Caffeinated daybreak, ridge-line over the porch rail. What glides at eye-level above the creek bottom, surveilling the pasture? Peregrine Falcon? Harrier?
The world charged like shook foil—that’s a good one. Its colors sharpen as we come out of the inbetween. Wind-gusts rattle these pages, empty interiors, room enough
for any grief you’d fill them with. And what are we calling this— exile?—and what’s wrong with you anyway?
Elms line the shore, knots of aspen on pasture and hillside. Granite and clay, buzzing shade and moving water.
What else can inhabit a secret place from afar— what else would try? The Black Rat Snake has something to tell you. No he doesn’t. When you survive,
it won’t be like the Five-Lined Skink does, the Loggerhead Shrike or the Prairie Wobbler. Are you getting this down? Look and go on looking, you with your clean hands, your hurt, and mellifluous dawn.
Fade-lines—memory’s green vistas, its blue vistas and stonescapes. Its drawn shades and unwashed dishes. Careful, kiddo. Being too honest is its own
kind of lie. Why does a summer’s day need at its center some Lady of Walsingham,
some placidity where you can crawl on your knees with the penitents? In the midst of mystery [End Page 132]
you pass by yourself without wondering. Midafternoon. Vibrato of insects, Blue Ridge to the west, Atlantic to the east. A porch. A deck chair.
August’s divisions, pasture from forest, birdsong from silence. Darkness leans
harder against the light, a furious last flowering in the margins, and evening as perfumed and desperate as the sweaty last slow dance at the end of prom.
Ridge from ravine, aftermath from harbinger. Mull it over, but you’ve got bigger problems now than the profound. Seen at this distance, the cars on South River Road pass but don’t make a sound.
Grounds and occasion. One glass, sliced tomatoes shining in vinegar, blackened bits of rosemary on the blade.
Cattle steam in the pasture below. A dog-run deer lies half out of the creek. Wind through the aspens unveils it like a seductress’s thigh. The bottle’s still half full, the evening filled with nothing.
Knife and fork, knife and fork, the napkin folded carefully on my knee. Father’s gone, she’s gone. Satieties rebel as bodies rebel—as language
follows our bodies. The meat is best by the bone, the fat cut by the Cabernet’s bite. The livestock go on masticating in the high grass. What’s the worry?
The turkey buzzards arrive and things get smaller, then smaller still to become full-featured microcosms that nothing worms out of.
How abstract, this winged circling around what once gave pleasure and will give pleasure again. [End Page 133]
I feel fine. Light vibrates in the branches of the bastard growth. Feathered shadows of bracken fern. Oregon grape and bug-bitten trillium. I’ve started to think about the problem of reconciling the eye to the ear, but that smell’s whatever’s dead in the underbrush—and overripe blackberries. Ants fumble noisily at the backlit, finely serrated tips of the hydrangea.
Here is the land I come back to so I can always be going out from my father’s house. When I held him in his last throes, what I said again and again was, “I’ve got you,” as if I was a spotter and the whole thing was some daredevil stunt.
To go forward through music is to work backwards from an idea. What’s met in the marsh is what’s meet in Mortality’s mansion. What do you mean by forgiven? Pluck out an eye rather than enter the Kingdom of Abstraction. Strike off an ear rather than give up a savior. [End Page 134]
Aaron Baker’s first collection of poems, Mission Work (Houghton Mifflin, 2008), won the Bakeless Literary Prize in Poetry and the 2009 Glasgow/Shenandoah Prize for Emerging Writers. He is an Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing program at Loyola University Chicago...