Thatched and lashed with horsehair
thread, even well-built nests
have casualties, tip in a storm,
spill family overboard, and we
remain to make repairs – find reason,
where so often there is none.
If we have love, we have no choice
but to fall with them, over and over
into the void – and we do it,
not to savor grief, but to collect
what parts we can, to piece our nest
– for Alie and Jeff
We’ve come together this far –
the storm is done, but for the
leaking off hillsides, rivulets
turned clear in starlight
falling into a grumbling torrent,
cleaning house, reasserting
elbow room into the silt.
She is the last word, boss
in this canyon, come hell
or flood and we grin, admire
her spunk – not too old to buck
and run. Hope rides on gravity,
the equation of extremes
cut into this landscape
validated before us – and we pray
to all things wild for one last
tantrum, one last reason
to let her be before we go.
From the house at daylight, it looked as if Dry Creek had risen into the road, but just the little canyon to the north of our driveway that the culvert couldn’t handle after 2.12″ rain overnight. Every crease in the landscape is leaking – waterfalls everywhere.
…not likely wanting to be anywhere
or anyone else.
– Jim Harrison (“Burning the Ditches”)
One wonders when we die, when we give up
the ghost to let it rise like smoke, if we will be
satisfied with life, or free from the heavy flesh
that has confined our spirit in a back room,
relieved to be among the angels yearning
to roll in the dirt, like empty saddle horses do.
Keeping a balance of sins and virtues is an
accountant’s nightmare, and how to measure
envy and pleasure subject daily to the ticker
tape others profit by. We’ve come too far
too fast, aged too quickly with no way back
to the innocence we left gazing at possibility,
before we left the farm to come to town
to get an education, to get the girl or guy,
to get ahead and get away from just getting by.
But there are places for old eyes yet to redeem
their wanderings, where Harrison’s bear
can be himself, and teach us how to live.
A prayer saved for those
subject to the senseless,
the unexplained, the never
to be resolved pain
that will shape them
with every throbbing ache
in this flesh – a prayer pulled
A prayer saved for the living
left to grieve the unexplored
alone to find themselves –
yet never more
A prayer saved for tenderness
and strength, for love and faith
that will endure
too, denying their graves, haunt
the places they were known in and knew,
field and barn, riverbank and woods.
– Wendell Berry (“2008, X.”)
Even now the headstones claim
little flats beneath nameless draws
either side of the house, rough
granite boulders set at the head
of deep holes filled for horse and dog –
where the deer lay down to shade
when I was a boy, and women healed
the spirit, burning sage, chanting
until they fell asleep. Hollow ground
to horses’ hooves where my children
played pretend, those great imaginings
that beg to fly – now walk their sons,
listening – feet wet in grass.
To come home for Christmas can be
a gift – so many voices welcoming.
Sulphur Peak - February 28, 2007
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from Dry Creek !
It is time – you both have gone and left us
plenty to do and think about as we sit down
to Christmas for the last time in your house.
It looks just like you left it, yet not the same –
the world has changed and we have aged.
There is neither time nor money enough
to set the orchard right, not energy enough
to find new homes for what it’s raised, glowing
gold tonight in rows on trees, rinds puffed
and weakening. Remember when the crop
was picked and in the shed by Thanksgiving?
Your all-electric Medallion home with lots
of single panes, a dinosaur today with wheels
spinning, sitting empty without you, without
purpose for your dreams but to house memories.
Transplanted, it is time to let our old roots
go – turn away as new hands shape or desecrate
the honest living you built yourselves.
With nine consecutive mornings of measurable rainfall since December 15th, we’ve accumulated 6.53” of rain to bring us to 11.47” thus far this season – more rain than entire 2006-07 season, and about an inch away from the totals for the 2007-08 & 2008-09 seasons. Hearsay has it his that we’ve broken all rainfall records for this time of year, going back to the 1955 Christmas flood that I remember vividly. Looks like a little sun and blue sky today, a chance for the hawks and the rest of us to get our feathers dry.
A box, a drawer – bundled letters stored
deep inside walls, now forgotten fade with
ledgers stacked in a leaky shed, stained
by dust and water. Whose time have we
stolen as this century accelerates, squeezes
into a decade? What next, a year or week?
Like pickup dogs, tears streak our cheeks –
we cannot look back like Lot’s unnamed wife
for fear of falling out, missing the next turn,
next bomb. Not quite Palmer, his hand
flowed legibly forward, innocently across
unlined sheet after sheet like furrows full
and level across vineyards at home, dutiful
son, stateside before the Bulge, before we
knew him, before his scraps of hieroglyphics
he could not improve. How hard the words
came: deep cut letters slurred together
we could not read and he could not say easily.