Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ice-bound On The Way To The Morning Star \ Hardhack And Hackmatack

Nancy:  January’s short dark days and long nights leave the door open to memories of places long unseen, memories rich in detail building on one another.
Ice-bound On The Way To The Morning Star
No one ever said, pack everything, but I did:
bluegills and hollyhocks and the jackknife I carried
in fourth grade, an eagle feather and a month’s worth
of old hymns and the soft sound of turtles leaving
a log for pale water,
And so, when the sun drifts south and the color
seeps out of the marsh and the ice tightens,
this is what I do: I unpack what I need,
sometimes singing in the dark, sometimes unwrapping
a day of sweet mud and woodsmoke, always
Needing what I find: it could be
grits, axe handles, the white stars
of puccoon, or it could be
the page that says favorable winds
bright sky to the east
red cliffs and the precious water
of Santa Elena canyon
(in boxes still to be opened: fossils,
old valentines, the page that says sunrise:
headed home.)
Alan:  What we do will be erased soon enough, if not quite completely.  Like those who came before, we too will leave faint signs that others may some day try to read.
     Hardhack is a common name for Spirea; very descriptive if you're trying to clear it by hand.  Hackmatack is what people in this area call tamarack or American larch.
Hardhack And Hackmatack
Hardhack and hackmatack, spruce and fir;
chokeberry, chokecherry, bramble, thorn;
water where you don’t want it, ledge where you do.
Thirty years mowing and thirty years growing:
the trees watch their children hidden in the grass.
Where cows puddled the clay soil, alders followed.
Where sheep wandered the cleared land, wire lies down.
Hundred-year-old fence wire, found by the feet
at the head of a gulley or above the bay –
running now under the roots of the spruces.
On the hill slope there must have been a woodlot.
After the fire of ’57, it all came back birches.
Dead snags still hugged the skyline in the ‘80s –
we watched an osprey perch there, tearing a fish.
Last time I climbed: snags fallen; young softwoods.
Rectangles of field stones show under the turf.
Bricks – an old chimney – under the spade.
Liniment bottles, bits of rusted stove.
Our house needs work.  There’s no foundation.
Just an  old cellar hole, slumped in and muddy.
Thirty years mowing and thirty years growing:
once we’re gone, the trees will own the fields.

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