OLD GATE OFF ITS HINGE
Old gate off its hinge.
Matted like a lapwing in the long blond grass.
What is there to distract me from?
I pass, but not as a predator.
I seek the high field at the end
of this narrow dark road at dusk.
I’m out for stars. I’m out for solitude.
Like these deep cuts in the road
my scars have taken me out for a walk
in the gathering darkness,
nothing to keep in
nothing to let out.
The sumac denuded.
The last of the asters ruined.
There’s a farmhouse back here
abandoned years ago
like an old book in the basement
under the covers of its collapsing roof.
And the ghosts of two children
hidden deep in the woods
from the authorities,
who could fix anything mechanical,
clocks, watches, small engines
anything the neighbours brought them
but their own hearts and minds
and that’s how they lived for years,
with nothing but their own estrangement for company,
fixing things the neighbours broke.
A cage. But with the door open.
A road. But nowhere to go.
A house. But no one to shelter.
A mind. But no one to know it.
The chassis of a rusting car.
I get caught in the glare
of my own mental headlights
wary of making more noise than I should.
And then my eyes
adjust my fear to the darkness again
and I’m not sure I should be here at all
unworthy of the silence,
unknown to the trees at the side of the road,
no clockwork universe
to bring these backwoods geniuses
that even they could fix.
A fox on the path. A startled bird.
The barking of a farmyard dog
way off in the low-key distance.
Stars in the ripening twilight.
A clearing with maple saplings to say
here nature picked up where it left off
and broken shards of moonlight
still clinging to the windowframes
as if it had to break through its own ice
to draw water from a stream.
Perseus holding Medusa’s head
above a barn drunker than it looks
swaying from side to side
gaping through its doorless loft in shock
at what is happening to it.
Aldebaran in Taurus, the Pleiades,
Castor, Pollux, Auriga and the kids,
an airliner leaving Ottawa without a sound,
and something that sweeps over me
like the shadow of a thought
with an owl for an eyelid.
So little harmony
so much tension among the stars
and their conflicting myths of origin
in the chaos and confusion of creation
and yet around here
in the stillness and profusion of their radiance
blessed and hexed alike
they all seem fixed.
Here where the unknown breathes
and eternity doesn’t seem
like anybody’s business but its own.