Bishopstown: a land battered
By its own remoteness. At night, I heard
Winging through the house. Mornings I went out
To the field with the salt-and-pepper dogs, who pawed
At the packed snow but did not whimper,
Understanding discretion. Courageous, I called myself
Because I harbored no fear of the darkening countryside
And touched the spine of the coiled black snake
without a flinch.
When we say someone is larger than life,
Do we mean the rest of us have failed
to live extravagantly.
My schedule, simple:
Milk the Jersey cows, feed the pigs, weed the garden—
To resist shapelessness, I learned to quarter the day,
line it with tasks.
Scores of birds like a million gray kites, sky
Sliding across their backs. Their flaps
Stiff as sticks beating dust from a tapestry.
Identify the swift by its silhouette, Brendan said:
Scythe-like wings, its whole day in flight—taking
Shelter in the hollows of chimneys, hovering
in the vertical.
Helen liked to knit. She instructed me
To acknowledge when stillness proved
Harder than the other things.
Amid the trees, I tried
Tuning my torso to the quiet. The only patterns
I found were circles of stones, intricacies
New Year’s Eve—from the mantle, Helen removed the jar
And we each drew a memory to read aloud. Giddy,
The other guests relived months I could not recall.
Brendan knelt to feed logs to the fire. Resin spilled onyx
From the split. Smoke wreathed, traceless and pale.
Far overhead, night took the birds and held them softly
between its dark teeth.