Nancy: How many days – months – years – I knelt beside my grandmother: in cold and heat, early and late, from the digging of greens to the gathering of seeds. A weaver learns to weave, a blacksmith learns to forge – a gardner, I learned, learns to kneel.
Kneeling By Stones
My knees ache already; think
of the knees of gardeners, gravediggers,
of cold stones, holy ground,
of seasons trudging through death,
of faith and readiness.
Our knees stiffen, they gnarl,
they scar; the fat goes out of them.
We lean on our tools. We walk in pain.
But when the time comes – and we are
waiting for it to come – we kneel
in ice water, in mud, wherever
we are when the mystery catches us.
In this, I follow my grandmother,
no saint, she, but – like me –
ready to drop to her knees,
to let her bones cry out,
to reach out her hands
for the blessing of the first green shoot.
Alan: I think here of children who never experience the out-of-doors unattended, who grow up knowing nature only as something beyond the window or mediated by screens.
Yes, there were the birds.
Not as many now, true –
but in those places that still
had seasons, in the time
formerly called Spring,
a thin trickle of freshening sound
flowed through the Scrablands.
Small bubbles rose up
from the blackness, each one
bursting with a long-forgotten name.
And once she noticed these, others.
Black-and-white. Black-throated green.
Entranced, she made her way
farther from the thrum,
stopping often, until it faded a little
in the still-bare thickets
and under it she detected
a faint music.
She wanted suddenly to share this,
return the names to all this “what,”
tell the others, teach them,
though it was, she knew,
and would be severely punished.
“Birds” is from a work in progress, Annals Of The Nearer Soon (preliminary title).