From the window, the dogs are barking,
at nothing, really, not a woman crossing the road,
or an animal, a fox, say, that comes in from the fields
by the highway, that sometimes sleeps in the shed
(the mutts always smell it),
with the machinery.
I look a little too long, there’s less and less.
Except for the overgrowth sharpening into
spools of wire and foothold traps,
the cornstalks gutted on the plains,
the cellphone tower possessed by voices,
and the street lamps where each night
crowns of light are crucified, I regard only
their instructions for departures.
So, if I could bark with them, that is what
I would start to see, what I don’t,
runways where things go where they go.
And, I would hope, too,
I’d find a way to chase away the fox
that sneaks back nearly every night,
that’s there, camouflaged by
the invisibility of things that will not expect
to be found.
I’m reminded about the togetherness of things
in the way things resemble each other
as they break apart, so that it’s possible
pulling is reaching too, and this
often when the world dies to put us to sleep,
loves us as it smiles,
as it tries to conceal its darkness from us,
the wind, never changing, wandering
across the same old soybean field
imitating hunger’s appetite for the invisible.
I’m walking this morning across Macdonell’s Field,
its trees scraped naked by the thin edges of sun,
and a hardened soil poised to feel
what I might break next. I’ll peer down
the old well the Mennonites dug,
see the watery coin of wish
anyone might have tossed in.
You’re walking too, the other way,
the wind raising you over the dirt
that, like me, will not get caught up in you again.
Still, these days I hope for the best.
Perhaps this morning your words
about reaching will be a simple pail,
that by bringing it up and out into the world,
it’ll echo in the ache of my arms,
and then in the cold, the hot chest.
There is no name for that song.
There’s no strength that holds happiness.
There is no promised land of sadness.
The fields are gold with Fall,
they are silver with Winter.
The car is trailed with the dirt that led you here.
You note the windshield paintings
of your ancient figures, antelopes of ice melting into lakes,
arms of blue rivers white with the harvest of clouds.
There was some mission.
About the mystery, you had come to
an understanding. For instance,
the circling of geese forming wonder —
so why stay so long with them into winter?
Why not fade south with the others, like tears?
What was the sound that we made,
if not a cry?
December 26, 2018
Wilmont Township, ON, Canada
The wind plays
at being startled by my presence,
and rakes my body for wishes
my eyes have made, the silver cravings of
two coins. It is falling head
over heals to carry you over dirt,
follows as I walk across Macdonell’s Field
until peering into the Mennonite well,
I see into the neck of the heavenly earth,
and the bare brown trees circling
our extinct sun. And in each step, the ground waits
to feel what it must give into next.
What if a word could breathe on its own,
or swim in a pail which we would draw up,
and shining, coldly, let us drink from it?
I think I smiled when you said,
I’m dead to you. Last words, unoriginal,
not like you, sweetheart.
I’m going to drive from Hamilton through to Cambridge.
My mind will be as incandescent as their fields.
My metaphor will be the heart —
in keeping, at last, with your words,
under ground, devoured by
the body of dirt and the dull bones
that have turned into lead.
I’ll smile, the way a smile is a cliche,
a hole that buries things.
This freedom is not the same
as knowing. It lacks the fullness
of you. Meanwhile, the landscape in the field
still has not been removed
of the men who work there,
or their relief in the sun,
stretching its dark arms
through them, ready
to catch the colours that must surely
Maybe you are here tonight, back there,
sitting behind the darkness.
That darkness resembles you, you know,
and perhaps speaking to it
resembles me, who when he’s done
reading this, will have another coffee,
take the backroads he used to get here,
forget you again, like directions
to some place we needed each other
to bring the other to. You always insisted
on the open cup, your small shoulders that rose,
inhaling its steam as if you knew
you knew you’d disappear, too.
But, you don’t, both of us so inept,
even me forgetting how to forget,
reading tonight about a woman
who wondered what I would say next
if I’d run out of words. I don’t tell her,
because this is exactly what
I’m hoping for, that nothing
would happen in that poem,
that you would disappear in it,
that I would follow.
I think of the fog in the lowlands this morning.
How something that can’t be perfectly seen
is the thing you want to reach for,
you say is beautiful –
becomes the very thing
you constantly lose, never quite having.
It’s strange thinking you forget.
But, I can’t grasp you, either,
you, pretending to be blinded by your hair
before I sweep it from your eyes
the yellow cornfields left trembling.