Nancy: What a sound of contentment and peace – the thump of the dog’s tail on the kitchen floor.
A soundless high scud shreds the milky sky
just before dawn, southwest to northeast,
raggedy precursor of rain, or the ground so cold,
ice. My dog has led me around the dry cornstalks,
past the heavy knots of calendulas in seed,
past the deer-bitten apple tree and turned –
all is well, says his tail, all is safe.
Now the day is mine, to feed the coals in the stove,
to break the silence grinding coffee beans,
to watch the sky bury the dawn in clouds.
The dog opens one eye and says with his tail,
again, all is well, all is safe, and I say yes yes,
as I stack wood on the fire and go about my chores
Alan: Once my garden was an assertion of order as I measured out the space between seeds, between rows. The years taught me that nothing comes up or comes out quite as we expect. And perhaps that’s better.
In The Late Garden
In the clearing
surrounded by spruce trees –
woods that were field and pasture
within our memories –
in the clearing growing back
to goldenrod, aster, hardhack,
field roses, and the shrubs we planted –
hydrangeas, ninebarks, azaleas, overgrown
or choked –
in the wildering space
I still dig over
a few square feet
within this leaning fence.
Within this fenced garden
ramshackle now and weedy
with witch grass, chickweed,
mulleins, self-seeded hollyhocks,
a few calendulas,
I still dig,
turning over the soil for garlic,
preparing the soil
for next year’s beans.
A few square feet
is all we need now
or can manage.
I am in this garden
with my whole body, digging
and pulling weeds, and listening,
seeing the soil come up in clots
at my feet, shaking it from the roots,
my skin alert to the air,
its motions of Fall mixing warm and chill.
Raven sits on the highest spruce
just out of sight behind the wood’s edge
says Raven. “Raven,” I say,
“is this a greeting?” “Garock-garock.”
“Do you keep watch over this place
even when we’re gone?”
I surmise this but can’t know.
I think of Raven as beneficent,
never my father’s “dark, malevolent shapes”
(the ignorance of fear).
As wise, even, and far-seeing.
But I can’t know, really.
today or some day years off,
may I feel death come over me in this garden
and, falling, turn to face Sky.
Fly down then from your hidden perch.
Walk around me three or four times, inspecting.
Cock your head, attending.
Pry out the blue grapes from my face
before Crow or Vulture, Coyote or Fox
can find me.
Carry them back and swallow,
so that I may see, through you, in death
what in life I could not discern,
even to the azure limits;
so you will know what love grew,
and what questions, what suppositions
and what longing,
in this narrow, earth-bound skull.