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From Sabbaths

ISSUE:  Summer 1986


Here where the dark-sourced stream brims up,
Reflecting daylight, making sound
In its stepped fall from cup to cup
Of tumbled rocks, singing its round

From cloud to sea to cloud, I climb
The deer road through the leafless trees
Under a wind that batters limb
On limb, still roaring as it has

Two nights and days, cold in slow spring.
But ancient song in a wild throat
Recalls itself and starts to sing
In storm-cleared light; and the bloodroot,

Twinleaf, the rue anemone
Among bare shadows rise, keep faith
With what they have been and will be
Again: frail stem and leaf, mere breath

Of white and starry bloom, each form
Recalling itself to its place
And time. Give thanks, for no windstorm
Or human wrong has altered this,

The forfeit Garden that recalls
Itself here, where both we and it
Belong; no act or thought rebels
In this brief Sabbath now, time fit

To be eternal. Such a bliss
Of bloom’s no ornament, but root
And light, a saving loveliness,
Starred firmament here underfoot.


To Den

We have walked so many times, my boy,
Over these old fields given up
To thicket, have thought
And spoken of their possibilities,
Theirs and ours, ours and theirs the same,
So many times, that now when I walk here
Alone, the thought of you goes with me;
My mind reaches toward yours
Across the distance and through time.

No mortal mind’s complete within itself,
But minds must speak and answer,
As ours must, on the subject of this place,
Our history here, summoned
As we are to the correction
Of old wrong in this soil, thinned
And broken, and in our minds.

You have seen on these gullied slopes
The piles of stones mossy with age,
Dragged out of furrows long ago
By men now names on stones,
Who cleared and broke these fields,
Saw them go to ruin, learned nothing
From the trees they saw return
To hold the ground again.

But here is a clearing we have made
At no cost to the world
And to our gain—a re-clearing
After forty years: the thicket
Cut level with the ground,
Grasses and clovers sown
Into the last year’s fallen leaves,
New pasture coming to the sun
As the woods plants, lovers of shade,
Give way: change made
Without violence to the ground.

At evening birdcall
Flares at the woods’ edge;
Flight arcs into the opening
Before nightfall.

Out of disorder, then,
A little coherence, a pattern
Comes, like the steadying
Of a rhythm on a drum, melody
Coming to it from time
To time, waking over it,
As from a bird at dawn
Or nightfall, the long outline
Emerging through the momentary,
As the hill’s hard shoulder
Shows through trees
When the leaves fall.

The field finds its source
In the old forest, in the thicket
That returned to cover it,
In the dark wilderness of its soil,
In the dispensations of the sky,
In our time, in our minds—
The righting of what was done wrong.

Wrong was easy; gravity helped it.
Right is difficult and long.
In choosing what is difficult
We are free, the mind too
Making its little flight
Out from the shadow into the clear
In time between work and sleep.

There are two healings: nature’s,
And ours and nature’s. Nature’s
Will come in spite of us, after us,
Over the graves of its wasters, as it comes
To the forsaken fields. The healing
That is ours and nature’s will come
If we are willing, if we are patient,
If we know the way, if we will do the work.
My father’s father, whose namesake
You are, told my father this, he told me,
And I am telling you: we make
This healing, the land’s and ours:
It is our possibility. We may keep
This place, and be kept by it.
There is a mind of such an artistry
That grass will follow it,
And heal and hold, feed beasts
Who will feed us and feed the soil.

Though we invite, this healing comes
In answer to another voice than ours:
A strength not ours returns
Out of death beginning in our work.

Though the spring is late and cold,
Though uproar of greed
And malice shudders in the sky,
Pond, stream, and treetop raise
Their ancient songs;

The robin molds her mud nest
With her breast; the air
Is bright with breath
Of bloom, wise loveliness that asks
Nothing of the season but to be.


The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

We join our work to Heaven’s gift,
Our hope to what is left,
That field and woods at last agree
In an economy
Of widest worth,
High Heaven’s Kingdom come on earth.
Imagine Paradise.
O dust, arise!


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