We always want to go home
to some familiar yet distant land
where hills rise rocky and lean
with the lush valleys
hidden in mist
where snow-fed streams pitch forth
from alpine heights
and the cloud-swept sky
arching over it all a bountiful
upturned bowl, a blue cathedral.
we might find haven
in a temple in India, lotus-shaped,
surrounded by reflecting pools of light
in a land dry and hot
or near a mosque, a pinnacle of prayer
spinning out in echoing cries
over a stone city — a city of rose gardens,
nightingales and charitable works.
Isn’t this the way?
The heart traveling through rough terrain
makes its slow ascent
like the bar-headed geese
who barely clear the Himalayas
every snow-clad spring.
These wandering birds
venture forth in all weathers
through all lands until, at last,
they find their way home.
Initiate of air
balances on a wind
neither of the east nor west
wing-walking, then gliding on updrafts
trailing a red cloth behind.
Every morning, he woke me, whistled
from a nearby tree on his shrill flute
insisting I unfetter myself
rise above this hallowed earth,
its captive denizens
sail on a rose-scented stream,
dark wings dipping,
inscribing in calligraphic arcs,
the breath of God.
I hiked through the forest from the notch
bypassing Swamp Trail and Rattlesnake Knob
to the overlook on Mt. Norwottuck,
where they appear, one by one, circling
in wide gyrations, masters of air.
Counting hawks, I breathe in a long breath
counting hawks, I breathe out a long breath,
I ride waves, jump to new thermals,
spiraling higher and higher.
What would it take, I wonder, to leap
into that wild blue welkin,
red tail flashing?
In late November, I spread out for acres,
brown sedge and grasses mowed down.
Home to bluebirds in airy boxes
built by the conservators of hope,
where field mice, juicy and sweet,
sustain the hawk and surgical owl
and wood ducks find refuge on
their way to warmer weather.
Now windbreaks crossing these
flat fields are dry and brittle.
A deer path winds by the river.
Fox runs the perimeter by white pine
and a fir family old enough to remember
when people sweated corn from the ground,
smoked trout on the banks of my waters.
On this late afternoon,
I am big enough to hold both earth and sky—
now bannered in amethyst, copper and rose
now naked and undisguised—ever-changing.
Who am I to beg the pilgrims walking here
to pause, give up thought and wonder—
is there another rhythm?
Before the trees take off like rockets,
a stillness gathers.
Wild aster converses with bees and goldenrod;
thistle lets loose its seed.
Crimson fingers stained by raspberries
dig up globs of potatoes, thin-skinned, dirt clinging
while a child naps in the bean patch
to the cicada’s symphony.
Picking beans is hard work.
We hunch over rows of lacey leaves.
Easier, they say, to pick blindfolded, feel
their slender bodies clump together like keys.
Earlier, we unlatched the summer shed door
carried empty baskets into the fields
and were met by a dozen piglets
rooting for love.
The truth is I opened a door in late September
and walked out
When she chants
something stirs the air
and the little fish that lives
in my heart leaps out of its element.
Wild birds rise in a black cloud
from the fields of Indiana,
their myriad voices one
as they unspool
themselves in a
to the swelling
grasslands of Africa,
new springs bubble up,
ancient roots are moistened
hunger is forgotten, stones sing.
Spruces in the forests of Siberia stand taller,
the ash quivers, five-fingered maples
shout out with zeal,
And, from their empyrean thrones,
her Persian ancestors, anointed
by the blood of the martyrs
and saints, peer through
the thinning veil like
And a shiver
ripples like a pebble
across the pond of forgetfulness
embossed with red and golden leaves
atop a mirrored sky,
then my own voice breaks to the surface
and the world settles.
*Reprinted from Issue #1 of e*lix*ir*.