Some work marks me as its doer.
Haying is seeds against the scalp,
Baling twine’s harsh red stripe across the fingers,
A shock remembered in the right (the throwing) shoulder.
Setting stone is scrapes
And boggy wounds where blood absorbs
The light dust that sandstone sheds
When rubbed or struck against itself –
Dust it returns to, really, a soft rock that does not insist
On its separateness from soil and mud.
A pepper, rent and rubbed,
Enters the flesh so cooling inflames it,
Pond water or night air a black background
To sharpen the skin’s memory
Of a whole summer’s heat.
Poetry (open or in camouflage) for years left only,
Like a dream shredded by the first waking thoughts,
Traces of longing, rage, last pulse of inward order
Turned suddenly to unbearable light.
Uses of Trees
I used to keep from every place I passed
A look or urgent grip – a pulse at my palm and thumb-joint –
The keeping an offer: to be the hardy root-stock
That grafters prize.
As a child I made friends of trees.
It was almost unbearable.
A white oak with a nearly human face –
Two knots and a snag of a nose –
Could hardly stand my passing on the dirt road
Without a pat or reassuring hug.
(These are the facts.)
A black walnut broke my run of lucid dreams
When, flying (what else is lucid dreaming for?)
I smashed into a low limb, thick as a second trunk,
And woke up seeing stars.
Baucis and Philemon entwined,
Linden and oak,
That great assurance of love:
Zeus destroyed their unwelcoming village
By flood that left a temple and a waste
For that dutiful old pair,
Deathless and fixed.
How ridges and hollows fit together
In a place shaped by water’s flight,
That just is what water has not taken:
In the bottom, you can follow the creek to a branch,
And then another creek.
Along the ridge, you follow its line,
Or come down.
Freedom and confusion come when you cross over.
Climb an accidental shoulder,
And at dusk you will be walking some unsupposed ridge.
Start your descent toward the wrong tree,
And your lowlands will be filled with strangers.
Each place filled and confounded
By the nearness of what it is not.