With trowel, lantern, and yellow dishpan,
Digging ferns in the hilly woods.
We imagined only a corner garden
Shaded in pines, as spring in the trees
Tipped quickly toward summer,
Afternoon sliding hard toward dusk.
Our pant-legs soaked in matted leaves,
Cold against clay, as we silently dug
Green fiddlehead scrolls and lacy fans,
Packing curled roots and handfuls of dirt
In the plastic tub. With evening settling,
I did not see the red of your cheeks
When we stood again, you cradling
The pan of ferns in your arms, a small
Primordial world. I lit the gas lantern
And light jumped out in a hissing sphere
Among the dark trunks. Slim black wands,
Their shadows waved as the lantern swung
And we picked our difficult way toward home.
Then moths appeared, white flakes adrift
At the edge of light, but circling in
With hard, black eyes.
Some envy the poised,
Majestic dead, but here they return—
Paper and talc in need-crazed flight.
All day they have pressed their bloodless torsos
Hard to the bark, have clung to grass-blades,
Hugging the world they held too lightly
In former lives. Now, in darkness,
The stunned-by-death waver hungrily out
Toward points of light. They swarm to us
In our brilliant globe, seeking blood-warmth,
Touch, a lick of our flame, one brush
Of your cheek, one singe.