where once I could
have been a ghost for all the care
I paid to flesh and bone until
some hunger turned me home.
-Wendell Berry (“2005, III”)
Choosing light shoes, I’ve let my spurred and ready
Boulets stand outside the door for days, dusty, empty,
twelve-inch uppers like the bottom-end of the headless
horseman, dare spiders and scorpions until I’m needed
horseback. Gone are the days I was a careless ghost
keeping three rode down.
How hunger for the dirt
draws us closer to the fire, old bones cold and slow.
My feet slide now, closing contact with this earth
where I once flew with wild gods scattered, making room
for a roughshod dance against the wind upon my face—
against the odds, or so it seems, on this piece of ground
along a creek between steep hills that claims my flesh—
the dust of lifetimes since inhaled with each breath,
this ground claims my eyes as our dark lens to see
between dry stalks of grass and to look beyond the limbs
of gray sycamores. Their curled bark peels like skin.
It’s all I know for sure that calls me closer to home, like
the young boy hurrying before darkness falls around him
to family, food and fire to warm and absorb, comfort fear—
but now there is no fear, left alive, to drive me any faster.
Yet even this old earth stirred by harsher generations
of men and beasts, even these old trees and rock dressed
in lingering myths become new to me, each moment fresh,
richer now than ever I could imagine without conclusion:
other than it will go on with what we’ve taken, and left
behind, after it takes us in as it always has. That is
the wonder: breaking trail beyond the well-worn groove
of contemporary urgencies—each twig’s snap, proof
and protection—I am called home by circumstance of age
and it welcomes me.
This is a cowboy’s calling
that dares and wears the flesh into old cowmen, if
lucky, the measure of which grows greater daily,
a marvel in this age of consumption, belching fire,
to be embraced by the boughs of oaks, see from a hawk’s
wing and dance slowly with the sycamores along the creek.
I watch the horned bull plod, have pictures young, him
dwarfing me, a mass of Hereford muscled calmly,
he strides slowly now, keeping cows in sight. We share
a peace of mind, that endless space reserved for old men
listening, hearing only parts of tunes that keep them fresh,
catching better glimpses of the permanent inhabitants
making the proper preparations for all our lives here.