Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wind Shift \ Plowing In August

Alan: Suddenly, sooner or later, everything changes.  At the height of summer’s rule, autumn enters on the wind, singing of impermanence.

Wind Shift
                        for Nancy

There is an ache to August, that for you
walks with the shadow of your first, lost child,
and as for me lives in this wind, grown wild,
that, day by heedless day, slips furtive through
the sun’s lowering gate.  This northern air,
assertive, hints now of fall, when it comes.
The nuthatch snagging seeds, cicadas’ thrums,
goldenrod, speak a language, urgent, spare
as the yellowleg’s cry from the salt marsh
at dawn, and the loon’s distant keen at dusk.
We feel a restlessness, beyond the musk
of spent flowers, ripening fruit; sense the harsh
suchness of impermanency; how Time
steepens.  Come, take my hand.  We’ll share the climb.

Nancy: Out after breakfast for a morning of bug bites, scratched skin and sweat – some mornings I wanted to quit, to say no.  But the reward: squash and beans and corn planted among the stumps; the pride of a hard job well done.

Plowing In August

We cut the spruce in July.
I doubt that this ground has ever been broken:
cut, pastured, abandoned to raspberry and hardhack
and then to a crop of tormented spruce so chewed
and bitten and asymmetrical that in two weeks of cutting
we were lucky to get two poles and a post, and the rest
firewood and poor at that.
Sometimes I worked barefoot, limbing
ahead of the saw, liking the cool slippery feel
of the needles, the liquid way they moved
under my feet.  I should wear boots, everyone
tells me that, but I liked the feel.

July was hot.  What little warmth we had
this summer was in July.  It seemed airless
and buggy in the thickets of spruce; by ten
in the morning I felt grimy and scratched, and yet
the piles of slash smelled of Christmas,
and the work was satisfying.

By August we were ready to plow.  Plowing
is more than steel, it’s shoulder and calf and thigh,
especially plowing like this, biting Vs in to each stump,
skirting the largest roots, tearing the sinewy skin
apart.  I can only offer to pile the largest stones to the side,
to bring a cool drink, not wanting to be inside
while the new ground is turned for the first time, wanting
to remember the cool needles with my bare feet, thinking
that they are there in pools.  But they have slipped
underground, and now I like the feel
of the dusty stony soil and the rough web of roots.
After the plowing, we walk back and forth, back and forth,
seeding buckwheat in the new ground.

By next Spring, I won’t expect to see spruce there; by June
the corn will be high enough to hide the stumps.  I hope
that by July I will have cleared east of the barn, all the way
to the alders.  We ought to be plowing in August,
again, a day just like this, next year.

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