The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing Alive enough to have the strength to die. —“Neutral Tones” (Psalm 72))
It won’t last long, this snow that sheathes the dooryard pine in April and lays its feckless cover on the slope behind. Crocuses, just tall enough, poke their small blue noses through. It’s clear that they’re alive enough to live. April’s gale is loud as bombers. What’s left of ice around the pond in town is rough as predators’ teeth. The fisher fells the luckless squirrel.
There’s much I too may try to cover. For all of that I feel a gladness in watching this omni-inclusive white blot out the neutral tones that pushed our brilliant poet to ponder death, and love’s deceit, its cruelty. We’ve been together, my love and I, near three decades, which have scudded by like these sideways flakes. My lover-wife. There can come pangs, but the freshets have started
to wander the brush and make their signs: soon we’ll find the trillium, the painted kind, in that secret place which I discovered springs ago, and which since then I’ve kept a secret from all but her—from even our children; and the valley’s white-faced Herefords, while winter endured, dropped new calves, which now, though mud clots up like blood, shine clean as a man’s most colorful dream.
What is this one’s dream? That life go on as ever. That all our lives go on. No more than dream, of course. I know, the planet heating up, the cretin politicians waving swords, as if, by counter-logic, war might transform earth into something more saintly. So many hard facts conspire against me. To know that, though, is to make me cling the harder to gifts that appear to be given
without my having to deserve them. Flowers, beasts, the glinting trees. My disposition, which has moved me here to mute dispute with my great better, in spite of all my darker doubt. Inkling that something will soon come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. Let us praise the Lord, and every weather. Or the smile on the mouth of my lover, which still can blind like snow.
Or the road agent waving from his bright-red plow as it smooths the mud-clotted back lanes over.
It was once in early May, a raw day, Bitter, on a western creek, I crouched Beneath a weeping willow, expecting Nothing, resting really, the black back Eddy smooth as glass when suddenly The rod tip bent with such great force I almost fell, but didn’t though I couldn’t move, it was that cramped Beneath the tree nor could I even raise My rod. I could only hold my breath, The reel singing, line spun out, Pulled by what I couldn’t see, but How I longed for just a glimpse, A glimpse would be enough, I thought, Until a glimmer showed itself, a flash Of light deep in the dark, and then, Of course I wanted more, the all of it To see and hold before releasing, Letting go. Like life, the way we’re meant To live, to let each breath be all there is, But seldom do; it isn’t easy. Perhaps I prayed, I can’t be sure, but Inch by inch, the fish drew near, until The moment, timeless, now, a rainbow Like a blessing rose, shimmering, A gift bestowed.
After so much darkness, the field’s excess of light, the day floating on itself as in a dream. But it isn’t a dream, the small wound songs of the house finch, the sun hammering the grasses’ bronze tips. We had gathered about your bed
like a boat we tried to push off stony ground. We wanted to help: we believed in the buoyancy of that water. You held onto the ruins instead of our hands. What did we know of how it is to look back at one’s life?
A bee swings from the nightshade. Ants carry their burden up the post of the shed unmoved by song.The grasses bend under the weight of so much light. And the balm of the wind: from the woods the singing of leaves. Or is it the sound of water flowing?