HONEYSUCKLE AND WILD RASPBERRIES
Honeysuckle and wild raspberries.
Enclaves of sap green shadows
where the grasshoppers take shelter from the sun.
Cerulean blue chicory by the side of the road
and star clusters of
thrust like a bouquet of constellations
through the broken down stave
of a cedar rail fence
that’s past caring
whether it keeps things in
or lets them out.
many years ago
I tried to live far away from pain
and here again
though I know better now
than to think paradise
is any kind of anodyne
my eye is caught off guard
by every manner of earthly excellence
that isn’t ambivalent or deceitful.
I once walked this dirt road
for five miles one night
followed by what looked like
a black wolf with ruby eyes
that flashed like an ambulance in the moonlight
every time I turned around
to see if it was still there
or if it were closing on me.
A fire walk of fear.
I won’t say I found courage that night.
I would say I was unscared.
The moon weaves silver dreamcatchers
for the spiders
and even the low growl
of a wilderness that’s grown curious about you
can be a liberating mantra.
I approach this place
like the creative imagination of a good teacher
unfurling the sails of the morning glory
like spare parachutes
to catch the wind
and sail all the way down the
like the swans of anonymous loveletters.
Violet loosestrife and goldenrod.
Flowers are what
complementary colours look like
when they’re dancing.
And here I learned
picking up the skulls of squirrels and groundhogs
as if they were pinecones
and watching the bewilderment
of a wounded doe
try and fail to clear a fence
that would have been child’s play to her yesterday
and the two children
buried before they were four
at the turn of the century
up on the top of the high hill
under a shipwreck of an oak
that’s never put to sea
how death is as equally acceptable to life
as life is to death.
The wild grapevines
are writing their own kind of music
drunk on whole notes
and the dragonflies are coming down
like C.I.A. drones
on cells of terrorist mosquitoes.
Though I’m cellularly immersed in it
there’s a gap between me and nature
that isn’t so much the space between
one thing and another
as it is a bubble of thought and passion
in a great sea of vivifying awareness
washed up on the shores of consciousness
like a bottle from a faraway place
with no message inside
except light years and light years of longing.
Nature is the midwife of a serial killer.
Nature is the dark mother that gives birth to all things.
Nature is a metaphor for me
as I am for it.
A coincidence of the contradictories.
Closer than a face is to its own reflection.
Closer than the sea is
that wraps this airy nothing in a skin of water
and then treats it to the tattoo it’s always wanted
on its birthday
like the sign of the house it was born under
in the black stars of an unforgettable constellation.
Someone once said
that death was self-containment.
I disagree with that.
Life is a bubble.
And poof !
In the twinkling of an eye
there goes the neighbourhood.
Death is rapid expansion into the open.
Life toes the threshold
but it’s death that crosses it
and enters its homelessness
like the primordial atom
on the road to nowhere
that isn’t here and now.
Down to the swamp
to check out the water lilies.
I painted down here for years
with a French easel as shaky as a fawn
getting up on its folding legs for the first time.
A blue heron snaps the air like a wet sheet
and startles the frogs into popcorn.
A deer path
and a beaver
repairing a mud hut
that would have turned into civilization
if it hadn’t harvested trees
instead of grass.
You can hear the silence
of a watchful presence
over and above the sounds
of life going on all around you
when you’re alone in a marsh like this.
You can smell the transformation
of the duff and decay
into the beauty food of the waterlilies.
You can tine the air like the tongue of a snake
and taste the cauldron brewing
the eye of the newt
and the one-legged frog
into the ambrosia of water hyacinths
as blue as Raphael.
I feel like the sorcerer’s apprentice
the first day on the job.
A praying mantis.
But what I saw here day after day
through all four seasons of the year
I’d come down here to paint
showed me nature is nurture
and life suckles at death’s tit.
But you can’t tell
who’s being raised by whose assassin.
Who’s the exit.
Who’s the entrance.
Because there’s just one big open gate
hinged like birds to the sky
with nothing written above it
as a sign of welcome or warning
and you’re greeted by nothing but your own presence.
And I’ve sat out here by myself
until the first light of morning
just to look for clues among the stars.
But the mysteries don’t answer you
like questions it occurred to you to ask
They go on and on forever
like wounded joys
the radiance and the wonder
cut so deep
they never want to heal.
You can appeal to the stars for clarity.
You can look for small suggestions in the grass.
You can get a feel
for where the wildflowers
like to gather in abandoned fields
and where the pioneers
who grew them in gardens
just behind the summer kitchen
like Bouncing Bet
whose sap they used for soap
buried the tiny children
who died of scarlet fever
under the crude grave stones
And the hills they chose like nannies
to watch over them
with beauty and affection.
And the silence and the sorrow
of the long sparse walk
back down to the farm without them.
And when you put your ear up to their abyss
you’d swear you could hear their voices
asking you the same questions
that they asked of themselves.
Is there a meaning to all this
that’s more than just a flash
of lightning and fireflies?
Anything you can say or feel about life
that isn’t always two children shy of the truth?