THE FRONTIER SHAKES OPEN A SONG
December’s final week reminded the world of autumn.
The fern in the stricken garden
Molted its green, the stones in the walk
Felt neither frost nor snow.
Open the gates—the new year is upon us,
The climate is less and less glorious.
And there was one upon the world who knew this
When from atop a Green Mountain
You saw across the Champlain Valley to the Adirondacks
That gradualness which rules us
Moving the mountains into blueness at dusk.
O song there is to wonder about. O song upon us.
Silence grew steadily, like survival.
The Atlantic shifted whole. Driftwood slid
Under the moon. And I held hands with my neighbor.
We were young and created to see this,
To stare down a break in stone
That will widen with a third millennium,
An era into which our feet and dreams will fall.
There is nothing but a long road leading
Into a radical thicket of trees
Where the flat black slabs on the ground pleading
On their backs like perceptive cold babies
Have no coverlets or satisfying
Strokes or a mother’s voice, aura or rhyme
Protecting them. Monuments are whittling
Under this forest’s needle of Time,
Understandable by neither you nor me.
The sundials are skewed. No sun squeaks through.
Sticks the shrews gather they ravish with glee.
It gives them something destructive to do.
And there are no radishes, mums or fruit,
No seasons whereby a bloom would shudder
Through the ground, stopping the tracks of a brute.
But a brute’s no fool! He’s no adorer!
At night the snowy owls won’t blink an eye.
They’re undaunted by the full furry face
Of the she-wolf as she sings “who’s to die?”
Shamrocks are of another time and place.
All the brass pots have been emptied of gold.
A world of benevolence crumbled here
And the laws of premonition grow old.
The obedient rainbow lies elsewhere.
Grain fields hold complex beauty, yes.
Here the smallest unit of weight
Restrains the spirit between blows
And plants the dark potential hate.
Detect “deserve,” “desire,” “despair”
Lowing in the gradient wind
With a hollow dragonish flair:
Purple watchful eyes of the moon
Pierce this patient, this baffled clay
And create a bruised complexion—
The ruins it learns to obey!
Honor’s a tongue time felled to speak
Bred of the stark war wherein it
Suffered defeat. O how strong weak
Grow on hours wind thwarts bit by bit.
Under the hunted hare,
Home of the Crimson Star,
With ears clasping their heads,
The rabbits ranged far.
They leapt into the haze,
Through hazel and through gorse,
As though the feet obeyed
Hunger and remorse.
The pupils burning red,
The paws pattering fast,
The frenzy of the dead
They dredged from the past.
Hills. Hills. The mad summit
Bathed in pillars of sun
Welcomed the parliament
Strange remoteness won.
The demesne of demented
Animals in flight
Was rocked by hare bells
Tolling into night.
O Lord Spiritual,
Or so the story went,
And the Lord Temporal
Sat in parliament.
The vagaries of choice,
The outcome of despair,
Seized the devoted voice
Of each little hare.
They shot out of the hedge—
Hazel fell to the ground—
And lunging like a spring
They lashed all around.
Stones of delirium
And stones of sacrifice
Lepus ten times thrice.
The stars above turned red,
Reminding those below
Of blows that knocked them dead—
Nothing more to throw.
The chambers of the heart,
Remote and barren land,
Retreated into art
For all time and spirit
Each lonely little hare
Crouching on a summit
Said a little prayer.