Build Soil

The one you had the talk with, you remember, Hard times have struck me and I'm on the move. I've had to give my interval farm up For interest, and I've bought a mountain farm For nothing down, all-out-doors of a place, All woods and pasture only fit for sheep. But sheep is what I'm going into next. At thirty cents a bushel. Give me sheep. I know wool's down to seven cents a pound. But I don't calculate to sell my wool. I didn't my potatoes. I consumed them....

An Unstamped Letter In Our Rural Letter

Last night your watchdog barked all night, There, pointed like the pip of spades, The young spruce made a suite of glades Went streaking molten down the west. Now quivered toward each other, lipped That men have thought about in vain. The same sign Heaven showed your guest. Each knows his own discernment best. Things must have happened to you, yes,

The Black Cottage

We chanced in passing by that afternoon To catch it in a sort of special picture Among tar-banded ancient cherry trees, Set well back from the road in rank lodged grass, The little cottage we were speaking of, A front with just a door between two windows, Fresh painted by the shower a velvet black. We paused, the minister and I, to look. He made as if to hold it at arm's length Or put the leaves aside that framed it in. Pretty, he said. Come in. No one will care. The path was a vague parting in...

The Trial By Existence

Shall not dissemble their surprise On waking to find valor reign, Even as on earth, in paradise And where they sought without the sword Wide fields of asphodel fore er, To find that the utmost reward Of daring should be still to dare. The light of heaven falls whole and white And is not shattered into dyes, The light forever is morning light The hills are verdured pasturewise And seek with laughter what to brave And binding all is the hushed snow Of the far-distant breaking wave. The gathering...

Too Anxious For Rivers

Look down the long valley and there stands a mountain That someone has said is the end of the world. Then what of this river that having arisen Must find where to pour itself into and empty I never saw so much swift water run cloudless. Oh, I have been often too anxious for rivers To leave it to them to get out of their valleys. The truth is the river flows into the canyon Of As sooner or later we have to cease somewhere. No place to get lost like too far in the distance. It may be a mercy the...

Serious Step Lightly Taken

The burrs were hills, the snake was a stream, And there might be a house we could buy With two wheels low in the ditch We left our boiling car And knocked at the door of a house we found, And there today we are. It is turning three hundred years On our cisatlantic shore For family after family name. We'll make it three hundred more For our name farming here, Aloof yet not aloof, Enriching soil and increasing stock, Repairing fence and roof A hundred thousand days Of front-page paper events, A...

Any Size We Please

No one was looking at his lonely case So, like a half-mad outpost sentinel, Indulging an absurd dramatic spell, Albeit not without some shame of face, He stretched his arms out to the dark of space And held them absolutely parallel In infinite appeal. Then saying Hell, He drew them in for warmth of self-embrace. He thought if he could have his space all curved, Wrapped in around itself and self-befriended, His science needn't get him so unnerved. He had been too all out, too much extended. He...

The Whitetailed Hornet

The white-tailed hornet lives in a balloon That floats against the ceiling of the woodshed. The exit he comes out at like a bullet Is like the pupil of a pointed gun. And having power to change his aim in flight, He comes out more unerring than a bullet. Verse could be written on the certainty With which he penetrates my best defense Of whirling hands and arms about the head To stab me in the sneeze-nerve of a nostril. Such is the instinct of it I allow. Yet how about the insect certainty That...

To A Thinker

The last step taken found your heft Decidedly upon the left. One more would throw you on the right. Another still you see your plight. You call this thinking, but it's walking. Not even that, it's only rocking, Or weaving like a stabled horse From force to matter and back to force, From form to content and back to form, From norm to crazy and back to norm, From bound to free and back to bound, From sound to sense and back to sound. So back and forth. It almost scares A man the way things come...

Why Wait For Science

Sarcastic Science, she would like to know, In her complacent ministry of fear, How we propose to get away from here When she has made things so we have to go Or be wiped out. Will she be asked to show Us how by rocket we may hope to steer To some star off there, say, a half light-year Through temperature of absolute zero Why wait for Science to supply the how When any amateur can tell it now The way to go away should be the same As fifty million years ago we came If anyone remembers how that...

Closed For Good

Much as I own I owe The passers of the past Because their to and fro Has cut this road to last, I owe them more today Because they've gone away And come not back with steed And chariot to chide My slowness with their speed And scare me to one side. They have found other scenes For haste and other means. They leave the road to me To walk in saying naught Perhaps but to a tree Inaudibly in thought, From you the road receives And soon for lack of sun, The prospects are in white It will be further...

There Are Roughly Zones

We sit indoors and talk of the cold outside. And every gust that gathers strength and heaves Is a threat to the house. But the house has long been tried. We think of the tree. If it never again has leaves, We'll know, we say, that this was the night it died. 5 It is very far north, we admit, to have brought the peach. What comes over a man, is it soul or mind That to no limits and bounds he can stay confined You would say his ambition was to extend the reach Clear to the Arctic of every living...

In The Clearing

(New York Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962) The contents of In the Clearing was preceded, as an introductory element, by an excerpt from the poem Kitty Hawk (being lines 219-224 and 246-257, set without any indication of a break between the two segments and having one textual variation Is for Was in line 254). The book had two titled units Cluster of Faith (the five poems Accidentally on Purpose through that beginning Forgive, O Lord) and Quandary (being the last ten poems of the volume)....

Haec Fabula Docet

A Blindman by the name of La Fontaine, Came tap-tap-tapping down the village street, Now just ahead of him was seen to yawn A trench where water pipes were laying on. The Blindman might have found it with his ferrule, But someone overanxious at his peril Not only warned him with a loud command But ran against him with a staying hand. Enraged at what he could but think officious, The Blindman missed him with a blow so vicious And plunged himself head foremost in the trench Where with a glee no...

The Strong Are Saying Nothing

The soil now gets a rumpling soft and damp, And small regard to the future of any weed. The final flat of the hoe's approval stamp Is reserved for the bed of a few selected seed. There is seldom more than a man to a harrowed piece. 5 Men work alone, their lots plowed far apart, One stringing a chain of seed in an open crease, And another stumbling after a halting cart. To the fresh and black of the squares of early mold The leafless bloom of a plum is fresh and white 10 Though there's more than...

Awishing Well

If but it were, he said, said he, And one thing more that may not be, This world were good enough for me. Some quaint dissatisfaction ate him. The one thing more I wish there were. (I don't care how the world gets by.) Like splashing phosphorescent paint, That ought to make the Sunday Press. But that's not like me. On much less From childhood has my heart been set. I wish I may, I wish I might When clever people ask me where I get a poem, I despair. I'm apt...

On A Bird Singing In Its Sleep

A bird half wakened in the lunar noon Sang halfway through its little inborn tune. Partly because it sang but once all night And that from no especial bush's height, Partly because it sang ventriloquist And had the inspiration to desist Almost before the prick of hostile ears, It ventured less in peril than appears. It could not have come down to us so far, Through the interstices of things ajar On the long bead chain of repeated birth, To be a bird while we are men on earth, If singing out of...

From Plane To Plane

Neither of them was better than the other. They both were hired. And though Pike had the advantag< Of having hoed and mowed for fifty years, Dick had of being fresh and full of college. Your trouble is not sticking to the subject, Pike said with temper. And Dick longed to say, Your trouble is bucolic lack of logic, But all he did say was, What is the subject It's whether these professions really work. Now take the Doctor They were giving corn A final going over with the hoe Before they turned...

The Bearer Of Evil Tidings

The bearer of evil tidings, When he was halfway there, Remembered that evil tidings Were a dangerous thing to bear. So when he came to the parting Where one road led to the throne And one went off to the mountains And into the wild unknown, He took the one to the mountains. He ran through the Vale of Cashmere, He ran through the rhododendrons Till he came to the land of Pamir. And there in a precipice valley A girl of his age he met Took him home to her bower, Or he might be running yet. She...

An Empty Threat

There wasn't always Hudson's Bay And the fur trade, I can just see my tent pegged, And me on the floor, Cross-legged, And a trapper looking in at the door With furs to sell. And between what he doesn't know And won't tell About where Henry Hudson's gone, I can't say he's much help But we get on. Except always John-Joe, My French Indian Esquimaux, And he's off setting traps In one himself perhaps. Give a headshake Over so much bay Thrown away In snow and mist That doesn't exist, Don't ask Joe...

The Planet Venus

A dated popular-science medley on a mysterious light recently observed in the western sky at evening My unexpected knocking at the door Started chairs thundering on the kitchen floor, Knives and forks ringing on the supper plates, Voices conflicting like the candidates. A mighty farmer flung the house door wide, He and a lot of children came outside, And there on an equality we stood. Thats the time knocking at a door did good. I stopped to compliment you on this star You get the beauty of from...

They Were Welcome To Their Belief

Care may have thought it was care. They were welcome to their belief, The overimportant pair. No, it took all the snows that clung 5 To the low roof over his bed, Beginning when he was young, To induce the one snow on his head. But whenever the roof came white The head in the dark below 10 Was a shade less the color of night, A shade more the color of snow. Grief may have thought it was grief. Care may have thought it was care. But neither one was the thief...

The Lovely Shall Be Choosers

The Voice said, Hurl her down The Voices, How7 far down Seven levels of the world. How much time have we She would refuse love safe with wealth and honor The lovely shall be choosers, shall they Then let them choose Then we shall let her choose Take up the task beyond her choosing. Invisible hands crowded on her shoulder In readiness to weigh upon her. But she stood straight still, In broad round earrings, gold and jet with pearls, 15 And broad round suchlike brooch, Her cheeks high-colored,...

Masque Of Mercy

The Keepers wife Pulls down the window curtain on the door And locks the door. One customer, locked in, Stays talking with the Keeper at a showcase. The Keepers wife has hardly turned away 5 Before the doors so violently tried It makes her move as if to reinforce it. jesse bel. You can't come in (Knock, knock) The store is closed paul. Late, late, too late, you cannot enter now. jesse bel. We can't be always selling people things. 10 He doesn't go. keeper. You needn't...