Saturday, December 1, 2007

Barry Ballard


Now that the last poplars have been removed
and your fields are exposed to the Michigan
winds, I can understand how the green succumbs
to the biting winters. It wakes in you
like the outlying rows that have gone
wild, weaving their grassy fingers through the briar
until the seed is choked, where even the desire
to save them admits to their fleeting song.
It's been a long time since we walked those fields
together. But the moon seems at rest when
it passes the meadow without its usual
shape. I suppose there's a recognition it feels
in the listless slumber, in the dying end
of past harvests, in the shed holding your old tools.


The river intuitively knows to
calm itself, to stretch its tributary
arms to the shale covered shore. The Cypress trees
still lean into their dark reflections but exclude
themselves from the rippling dialogue and listen.
Even the harsh chiseled stare of granite
along the ridge is softened by the drift
of shadow, like spires loosened from their tension.
I've imagined that they've seen the purpose
etched like a map of passion charred by fire
across my face. We wait like old comrades
for the Absolute to begin its light-struck
ceremony, for the blue skin to glisten,
for the fingered leaves to grab color - that lasts.


When I fell from the Maple and knocked myself
out, you ran to the house screaming that I
was dead. I woke, alone, back from the sky
that released me and walked in a trance till help
arrived, till our neighbor picked me up. We
got ourselves back and still swung from the same
cable (because there was a reason to name
our fear and then defeat it, a name each
of us gave to "nothingness" and the simple
given things that go away). The tree still
stands as a kind of proof, a timeless symbol
with a two-by-four still nailed like a window
sill where we sat and viewed the world. And even a
fence around it, as if the bare roots were sacred.


The vacant pillow and the unused section
of blanket lie next to me like the Davis
Mountains at midnight, filled with the steep-graded pass
of dark roads under the weak projection
of light spilling in front of me. And tonight,
I am the nocturnal creature feeding
at the roadside, a Shaman's jaguar bleeding
to death as I watch myself move from the height
of nebulae and galaxies back into
the tamer whisper of evergreen. The eyes
have seen themselves (I know this). And the blanket
spills with the husk of the soul I've seen through
inside it, falling through the atmosphere to die,
eroded by the same blue oxygen that fans it.


My father's life has been a furrowed scroll
of existence. His hands, arthritic, knead
the mind's now-brittle parchment, marking the stroll
of his younger life each night from the knotweed
bordering his back porch. We don't always
speak. But he is still armed with the calloused proof
of what farmers learned throughout the arid days
of the depression. His fragmented view,
like that of peeling Birch, or slow-bleeding
Maple. Body of scars, the earth’s amber wide
intoxications still read across his face.
Hands cupped, trying to catch the last evenings
peeling away into the thatchwork, a trace
of wildlife crossing the last path he tries.

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