we all heard him laugh
in the instant after the blast
he thought he survived
then what he saw in our eyes
and when he looked down
Coming to Light
A solitary light from a farmhouse merged
with the path of my journey, as I drove alone
through driving pre-dawn rain. The wet sizzle
of tires turning and the motor’s drawl surrounded
me in my car and that room in the world.
That sturdy light filling the window, moved my home
far, testing its comforts before I could reach them through dark.
Was someone in that house up early or late,
looking out or in over a cup of coffee? That wondering
joined the history of things in my life
that have passed too fast to be known,
yet in their passing have shown
me that even in the driver’s seat
I am a passenger, and even with wings,
birds can follow their song only so far. Just so,
beyond that one window and the two car beams
boring through the dark, lay the road ahead coming to light.
A hollow pipe, wide and round as the muzzle
of a grenade launcher, serves as a doorpost to my fenced-in
garden. When wind blows across its mouth and this meadow,
it pipes a lead-steady, bassoon-like note. I think I hear it
in my sleep, and mistake its foghorn-drone for a call to arms
and precious burden.
Before my stewardship here, that hollow-post hosted
Old Glory, waving over this rolling green empire of mountain
ash and clover. Back up in the woods, I dismantled a deer blind
the previous owner hunted from. It was yoked to a maple tree trunk I tap
for syrup at winter’s end. Then, with dead leaves, fresh manure and ordinary
seeds, I coax a harvest of flags everyone can salute.
One evening, a tractor’s but-ah-but-ah-but-ah recalled
the stutter of a hovering Baby Huey—taking on the bloody and the dead
in poncho coffins and taking off, again, raising dust out of dust and leaving
me among the lucky, all hollow as rifle bores. The tractor passed, pulling a trailer
and its slow haul of hay, wounded into bales, from fields fire-tilled only by the sun.
I waved to my neighbor who waved back.
Here and now, the work and enormity of stillness and distance
above ground are gifts each day gives, and the farmer, soldier and the land
listen as pastor birds pare their songs and flights to the essential
preparations for night. And over my garden, where fruit and vegetable
buds flower patience, a one-note fanfare sounds: steady for the healing,
deep for those beyond.
RICHARD LEVINE, an activist working to ban fracking in NYS, is the author of The Cadence of Mercy (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press), That Country's Soul, A Language Full of Wars and Songs, Snapshots from a Battle, and most recently A Tide of a Hundred Mountains (Bright Hill Press). "Bread" a poem from the new book was recently featured in "American Life in Poetry," former U. S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser's column. Levine's "The Talkin' Frackin' Blues" is on youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QCrTfxOBRo