the trace.
Cornered she turns on her foes
teeth agleam in pearly rows;
and back through the skies she goes