THERE WILL BE DANCING
A fiddle tune bearing, rough-shod,
the memory of the village:
sunlight on stucco,
leaf-plastered paths in autumn,
in the moonlight and bracken,
the lilt of the market tongue,
ancient beyond telling.
A fiddle tune bearing, sweet as a fruit,
a memory of timelessness:
candles on narrow sills
marching each night through Advent,
a bowl of rose petals, peach
and organe and crimson,
garlic and lamb simmering
in a black pan,
kisses long enough for tasting.
All have returned, just here.
Listen. They come round again.
There will be dancing, too.
Talgarth, Wales, 1991
~Originally published in Shenandoah
A gray bird in a red bush,
an empty stream of stones and brittle leaves,
a chattering song sung, then followed
by a silence that lifts up the sky,
lifts the sky with an echoing
that fills the world
as if the world
were no bigger than this room
and this room, porous with mystery,
and now shot with light,
becomes the place
within which I might walk
forever out of time
along a dry stream bed
behind the chittering of a bird,
this bird who,
no bigger than the palm of my hand,
seems to know the way
better than I.
~Originally issued as a limited edition broadside from the Costmary Press, Kent, OH
Armageddon is not here though the semis are hard at work haujling bits and pieces of it from Rutland down to Troy. He once stood by the side of a brook just to hear it hum its name over and over. The postman is friendly and Mrs. Roberts has a dozen pots filled with red geraniums on her sill and this little town has no need of his memories. A stamp will do to carry a heart from one door to the next. The air force has not been heard from today, and the clock reads a quarter past nine. The war stays away awhile longer. What was he in such a big hurry about? Elmer raises Hampshires. Mostly sold as yearlings. Always saves two to butcher at Thanksgiving. Listen, I tell you, it is not good what they're doing down there beside the meadow. In the afternoon it is a meadow wan with orchard grass and gold-butter medallions of hawkweed. He can see them from the chair where Thelma custs hair in the closet behind the bookshop. The black rigs on moonless nights pull up at the sheet metal warehouse beside the river road. They are stealing the future one minute at a time and it is going on right under our noses. There is still a liar's bench where all the true stories are told. The war is never over for them. This explains why they listen so carefully. Even the gossip about what goes on at night when no one is awake. He slept well and she served cornmeal pancakes with syrup drawn from a maple outside the door. Still, he felt compelled to tell them what he knew. They pretended that they had heard it all before. Sometimes, at night, here in the city, far away, he believes them.
~Originally published in The Chariton Review
All my lives were lived on that ridge, dreamed into the root-stock of oak and mule, of ginseng and a smokehouse steaming under a slate November before Vietnam and twenty-four hour TV and marijuana and Hustler and we were all hippies for awhile and the yellow moon began to rise throwing new shadows where the woodlot met the meadow. And I looked back to see my mother sitting there, a wreath of onions roped to the wall above her and never once did I wonder what she made of it all, the flood of changes coming down the run quicker than Jack Flash and all the rest. The cat's green eyes stood still a moment. The chickens held their babble and te wind died. Mother started to say something. I stood up to tell them it was time to go. But I stumbled and started laughing again. It was good stuff. Columbian. They were good times. Yes, we said such things, said them for years...long enough to believe that we had endured, matured, married ourselves to this ancient hillscape where no one has an anchor without a bloodline tested by rock and death's inconveniences. Facts. White walnuts below the Miller farm. Paw paws--only a day between black frost and deer. Spong mushrooms - apple roots and elms. Those are easy. Carmen was Merl's half-sister after Grandad remarried in 1957. Dean hung himself after the parade, his banjo still on the bale from which he stepped. These, as well. Easy. True. But something else...Endurance? Endurance beyond pink slips, land slips, beyond divorce, out-migration? Try to figure those into the equation and then come read me the graveyard's tally and we'll start to get somewhere. Find us something worth saying, something worth remembering. But she's gone now, iinto the bone yard below the run. A whippoorwill keens better than anything I know.
~Originally published in 5 AM
JUST LIKE THAT
Under the gum tree, smoldering with its red leaves, a deer forages in the shadows. Across the road a woman throws dishwater on the last of her roses - an old habit, unnecessary, but ingrained. She pauses, wipes her hands on her apron, looks to the west where the sun has slit a peach vein into the graying night and wonders that another day is passing. The deer lifts its head, listens. There are a few crockets yet ticking in the garden. A screech owl whinnies from the edge of the wood. The woman turns. Headlights creep around the far curve of the road. The neighbors going out for the night. She used to go out. She used to know the night as different than it is now. The deer has disappeared when she wasn't watching. Much like life disappears. For years she persisted in believing that it was just slipping away from her, gradually, when, in fact, it was stolen on a warm night in October, ten years ago at that precise moment when she wasn't watching.
~Originally published in Cider Press Review
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