The Other Side of the River
Easter again, and a small rain falls
On the mockingbird and the housefly,
on the Chevrolet
In its purple joy
And the TV antennas huddled across the hillside–
Easter again, and the palm trees hunch
Deeper beneath their burden,
the dark puddles take in
Whatever is given them,
And nothing rises more than halfway out of itself–
Easter with all its little mouths open into the rain.
There is no metaphor for the spring’s disgrace,
No matter how much the rose leaves look like bronze dove hearts,
No matter how much the plum trees preen in the wind.
For weeks I’ve thought about the Savannah River,
For no reason,
and the winter fields around Garnett, South Carolina,
My brother and I used to hunt
Princess and Buddy working the millet stands
And the vine-lipped face of the pine woods
In their languorous zigzags,
The quail, when they flushed, bursting like shrapnel points
Between the trees and the leggy shrubs
into the undergrowth,
Everything else in motion as though under water,
My brother and I, the guns, their reports tolling from far away
Through the aqueous, limb-filtered light,
December sun like a single tropical fish
suspended and holding still
In the coral stems of the pearl-dusked and distant trees …
There is no metaphor for any of this,
Or the meta-weather of April,
The vinca blossoms like deep bruises among the green.
It’s linkage I’m talking about,
and harmonies and structures
And all the various things that lock our wrists to the past.
Something infinite behind everything appears,
and then disappears.
It’s all a matter of how
you narrow the surfaces.
It’s all a matter of how you fit in the sky.
Often, at night, when the stars seem as close as they do now, and as full,
And the trees balloon and subside in the way they do
when the wind is right,
As they do now after the rain,
the sea way off with its false sheen,
And the sky that slick black of wet rubber,
I’m fifteen again, and back on Mount Anne in North Carolina
Repairing the fire tower,
Nobody else around but the horse I packed in with,
and five days to finish the job.
Those nights were the longest nights I ever remember,
The lake and pavilion 3,000 feet below
as though modeled in tinfoil,
And even more distant than that,
The last fire out, the after-reflection of Lake Llewellyn
Aluminum glare in the sponged dark,
Lightning bugs everywhere,
the plump stars
Dangling and falling near on their black strings.
These nights are like that,
The silvery alphabet of the sea
increasingly difficult to transcribe,
And larger each year, everything farther away, and less clear,
Than I want it to be,
not enough time to do the job,
And faint thunks in the earth,
As though somewhere nearby a horse was nervously pawing the ground.
I want to sit by the bank of the river,
in the shade of the evergreen tree,
And look in the face of whatever,
the whatever that’s waiting for me.
There comes a point when everything starts to dust away
More quickly than it appears,
when what we have to comfort the dark
Is just that dust, and just its going away.
Twenty-five years ago I used to sit on this jut of rocks
As the sun went down like an offering through the glaze
And backfires of Monterey Bay,
And anything I could think of was mine because it was there
in front of me, numinously everywhere,
Appearing and piling up …
So to have come to this,
remembering what I did do, and what I didn’t do,
The gulls whimpering over the boathouse,
the monarch butterflies
Cruising the flower beds,
And all the soft hairs of spring thrusting up through the wind,
And the sun, as it always does,
dropping into its slot without a click,
Is a short life of trouble.