an old poem – Preliminaries to Winter

I am slowly working on  preparing a manuscript of poems old and new.  One of the problems with working on this stuff very early in the morning is that I can get inordinately impressed by material which seems to be wonderful but in the light of the full clear day seems quite a bit less shiny.  This is an old poem of mine from February 1983.  I was 29 years old when I wrote it.

Preliminaries to Winter

Trees reach out into that empty space

the wind takes, when it has a mind to.

They have an extra weight pulling at them.

Sometimes the rainwater, sometimes the ice.

They reach up, and down, and around,

all in a scarred motion.  A tricky business.

Showing your empty hand, a little

like a child’s bedtime prayer.

protection from the dark.

Sometime I wonder if all this

is just the exhalation of a familiar sense of loss.

Or the oration of a close exhilaration.

With the sense of blood in the body

and mind resting in the hand,

then the heart swings open.

Fear forgotten, for the lion is old

and much smaller than I remembered, anyway.

People surround us, waking and walking.

I pass among. I watch their eyes for time.

Pass the butter. Don’t spill the milk.

I would like to say that kitchens are honest places.

Trust in food, but no mice please. Yet a lie isn’t much.

Just a suggestion that helps the truth lie down.

A look that gets followed like water down a drain.

Her eyes were just two eyes. I recall

a cigarette dancing nervously in a hand,

the tightness of concern drawn out, a thin line

wedged out of the summer light.  He played

a simple tune for a puppet jig, but

when the strings fouled, the lines torn out,

there was only the current disturbed, all

muddied water—two tired heads swimming through,

one field mouse caught in a trap, and the rat gone.

February 1983