I have had my taste of country life, and of city life too. I have begged on my knees at the well, and my poor numb feet have known the pavement grain by grain. In each kind of life I have found an intimacy that gladdens every curse, and thwarts the common misconceptions. Each helps explain the other. The old graveyard that is surrounded by houses now, once stood alone on the hill. They say pioneers are buried there. And coming home, I meet pioneers still.
Poor Man’s Song
Knotty in his labor, the poor man creeps the fieldpath down to where many stones apply themselves to his breaking, and where he will one day die if he is not careful, at least after the fashion of his father, his father before him, and their fathers enumerable beyond, who gallantly bore truce to the stones in grand recognition that they were older and wiser in their mosshewn countenance handed down from God the almighty merry mastermaker of sweatborn humor and spleen, and thereby lived to laugh another day, albeit in little wealth and in woeful vegetation, but man is granted what he is granted, as the saying goes, a pennyplot for thistles and cabbages, clustered bricks for his bentwife’s oven, embattled windrows in the alwayswaitforrain terrain until deluge comes to wash away their crimbling soils.
Earthentones he wises them, faces he espies them as he knobs his knees to bone, an inch to an inch he footfancies in order to feed his evergrowing brood. Better for the birds, and for the manifested wrigglewarm worms, effortless stumpshade grown. Better for the snakes in glorious relief, littleseen and neverheard. Better for the spiders, if there are any, and for the sandyfox and squirrel, and for the nightscreech whateveritis strangeclaiming dreams in the canopy starstrewn.
I know my way down, sings he, but never up, nospending of time to dig my grave, no, I am not ready for that with so many beaks pecking in the yard, noodled behind happy mouths and eyes, babblesong gifters of hillsides and shepherds’ flutes, how I love them, how I cry, how I bless them eagerwilling, and their nobleyearning mother more fruitful than ever is this numbforsaken earth, arms enfolding and scented mad. Crumbling break these petrified tears, these hardbaked skeletal remains! Gnarls on a lizard’s back! Rooted wishes off a drybridge from land to land. I have no name, but I know where I have been. Rock to quarry and back again. Rock to quarry and back again.
Songs and Letters, January 7, 2006