Cold morning, upstate premiere of May, two dogs
chasing down the slope behind the library.
Sky and lake, mist over mistfall’s shadow,
lapse of color into countless gray strands,
one shade dark as a finely cased bullet,
the next faded as slide locks on windows
of the chained-up Ithaca Gun Factory.
I’ve stood beside Cayuga Lake on the rocks
watching wind steer circles on the water,
crest and wave, the opposite bank a thumb-print.
Two young dogs at play in a field, not here,
but in the meadow behind my great-uncle Joe’s
fallen barn, a morning twenty years past,
lodged between the eye and memory’s socket.
* * *
A golden age, a blue-eyed shepherd and a mutt
running beside a boy, seen by no one then,
by no one now, except a grown man looking
across a lake eight hundred miles from that field.
A rabbit bolts from the fencerow and the dogs
take off. There he stands, his hands on a rail
split by some great-great-grandfather long ago,
a name nearly lost and a face he cannot picture,
never photographed, never made part of the record.
* * *
A glacial shift gouged them out of flat lands,
eleven long scars filled as deep as Lake Ontario,
gifts of the ice age, splintered bones, Finger Lakes,
fished by the Iroquois who tended their banks.
This year’s ice age held until early spring,
yet leaves struggle forth on the oaks and maples
to tremble in the wind, a cold surge I can feel
through sub-layers of my skin, follicles of my hair.
Nothing aches like home, and how the slow hours
traveled to get here from there turn into years,
the full weight of stone between my native foothills,
understory of the oldest mountains on earth,
and the northern broadening out of Appalachia,
time flattening toward the absence of it all.
* * *
Not here. Not on the rocky bank of Cayuga Lake,
shaken loose by a steady throb of the jet stream.
Not by the ruins of an ancient barn, one dog rolled
under a car, the other shot by a prick on a motorbike.
Not even in the library, between thumb-weathered
board-backings that hold secrets written to water,
words on the Concord and Merrimack rivers,
elegy for a lost brother, a vision of time suspended,
words that do not answer the question I cannot form:
some mix of whereness and now, thisness and then,
never wherever I am, and not part of the record.
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