From Where the Fields End

BOUNDARIES

tonight
sea-frost rain
spirited the windows,
shuddered darkness,
veneered air to buildings,
to trees,
filled the air between buildings,
between trees,
filled the space between passers-by
with a more-substantial shroud,
more reason to crawl deep into the skin,
hurry on,
trailing discontent like the rutting smell of moose,
like leaves crushed black by the delicate weight of deer,
like rusty, partridge-scattered moss
or somber openings among the thick roots of maples on autumn-burnt hills;
once an unknown boundary,
this discontent has become a window
barred against open spaces,
holding,
yet disclosing like fear,
holding like self-aroused stirring of life between walls,
holding memories of the feed-bin
and eyes and teeth:
rats
and their kind,
their brains parasite-knotted,
their guts history-savage:
festering roses rising,
skin sloughing
and purulent fluids oozing;
small hoards chaffed in the bin
and law withering:
the after-image lingers long into dark hours

*

the last bearing trees merge with alders and scrub spruce;
a rabbit gnaws a windfall
and close-by a deer stands like a thin-limbed child
to pull down the withered mummies of fruit;
further back,
over swamp- and lake-hemmed hills,
bull moose drift,
anxious to perform their cunning fertility rites,
while cows in the oldest of the impregnable ravines
await the full force of their heat

behind the house of the crazy brothers under the hill
clearing-fires
and muskrat pelts cracking on drying boards
icon solitude;
I do not know the ways of fire-hungry humus,
yet I know the trees’ long-hearted nuzzling
at growing point in twig and root,
invading the cramped space of silence,
and the trees’ intricate confusion
when the ground gives way

and I’ve gone out onto the bay the coldest morning of the year
and been hoisted onto the shoulders of the mist
and carried along,
ecstatic in the rising light,
while sleepers left behind held their breath,
then sighed and turned again,
shoulder-to-shoulder
at one of the thresholds of apprehension

*

the owl swings back at the edge of its range,
telescoped by its neighbour’s fine eye and outrage at shadows,
swings through the crows’ underwing talk
and on through snow
that moves darkly downward,
altering roads and fields,
swamps and lawns,
driving out from familiar land,
over the arch of emerging shore,
the wind-brushed sand free of all markings,
all incidental jottings removed,
re-written elsewhere for those who already take for granted
the waves’ religious scroll-work,
the sandworm’s purposeful path,
those who see through the seaweed’s capricious posing
and accept the jellied rot of old wharf-timbers
and the rocking slide of cusped boulders
once torn from inland hills

and far inland,
when the spring sun loosens the soil,
gulls stalk haughtily in the plow’s wake,
forgetting boats
and the soft, white bellies trembling in the nets;
then only wings remember—
flexing instinctively with each gust––
and the feathers––
filmed with dry sea crystals,
flecked with milky scales of the last fish
fought for in the air above the waves––
will not forget;
and farther still,
where head-high alders and tiny, globular spruce advance across untilled fields,
where here and there unnatural rock-heaps protrude above the burdocks
and wild cucumbers flourish on a diminishing manure-pile,
an old orchard blossoms with certain dignity,
having outlived its planter and pruner and picker––
a dignity engrained in the loose-jointed form of the stone-fence
hobbling off into the old woods,
stone-fence
cradling once-fields,
marking the limits of hope,
the limits of daring:
stone-fence,
belovéd of hands

speak gently...
speak gently over these bones of ancestors––
steadfast bones:
stone-fences...
way-markers...
old boundaries...

*

where the fields end,
an abrupt wildness of tangled hay and weeds,
an asylum of briars and cat spruce,
then the forest pitching on...
woods whose only paths are incidental
and lead nowhere:
lead into windfall-littered ravines and disappear;
lead down to boulder-impeded streams and disappear;
lead to the upper ridges of rocky knolls and end...
as if the spirit had been too powerful,
suddenly too purposeful for paws and hoofs

but nearby,
where base-rock fractures the soil,
a spring spurts,
frets stone,
bloats open-mouthed moss and enigmatic flowers––
the oyster-white starflower and cold Indian pipe

*

in the cave of Agia Sophia
the whitewashed stalagmite altar
illuminates the host
of neolithic worshippers
agape...

in a schoolyard
children dance
Breughel-like,
while
behind them
the walls come down

somewhere among the wild antibodies we have gathered
hides a mad aesthete,
always fondling the organs of creation and destruction,
sliding in and out of the illusory waves,
engendering a vast discontent,
unease at the vastness,
desire to sing,
to cover the waves with songs sturdy enough to carry,
to praise their own building,
celebrate their builder
and the vast darkness to be crossed

*

wind-driven pack-ice inches up the beach,
heaving and sprawling,
with each wind-shaved wave,
heaving and pitching back,
caught in stress and counter-stress

and above,
trees balance delicately on the edge of the cliff,
and snow-loaded second-growth hunches,
struggles to lift branches,
forms a canopy over half-sleeping rabbits,
is unknowingly protective;
the owl flies on;
the fox is confounded;
at such times the air is liquid ecstasy,
flows like a fine love from outstretched hands––
hands patient over imperfections,
loud in praise;
hands cast down in the agony of shared dejection,
exalted in creations

butterflies and summer clouds
and sunlight thick on bird wings,
rain-sown grass and prismed hills
and kindled flakes of flesh and bone;
these move
as light moves through adorant fields of breast-high corn
and sweeps upward,
kindling misty flakes of cloud,
kindling joy greater than that of the sorrowless angels;
such is the uncreated silence at the heart of a flower
or the silence of a mud-cradled frog;
such is sleet’s pure power to shield
or fog’s particular power to draw out,
expand,
release;
just so are women’s voices holy at sunrise,
and the voices of men in the evening field––
such voices as speak of loving preparations:
grain ripening,
sons and daughters yet to be born;
therefore is it right to praise those who bring together the generations,
who lie together in the umbra of salvation––
those who have suffered the ragged cuts of initiation
and stood alone singing in the presence of visions

*

in fall,
trees,
like exotic dancers,
play out our fantasies;
with complete trust in the inevitable
they disrobe,
find themselves admirable,
their bodies worthy,
find wisdom natural as their rich root-hoard

the flower has hidden inside the seed of its own dying,
the sun locked safely within,
ready to blossom at the touch of the ineffable,
with the shedding of petals,
eloquent with an unrepeatable silence
as absolute as a field that stretches beyond the near hills:
a field curling out of sight,
its snow tracked only by the wind and sun;
a field that must go on
despite ponds and tree-rows,
despite squat, deliberate farmhouses,
despite iron and asphalt roads,
despite those who curse its distances––
a field that goes on
in the eyes and mind,
in the blood and voice of a child

but how much is unknown in the child’s first word!––
or in the sudden sight of forms above its bed!
and, the rites of deliverance at last fulfilled,
what memories must shape the dreams of that first sleep!

tonight sinuous clouds
glide up from old volcanic hills,
unroll across the shattered sky
with reptilian disinterest;
and tonight the wind––
familiar of intimate places––
leaves nothing untouched,
lies down in long grass,
presses into the long grass––
into stem-fractures;
and tendrils grow from the lips––
vibrate softly in the space of sound––
and blades shoot through the tongue,
impaling all words,
confining all words ever to be spoken
safely within a delicate green cell––
nexus of time and place

*

all boundaries hint another side––
the life beneath the bark,
that which prevails beneath the skin:
memories embedded in time,
time itself beyond the sweep of sun,
and voices just beyond all hearing––
the far field

and in this the celebrants soar:
in-dwellers of the boundless life,
they have mined the shell of dream
and are content;
they have thought through the stutter of synapse
and are content to be;
they have spoken beyond the limit of word
and are content now with knowing